It seems, we will have to live with Covid 19 as an additional health threat here to stay. 2023 was very quiet in relation to the virus, and things feel almost ‘like before’. Every once in a while you hear of new infections, but the virus doesn’t seem to be as contagious as it was. Some changes in workplaces seem to have become more permanent. Office employees have returned to their offices at least for a few days a week, hybrid models and more flexibility seem to have become more common and Working from Home also seems to be here to stay. Since my class members are among those enjoying the flexibility of a hybrid working system, I am still mostly teaching online; and beginning to think whether I could become a digital nomad and work from a cottage at the coast or a tree house in the woods, or something like that – good internet connection provided.
Though I am still online, I feel that with the end of the pandemic I need to overhaul my blog. Maybe even choose a new theme. Especially Viral Times and Useful Lesson Links read like diaries of the last three years. I don’t want to delete anything, I am glad I have this document of the past three years. But now, 2023, I feel I need to change things.
I will try to restructure those parts and topics that can be used as lesson plans, reduce the number of categories and try to make this whole thing more useful – not just for myself. It has become too crammed and needs to be made more practical
Teams backgrounds – not a fan
Microsoft Teams has several useful functions, and I enjoy using the platform for my online classes. As already mentioned several times in other post, my absolute favorite is the possibility to share – almost anything – with my course participants.
But then there is the so-called background effect. In the beginning, when we ‘teamed up’ online, I found this function useful as well, even funny at times, when people became creative with their own background images (one of them created a background that made him look like he was sitting in a Star Wars spaceship – spectacular!).
One great benefit of online teaching is the ability to share the internet. I have used this a lot. We played online escape rooms together, shared and discussed articles, images and charts, Ted talks, you tube videos etc.
In one session, using google maps, we went to our respective homes. We went to Spanish villages, home towns in Germany or the US; in one session we looked at the respective places people live at currently in Hannover. We ‘showed’ a new employee around the city, introduced her to places to see, or things to do. It was quite enjoyable and sometimes also fairly personal when we shared background stories of where our families live or lived, why some of us wanted to move or were not happy with where they lived.
Looking around via street view offers a special experience, an experience that can be supplemented by a few rounds of Geoguessr.
It was and is interesting to observe how focusses have changed and concerns shifted over the last 18 months. From the beginnings of the crisis (that I documented on extensively), over the long phases of lockdown – settling into things, kind of – to now: a time of discussions on future work models, so-called ‘New Normals’, frustrated managers, new concepts of leadership, jobs quit, and life models reconsidered, to mention just a few.
Below I will post those links that I have shared most the last weeks and months.
We are in week 13 of Corona. I had to go into my calendar and count. Ever since Germany started with loosening the quarantine measures, life has become a little more restless again. As one writer said: going into ‘Corona’ was easy, getting out again way more complicated.
Our local sports club has been opening up gradually. The individual sports departments had to hand in concepts how to uphold the corona regulations and outdoor sports could commence. Thus, I’m back on the tennis courts, even though I didn’t miss it during the total shutdown. We went for long walks instead behind our village. On the weekends we explored the hills and forests of our region in a radius of 30 kilometers – and were quite amazed at what we found.
But, to tell the truth, it was good to meet more people and friends again. And I must admit, the last two weeks I was on our sports ground almost every day. (The sports pub was also allowed to open under strict hygiene rules 😉
I believe this will be one of the topics of the coming weeks. The past weeks we have been talking about what the current situation is like for us. Most of my English class participants are in home office, so we talked about what that is like for us. I documented my own gradual development into doing my classes online over the weeks with the ups and downs, and adjustments.
Turns out, many of my students are not unhappy with working from home and say they will try to keep a higher amount of work time spent in home office after the corona situtation.
One of the interesting questions for me in this connection was and is WHY many of us – among those privileged to carry on earning money doing home office – are partly even happier than they were before. We’ve had some very open exchanges on this question, which touched upon what will, might be or stay different after the corona shutdowns/lockdowns on the one hand, but also relate to and question aspects of the lives we led or lead or have been leading (I’m not totally sure of my verb structure choice here).
In the mean time, and after what felt like ages, our online meetings are beginning to be quite okay. My tolerance level for technical problems really degraded after five weeks, but in week six things looked a little brighter and I feel a little less overwhelmed, a little more confident and actually quite happy with some of our sessions.
I must thank my group members, who were so patient and helpful in making our online meetings worthwhile. I also feel that there are some advantages to meeting this way. People seem more attentive, more concentrated and focussed on listening. And listening is significantly important to the language learning/development process. Of course, I have no idea what those are doing who slip out of the picture as most progammes allow only a limited number of videos to appear on the screen. But in times like these it is important to trust.
In week five I have been mainly concerned with listing useful lesson links in the post below. The emotional side of things is best described as a roller coaster ride. The weather outside is really nice, if a little dry. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the only really disturbing thing these days are motor bikes.
Most people I speak to agree on two things concerning what they miss most and what they find best about our new way of life these days. What people miss most, of course, are other people, especially those they feel close to like relatives and best friends. After seeing colleagues only online for five weeks now, if seeing them at all, as the video function is the first to go if the connection is bad, people long to meet again in person.
My fourth week of having to stay at home. If this continues much longer, I will have to come up with different headlines for my posts – it’s becoming a little repetitive.
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in a friends’ garden (without my friends, we are still social distancing), realizing that I was beginning to lose my sense of time; how many weeks have passed now again? I wasn’t sure. However, I did remember that we are in the Easter week. Unless you consider next week to be the Easter week. Actually, it’s just a prolonged weekend and I am babbling.
The weather is wonderful and this week feels a little like a real vacation, despite the situation.
I had just a few meetings and phone calls. And the corona related pictures and videos are gradually being replaced by Easter greetings. However, yesterday I was sent a video that was new to me. (Turned out, when I passed it on, several already knew of it, but enjoyed watching it again anyhow.)
There are many webpages dealing with this topic. Especially now, as working from home has so suddenly become a new situation for so many people, the topic has gained some urgency.
For teachers, a considerable part of our job is done at home – preparing classes, reading, researching etc. – so having a home office and working at home is not totally new for us. But now it has gained a different quality in its exclusivity. I have never spent so many hours sitting at my desk in front of my computer. In the beginning, I didn’t even realize how many hours straight I had been spending at my desk trying to figure things out – see below 😉
It’s the end of week three. I am beginning to get the hang of this online teaching thing. Ideas are popping up and there are great webpages, ESL/EFL and others to be used. Onestopenglish lessons, for instance, are downloadable as PDF files and can be shared. Another page is BreakingNews.com where you can also download and save lessons as PDF files for sharing in your online lesson/meeting.
The sharing is not as complicated as I thought in the beginning – once you understand a few things about the respective programme you are using. (So far I have only been using Cisco Webex.)
There are a few little but essential things you just have to know and follow for everything to work smoothly.
I can’t really believe we are only in the second week. I’m not sure who WE all are, but definitely me and my freelance language teaching colleagues and everyone else who has been shut out of their companies or places they used to go to for work.
I’m trying to keep up my academic, observational approach to the whole situation, but I must admit, it is becoming harder. Already. The measures are supposed to last until end of April, we haven’t even reached the end of March.
In the New York Times, and other similar locations, more and more articles are popping up trying to encourage people. Groups willing to help others in need are coming together. Many, many initiatives that give hope that the world indeed might be a different place after Corona. At least for a time. Even the most conservative of politicians (Wolfgang Schäuble last night) are uttering sentiments like that and I’m sure glad to be in Germany in these times and not in the US – or the UK.
My blog activities have been pretty rare over the last few years. Ever since I finished my most important project: The Verb Structure Circle. (Though I’m sure there are still mistakes to be found, things to change or edit.)
But now I suddenly find myself with a lot of time at my hands. Almost all my classes have been cancelled and I am stranded at home. We do try to find alternatives; we phone or try to set up online meetings (more about that later), but all in all, we – not just me – are at home. Some are teleworking for their companies, others – like me – are freelancers. The emphasis, at the moment, can safely be put on ‘free’.