Zoom Classes: A dream or a nightmare ?

21st July 2021

Zoom booking system: Taking your fitness classes online with TeamUp's new  Zoom integration and On Demand feature | TeamUp
Zoom exercise class with a motivated student. This bears absolutely no resemblance to my classes. Taken from Google Images

Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”

Eric Idle 1979

First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.

Have a look at Haoyan’s blogs which you may access here: https://haoyando.net/

Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom

“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”

The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966

Rainy Season in Sai Gon

Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …

1: Avoid going out in the rainy season

My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.

Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …

2: No lesson planning

I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.

Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …

3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons

I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).

Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?

Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.

Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all

4: Environmental

Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).

So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.

Young Learners: Zoom Class Rules

15th July 2021

Should Students Have the Option to Turn Their Cameras Off During Zoom? –  The Rampage
A familiar scene from my ADULT IELTS class – no one switching on their camera. THIS IS FROM GOOGLE IMAGES

Hello everyone

Please have pens, pencils and paper ready.

If you have a project, you will need crayons and colour pencils, an eraser, a ruler.

Furthermore, please have your Student Book and Work Book ready.

SCHOOL RULES:

Listen to teachers

Answer when we call your name

No shouting // No noise // Sit in a quiet place

Do not play with Zoom // White background

Listen when your friends are speaking

Tell Daddy to put a shirt on if he is going to be on camera

Say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’

5 words: Dear teacher, I am finished

REWARDS

Good work will get you a sticker. Collect stickers for a special prize.

However

If you break the rules and disturb my class, you will get a …

David Bowie - Blackstar - mxdwn Music

Three black stars and you will not get any stickers.

Furthermore, Student Care will phone your parents.

Now let’s go to work and learn some English

The Doom of Zoom classes: Zoom Bingo to keep teaching staff sane.

18th May 2021

Learn the Untold History of Bingo! - Online Bingo
If only my Zoom classes were this sedate and genteel

With heavy heart (and a lighter wage packet) schools in Viet Nam shut down on the 10th May, and will remain closed at least until the end of the month, quite probably longer.

Can you hear the collective moans and groans of despair ?

5 ting du bør vite om Skrik - Munchmuseet

We now enter our third period of online classes and while some teachers, of infinite sense, said, “No way, Jose !” yours truly signed up for nine two-hour sessions.

I know, tell me about it, or rather DON’T … online teaching, for the Admin staff, for the TAs, for the company and its economic stability, not to mention the lowly teachers is:

Getting Angry with Students (Day 30)
Google images, but seems a fair representation

Maybe in another blog, probably after we have to returned to ‘normality’ (which is pretty crazy at the best of times), I’ll write down some highlights of the online experience but for now, here’s a coping mechanism.

Instead of being irritated by various phenomenon, turn them into a game. This is something I can try with the more amenable TAs (who fight tooth and nail to avoid working with me … being assigned to my class is seen as the equivalent to being sent to Siberia, and I can’t say I blame them, poor things).

So let’s dive in: here’s how it’s played

During the course of an online class, one is likely to encounter the following:

A shirtless man, Daddy or Grandfather, wandering into the screen

A sibling entering the picture and making faces into the camera

An irate parent, usually the Daddy, sometimes shirtless, shouting, “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello etc …” into the mic

A ‘student’ constantly changing their screen image, adding filters, wearing computer glasses, despite being told several times to keep a plain background and not play with the settings

A ‘student’ turning off their mic and / or camera after being told to turn on their mic and / or camera

‘Student’ saying, “I don’t know,” to every question

‘Student’ giving a stupid answer to a question. Example from last weekend, when shown a picture of a bat, a moody pre-teenage girl said that it was a swan, and I’m supposed to find that humourous and adorable and acceptable and be patient because [insert pathetic excuse here].

‘Student’, with mic muted, unmutes, makes a loud noise into mic, then mutes.

Lesson interrupted by the sound of a family screaming at each other (referred to as normal conversation in Viet Nam)

When these happen, and they will, oh, man, they will, players get points. Breaks down like this:

Shirtless Man (2 points) // Sibling action (2 points) //

Irate parent (5 points) // Filter action (1 point) //

Cam & mic on\off (1 point) // I don’t know (3 points) //

Stupid answer (4 points) // Random noises (2 points) //

Family noise (2 points)

This can be developed for teenagers, and adult classes e.g. ‘students’ saying their cameras aren’t working when we can all see them clearly, (likewise their mic) // refusing to turn on camera and mic despite paying for a speaking class // sitting in the dark and saying that they have no electricity (but wifi, computer, music all seem to work fine // ‘student’ deciding to go to the noisiest place possible for the lesson // ‘student’ thinking that an online lesson is simply TV and that the teacher is here to entertain them for two or three hours etc, etc, etc …

Maybe you, dear reader, have picked up on a certain vibe. Yes, I am lucky to have work, but work like this … is it worth it ?

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