I wrote my first blog post-to-be about a year ago. I've never posted it. A few other short stories and memories I’ve put down since then, but until now, all stayed on a solid-state. Last week during one of our webinars, something caught my attention. An advice; rather, than a rule to intend to stay in the context of learning, teaching (English). I've been picking up the habit of writing down thoughts and memories in the past decade. But besides that very first, should have been a blog post, these scripts don't have much to do with the above mentioned topics. Most of them are not even closely related to it and many of them are not even in English. Sounds like a good excuse to me. Not to mention my laziness, or being moderately shy.
I wasn't a big fan of giving online classes when I started teaching. Very convenient and time efficient it is; 'no doubt'- I thought. But I liked travelling around the city, getting to know new places and neighbourhoods. I guess the personal contact also played its role. It just makes a difference when you're sitting in the same room, breathing the same air. Moreover, I would spend twelve, thirteen or usually more hours at the same location on a daily basis, generally without much sunlight; at least heat was never really an issue in the kitchen. So, I was simply more up for being on the road in the sunshine rather than staying at home or the office; because I might not stay in Barcelona for my whole life. And yet here I am, some water under the bridge and a confinement later, and I kinda like it, online teaching. Perhaps I should tell a story that happened to me (us, because it was a class with two students) the other day.
First student comes online a few minutes earlier. After some small talk, the clock hits and I question him quickly and politely. It's a half an hour class, so let's get to it. I basically suggest that he understand the subjunctive clause in English within a ten-minute time frame. - I'd like to state at this point that his English was really good. Vocab, pronunciation, structure (shoutout nr.one: to student nr.one) - I do my sweaty half of explaining and he comprehends by sweat too. Suddenly the other student joins us, sitting in the driver seat he is packing things around. We greet each other, they greet each other, everyone's delighted. - For the moment, I am thinking that he is waiting for the kids outside the school or for the spouse outside their work. - Now I suggest that they both understand the subject, which remains the same. Back to the text in the middle of the screen, I am listening to student nr.one. Meanwhile, on the left side of the screen one of the two little pictures shows movement, student nr.two starts to drive. Delight turns into hilarity; at once, grammar loses its sense and so does time. We cheerfully discuss the avowed safety measures for on-line language classes, in English. Lucky Participant (student nr.two) and Co-driver (me) on the side asking the Driver (student nr.two) to pay attention (as well) to the road. And again by the flip of a switch, students are applying the structure. Student nr.one reads a sentence and modifies it correctly from his office chair.
Obviously sitting behind the wheel, student nr.two steers and drives along, reads a sentence when it's his turn, from what I could understand a tablet on or a screen in the dashboard, and gives the right answer. Driving can be very boring; why not spice it up with an English lesson?
After all, It was a lovely autumn afternoon. Timid sunlight was peeking through the line of trees as the car passed them. (shoutout nr.two: to student nr.two)
The class went on normally. Driver asked the Lucky Participant to do the honours of reading when we started another topic. We had a nice short discussion over it after each paragraph. Then the motion on the same little picture slowed down and came to a halt. Driver had arrived and student nr.one was abruptly out of the classroom. Learn and Ride. They say not to drink and drive but not a word on studying some English while driving. Lucky Participant and Co-driver spent the remaining time finishing the text with some pronunciation practice. All together, it was 32 minutes and I had the impression that they had been expanding their knowledge and we had a good laugh too.
Even if I am not moving around all day, I am more flexible with location than ever. Give a class today in Barcelona and from the peak of Mont Blanc tomorrow; if I manage to drag an optical cable up there. Then it would work. (third, BIG shoutout to Carlos, Danny, William and all who are making this possible to happen)
I miss meeting (new) people on a daily basis. However, organising my day and making the most out of it is way easier. And with a little help from my friends I still see new faces, maybe not everyday. My bills might have been getting higher, but I don't need a monthly pass for public transportation. Even my bike sharing card is becoming obsolete (huuuge exaggeration; I just had to..).
Quality and flow of the classes are just like one of those in person. Students keep on giving me positive feedback, and I also see them improving. Material is always at hand, and showing it directly to each student is easy. Although, accessibility is an issue from time to time; the tube comes on time, from time to time..and I am just about to dig a trench through my Mom’s garden to get the optical cable from the street into the house. Both of us need the bandwidth, but the provider won’t bring it unless I dig it. Basic math.. All have it’s pros and cons. I devoted this text mainly to the pros.
So to round it up, there is no other choice at this moment but to teach online, under present circumstances. Still, I'm not sure that I'll go back to having my meal on the tube between two classes once I can. For sure not all day, everyday.
Which teacher hasn't seen (pre-covid) a mother or a father on the screen, in the early evening amidst the storm of their kids, or someone in the office chair doing as I used to on any given vehicle? Perhaps it isn’t just my life, that gets a little easier.