Friday, December 11, 2020

My New Job

This is such an odd time. I don't recognize myself sometimes as I try to balance what I'd do in a full classroom with what I can actually carry out in a Zoom room. I tried using breakout rooms multiple times, but they don't seem to work for me. You see, if I were doing group or pair work in a live classroom setting, I'd not only be running around like a headless chicken checking on everyone I approach, but also checking on everyone in and out of earshot as much as possible.

That sounds impossible, but every teacher knows what I mean.

In Zoom, though, you're in the void. If you're like me, and you choose pairwork to maximize conversation, you have 17 rooms you need to visit. This means, at any given time, there are 16 left unmonitored. Almost every single time I've used the breakout rooms, I enter and no one is even pretending to talk. I make them talk, go to the next group, and do the same thing. Also, if I come back, I end up doing the same thing again. I give up. Instead of pair work, I'll ask individuals questions. 

But odd things happen when you do that. One of my favorite lessons is when I try to teach present progressive via a fashion show. This is Jennifer. She's wearing a white blouse, bluejeans, and white tennis shoes. You break the students into groups, one student narrates, and they do a fashion show. It's a great way to get them up and active and using the target structure in a genuine way.

The thing is, you can't really pull that off on Zoom. I'd need to require breakout groups, planning, and even if I did that, I'd have to figure out how you coordinate a presentation when no one is with anyone else, no one can see anyone else, and you'd have to be a contortionist to get your entire body into the video. I don't see it running in a way that makes it worthwhile.

Instead I had students describe models in pictures I have. It worked, but not as well as the activity I'd have liked to do. It would've taken three days. As is, it took one. This notwithstanding, some funny things happened. Another thing I push during this lesson is the use of too vs. either. I'm wearing a watch. She's wearing one too. I'm not wearing a tie. He's not wearing one either. 

The whole watch thing was a non-starter. I'm not sure just why I haven't noticed that teenagers tend not to wear watches, but not a single person in the two classes I used this in was wearing one. I'm in love with my Apple watch, which shows me the temperature and preps me for essential dog-walking, but that doesn't seem to matter to my students.

So I modified my sentences in the second class. I gave up on, "I'm wearing a watch. What about you?" Instead, I said, "I'm wearing a shirt. What about you?" The young woman to whom I addressed that question visibly checked to see whether or not she was wearing a shirt. I though it was pretty funny. Who do you know who isn't sure whether or not they happen to be wearing a shirt? I guess when you're home all the time, you forget these things. This notwithstanding, I've never forgotten to wear a shirt to my online class. Yet. 

My dog has also changed a lot during the pandemic. Back in March, he would come around and demand attention. I'd pick him up, and he'd calm down while I did whatever I had to do. Now he sees things differently. There is no pacification. I am there to throw his toy. He brings it to me and demands that I do so. If not, he barks loudly. I tell him I'm teaching, but he just doesn't care.

I really hope that we get a vaccine soon and that this ends. I would be thrilled to go back to the actual job I signed up for. I'd hoped that, by some miracle, that could happen in April or May. Now I think it won't happen until September. 

Happy Friday all. Please have a great weekend and stay safe.

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