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Teacher Training and Support
This year is indeed unprecedented; probably for the first time in history the whole world is facing the same challenges. For all teachers, it brought about a sudden swing from face-to-face in-class process to online teaching. Sure we can all use various platforms like Zoom, Skype, Face Time et cetera. But using them with our classes, for the duration of our over-loaded working day, presented new challenges practically overnight. Nobody warned us about the change, there were no transition time, let alone teacher training courses. We had to master everything including the need to re-think our own teaching plans on the fly.
As a teacher trainer, I began to get emails, Skype and phone calls, all of them requests for consultations and help. Now I can make some confessions. No, I did not have the faintest idea how to cope either! But my colleagues see me as someone who “knows it all”, so cope I had to. Helping with the necessary ICT skills is easy, or so I firmly believe. I composed a simple set of step-by-step instructions for using the various platforms. Arranging the new process proved to be much more complicated. The difficulties are obvious.Teachers are supposed to be ready and able to swing from one way of teaching to another and often back without any notice, overnight, as if all it needs is one click.It is pre-supposed that everybody, teachers and students, have got all the necessary equipment and reliable internet connection at all times.Education authorities have been flooding schools with daily new rules and restrictions which it is often impossible to maintain.
Nobody mentions the simple little fact: if teachers are supposed to work double, their salaries should be doubled. At least. For instance if a teacher is told to conduct in-class lessons, and then also hold extra sessions for those who either could not come, or whose class is placed onto online modus, it means a working day of 13-14 hours.
I took part in several webinars arranged by Pearson Representatives here in my town, and in several international ones including the series offered by Teaching English. Contact today is more important than ever, as none of us know when we will be allowed to travel and meet our nearest and dearest, our colleagues in real life. It is not easy to keep up professional development and maintain communication, but it is really a must if we are to remain sane. Perhaps we teachers understand the dangers, the inevitable losses that all students suffer due to the disruption of all the normal processes. Children learn by example. According to various social surveys, 85% of students consider communication with their peers the number one reason for going to school. As my neighbor, a teenager wistfully told me recently, “I even miss my teachers!” There is certainly a shift in the children’s attitudes; even those who used to shout “I hate school” now say “I miss school”.
It is impossible to mechanically transfer the traditional lesson plans designed for in-class education into any online process. Since March, I have been writing a methodological series for the national “Teachers’ Gazette”, lesson plans for all classes. Naturally I spend more time surfing, browsing, and looking for interesting positive news on which I can base a lesson. People send questions, requests, ask for advice. Not all the problems concern ICT or lessons per se. Many of them are now psychological. How to help a student whose family suffered a loss? How to deal with parents, to stop them from calling us at home even at midnight? Yes, we are also humans who have their own families, their own life. And we are all exhausted.
How can we help each other, how can we maintain mutual support and encouragement? At home, I always cook, bake, provide a good dinner and wrap up some tasty stuff to go whenever my colleagues visit me. When I meet a young teacher in the street, I am used to their immediately pouring out lots of questions on how to organize the ever-changing process. I take pictures of my own surroundings and send them to my friends around the globe; many of them do the same. Why? In Siberia, snowfalls start in November and may continue until April or even May. If you wish to have the White Christmas and to show it to your students at the end of December, I have plenty of photos to use as visual aids. Even if my photos and short stories help distract an over-loaded colleague for a minute, provide a little R&R moment, it is very good for our psyche.
We are adults, we have to cope, we can save our children and thus save our future.