Mina Tzur – Yehud Comprehensive High School
I have been teaching English as a Foreign Language for 49 years now and have always found that my extensive experience has served me well. I have dealt with teaching through several times of crises and had confidence in my ability to surmount obstacles.
However, I had never dreamed that at the age of 74 I would need to learn how to teach remotely via Zoom.
In the beginning, it was extremely frustrating and made me feel that my real skills and abilities as a veteran teacher couldn’t help me cope with the new difficulties. I felt that all of a sudden I had to acquire digital skills that I was not used to working with and that had little to do with good foreign language teaching.
But I couldn’t let my students down.
A good teacher knows when to ask for help!
While kind teachers on my staff at school were very supportive and helpful, they were dealing with their own challenges. The person who really taught me how to create a Zoom session, invite students and other such basics was a 15-year-old, who even made himself available for “immediate emergency assistance” when I was teaching!
I didn’t waste much time with complicated screen controls but rather focused on my old principles of insisting on discipline, manners, and lots of effort on the part of the student. That’s what kept me going. I wouldn’t give up on the requirement to see their faces on the screen, rather than black squares. I expected them to enter class on time, answer questions, and do their homework. It took my 12th graders, who had been studying with me since the beginning of their 11th grade, time to realize that it was “business as usual”. The moment they accepted it, we had great lessons and they did very well on their national exams. Quite an achievement in times of a pandemic. In a letter that they wrote to me at the end of the year, they thanked me for insisting on quality studying, not giving up on anyone, and teaching the way they were used to learning in class. They specifically emphasized that even when learning via Zoom, they felt that we maintained a personal relationship, mutual understanding, and the feeling that I am always there for them.
Eventually, I can honestly say that I was proud of them for cooperating and proud of myself for managing to master skills that were so new to me. The 12th-grade students were so generous in helping me cope with digital problems that arose throughout the lessons.
However, teaching the 11th-grade students, who were as new to me as I was to them, was a more challenging story. They had a hard time getting used to my “old school” teaching and I had a hard time realizing that in addition to teaching the material, I needed to teach my students how to study in my class. I sometimes had to convince a parent who was there, watching the lesson that I knew what I was doing. In the beginning, I felt as if there was a candid camera in the room…
Some amusing dialogues:
Why can’t I see your face on the screen – – – – – The internet isn’t working around town (very inaccurate!).
Why are you wearing your pajamas to the lesson? – – – – – I really chose my most beautiful outfit!
Where is your homework? – – – – – – My cat ate it up.
Looking back and judging by the results, this experience was meaningful too.