Yesterday I started class two hours before midnight asking my students what they had just eaten for breakfast. While I had finished an entire day’s worth of fun and work, their eventful days had just started. Seeing my face in the zoom thumbnail, teaching under the artificial light of my desk lamp, and seeing their adorable faces illuminated by natural light from the windows, really made me wish that I was there with them.
Teaching over zoom is much more difficult than I expected, not only because of logistical problems like wifi-connection issues or time differences but also because forming personal connections with the students is exponentially harder. We teach different students every period (4 periods) of every day of the week (except Fridays). With 40-45 min per class, it is nearly impossible to make personal connections with every student. This, compounded with internet connection issues, sometimes makes it difficult for us to even hear each student speak at least once during class. While thinking about these problems, initially, I faced them with frustration and impatience. But surely, that has never helped any situation, has it?
I wondered, would this opportunity have been better had I waited for it to be in person?
The answer in my brain was mixed, but the bottom line is that zoom teaching is essential, not only for this summer but for the future of education. While researching better ways to teach my students, I stumbled across an ESL video on Youtube where she explained online teaching tips for ESL teachers. It was made in February 2020, before the pandemic shut down the country and closed the borders. This just shows how the world is developing technologically. Later, even if in-person teaching is possible, it may not be the best option. The work we are doing may play an important role in developing better zoom teaching techniques for the program, that will accompany the world’s expanding online learning opportunities.
This brings me back to my original frustration. How are we supposed to create a community with these students? I am working with some amazing people, and they have brought so many great ideas. From creative interactive zoom activities to creating large student group chats, there is definitely a way to interact with the students in a more personal way. I have learned so much from my teaching partners, and I am so grateful for this program for giving me an opportunity to meet new people!
Even with all the difficulties (which were inevitable), this week has been extremely fun. The students are so excited to see us, and we have so much fun interacting with them. Some students even told us that they love us! Our time-zone differences bring another exciting topic of discussion for them. When I tell them, “right now for me, it is nighttime”, they always respond with “oohs” and “aahs”. The world right now is very small for them (because they are 11-14 years old!) and I am so excited to take part in expanding their horizons.
In the future, accommodating 12-hour time-zone differences may become the norm, and the sun may never set on our extremely fun and increasingly personal zoom meetings. I’m excited to see the student’s progress and how the following weeks will play out. Hopefully, our zoom techniques will progress too.