Teaching Online, Revisited

After 18 months teaching exclusively online what pieces of advice, if any, would I have to share with my fellow language teachers? Here are some of the things I already knew and needed to put into practice and others I had to learn the hard way:

  1. Equipment is key – a decent notebook or computer with a good camera and microphone. My older computer had a lousy camera – six months into the pandemic with a grainy image I had to upgrade it. Add to the equipment the necessary microphone and headset (preferably with a cord to avoid interference and power surges). Also a ring light helps your professional image. Initially I thought it was just one extra unnecessary fluffy item, … but after my sweetheart gave me one, I can’t imagine going online without proper lighting. A second screen also helps a lot. Bear in mind, I didn’t say top of the line equipment – decent quality is good enough. No need to break the bank for the top brands.
  2. Camera positioning – try to show yourself from the shoulders up, prop up the notebook with one or two dictionaries (they’re the perfect size), a box, or a proper laptop stand but the right height will make the difference on how you will be seen. Since we’re talking about cameras – remember to look into the camera – don’t focus on the screen – the camera will give you eye contact with your audience.
  3. Dress properly – no top hat and tuxedo are necessary but sleeveless shirts are a ‘no-no’ for men (and women in some cultures). No need to hide your tattoos, if any, but keep a clean look … very few people can get away with a disheveled appearance and you probably are not one of them. Heard many times of people connecting wearing their pajama bottoms or none (chuckles) but my advice is: put on some pants, please. Getting dressed will help you feel like you’re doing something other than eating cereal for dinner in bed.
  4. Check your internet connection – Wifi is ok if the only option available (but preferably connect through your cable – more stable connection). Check your camera, microphone and headset before the session begins. I use Zoom for 95% of my sessions and occasionally it automatically changes my default settings for microphone and headset. Lovely, huh? More than once I’ve found myself without voice or hearing. So… once again… check it BEFORE the session starts.
  5. Prepare and Improvise – have your lesson and presentation ready, but be aware that things may change, remember that “student-centered lessons” are not just a clichรฉ.
  6. Be careful when you share your screen – close all tabs and apps you don’t think your students would like to see or know about. TMI is still applicable online. That will make you look and sound more professional. Hey, I’m human, too. Sometimes I forget to close my tabs on the browser and there’s Twitter, and Facebook, and YouTube open – nothing wrong with that – but none of my students’ business. Do I need to say anything about porn tabs?
Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Happy teaching.

Cheers,

Mo

Ignorance is NOT bliss

Quite often when we learn about something negative and upsetting, we tend to say: “Oh boy… at least I didn’t know that before. Ignorance is bliss.” I agree with Stephen Fry who asked: “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t there more happy people in the world?”

Ignorance Quotes
Even John Lennon agreed that ignorance is not bliss

But it ain’t so… . Ignorance is rather dangerous and embarrassing. Just the fact that you didn’t know you had been fired, or your wife was cheating on you, or you had cancer … that didn’t solve your problem. Now you know it and can start looking for another job, for divorce papers (and STD tests), and for cancer treatment.

Yesterday I came across a tweet by Cecilia Nobre where she vented her frustration for not getting offered an English teaching position due to the sheer fact she is Brazilian – therefore not an English Native speaker. To add insult to injury the ignorant teacher (an oxymoron?) said they were sure she had great qualifications but they were not enough to offset a geographical item: she had not been born in an English speaking nation. Talk about total ignorance! Ok… that teacher will allege it’s their students’ demand… but shouldn’t that be an opportunity to enlighten the students?!

How can we fight ignorance? Socrates in broad terms listed 3 weapons:

Dedication.

Patience.

Willingness to accept occasional defeat.

Recently I came across this list (https://thepavlovictoday.com/five-steps-preventing-ignorance-told-socrates/) on Ignorance and overcoming it that I would like to share with you:

  1. Ignorance is inevitable. No matter how much you know … there are millions of things you still don’t know. And that’s ok.
  2. Continuous learning is key – there’s always more to learn – be active in searching for new learning opportunities.
  3. Educate rather than criticize – that’s a hard one – we tend to criticize someone as an idiot or worse if they don’t know what we know … rather, share with them what you know.
  4. Respect the humble underdog – if the person didn’t know something how can you blame them? You were there once.
  5. You don’t always know what is best for others. Absolutely true. Ever so often someone will tell me that I don’t know what they’re going through and I not even know them to assess their needs. And that’s true. Be humble and accept we are all at different stages of our growth.
  6. Identify where your knowledge is lacking. Be humble to admit you don’t know much about physiology, for example, or Greek art, or whatever. You don’t need to know everything about everything. Actually it’s impossible to know everything. Leave it to God … he alone can handle omniscience.

At the end of the day, we are called to be humble and accept that some people will never be willing to learn but most others will be open to growth. In that case Knowledge IS a blessing.

Knowledge is a blessing ๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“™๐Ÿ“’ - YouTube

Cheers,

Mo