It all started as in a movie: On Friday the 13th, our headmistress announced we would not be able to come to school the next Monday, March 16th. She gave us instructions on how to start with this distance learning, which was, until now, the unknown concept to the majority of Slovene teachers. Well, we all understood the meaning of the phrase 'distance learning', but we could not imagine how and where to start in real life.
I made a plan for English lessons for the next week with my colleague, took my coursebooks home, and told my children we will all have to do our school work at home from now on. The boys were eager to start; they felt motivated; it was an adventure for the two of them. I had to agree about the adventure part, too.
However, I was not looking forward to it as much as they did. I had tons of questions and no one who could give me the answers: Will all my student be able to get the work I prepare for them? Not everyone has a computer at home. How effective will it be for them to learn without us talking about the topics together? How will my weaker students cope with this new situation? And, finally, how will I be able to get some feedback about their work, about the difficulties they might face? Will I have to assess their work at a distance, too?
The truth is, I did not know any teachers here in Slovenia (or abroad, as a matter of fact), who would already have some experience with distance learning.
The weekend before it all started was quite stressful for me. I made lesson plans, hopefully, understandable to my students. One possible solution to talk to my students would be to use the application we use instead of classic mark books. It would, of course, be too easy, if that worked. So, it did not work. Now what? I did not have the email addresses of my students. How to get any feedback? Of course, I have written my email address on the lesson plans, but why did not I get any emails? Are the students too afraid to write and ask if there is something they do not understand? It was not realistic to simply think they all understood everything and needed no additional explanation. So I asked my colleagues to provide the parents' emails, and class teachers also had their students' addresses. Huh, what a relief it was to be able to ask the students about their homework!
Today, the fourth week of our distance learning started. The learning process is running as smoothly as possible; the teachers keep in touch with their students in different ways; so far, so good, I would say.
There are, however, two questions, concerning Corona quarantine and schoolwork, still open here in Slovenia: When (If at all) will we go back to school? The school year ends on June 24th. We do not have as many marks as we ought to have according to Slovene rule book about assessment. The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport are deciding about this at the moment. Their decision should be known in the middle of April. The question about the return to school will also be answered soon; for now, there are three options open: we go back to school at the beginning of May or at the beginning of June. The third option is, we finish this school year at a distance. If the reality comes out as the third option, we will have to find the most effective way of assessment. I am already exploring the possibilities for that, so I would be better prepared than I was at the beginning of the Corona-time.
I hate seeing the negative things only, so I will conclude this writing by saying (and meaning what I say): Thank you, Corona, for forcing me to think outside the box. Thank you for showing me various ways of teaching that I will use in the future. Thank you for slowing down our hectic lives.