I would like to very publicly show gratitude to the wonderful senior English students I have been teaching. When classes went online last term, I was perturbed and anxious about my ability to adapt to this new way of teaching.
I found some of the initial sessions quite challenging, particularly relating to open discussions, group work and other collaborative tasks. Questions came up, such as how to manage when students didn’t turn their cameras on and how could I really tell how my students were feeling in the lesson without seeing them face to face.
Teaching is fundamentally about human relationships and connection. It is about sparking the fire of enthusiasm and inspiring learning. These aspects are more challenging in an online environment – but not impossible. I learnt much along the way.
‘Cameras off’ could have meant that the internet was down or that the student had actually left the room, gone to sleep or actually had never been there after the first 1 minute! ‘Cameras off’ also might mean that the idea of watching yourself online was way too confronting – I think a lot of us could relate to that.
I learnt that it was pretty easy to ask the well timed question to a student with a camera off to try to catch them out. I never did – they always answered and were fully there in the lesson.
It was fun to have the option to ‘mute’ a student at any time, a practice much easier than in class when physical muting is not an option!
It was fun to continue my obsessive colour wearing with full embellishments (on the top half at least) and try to find something of the correct day colour to hang on the wall behind.
Despite the challenges of poor internet, weird connections, frozen faces and not being able to really judge how someone was feeling in each class (a vital thing for us teachers), there were moments of joy and humour. We managed to recite King Richard’s famous soliloquy with every student taking on a line.
All of my students were gracious, punctual, diligent, innovative and deeply forgiving of my mistakes and attempts at the new technology. They greeted me with smiles every day and their maturity in adapting was a pleasure to observe. I loved their delicate suggestions; “Katie, um, I think you might have your mic turned off” after I’ve been rabbiting on for minutes about something. Or…”Katie, it sometimes works better if you……insert many phrases here…!”
They were all so patient and kind.
It wasn’t so bad after all. But the goosebumps I got when walking back into class and seeing them all face to face were wonderful to feel.
You just can’t replace the full human connection. What a gift it is to be a teacher.