Vicky Loras – Privately Employed Teacher & Ph.D. Researcher, Switzerland
Naomi: Vicky! From “noooooooooooo” to “wooohooos” with emojis sprinkled in – I’m so glad you agreed to talk to me about teaching adults remotely during the pandemic.
But first, may I ask :
How many years have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 24 years, ever since I was a student at university. It is a funny story, as I had never imagined being a teacher – I had wanted to become a lawyer for as long as I remembered myself up to that point! However, missing a window of a 0.25 mark in the entrance exams sent me to teaching school and I am so happy about this “accident” (I hope my students are too!).
I had absolutely no experience with Zoom before the pandemic, only Skype – some of my students from Greece wanted to continue learning with me after I had left Greece for Switzerland in 2009, and we used that tool. Zoom wasn’t so hard for me, and I think it is a really practical tool. With some of my private students, we have decided to continue teaching remotely, as it saves them from commuting to come to me.
Nonetheless, there were some initial difficulties. Bad internet connections were pretty rare but when they happened, they could become quite an issue.
In addition, in large groups, some people would be too shy to turn on their microphones to ask something, so I encouraged them to use the private chat function in order for me to answer their questions.
Most importantly, not seeing or hearing the student’s reactions was quite the challenge! It still is sometimes.
Wait a minute – didn’t your students turn on their cameras?
The policy at our two business schools where I teach part-time was for all students to have their cameras on at all times. Even so, some students chose to keep them off for their own reasons. I would check in on them every now and then to see if they were okay.
A useful technique that I adopted, is what I call “surprise questions“. I use it to check if everyone is still participating! The questions I ask are for everyone, the students just don’t know the order in which they will be asked to answer…
Can you give an example of something you did that made “life” easier?
Maybe not easier, but more pleasant! I encourage my online students, especially in groups, to go ‘wooohooo’ or clap loudly when they like an activity we are doing, or even say ‘noooooooooooo’ if they don’t like something. So far, the ‘nooooooooooo’ has been used only for fun and to make us laugh!
It is always funny when the students decide to use gifs or emojis to express what they want to say or give feedback. Of course, I take advantage of this as a language moment, so they have to explain why they used the emojis or gifs – sometimes they are from tv programs that I had no idea existed!
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Vicky! May teaching remotely in the future become a tool you use when appropriate, but not a necessity…