…LIKE PARSNIPS?

Wikipedia will tell you that a parsnip is a “root vegetable closely related to carrot and parsley, all belonging to the flowering plant family Apiaceae. And well seasoned they might go well in a vegetable soup.

PARSNIPS are more than just vegetables

But what are PARSNIPS in the classroom?

PARSNIPS might just be the most ridiculous acronym you’ve ever come across but it actually stands for politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, -isms, and pork.

These refer to the so-called taboo topics in the EFL classroom. For decades these topics have been avoided in the EFL classroom. Not even that. They are “unmentionables”. Publishers won’t even mention their names as some news reporters and commentators did with Trump while he was in the White House. And he WAS a big parsnip.

Trump as a character was a parsnip for some

You will never find a coursebook that even infers such a subject. This is because they may cause offense to sensitive students or they may not feel comfortable speaking about them. As a result of this belief, coursebook publishers generally won’t include any material related to these topics in their coursebooks, even though they make up a fair amount of our daily language.

In Brazil we traditionally considered taboo subjects in the classroom: politics, sports and religion.

I must confess that the first time I learned about this tasteless “vegetable” was during a seminar for language teachers back in São Paulo – some 10 plus years ago. Then a light came on: So true! None of the coursebooks I had ever used included those topics. Usually natural disasters, health and fitness, recycling, and Michael Jackson (yes, I still use some older books), even war (if it’s dating back to World War I, of course) may be more palatable (even though global warming and climate change can cause varying doses of anxiety). If you think about the juicy conversations and debates you have with your friends and family, and the stories you are likely to see on the news or in newspapers, they probably all revolve around a topic that has been deemed unacceptable for the EFL classroom. Never mind the fact that our students are probably having those same conversations outside the classroom in their own language!

Should we be talking about PARSNIPS in the EFL classroom?

The tide may be slowly changing -Pearson Longman published a book series called NorthStar using authentic texts and audio recordings from NPR programs with some subjects covering parsnips such as alcohol and drug addiction. And that was Unit 1. But by Unit 5 it was talking about something more inane as Feng Shui … but that’s a starting point. The book would even mention Sarajevo and the war in Europe still in our living memory (despite an even grander scale in Ukraine at the moment I’m writing this blog). Longman started with great current authentic materials with the series Consider the Issues, Face the Issues, and Raise the Issues

Sample of the contents page of Northstar Advanced 3rd Edition (c) 2009 by Pearson Longman

Now, I know that students don’t have a thick skin, it’s more like an eggshell so as a teacher we must tread with care and avoid bringing up topics that could be upsetting to our students or even make them uncomfortable. It is important that our learners feel safe and comfortable during the lessons or else they won’t participate in the activities or engage with the language. Asking them to speak about a topic they are not happy to do is a sure way to make them drop out of the course. But we also believe that you know your students and you can make a good decision regarding what is off-limits in the classroom based on that knowledge.

So, instead of using a blanket strategy for all coursebooks, why not raise awareness and empower teachers and students on the subjects they want to use in the language classroom? In this day and age when more and more language teaching programs are incorporated as CLIL content why still resort to this form of self-censorship?

Cheers,

Mo

(1) Source: https://www.theteflacademy.com/blog/2018/06/parsnips-in-the-efl-classroom/#:~:text=What%20are%20PARSNIPS%3F,topics%20in%20the%20EFL%20classroom.

LOOKING BACK

This week, a friend of mine, who happens to be a psychologist, asked us if we were that sort of people who made resolutions for the new year. Naturally she said that was fine but the best would be to review the past year and be grateful for all things done or left undone. The new year will bring its own challenges and rewards.

Following her advice let me share with you a little of what my year was like: Of course the sensation is that 2020 hasn’t ended and it will continue with its miseries well into 2022 – but even in the midst of a global pandemic we were able to move house – from a noisy and polluted apartment in the very heart of a metropolis to the clean air of the country – just 130 km away from the city of São Paulo but it feels like its 1,300km away.

The adaptation has been smooth and wonderful… from the very first day we got used to the country – of course, Luther, the cat, took two days to adapt but now he loves his expanded territory. Some drawbacks with a mouse showing up in the laundry area, a snake in the patio and a few frogs in the garden … but all part of nature, right?

Black cat plays with live mouse (short) - YouTube
Apartment cat turns into barn cat in 3 months

The pandemic allowed us to move since I’m working online but it also brought the challenges of companies cutting down expenses and “streamlining” their language teaching benefits offered to their staff. I lost important corporate clients to Covid (they’re still alive, thank goodness – it was economics not viral) but they decided to cut costs and adopt online platforms for employees to self-study instead of using flesh and blood teachers like moi (the future will tell their mistake).

Man Holding A Card With A Text Students Wanted Stock Photo, Picture And  Royalty Free Image. Image 70503076.

My income drop was significant – around 40% of my monthly income suddenly disappeared – while expenses increased because of the new home and maintenance costs of the old apartment. We thought we’d be able to sell it within 6 months but that didn’t happen. Now in 2022 we will try to rent it… great location and size – 3 bedrooms near the financial district of São Paulo – hopefully we will be able to rent it to nice people.

Slowly in June and July I started to get new students to fill the gaps left by the corporate ones … still a long ways to go… but hopefully we will get there.

I still value life quality, more than ever, so I don’t want to be teaching back-to-back classes for 6-8 hours a day. Unhealthy at so many levels.

On the academic level I tried to cut my class times from 60 to 45 minutes – thought they would be more productive – however, at the end of the day, students are paying for 45 minutes of lesson but enjoying 15 minutes more of free English time. Back to the drawing board.

Drawing board - Wikipedia
Back to the drawing board: trial and error

I loved to see my students who stayed on developing and blooming in their confidence when using English – their listening, reading, speaking have improved significantly. Mind you, their writing is not what it should be – partly my fault, because I didn’t push them hard enough to write essays and other sorts of texts. But even so, one of them writes beautiful academic articles (can I call them beautiful?). Writing is also the least favorite activity among my learners. My chest was stuffed with pride when my student got band 7 on IELTS having studied less than 3 weeks for the exam.

Will 2014 be the year you pass your IELTS? |

On another professional level, as a remote interpreter – I attended a very good course this year at Associação Alumni to learn more about the new world of remote interpreting, the resources, techniques and gadgets – while also networking with the teachers and classmates – remotely, of course. I am a pretty reserved person so networking is a challenge for me – but one must try. Looking forward to developing a more relevant profile as a remote English, Spanish and Portuguese interpreter in 2022.

ODP-Video Remote Interpreting Tips

Yes, 2021 was a tough cookie to chew (almost as hard as the Christmas cookies my flower baked, please don’t tell her), but it had its many surprises, even with me in December becoming a choir conductor – bear in mind I had never done that before and my musical education is limited to say the least. But that’s life… full of surprises – some pleasant , others not, but always contributing to growth.

My debut as a choir conductor

Happy New Year and looking forward to seeing you on the other side.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mo-sena-teacher-interpreter-edited.jpg

Cheers

Mo

FREELANCER’S LIFE

I have been freelancing as a teacher, a translator and an interpreter for nearly 30 years, so I can tell you a thing or two about my career choice. In this post we will focus on freelance teaching.

CAN I BE A FREELANCE TEACHER? - The TEFL Academy Blog

If you want Security it will be found , relatively speaking, while working for a company where they are supposed to provide you with training, the tools for your trade and “super benefits” such as paid holidays and weekends.

No, Virginia, as a freelancer you get paid for the hours you have worked, period. Or when a translator for the number of words you have translated.

What advantages do we have as freelancing teachers?

Benefits for Tutors | how does tutoring help the tutors | is tutoring  beneficial

Most people will say: “You’re soooo lucky… you have no boss. You can choose the times and days you’re gonna work; how much you charge for your work; and you can pick and choose the students you’re going to be working with.” Truth? Myth? Maybe?

  1. The answer is … that depends. Let me explain: you’re free to choose the times and days you want to work in, yes, but you still depend on having students willing to be filling those hours. For example, during the pandemic most of my morning students, correction, ALL of my morning students decided to have classes in the evening. Since they were working from home they could stay in bed until 5 minutes before work started… lol … I don’t know… but since I’m a son of the dawn (I feel most productive in the morning), need I say more? So now I have only 3 students in the morning, the rest of them are in the afternoon and evening.
  2. Can I set my prices /fees? Yes, to some extent – some prospective students will try to bargain, others will just say it’s way out of their budget (that’s understandable – even though some would try to bargain even if offered free classes). When setting a price I have to take into consideration:

My professional skills AND experience

Market rate averages compatible to what I will be providing to my clients

Something they don’t teach you in teachers’ school is that when setting your fees you must remember you won’t have any paid time off, any expenses such as computer, internet services, etc. will have to come out of your own pocket.

A real advantage when freelancing? Schools will pay you 30% or less of what they charge their students. When freelancing you keep 100% to yourself (before taxes, of course).

3. Now… regarding choosing students – actually THE STUDENTS will be choosing YOU. Of course, your market niche will define certain professional profiles, age groups (no kids, please) and even a certain economic and social status. As a rule of thumb, people in the lower brackets of society can’t afford private dental care, let alone, private tutoring. Yes, Virginia, we can talk about 50% or 100% scholarships, but that would be an issue for another post.

Yes, as a freelancer I can choose the materials I’ll be using, but students will have priority on what to cover in their classes, e.g., preparing for a meeting, revising a PPT presentation, reviewing and revising the professional portfolio, practicing for interviews, etc.

Online teaching courses and resources | British Council

At the end of the day, the freelance teacher will be free as long as he or she provides the service the client wants to receive.

Cheers,

Mo

A TALE OF TWO STUDENTS

I’ve been a teacher for nearly 30 years so if there’s anything I can tell you with some authority is this: Every student is different.

Yes, some of the mistakes will be the same, some of the old jokes too, but regarding personality and traits of character they will be as different as the colors of the rainbow.

One thing we always are reminded of as teachers as to have empathy for our students. And we learn to respect and love them as our students. Unfortunately quite often it is a one way street with some of them.

Now, let me tell you about two students in particular – let’s call them Gilberto and Manuel (not their real names).

Gilberto is a very hard working student and has been with me for some years climbing from B1 to C1 level and in the process developing his skills and confidence in using English as a foreign language. He tries to do all his homework and despite the fact he has classes only once a week (60 minutes) his progress is quite visible. We’ve covered two advanced business books: Market Leader – (a quite good book but it got dated quickly) and Intelligent Business – (not a very intelligent book, by the way, really poorly edited including even some typos).

Gilberto sees the teacher as a simple provider of input without any relevant feelings. I must be available to reschedule his cancelled classes. He refuses to pay for the times he goes on vacation or for any missed class. Every payment he makes it sound as if he would be doing me a favor. Mind you, he likes me – otherwise he would have stopped years ago – but I’m simply a language source to him. Gilberto expects the teacher to be flexible and change class day and time on a whim, sometimes morning, other times afternoon or evening.

[An update] But he also showed professional politeness and empathy – he needed a 5 day grace period to pay for his classes and he first asked me earlier in the month if it would be ok, and if I had any objections to let him know and he’d find another way to pay on time. Of course, I agreed to the 5 day delay.

education online student boy using computer course virtual 2658780 Vector  Art at Vecteezy
The teacher is more than just a source of information

Manuel has also been with me for some years – highly committed and focused – rarely did his homework though, with the exception of some texts for translation. We’ve never used a course book – he’s C1 – he likes to read – so he is often reading all sorts of business, science and philosophy books. Manuel also sees the teacher as a provider of input but this past week he showed he sees me as a professional who can be given appreciation through a day off or some additional pay. He has a problem of “forgetting” to pay me (every month) but to offset that he always pays an additional amount (some R$ 50 extra to cover for any inconveniences caused by the payment delay). On the other hand, Manuel apologizes when he can’t make it to his scheduled class and if I have no other available time he understands and moves on.

[An update] But regarding payment, Manuel never pays on time and always “forgets” it… sometimes he pays over 1 month late … and every time I bring it up he says “Oh I will pay you right after our class tonight” – and it never happens. To be fair, he usually throws in an additional R$ 50 for the delay… but that’s not the agreement.

DISTANCE LEARNING CLIP ART in 2021 | Distance learning, Gym games for kids,  Teacher cartoon
When pricked teachers also bleed

Now paraphrasing what Shakespeare so skillfully wrote in the Merchant of Venice -“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”. – (Act III, scene I).” Yes, teachers and students need a real and respectful relationship even if separated by a screen.

Happy teachings,

Mo

13 PODCASTS FOR EVERY LEARNER OF ENGLISH AS A SECOND OR FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Using podcasts to learn

Dear students,

A few years ago I listed some of the podcasts I think students should be using to practice English listening and other skills. With the ebb and flow of technology  new podcasts have come up with new ideas and new presenters, so here’s an updated list of the podcasts

Please, remember:

Download the podcasts you enjoy

LISTEN TO THEM. Dammit!

So… without much ado, here’s my list of English Learning Podcasts (it’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good starting point):

  1. Believes Unasp Sabbath School Podcast – I had to start with my own podcast, of course. After all, I am the compiler of this list. A combination of bible study and English tips such as pronunciation and vocabulary delivered on a daily basis – available on any podcast platform. The motto is English and the Bible = Information and Transformation https://www.spreaker.com/show/believes-unasp-sabbath-school
English and the Bible = Information and Transformation

2.  6-Minute English podcast – produced by the BBC with 2 hosts always asking some challenging questions found in the news. It always presents some new vocabulary and context for its use.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/sixminute/

3. All Ears English podcast – 2 chicks always teaching some cultural and language point in the English spoken in the US. Beware: one of them slurs and speakstoofastasifshecouldntbotherwhethershesunderstoodornot.
http://allearsenglish.com/

4. Aprende Inglés con la Mansión del Inglés – 2 dudes (one from Belfast and another from London) host the show with good humor and focus on a teaching point. Emphasis on Spanish speakers http://www.inglespodcast.com

5. English Experts Podcast – Produced by non-native English speakers focuses on the common needs of Brazilian English learners.
https://archive.org/details/EnglishExperts-Podcast

6. ESL Podcast – The host for the podcast is Dr. Jeff McQuillan, directly from sunny Los Angeles, and he helps read the scripts and provides explanations for them.

https://www.eslpod.com/website/

7. Inglés en la oficina -it’s a podcast series produced in Spain by Sandra and Colby with situations related to the office and work world. https://www.acast.com/inglsenlaoficina/english-podcast-36-problem-pairs

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ingles-en-la-oficina/id1074690749?mt=2

8.  Inglês Online Podcast – a podcast produced and hosted by Ana Luiza Bergamini, a Brazilian now living in London, with tips of idioms and phrasal verbs for Brazilian English learners – intermediate to advanced.

http://www.inglesonline.com.br/category/podcast-inglesonline/

9. Inglês Todos os Dias – it’s a podcast produced by an American family based in Brazil.  Tim and Tammy produce weekly short mini-podcasts with expressions and idioms that his students frequently confuse or ask about.

http://www.domineingles.com.br

10. Luke’s English Podcast – produced and hosted by Luke from England – it’s a very good way to expose yourself to British English. But it requires a little patience usually no shorter than 45 minutes.
http://teacherluke.co.uk/

11. Real Life English Podcast – Founded by three young passionate, world traveling, native speaking English teachers, RealLife is a community based learning portal whose mission is to inspire, empower, and connect the world through English, both online and in-person.  Oh Yeah!

http://reallifeglobal.com/radio-podcast/

12. Richard Vaughan Live podcast – controversial Texas-born Richard Vaughan has painstakingly been trying to teach English to Spaniards. His ramblings are quite entertaining. I love the episodes when he loses his temper with some of his on-air students.

http://www.ivoox.com/podcast-richard-vaughan-live_sq_f180769_1.html

13. VOA’s Learning English Podcast –
dating back to their shortwave transmissions even before the Internet, VOA has been my companion with good quality of listening content on American history, words and news.

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/podcast/0.html

Podcast Icons Stock Illustrations – 2,990 Podcast Icons Stock  Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime
Podcasts as learning tools

Happy Listening,

Mo

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 cliché.
  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 📘📙📒 - YouTube

Cheers,

Mo

SAYING GOODBYE

Letting Go | Hoffman Institute
Letting go is bittersweet

The act of saying goodbye has bittersweet notes. There’s always the excitement, the glad anticipation of a new student starting and that strange feeling when it’s time for you to say goodbye to a student.

Teachers and students traditionally say goodbye at the end of the term. That’s expected and part of the program. In the case of the relationship between private teacher and student the situation is rather different. The duration of a language coaching program has no pre-fixed termination date and it quite often flourishes and goes on for years. It’s like a therapy process (it sure feels that way). It’s an amazing feeling to observe how students grow in the process. But all good things must come to an end.

Saying Goodbye to a Client. – Florida CAM Courses
A bittersweet feeling

This week I’m saying goodbye to two long-time students. Student A is leaving because the bank he works for has acquired an “automated platform” for English learning where staff may do exercises and in case of questions consult with an online “teacher”. NO NEED FOR REGULAR CLASSES WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. Student A had been having classes for over 3 years and was successfully developing his listening skills. But it was slower than he would have expected or wanted – it took him all this time to go through level A2 – next semester he would be starting his B1 level. His progress would have been faster had he been fully committed to the program – but at times, no homework, no practice and having classes only 1 hour a week – will take its toll. Very optimistically after 140 hours he finished his pre-intermediate level. Not bad. Of course, he still has a long way ahead, he still mispronounces “son” and soon” , for example and thinks when I ask him “Who won the game?” He replies that Juan was not there. LOL.

The second student to leave is Student R. Initially she hated English, she was B1 and was terrified about the prospect of speaking in English and considered herself unable to understand anything. Having 1-hour classes only once a week -but as they like to say, better one hour than nothing – slowly I started to introduce audio files with English conversations, reading aloud helped her overcome the speaking barrier, role playing also had a positive impact. Student R started to attend meetings without suffering from anxious stomach pains and could increasingly state her points and understand what her colleagues and clients would be saying. With some information gaps, of course. We persistently worked her listening skills with lots of fill-in-the-gap activities, which really helped her immensely. In her case, she is leaving because she has been let go by her firm and now she needs to cut expenses.

In July two new students will be starting their programs with me but the feeling of ” it’s out of my hands circumstances” still bugs me. I always require a 30-day minimum notice for the suspension of classes which protects both me and the student from unpleasant situations and that allows me to wrap up that student’s program, provide some feedback and advice.

Do You Know the Chautauqua Salute? – Isabella Alden
Waving them goodbye with a white handkerchief

I wish them all the luck and all the best in their pursuits. Despite that nagging feeling of “I wish I could have helped them more” I also know that I am growing in my resolution to learn from their experiences and incorporate them into my own teaching career.

Cheers,

Mo

REMOTE LEARNING IS EASIER?

This year ( 15 months, 7 days, 9 hours and 46 minutes into the covid-19 pandemic – yes, I refuse to capitalize you) I went back to the classroom (remotely, how else?). I needed to brush up my conference interpreting skills in this brave new world (no pun intended) of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI – as it is professionally abbreviated by those in the know).

I knew that Zoom and other video conferencing services had an add-on feature that would/might allow for simultaneous interpreting, but now I’ve discovered that there are whole sets of platforms operating along with them. In other words, the challenge to the interpreter has risen from just knowing the vocab and terminology and having mind agility to listening in one language and blurting out in a second or third language to becoming an IT and Sound engineer – more than doubling our checklist before even uttering the first sound.

Today’s Simultaneous Interpreter is expected to know way more than 2 languages

I’ll write later about interpreting – now the focus is on remote learning.

Again the very respected interpreting and translation institution, Alumni, like make other educational structures, just transferred the onsite sessions to the online environment – same teachers, same methods, same length of sessions, same coffee breaks. Any changes necessary?

The flipped classroom format is ubiquitous – the school will send you an email with your assignments and agenda for the forthcoming class and woe is you if you don’t go over them carefully. Fine.

But they take some things for granted. In yesterday’s session, our very good trainer said – “Ok – during the interpreting practice remember to record your voices”.

Ok. Questions in my mind: “Did he tell us which app to use? how should we proceed?” It’s not intuitive.

I asked a boothmate and she told me she was using the Windows recorder. Ah ok.

Instructor: “After today’s session send me your recorded audio”.

My brain: “how? email? WhatsApp? a web platform? I don’t have his number or email address. Did I miss his instructions again?”

These are just simple examples for us teachers. We can’t just assume our students know what to do on their own (you know the old saying, right? “When you assume you make an ass of you and me”). Whatever happened to show and tell? Show me how you do it and then tell me to do it.

Pin on LOLZ
Assumptions must be kept in check

TAKEAWAY: If simple and clear instructions and directions were essential in the in-person environment they are crucial now in the remote classroom.

VIRTUAL TEACHING TIPS

Most of us have been teaching exclusively online for over a year by now and it’s always good to review and refresh our personal approach when teaching on a virtual platform:

Positioning: Try to position yourself in the center of the screen, unless you’re showing a “whiteboard” or some other image. Keep the camera at your eye level so that students won’t be looking up your nostrils or down your balding spots 😉 . Remember to maintain eye contact – don’t be looking at your own image or your students’, rather, look into the camera (usually that little dot on top of your screen).

Look into the camera when speaking not at the screen
  • Appearance: make sure you’re dressed professionally – I’m not telling you to wear a tuxedo or a dress fit for a night at the opera. Just keep it neat and as wrinkle free as possible. Remember students can’t smell you but they do expect to see you. Pants are optional as long as you’re not planning to stand up. Should I wear a shirt or t-shirt? In my in-person classes I mostly wore shirts (and a jacket in colder weather) and on casual Fridays a polo shirt. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve gone down a notch by mostly wearing T-shirts , but trying to avoid brand logos and indiscreet messages on them. I know I’m going on a limb, but count on your common sense and anything with F*** would be deemed inappropriate. Of course check your teeth – nobody likes the embarrassment of seeing “a deer in the garden” or something else stuck in one’s teeth.
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything - YouTube
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything
dishevelled hair - Brandingby Pixels
You’re not expected to look like Brad Pitt post-Covid19 but check your hair before and overall appearance before switching on your camera.
  • Background: Choose something neutral – a white wall or whiteboard would be perfect. A bookcase is fine but the simpler the better – a tv monitor switched on behind you could be very distracting, for example, as well as your pet(s) and toddlers. they’re lovely once or twice but they’re not included in your agreement pack with your students. Keep them away whenever possible.
Self-Adhesive Magnetic Permanent Whiteboard Wall – Myndflo.com
Keep your background neutral as much as possible
  • Timing and Pacing: Some studies have showed that group response rates can be up to 20% lower online than in person, especially in a group setting. Remember that your voice is important but students’ talk time must be higher than yours. Don’t go lecturing when your students could be using that time to practice THEIR communication skills. Keep track of your class activities and always have one or two activities up your sleeve in case you go over all tasks and there are still 10 mins left. But that’s quite unusual. Usually it’s too much for such a little time. I have a student who has two 45-minute classes per week – and I always go overtime with her… that’s not good business sense or academically and I have to cut back on the activities and focus on key points. Remember that sometimes students (or yourself) might be having connection issues. Don’t lose your temper and be accommodating to the situation as it presents itself.

Reflect on your courses from the first session on a regular basis, make sure you’re delivering content that is useful and attractive to your students while keeping them satisfied. After all they’re your customers.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching online is easy but requires preparation and equipment