Personal Reflections on Online Teaching

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Going back to class can be daunting. I feel sad to leave my online classroom and excited to interact with students in person.

I learned many lessons during this unprecedented coronavirus period. Returning to in-class teaching, I can reflect on my experience.

When we went online, it took some time to get students adjusted. My level 4 class started attending regularly, but it was more of a challenge for literacy students. They eventually came around with the help of family members, and we figured out ways to make material accessible. Later, I switched to another lower-level class and taught summer school with higher-level students. I was grateful to teach students with different language abilities. It’s an experience that I will never forget.

Besides addressing Zoom issues, I created a predictable classroom environment where students could learn, practice skills, and interact socially, which was helpful during coronavirus restrictions.

We also explored language-use in many different contexts using images and videos on the internet. There were a lot of opportunities for learning, fun, and engagement on topics otherwise presented directly by the teacher. For example, we did conversation practice, recipe videos, or tours of homes in Canada.

I liked showing students samples of anything task-based. We reviewed real-job applications and later practiced using simpler versions in MS Word. I took them through job application process online and gave them tips on what to look for. Other examples like booking vaccinations online were also helpful.

Real-life examples were better than textbooks, worksheets, or dated samples. I used material from picture dictionaries and grammar books sparingly. Everything could be found online through websites like BBC Learn English or even Google Translate. Most often, I would use Google Images or YouTube videos to explore vocabulary which they could later review. Of course, conversation examples were helpful from a variety of sources and later we could make scripts together. There was a lot more variety in teaching online and it kept everyone motivated.

However, there are definite advantages to being in a physical classroom. We were able to do some things more readily in class. I could see what the students were doing and guide them. Online, I conferred with them in breakout rooms and there was less chance to monitor things.

Dealing with students on-hand was faster. I could do a quick needs assessment using cue cards and ask them to write additional information readily. We brainstormed together, and I was able to identify gaps in their learning by interacting with them in person.

Conversation skills are more easily practiced in person. Zoom helped us slow down, listen, and deal with ambiguity. In class, I went around and gave feedback instantaneously. Illustrating body language was much more easily done, as well as other exercises using balls or objects.

Students are no doubt anxious to return to a more formal environment without distractions. Class gives them a place to go and practice using English with other classmates, and they feel less isolated.

In the end, I learned a lot about the benefits and limitations of online and in-class learning. This experience helped me improve my teaching, as well as better incorporate internet technology into the classroom.

What are your reflections about teaching online? What will you take away from this experience as we return back to class?

My name is Svjetlana Vrbanic—Lana—and I am a newly certified adult ESL teacher. I completed a degree in English and worked as a teacher and newspaper reporter/editor. Work has allowed me to travel from Labrador to Alberta and enjoy many great experiences. I was born in the former-Yugoslavia, but lived in Toronto most of my life. I can speak Serbo-Croatian, but primarily use English and love sharing what I know with students from all over the world. I like to have a good time and enjoy pursuing interests like cooking, running, volunteering, learning about health and psychology, and spending time with my niece, two rambunctious Jack Russell terriers, and a shy, but loveable cat. I am excited to blog about my experiences which will hopefully inform and entertain, as well as help support a vibrant teaching community. Wishing my colleagues many happy adventures in teaching.


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