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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’.
In the beginning of this whole crisis – which will probably take on different names depending on what kind of aspects are most critical for people – only a few of my classes were cancelled. It was a gradual process and I must admit, one I didn’t always understand. “Why cancel the one-to-one meetings, that makes no sense” was one of my first objections in the beginning. Never mind, now all meetings have been cancelled.
My friend and colleague who runs a little language school that provides lessons and trainings for various companies and for whom I also teach sent out an email message to all participants, assuring them that all classes would continue online, not to worry. I read this email on one of my last shopping trips and just thought “Oh my god, what is she saying?” No way can we just continue ‘business as usual’ and move everything online as if this were an optional place we could all move to.
And we can’t.
However, things keep changing. In the mean time I gave up my total resistance to any idea of online (interactive) teaching only to find: I was totally correct. You can not simply switch from a class room setting to an online setting. We tried.
I have a wonderful little group who immediately said: yes, sure, let’s give it a try. And we did. We set up a webex meeting. One was the host, the others joined and we met at the given time.
It was an ‘interesting’ experience. ‘Interesting’ in the sense you mean when a friend invites you to a special meal he or she cooked and you don’t want to hurt their feelings when they ask what you think.
I learn a lot of things ‘online’. I started learning or relearning the guitar a few years ago and found a wonderful online course. Justin Sandercoe’s Justinguitar (I’ll place a link later.)
But none of this is interactive. I use the internet for my own classes too, give recommendations, tell them where to go, what to watch, read etc. But none of this is interactive (and I know I said that already).
Back to my first online class meeting: We all joined at the appointed time. We struggled with white noise, probably due to a bad connection, or/and because too many were using the system. We switched off ‘video’ and only spoke, which was awkward at the beginning, but we agreed: it was a little like practising telephoning and that is, as everyone knows, one of the most difficult things to do in a foreign language.
We had awkward moments of silence when nobody seemed to know whose turn it was. Blind mice groping around in the dark. Since I was the teacher, the leader, so to speak, I eventually assumed it was my turn.
As I had never done this before, it took a while until I found out how to share stuff. (Though I’m still not sure if I was doing things correctly.) I went to the share button, tried to share web pages, kept asking what they saw (nothing, blank screen, your desk screen, whatever). In the end I went to my word programme and managed to share a word file that we read and discussed together.
We agreed that we had improved during our session in using the system and plan to meet again. My little synapses responsible for creating things have started firing and coming up with little ideas of how we can benefit from the disadvantages of the situation.
What I personally appreciate about this situation is that I have more time for writing again. I will try to edit this whole blog, create a better order of things and continue writing even if just to a ghost reader. At least I will have a kind of Corona diary in the end.
And I will try to keep on learning and finding out how we can improve things for our English course participants. At the moment, I believe, many don’t really have their English training as a top priority. However, depending on how long this situation lasts, that might change, at least for some.
And even if we cannot replace a real face to face setting, we might come a little closer.