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).
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.
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.
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.
A fellow teacher, Ms. Teresa Thompson, based in Lincoln, Nebraska sent me this email last week:
“Just got through hearing about Brazil again on National Public Radio (hope it’s not too large a file–can send the link instead, if you want -https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978832056/brazil-covid-19-cases-climb-as-deaths-overwhelm-hospitals-and-funeral-services ). Here’s what we are saying about your country...you guys are a global threat! It’s your turn to lead the world in this pandemic. Not exactly an honor though, I’m afraid. Please take precautions seriously and by all means, don’t turn down any vaccines!“
Here’s my reply to Teresa Thompson’s email:
“Thank you Teresa for your concern. Yes, the situation down here is cause for concern especially around the poor areas of the large urban centers.”
“Many pastors in our union and local conferences have already died or are in the ICU – the grim reaper is taking also younger people – contrary to last year – now the number of deaths of the elderly is down by 25% while the numbers of deaths of people between 20 and 50 has increased by 65% .”
“All we can do is stay home as much as possible, keep clean hands and wear a mask when outdoors. “
“I still notice a strong international bias against Brazil because of our moronic president – and I mean it – he still insists that COVID is just the flu, people who die is because they were already sick and would die anyway, he preaches that masks are filthy, useless and make people sick from wearing them. No wonder many Brazilians now blame him for the nearly 300k deaths and call him a genocider.”
“And also the nation is divided – at least 30% of the population blindly believes what president Bolsonaro says (I’m calling him now Bolsominion 😜) – and so many people keep on walking around without masks and saying that a lockdown would be devastating to the Brazilian economy – a few deaths wouldn’t be as bad. 🤦🏻♂️ And going to group protests on streets to defend the president. “
“To add salt to the wound, state and municipal governments opposing the president started bickering among themselves and not following a coordinated movement to raise awareness of the population … approving mini lockdowns and labeling some COVID treatment hospitals as “catastrophe hospitals” and changing directives about what should companies and citizens do during this time.
Let me give you an example: One day the state orders: No food takeaway. Only through delivery or drive-thru. The next day: Takeaways are allowed. The next day: No takeaways. Are we entitled to feel a little lost and confused?! “
“The picture ain’t pretty in our sad tropics but hope still shines. “
“Stay well. Stay safe and Happy Sabbath. “
Teresa replied with the following:
“Thanks for the first hand reporting there. Sounds like you not only had mixed messaging about the virus, like we had with ex-President Trump. Sounds like all your messaging has been bad!”
“Wonder if that variant is responsible for the increased deaths in younger people. Now that’s something I bet they are concerned about–or should be!“
“I’m actually concerned that now that I’m vaccinated, my daughter’s family won’t be quite as cautious. I’ve worried all along about them getting sick too. There’s just no rhyme or reason involved in this covid (sic).”
“But it’s sad that something that should be uniting the world, is actually dividing it so much. I keep praying that God will have mercy on all of us….no matter how we mess up and disappoint Him.”
Hope this message gives you, dear reader, a glimpse of the situation in Brazil.
We tend to like lists so I decided to present my adapted commandments (from https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/297719/The-Ten-eLearning-Commandments-Infographic) from what I’ve been learning as an online/remote teacher of English as a Foreign Language. Until 3 years ago, my wife and I used to travel a lot (she on business and I as a great travel companion) so I got used early on to teaching online using especially FaceTime – let’s say 5 or 6 years ago. Now with the pandemic, of course, both teacher and learners lost their choice of face to face or online classes. Of course, choice is still out there. One student moved from face to face to telephone-only classes. A few others decided that to pay for online classes would be a waste of time and money – like paying for a virtual sandwich – you can see it, even see its creation step by step, but not taste it, chuckles) – and they had Netflix and YouTube. Dump the teacher.
These commandments are nothing new but still relevant and mean to remind my students and I of what we are doing, the benefits of following them and the risks of breaking a single one of them.
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt NOT Put the Learner On a Pedestal
Now, that doesn’t mean learners are not important – without them – you cannot teach, right?
Ensure that your learner feels in control and well-oriented. The learner has to know what, why, and where learning is taking place.
So this is commandment #1. Make sure the learner experience is put first and foremost, but remember they’re paying you to be a teacher not their pal or confidant. For that they’d have to pay much, much more.
Commandment #2: Thou shalt not multitask
Thou shalt not multitask. Modern technology makes it easy to do many things at once, but that doesn’t always mean you should. If you’re communicating with others, focus on them, and them alone. Minimize the other tabs on your screen, silence your phone, and never eat or go to the bathroom during a call (unless it’s an emergency). Being on mute or having your camera turned off is not an excuse. You can wait. If you’re desperate or the meeting is running long, ask for a 5-minute break.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Plan, Plan, and be ready to throw the plan out of the window
Behind every successful man there is a woman, or so the saying goes. And behind every successful eLearning project, is a well-devised and detailed plan.
Beautiful idea but in practical terms the learner is not interested in whatever time and plans you have. It is THEIR agenda. Have your plan but rest assured that more often than not you won’t be able to implement it.
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Respect Thy Learner and Thy Teacher
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Don’t know what it means to me” – Aretha Franklin
Ms. Franklin was right. Relationships require respect.
You’ve got to respect your learner’s intelligence and respond to their needs. Make sure you understand their background, how they like to learn, and what style of learning appeals to them. If you hit the wrong tone, your learners may feel demeaned and even insulted.
Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Not Rely Only On Technology
Yes, you read it right. You’re working with another human being. Focus on their needs not the equipment and tricks.
In today’s multi-screen world, it’s easy to think of learning in different platforms, with desktops, tablets, and smartphones each with different compatibilities and operating systems. Elearning has to change. It has to be responsive, multi-format, and look good on whatever device it’s used on.
Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Use an Agenda
When hosting or participating in a meeting, respect the attendees’ time and other obligations as much as possible.
eLearning is a practice of restraint and balance. Remember to use useful design, not decoration, and give breathing room. Just like in photography, negative space can sometimes make all the difference; there’s no need to fill every little space.
Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Focus on Competence, Not Grades
Competency-based learning lets learners move through a course at their own pace. This is a more valuable approach; the focus isn’t on completing a training program within a specific time, it’s about doing it slow, and doing it right. Competency-based training doesn’t randomly “dump” tons of knowledge on the learner, it lets the learner choose. They know when to move on, and when they’ve absorbed the material. This makes learning more effective than the “dump and run” model and the learner feels more satisfied and leaves no gaps in their skill set.
Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Show, Not Tell.
We’ve all been there. Bored in a presentation or taking an eLearning course. Checking the time every few seconds, wondering when it’s going to end.
Why do we feel this way? Usually because eLearning is designed as just conveying information, just telling. Just being spoken at.
This is one of the least effective ways to share information. If you want your audience to remember your content, you need to show, not tell. This means you should tell more stories in your course, give examples, create scenarios, you have to give the audience something they can relate to, and help them find connections between the learning content and their roles.
In a nutshell, this is how to do it: less exposition, more action. You’ll see how your learners react in a completely different way.
Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Be Respectful of Time
eLearning has to be more sociable, but Never assume you are anyone’s highest priority. Be flexible when possible but always remember that TIME IS MONEY. When you’re remote, you must be intentional about keeping a time frame.
Commandment #10: Thou Shalt Plan for Sprints, Not marathons.
I know, this sounds counter-intuitive. But hear me out. Nowadays, learners struggle with information overload. We have stuff coming at us from mobile phones, email, the web, and good ol’ fashioned verbal communication.
Learners have too much going on already – if you bombard them with information they’re going to tune out quickly. They might retain scraps, a key word here and there, or they might retain nothing. Don’t risk it. Organize your content into small, bite-sized ‘sprints’.
Me perguntaram: “Como é a sua manhã de sábado nestes tempos de isolamento social?”
Cada pessoa tem o seu estilo, mas para mim:
1. Continuo acordando cedo (5:30) e ouvindo hinos e/ou revisando a lição da escola sabatina
2. às 6:45 levanto, faço a barba, tomo banho.
3. Arrumamos a cama e colocamos roupas confortáveis (nada de pijama e muito menos terno kkkk)
4. Lemos o devocional matinal
5. Tomamos o cafe da manhã
6. Ás 8:30 estamos na igreja online do Unasp SP
7. Ás 10:30 entramos na English Sabbath School online
Um hábito gostoso e que me faz muito bem
Como é o seu sábado de manhã? 🤔😇 #Felizsábado
I was asked: “How is your Saturday morning in these times of social isolation?”
Each person has their own style, but for me:
1. I keep waking up early (5:30) and listening to hymns and / or reviewing the Sabbath school lesson
2. at 6:45 am I get up, shave, shower.
3. We make the bed and put comfortable clothes (no pajamas and much less kkkk suit)
4. We read the morning devotional
5. We eat breakfast
6. At 8:30 am we are at the Unasp SP online church
7. At 10:30 we enter the English Sabbath School online
A tasty habit that makes me feel good
As the days of 2018 run to a close, you can hear some people saying that it’s just another date. It means nothing. My mother used to say that too. As a housewife her whole life she’d say yesterday, today, tomorrow have their same lot of cleaning, washing and cooking.
The Chinese have a different new year date. The Jews too. Islam also follows a different calendar. Googling it up, even the Native indigenous people in South America follow a calendar year which starts on June 21 – the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Ok. I didn’t find anything about Brazilian indigenous tribes but I’m pretty sure if they have a New Year Date it won’t be January 01.
Richard Vaughan, an American teacher in Spain, loves to say that the year would make much better sense if it really started somewhere in September.
In Brazil the year ending in December coincides with the ending of the school year and the beginning of summer so gives a good closure to the cycle of life (at least academically speaking).
Other people decide to fight all resolutions – they’re pointless. So their resolution is to make no resolutions.
I’ll go against the flow and encourage you to make small, feasible resolutions. There is a psychological factor in taking out the old calendar and putting up a new calendar. Get rid of the old, and put on the new.
We all had small victories in 2018. Maybe small and big losses, but it is all in the past now. No, no, they won’t fade away as a dream, but they will hurt less in 2019… allow yourself to heal, give yourself time to lick your wounds, to dust off your pride … decide that you will be a better teacher, a better spouse, a better human being… . Yes, I know it won’t happen as magic but you have made up the decision which shows you are willing to grow.
So, child, go forth, slip, trip over, fall, roll back, love and allow yourself to be loved… but keep moving forward.
Last week I brought a student to tears. Well, actually, I just happened to be in the same room, and you know what women are like. Wait, wait, y’all supporters of the #MeToo movement (moi aussi/ me too) … women are more emotionally intelligent than men and they know that tears clear the soul. But my point is: My student was so nervous about attending a meeting in English the following week that her vulnerability spilled over in her tears.
One thing she must remember is that a charming and intelligent woman can go monosyllabic during a meeting in English.
Native speakers must remember they may not be seeing all of a person because they are afraid they look ridiculous when speaking English. “I’ve seen people lose a job because of this issue. It’s a real problem.”
So I told my intermediate student to make the effort to speak English clearly. That’s it.
Secondly, she had to prepare. Practice in front of a mirror, look up words and their pronunciation that might come up during the meeting.
Thirdly, I told her to have a glass of wine 🍷, yes I did. Why? Because if that would help her loosen up and relax that would be a plus. Yoga and other relaxation techniques also help.
In other words, her main concern was not the content of the meeting, not even the language barrier, but the fact that SHE would have to speak in English.
People hatemeetingsthat waste time.Use these tips to be a time saver, not a time stealer.
I usually teach students on a one-to-one basis but every Saturday morning I find myself volunteering in a classroom with 60 to 80 people ranging in ages from 15 to 74 and coming from all walks of life. One common ground is that it’s an English language class to study the Bible and sing worship songs both traditional hymns and more contemporary ones. Talk about diversity. Some students know no English at all whilst others are quite fluent. Most are in between. So … how can I make this class work?
1. Usually I try to get higher level students to help lower levels, be it by providing translation, or modeling pronunciation, etc. Also we try to divide the class in smaller groups and to have at least a high level student working in a group of 4 or 5.
2. I’ve mentioned above the common denominator and they really try to use their bible knowledge and weekly study to build on new learning steps.
3. Using visual resources – pictures, realia, a short video, etc,which provide another common ground while higher level students will be able to help others to expand their vocabulary, for example.
4. Every week the students know they’re walking into a “free zone” where they will not be judged or criticized for their language skills or beliefs, thus creating a welcoming environment where they will gradually be willing to take risks and even “play the fool”.
Let me share with you the story of Diego. That tall and lanky young man one day walked into our class, settled in a corner and refused to say a word. The following week we managed to get him to mumble his name. But nothing else. He was shyness personified. We allowed him to come to class and quietly and shyly stick around. We started a little weekly challenge that whoever memorized that week’s key bible verse would get a little reward. Sometimes a cookie, other times a magazine, other times a CD, other times just a handshake, etc. Then one day, after a few months of unresponsiveness, to our astonishment, Diego stood up and said the memory text for the week. From then on he never stopped, and now he even prays in public or shares a little missionary story.
Yes, we’re all different but we can help one another grow at their own pace.
We were in class last week and my student, Rodrigo, a very keen elementary level student started yawning. Aware that his action could be misinterpreted by his teacher – ME – he quickly interjected – “sorry teacher, I’m yawning not because the class is boring. Just because I’m relaxed. In the beginning of the curse (COURSE – I corrected his pronunciation, chuckles) I was very anxious every time I came to class”.
So after a few months, we had turned a corner in our relationship. I was no longer the big, bad teacher ready to correct his every mistake and to taunt him if he made repetitive mistakes. He realized I was there to help him. To facilitate his connection with the language.
How to connect with your students:
1. Acknowledge them
2. Establish boundaries
3. Develop a healthy but professional relationship with them
Nowadays when we think of connections we always think of going online, which is good in its proper time and place. But teachers must be willing to connect with their students on a more personal level. I’m not saying that you must be best friends with all your students or any of them for that matter. But you must be willing to lend an ear and be sensitive to their difficulties when learning a foreign language.
The challenge is to walk that fine line between being empathetic or apathetic and “going the whole 10 yards” – I’m saying 10 yards because I can’t emphasize enough how wrong it is to hear that a teacher has been making out with a student – (regardless of their age or gender). The same can happen with one’s doctor or therapist. Or with the supermarket checkout clerk, but does it make it right and professional?
I know some cases of teachers who have even married their former students (one at a time, mind you; wink, wink) but they developed their relationship (to the best of my knowledge) after they had terminated their teacher-student relationship. And that still is a grey area.
So by all my means, do connect with your students but always remember where you’re coming from and where you’re going. And never think you’re above all that and it would never happen to you. Keep yourself accountable and grow.
Yeah, yeah, I know, Virginia. I live in the Southern Hemisphere therefore I should have had winter vacations this July, but considering my wife and I traveled to the US – let’s agree to keep it as a summer vacation.
I’ve succeeded in convincing my sweetheart that I need to recycle my English and inhale some American oxygen every year ( don’t forget I’m an Americanoid) , so we always make an effort and try to travel to America at least once a year.
This time we traveled to Orlando, Florida and Dallas, Texas. In Orlando we met up with our “stepfamily” – Liz and Ray, their 15-year-
old son, Jared, and the matriarch, Helen. We spent two intense days and although I had some idea about visiting a theme park – namely Universal Studios – we actually ended up visiting only The Holy Land Experience, which was quite surprising.
At the entrance you just see a bunch of fake rocks and buildings but once inside the staff and the people attending generate a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. There are no “rides”, just some exhibition areas where you can see, for example, a life-size replica of the tabernacle in the desert, the Via Dolorosa (way cleaner and brighter than the real thing, I dare say), the Lord’s supper where you partake of the bread and the wine with Jesus himself (well, OK, every Jesus is an ordained minister – but it’s still a moving experience). You can visit a sort of wax museum where you can see scenes of Jesus’ life: birth, ministry, Garden of Gethsemane, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension).
The highest point was the series of dramatizations taking place at the auditorium of he Church of the Nations. Stories about the four women who had a life-changing encounter with Jesus; the crucifixion; a modern-day parable about Angels, the moments of praise and worship all designed to successfully move you to tears. And I must say they powerfully succeeded with us. The day ends with a musical show of the fountains. I had
thought the experience would take us 2-3 hours, but we spent the whole day there and were the last guests to leave.
We flew to Dallas and despite the toasty, roasty temperatures we had a wonderful 4th of July weekend there. With a patriotic concert of Larnelle Harris, barbecue at sister-in-law’s home and a fantastic fireworks display at the Dallas Athletic Club. We returned to Brazil on the 5th of July and I was very saddened by the news of the sniper killing and wounding police officers in Dallas.
Thinking allowed after the latest crises in America
In Orlando we had the opportunity to visit the memorial for the victims of the Pulse nightclub and every time the subject came up people would be extremely touched and saddened by that ignominious attack. But one thing that called my attention was that some people (let’s assume they were unaware of that) made some comments that bordered on racism such as:
“I don’t know why we bought a home in Apopka. There are too many black people in the area. At least, we bought it on the white side.” (Come again, ma?)
In Dallas, we stayed at the Comfort Suites in the northern part of the city because people had warned us the south side was too violent and dangerous (should I have heard “too many black people”?), but our hotel would lock its doors after 9 pm, because it’s not a very safe area. Hmmm… .
We went to the Larnelle Harris concert at the First Baptist church in Lewisville – and considering that Larnelle is a wonderful African-American gospel singer – his was the only dark face we could see in the whole church – sadly still confirming the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement who once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” And apparently little has changed.
It still boggles my mind that the organization of my dear Seventh-Day Adventist Church – still maintains separate conferences for whites and African-Americans.
On a brighter note, we had the privilege to meet our nephew’s husband for the first time. And YES, he is gay and black. Does it mean that he will have to die twice?
From what I understand he didn’t choose to be gay or black but I can choose to accept them and love them despite the differences. I cannot control the hatred and prejudice that permeate our world but I can choose how to deal with people’s differences.
In Most of the Western World – including developed and developing countries – the career of a teacher is considered worthy of respect, at least theoretically; because in practical terms, teachers are underpaid and overworked most of the time. If you work in the public or private school systems you are always the weakest link between the students and parents and the administrators.
If you are self-employed you must always be running after new clients and professional development. If you teach in companies then you must be subject to their rules and regulations and to the ebb and flow of the mood of human resources.
Mostly, I have been well treated at the companies where I have taught, but now an International Bank (let us call it ABC Bank for illustration purposes) with a new HR management at a new headquarters has declared war on all teachers providing services in their offices. Yes, you are just another service provider delivering the next lunch or package. Yes, the company is doing their employees “a favor” allowing them to have classes on the premises. Of course, you are not supposed to be circulating in the building among the different departments, so you should go just to the floor assigned to you and after meeting with your student to have access to a room. But that’s all understandable. What I can’t understand is the requirement that teachers shouldn’t use the toilet. And if absolutely necessary only when accompanied by the student, since the restrooms are locked away in areas to be accessed only by staff. Now… as a teacher to lack the permission to use the toilet when necessary feels like the last drop.
… here’s my “5 cents worth” of advice:
Dress properly – adjust your clothes to the work environment you’ll be teaching in (err in overdressing not underdressing).
Set the limits – your students are not your best friends or family – be professional and empathetic.
Prepare your lessons – you can’t go far with just “free conversation” lessons.
Keep improving yourself both as a person and as a professional teacher.
There! No matter what be proud of your chosen career. I ain’t no Whitney Houston but I’ll sing it with her: “they can’t take away my DIGNITY. Because the greatest love of all…” yeah, yeah, you got my gist.