Had you told me this time last year that I would be enjoying my Zoom classes as much as I am right now, I would have laughed out loud. Like most teachers, I was dreading the switch to online learning. I love being in a classroom. I love the energy, the interaction and the buzz. It’s why I became a teacher in the first place.
Yet here we are a year on, and I’m surprised to say that I enjoy teaching more than ever. I’ll admit that it took some getting used to. Those early classes were wrought with technical glitches, muted microphones, general awkwardness and an overwhelming sense of how much everyone was missing the classroom. It was only temporary we said, let’s just muddle through for as long as we have to. Slowly it became clear that it wasn’t going to be temporary, and I realised it was up to me as a teacher to improvise, adapt and overcome.
I’ve been teaching since 2003, and without doubt I’ve learnt more about my job this year than I did in any of the previous years. In the classroom I had become too reliant on course books I’d been using for several years. I was simply going through the motions. My students were learning, of course, and we were all having fun, but I wasn’t pushing myself and I wasn’t creating. Only now do I realise how much I needed to get that creativity back into my teaching.
These days, every class I teach online is unique – either planned from scratch or a more refined version of something I’ve already created. I now have a growing bank of lesson plans that I can customise across levels, with activities I know achieve results and get my students using English effectively. I’ve realised the full potential of Zoom rather than its limitations. There’s virtually no limit to what I can do in class, from sharing slideshows to using breakout rooms and showing multimedia via Chrome. My students wear earphones, they are a captive audience and funnily enough, I feel a connection with them that I hadn’t imagined possible over the internet.
It’s also fabulous to be so comfortable during class. I’ve got my desk set up exactly the way I like it, I’ve got my own coffee machine next to me, my guitar and my own loo. Nobody minds that I’m teaching in shorts. There’s no commute to school which means more time with my family and less expense. And although I used to blush terribly when my wife could be heard shrieking at my kids in the background during class, I’ve learnt to embrace these very human moments and welcome the intimacy that it establishes with my students.
Not only has the Zoom revolution protected my livelihood and given me a way to continue teaching throughout the pandemic, it’s also made me a better teacher. I can literally see my students learning right in front of me every day and it feels like we’re all getting more out of the learning experience. The energy, the interaction and the buzz are all still there – but now combined with the creativity that was missing in the classroom.
So, I urge you to embrace online learning and focus on its numerous benefits. Even though classrooms around the world will soon open up again, the virtual classroom is here to stay. We’re ALL learning on Zoom, and if an old teacher like me can learn so many new tricks, imagine what you can learn too!