Richard McCully

Why online teaching isn't for me

Speaking to students online just isn’t the same as being in a classroom face-to-face

I really enjoyed my first day back at school yesterday. 

Getting to talk face-to-face with people for the first time since the middle of March and actually having a classroom to be in was great! Also, I’m pretty glad to be saying goodbye (hopefully) to the end of full-time online teaching. 

Like many teachers out there, I found myself suddenly teaching online at home without much preparation time. I’d previously taught online for 8-15 hours a week to support my income during my previous job so I had a few ideas and tricks to use already though. My tech skills are passable, my computer skills are decent, and my school were super supportive, so I was all ready to go on day one. However, by the end of week one, I had run into several issues. 

Oooh, my aching back

The main problem was my back. It’s only now, a week after my last online class, that it doesn’t hurt. Normally I work on my sofa with my laptop but that wouldn’t do for online teaching. So, on the table using a dining room chair was the way I went. Sure, I could get a proper office chair but it wouldn’t really fit in my condo, and I imagine being stuck sitting down all day would still leave me in some pain anyway, regardless of the chair. 

I can’t imagine doing 30+ hours a week sat in front of my computer, my body would break down. I know there are probably stretches and exercises to help but that’s just fixing a problem that doesn’t exist when teaching in a classroom. 

Wanting to be away from a computer and office desk is a common reason some people say they chose to teach in Thailand; the chance to escape the nine to five and being chained to a desk. Whilst online teaching hasn’t been too taxing over the past few months, I’ve always seen it as a temporary situation and afterwards, I’d be back away from the screen. Full-time online teaching just seems like the world I moved here to avoid. I don’t want to be attached to a computer all day long. 

Not a replacement for the classroom

Speaking to someone online isn’t the same as being face to face. As most of us are thousands of miles away from family, we know that a video call is way different to actually being there in person with someone. It’s a good substitute that works in certain situations, and that’s what online teaching has been during the last few months. It’s proven itself as something that can still happen, but probably isn’t the best way to teach. It can supplement face to face teaching, but probably not totally replace it for the majority of students, especially younger students. 

Whilst there are still a load of restrictions in place right now for face-to-face classes, there are so many more options for classroom activities compared to online learning. Through either the teacher’s or students’ lack of tech skills or equipment issues, there are a lot of limitations in the online classroom. Judging by the reaction of a lot of people on Twitter, it seems that parents aren’t as happy with online classes compared to face to face lessons either. This is especially true when some parents are paying a lot for their children to study. It seems parents were happy to accept this as a short-term measure but would be looking for large discounts would online learning continue. 

As I said, I used to do a little online teaching a few years back. I enjoyed meeting students from around the world and made about 600 baht an hour, it was OK as a supplementary income. I even thought about doing it full-time for a while but decided against it as I’d miss the social aspect of being in a school with colleagues and students. I also knew I’d struggle to focus for the 30 hours a week I’d need to teach to make enough money. 

There’s certainly a place for online learning and I feel that teachers have gained valuable skills during the last few months which hopefully wont be wasted. I’d be happy to teach two or three online classes a week going forward, it would provide a nice bit of variety. 

However, if I found myself having to teach every class online, I’d be looking for something new. 

If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country  

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents. 

Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.

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I'm inclined to agree with you Richard

Many swear that it's the future of learning and say they're earning bundles teaching Chinese kids. Read up the small print and starting salaries on those and it takes real dedication and time to get those sky high figures.

Wanna be doing that long term? Teacher burn out beckons.

By Pat_Bangkok, Bangkok (8th July 2020)

Ricbard, I couldn't agree more, as after only 5 weeks teaching my usual day students online, I was considering a career change.

What's more, from what I could see of the value of those 5 weeks, were that they were almost a complete waste of everyone's time and energy.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (2nd July 2020)

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