The Online Teacher

I know that it is common belief that in these desperate times of pandemic outbreak, teachers are those lucky ones who stay at home – it has been almost 5 weeks – paid to do nothing, but redecorating the house, baking soft bread, delicious cakes and biscuits all day, with the only concern about what to make for dinner, soon after lunch is over. Long days passed watching all the series Netflix, Prime, Sky can offer and, of course, reading, surfing the net here and there and, it cannot be forgotten, a few necessary gym sessions, as I suspect all those calories will deposit somewhere I don’t wish to very soon. In short: a paradise. Well, if you are one of them, I feel like reassuring you, as nothing of the kind has happened since March 5th: there is no paradise, but rather, a hell.

At first it was like a whisper: “online learning“. The effect was that a breeze, which, however, being that soft leaves you unperturbed.  So, it was easy to pretend to ignore the meaning of that gentle hint for a while; after all, how long were we supposed to stay at home ? Two weeks, top. But two weeks have become a month soon, one month two and now the most likely perspective is that we will go back to school in September, maybe, according to safety protocols. Back to normal won’t be soon; back to school, in a real classroom with walls and 25/30 students in plus the teacher won’t be soon.  Hence, in one fell swoop, that delicate whisper quickly turned into a nightmarish trumpet blast: “ON-LINE LEARNING”!!!!

Just like in any sudden reawakening, fears and anguish overwhelm you, before you can  focus and get in control of the situation. So, having soon discovered that online learning didn’t actually mean sending a few links, homework and a “I hope you are fine” note, we found ourselves facing the inevitable: the screen. Our presence in the life of our students was required either on air or with recorded lessons, and this was really an undiscovered country for us all. The unknown may thrill or frighten, depends on our dispositions, however, it was clear that that foreign land could not be avoided forever.

So, we all began to move our timid steps in “online learning land” watching tutorials about learning platforms, video platforms like  Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Meet, Google classroom, Edmodo, just to mention the most popular here, till we picked the most performing ones. Then, it was the time to plan when and what to do, scheduling the timing of our video lessons with colleagues and students. Hence, to be more efficient and quick, I found myself having 6 WhatsApp groups with my collegues and six with my students. I know, I wrote several times against sharing whatsApp groups with students, but I couldn’t do otherwise and trust me, in these emergency moments, they are extremely useful. Of course, I have no more privacy. You may imagine any time our principal sends a new directive, what hell that happens in my phone.

When everything is set, what remains is one big question: what kind of lesson could I give? And when you start to figure the possible choices at hand, it becomes clear that the old learning material is no longer useful and has to be transformed into something new and more effective on a screen, as powerpoints, for example. Could anybody watch only my face and keep following me, while I am talking about “the Waste Land”  without the help of images or patterns? Impossible. Therefore, before going on air, lessons have to be carefully planned, and I’ll leave to your imagination the amount of work and hours that this job has required and will require.

Was I a little uneasy my first time on the video? Yes. Was I a kind of clumsy ? A lot. Was it a memorable lesson? Nope ( not even the lessons which followed). Do I enjoy my online classes? Very much. And do you know why? Because, I actually feel a certain thrill, just like an explorer who sees new interesting scenarios opening day after day. I believe that these months’ forced experience will eventually project education to another dimension: the future. Of course, online learning cannot fully replace the original model of school, but it can become complementary and make schooling more dynamic. There is always some good even in the worst moments.

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “The Online Teacher

  1. Very nice hearing from you. I wonder, sometimes, about reasons people aren’t blogging as much.

    It’s a relief finding out it’s because you’re venturing into uncharted grounds, teaching flag held high, leading the charge up the learning curve. Your attitude seems appropriate (as opposed to complaining about having to change). Good luck and stay safe.

    • I am literally stuck at home. My husband goes to buy food and stuff, so he is the designed victim. 😉 Only yesterday I went out for a short walk after 10 days. We are allowed to walk a distance of about 200 meters around our block, but I am forbidden to reach the sea, which is within the 200 meters, and shops are closed ( you know I am shopaholic) . Strolling around wearing masks, keeping safety distance, surrounded by the desert was not that fun, so I went back home and kept preparing powerpoints for the next week. Life will be like this till May 3rd, when, if everything goes well, some shops might open, so that people can go back to work. Hope you and Melisa are fine. Safe Easter!!!

      • I forgot it’s Easter. I notice even less now that we’re not out, and getting bombarded by ads. If you celebrate, Happy Easter. Otherwise, Happy weekend.

    • We are fine and the lockdown is not (yet) as severe here. Went out once in the last two weeks (grocery shopping) but we walk our neighborhood (2.5 or 3.5-mile walks) so that’s not too bad.

  2. I am heartened by the optimistic uplift you give to your post at the end, Stefy, but it’s at times like these that I’m glad I’m no longer teaching.

    Especially now that I’m late self-diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum and realising why the notion of online teaching renders me even more panicky than standing in front of thirty-plus teenage students in a classroom.

    Phone calls? I’m rubbish. Radio interviews? I either freeze or talk gibberish. Smiling for the camera? I look like a zombie trying to look like a normal human being. And all that concerted, focused energy! I could no longer sustain it. I doff my cap at you and other teachers, parents learning to be homeschoolers, parents home-schooling *and* working from home, and all those others for whom the pandemic has highlighted how the world being connected 24/7 is both a blessing and a curse.

    I hope you survive the summer! Stay safe and take care.

    • Thank you, Chris, at least amidst this Purgatory I have no time to get bored. These couple of days have meant real vacation for us all. Ready to start tomorrow 😷
      Take care, Chris. 🙋

      • Don’t overdo work, Stefy, I think we’re all in this for the long haul and we have limited emotional energy. Take care and stay safe.

  3. O shit, forgot about that one. You Italy and the rest… You would be teaching us more if you put the link to your on-line teacher.
    But most important is that people do find the ways to get through tough times.
    Although still willing to be a participant in your courses, if you will…..
    Kidding.

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