My first week on Zoom!

After 6 full days of teaching online (day one, here), via Zoom, I’d like to reflect a bit on what’s happened, what I’ve learned and what I’m planning to do for next week.

Overall, it’s been extremely successful. However, I’ve had moments of absolute full-on nervous-breakdown stress, I’ve been absolutely exhausted and I’ve spent so many hours planning simple lessons.

But my students have engaged, they’ve worked hard and many of them have impressed me with what they’ve learned. They’ve been extremely understanding of my poor internet and old computer as well.

So… here are some funny moments:

  • My students telling me they’d done their homework online, without realising I could see if they’d logged on to the portal.

  • When my internet went down and I finally joined the Zoom classroom again, my students clapped and shouted “welcome back!”

  • Sharing photos of our families and some of the students doing video tours of their hotel rooms (many of them are in quarantine).

  • Having to give my boss my cringey password so she could log in and tell my students my internet was down. Then scrambling to change all of my passwords. (To be honest, after 7 years, I was due an update – woops!)

Some great moments:

  • 3 students telling me that my classes made isolation so much better

  • One student stepping up to be the ‘second teacher’ for when my internet goes down
  • Our boss telling us she was proud of us all for working so well and keeping on top of everything this week *teary moment*

  • One of my students getting every single answer correct. in a 90 minute lesson. YAY!

Some not so great moments:

  • Students not having their books or doing their homework – eeeek!

  • My internet being completely rubbish and I have the world’s oldest laptop (sort of) which has been infuriating at many different moments.

  • Only one of my students did any homework all week. 

  • A trial lesson that was an absolute flop for at least 5 reasons! arghhhhh….

What have I learned from all of these little situations and from the week in general? Quite a lot!

  • I need to be modelling exercises and activities far more for my Elementary students.

  • I need to be breaking down tasks into simpler, smaller pieces. It is far more difficult to teach online – far more than I imagined!

  • I need to find better ways to concept check before letting them start a task.

  • I need to stop fretting over every little detail. They don’t need a perfect powerpoint, they don’t need a picture per slide. They need interaction, support and simpler tasks. 

  • Adding a song gap-fill really lightens the mood. They loved The Beatles!

  • They need the opportunity to talk about normal things and to vent their frustrations too. Allowing them to have five minutes to chat freely really helps them regain a sense of normality and to refocus for the next part of the lesson.

  • My Elementary students need more motivation now than they did in the classroom. I’m trying my best to be positive but I could feel myself getting completely stressed out on Friday. After a quick break I composed myself and told them all how amazing they were and thanked them for how hard they had worked all week. They thanked me as well and we left on a positive note.

Last week, before we started teaching online, many of us assumed we would need to take frequent 5 minute breaks. It turns out that we (some of us? my class?) don’t. I was only asked for a break once in 10 lessons this week and I was so surprised.

We all need structure and normality at the moment, as teachers and as students. There’s no point in changing lesson times or letting them off completely for not doing homework, or cheating on tests, because at the end of the day they still need to learn and we still need to teach. Leniency can be given in many ways, but cheating and laziness don’t really cut it, for me. I’m allowing my students to eat and drink during the lesson, quickly nip out to speak to family members, as many have children with them, and just take a few minutes to switch off. 

One final point worth mentioning is how absolutely amazing my colleagues are. We have a Zoom and WhatsApp group going and people are sending in pet photos, sharing teaching tips and also supporting me, as it’s my second/third week with the company! We had a positive staff meeting on Friday and our managers have been incredibly supportive all week, popping into the classes to say hello, checking in on us to see if we need any help, ideas or, well, anything! (A complete contrast to the schools I wrote about here)

And it’s also amazing to have #TeamEnglish on Twitter and many other educators around the all coming together to support each other at the moment.

Although, boo to you horrible teachers who are sending out rude, snappy emails to 11 year olds if they’ve not submitted homework. Not cool! (And I’ve seen far too many of them.)

Are you teaching online? Are you home-schooling? Or are you a student having online classes? I’d love to hear about your recent experiences so please leave a comment or get in touch with me on Twitter!

Take care everyone. Stay safe and be kind to yourself and those around you x

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