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.
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