Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 5

Despite my busy week (I am now officially a Mental Health First Aider!), I am managing to squeeze publishing this post in as my last task for the week! That means I will now be up to date with this series of posts again!

I am first as usual! :-p So punctual, me. And I am here with all my positive attitude. I realised I have mostly focused on challenges/difficulties/negative things (not exclusively though!) so tonight I am going to focus on positive things! Try to challenge the old negativity bias.

….And I am alone…! Phew another student arrived. Until she did, I was chatting with the teaching in Italian, which was nice. ..Aand another. Now we are three and the teacher. And we are talking about the newsletter thingy from last week. Also, I did my homework so I am all prepared for it, whoop. My girlfriend gave me an idea for what to write about!

Qualche settimana fa, c’era c’è stato un incidente di macchina stradale a Woodseats, su una piccola strada nella periferia di Sheffield. Erano Coinvolte erano tre macchine, due delle quale che andavano troppo veloce e una che era parcheggiata accanto al marchepiede marciapiede. Una delle due macchine che andavano troppo veloce era rimasta sottosopra si è ribaltata. Quella che era parcheggiata sosteneva ha subito anche dei danni. Gli autisti non erano feriti ma poi hanno litigato nel bel mezzo della strada. La polizia dovevano ha dovuto chiudere la strada. Uno degli autisti lavora per una pizzeria e sfortunatamente i clienti quella sera non ricevevano non hanno ricevuto le pizze.

  • Novità?
  • Che mi racconti di bello?

These are ways to ask someone for their news, which is apparently what we are doing here!

I had to share my homework in the chat and like the one at the end of last lesson, we are going through correcting it, with the teacher displaying it on screen. (And I corrected my version above as we did it!)

Hurrah I passed! It satisfied requirements. Phew. It was nice to get all the corrections. I have discovered I need to review when to use imperfect vs perfect tenses. I can find where in the coursebook that is covered and use it to review 🙂 (When I get time, not this week which is crazy busy!)

Now we are talking about news again.

Notizie su – news about

La pagina culturale – culture

Societa – lifestyle

La salute e il benessere – health and wellbeing

We have to do another one for next week, but something like an article that belongs in the above section…I think… Still needing these 5 ‘w’’s but I think maybe it is flexible… I will again invent something anyway. All good. (Haha uploading this blog post has reminded me I still need to do this before Monday evening, haiyaaa!)

And now onto grammar review of the unreal if clauses.

Se Boris Johnson avesse preso delle decisioni adeguati, non avremmo passato un’anno così caotico.

P.86. We have to listen and tick but I don’t have a pencil to do so, so doing it this way instead:

  1. C
  2. G
  3. M
  4. C
  5. G
  6. M
  7. C
  8. G
  9. G
  10. M
  11. M

This kind of activity is harder than a T/F kind because the statements can’t follow the order of the text so you have to have attention in multiple places. We listened to the first part/person. Then stopped and read the statements we are to tick aloud. Then listen with pauses and teacher repetition. Then went through the answers for the first person. Then we listened to the next one twice through and then went through answers. Then the third one once. I managed reasonably well! This time the teacher had the audio ripped into their computer and was able to play it for us and it worked ok. When I’ve done listening with my students, I’ve had them go away and listen to a link and then come back. I suppose with a small group as we are tonight, there is a lower likelihood of audio and connectivity problems as fewer students to have them. Also we in this class are all UK-based while my students are all over the place with varying quality of connections!

BREAK TIME

Only 2 of us came back after break. Lost the other. <shrug>

p87 A speaking activity based on the listening. We had to use those unreal conditionals to talk about one of the speaker’s life.

Se Monica non avesse smesso di giocare a calcio, non avrebbe studiato all’università. Se non fosse andato all’università, non sarebbe diventata un insegnante e non avrebbe tempo per fare la fotografa.

Next exercise is doing something similar but with our own experiences!

  • Se non avessi fatto preso il diploma CELTA, non sarei diventata insegnante di Inglese come lingua straniere.
  • Se non avessi preso il diploma DELTA, non sarei andata a Palermo.
  • Se non fossi andata a Palermo per insegnare, non avrei imparato l’Italiano.
  • Se non avessi provato un sito di incontri, non avrei trovato la mia compagna.

Ooo the one other student who came back after break taught English in Poland for a while! (I learned this via her sentences for the above activity!) We only did 2 of the sentences so no coming out for me after all. :-p

Next, listening to a song. We have to write down the phrases we understand and write down any vocab we don’t know. We should also try to understand the general meaning of the song.

  • Io e te by Battisti
  • Qualcuno ha scelto forse per noi
  • Poi ho incontrato te
  • L’esistenza è diventata
  • La stagione nuova
  • Fra le tue braccia calde
  • Io e te
  • Stesso io desiderio

I have been told to listen for general meaning this time round.

Con lei non ha paura di morire…?

 It’s quite long and whiny hahaha. Lurrrve song. But I could understand a fair bit til the background music got too loud compared to the voice. I also had to unplug my big monitor to adjust the volume as it was too loud then after teacher’s voice was too soft so more unplugging and replugging. Tech! But I managed. The third time round we listen with the lyrics. Then we look at the lyrics and discuss the meaning. Then we did a memory based gap fill lockstep. Then teacher tried to make us memorise each line.

And, with some more discussion of it, that brings us to the end! Now half way through the course!! And thinking after the end if I can do another online class (if they are still available, not all back to f2f) with another language centre, e.g. IH, it would be interesting to compare!

Reflections

  • I quite enjoyed the lesson. Partly because it jumped about less than previously (we stayed in the same general vicinity of the coursebook once we moved onto it; the existence of homework linked us back to the previous lesson for some review as well as going through the homework; we did some grammar review; the listening was connected to the language point. Only the song was random but hey why not!).  Partly because every week I am a little more used to how it goes and what to expect and therefore it is less stressful.  It’s taken me to half way through the course for this to happen. Wonder if it would be quicker in a subsequent course. Something to do with getting used to being a learner again in a formal setting i.e. the (virtual) classroom. It’s also about getting used to having to find the energy on an evening after work – I am less exhausted by half way through the lesson now, though I do appreciate the break half way through – enough time to get a cup of tea and have an eye break.
  • I get excited every time I learn some little snippet about my classmates. I want to know more about who they are and what keeps them plugging away at these courses. As in their motivation for learning. Sandy commented on a previous post-lesson blog suggesting I try to give the teacher feedback directly about the lack of groupwork but I don’t feel comfortable to. The other students may be quite happy with the status quo (they are back for another course after all!), I don’t want to rock the boat being the only newcomer.
  • It’s interesting that there are two of us who are teachers. Not sure what the other three do. The other teacher is the one who uses English strategies a lot. The only other thing I know about her teaching is that it involved a school trip to Germany a couple of years ago as that featured in the anecdote she did for the first newsletter thingy. I wonder what teaching and learning experience and beliefs she has.
  • I’m starting to consider other courses after this one = I am enjoying being a learner again despite all my trials and tribulations with it! In one sense it’s a pity it didn’t occur to me sooner to try (the pandemic has made online learning opportunities proliferate where they didn’t before) but on the other hand I had enough on my plate coping with adjusting to new work conditions, building my new relationship, negotiating health issues and moving house!
  • So far I have been first to arrive and first back after the break every lesson and the only one to have attended all five lessons from beginning to end. I hadn’t anticipated this being unusual given it isn’t free! I used to admire my students in Palermo for coming to their evening classes regularly twice a week in the 1930-2050 slot – they had to actually come to the school not just log onto a computer on time. I can just about cope with once a week on a computer in my house! No travel time or effort needed.
  • It’s been interesting seeing how the teacher does feedback on oral and written production. How to do feedback effectively is something I think about a lot! Of course what works with a class of 3-4 students isn’t necessarily compatible with a class of 18-20 students! However, using the share screen function to use a word doc with a text and making corrections to it live is certainly something I could try. Though, share screen uses a lot of internet and could create problems for my students with dodgy connections I think. We are advised to avoid it where possible. But I suppose a Google doc that students have the link to could be used in the same way. I will keep it in mind…

Overall, half way through the course, I’m really glad I signed up for it. It’s been so interesting to go through the process of being new to the class, getting used to how it works, working through the barriers created by my expectations and frustrations. I feel really positive about it. Let’s see how the next five weeks go! It’s nice to be blogging regularly again too. I think once this course (and any sucessors I might join) comes to an end, I will try to set aside time each week to self-teach myself again. Continue with Italian? Try Polish again? Try Mandarin again? And blog about it, of course! We shall see. I just love language learning!

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 4

<I am running a week behind as last week was especially busy due to the need to prepare for this week where I am only in work two days because of the remaining three one (today) is my not at work day and two are allocated to a Mental Health First Aid Course – starts tomorrow, eek! So there will be two posts this week and then I will be up to date again!>

I am first to arrive again. Insufferable. :-p Then one other student arrived so we could do some talking. But through the teacher, not directly, of course! Bit by bit, students arrive. I feel more relaxed tonight, so I think my reflections after the last lesson have helped me! 🙂 My webcam isn’t working tonight, not sure why. Tech, always tech.

= Some of the vocab that came out of the chat – the question was ‘what are you missing during lockdown?’ – Also vedere gli amici/la famiglia più facilmente

Then we moved on to…

Se aveste 1000 sterline a spendere in modo frivolo, come li spendereste?

Tonight I am experimenting. Using the everyone chat to communicate directly with students. The everyone chat though. Trying to get some kind of rapport with them! I tried with the student who arrived late, in response to the teacher-directed conversation.

Se avessi 1000 sterline, andrei in Sicilia, poi darei il resto in beneficenza.

We are up to our full 5 students including me again. Me and two others with no webcam, the teacher and two others with webcam.

We are going back to the topic of last week. p80. Grammar presentation. The one we opened with 3 mins to spare last week. We are reading it aloud. Haiya… And teacher is explaining, in Italian and then in English.  I guess we are doing ye olde PPP! At least being done in Italian first, I can get some listening practice from it!

Ohhhh, I was thinking it feels like way too much explanation, but then remembered I have the advantage of knowing these structures, on a metaknowledge level, in English, because of being a teacher. 

  1. Se Luigi avessi preso la medicina, forse adesso sarebbe guarito.
  2. Se il vestito avesse costato meno, forse l’avrei comprato.
  3. Forse sarei riuscità ad andare al lavoro ieri se non ci fosse stato uno sciopero degli autobus.
  4. Se fossimo stati meno stanchi,  saremmo partiti per il fine settimana.
  5. Se fossimo usciti più presto, forse saremmo arrivati in tempo all’appuntamento con il nostro amico.
  6. Se l’agenzia di viaggi

We did the above as read aloud and answer directly, no time to do it ourselves first. I wasn’t asked to answer before I had done them all first. Mini-success for me, making it work for myself. I think the teacher feels the need to be talking to us all the time, not letting us do activities by ourselves or in pairs in between.  Ah ooops, turns out there are more questions so we went through them in order, 1-4, up til me and then suddenly jumped two ahead so I hadn’t done it in advance. (I might have got that far if I’d realised the activity went overleaf so could have continued doing it for myself in advance, oops.) Still, I can complete the exercise in my own time for practise. No problem. Good revision.

Reading, a text. Waaaait. We might be doing a jigsaw of sorts, We have been allocated paragraphs. We must read and make a summary. Omg, I think my feedback landed. Amazing.  I got to read my paragraph and the rest of the text and write my one sentence summary. So nice to have actual time to read silently. And the text was on the page after the grammar exercises and actually relates to them. Hurrah.

L’autore parla dei rimpianti che possiamo avere se ci chiediamo cosa avrebbe potuto succedere se avessimo fatto scelti diverse di quelli che abbiamo fatto.

*cosa sarebbe potuto succedere

*scelte diverse

*da quelle

We each did our summary of our little paragraph and then…

BREAK!

Now we are jumping back 30odd pages, p54

Whyyyyy. Oh well. Here we are.

Studentesse rubano profumi per regalarli ai loro fidanzati = a title. Then there are some words in a bubble.  Ci sono vari elementi.

Era poco prima di San Valentino. Tre studentesse  sono andate in supermercato. “Pensavamo di comprare qualcosa per dare ai nostri fidanzati ma poi abbiamo visto quanto costavano e non potevamo permettercele” hanno spiegato più tardi quando erano arrivati i Carabinieri di Monteverde dopo la sicurezza li aveva visti che rubavano alcune confezioni di profumi invece di pagarli.

Quite happy with my effort!

Then the teacher started on about chi (who), dove (where), cosa (what), quando (when), perché (why) and that these 5 things are in every newspaper article.

NB still not a clue how, or if, this links to the first half of the lesson!

La cronaca – local news. In it: Moda, sport, pettegolezzo, cibo, viaggi, tecnologia. Tanti argomenti che si referiscano alla propria vita.

I chose food. Teacher suggested I write something about healthy food. For a weekly class newspaper.  But I am confused because a food column isn’t really a wwwww thing. So I wrote in the chat in Italian to ask, then audio and teacher replied in English, doh. Said I could change theme then.  I literally have no idea what to write about. Teacher is keen to put it in an Apple pages template we were shown. 

Ok we are supposed to do it now. I think I now gather that this is not going to  be a weekly thing as in doing it every week, just a way of describing the output for tonight.

Interesting: I am using the chatbox more tonight because my webcam isn’t working. But in general anyway I like writing and putting it in the chatbox ok (except tonight when I really don’t know what to write!), but another student in the class is quite resistant to it and prefers speaking. Ooo according to her anecdote she is a teacher. See if we had ever had an opportunity to converse, I might know that already, I’d like to ask her about it.  I did put a question, in Italian of course, in the chatbox, asking what she teaches, but she is busy trying to deal with the task, which is fair enough. Bad timing! My chatbox experiments are falling flat on the communication with other students front.

Still don’t know what to write. I don’t have a picture in my head of what the finished product is quite supposed to be like. I totally understood the first activity with the prompts. But I am confused as to the content of this one. It’s supposed to be about me? But nothing happens to me, especially now. And it doesn’t fit the genre of newspaper. Am I supposed to make it sound like a newspaper article but it’s something banal? One student told an anecdote from two years ago about a pickpocket. How does an anecdote from two years ago fit with newspapers or food writing? Having discarded that theme, what theme should I do and how to connect that? One wrote a few sentences about what gossip is and illustrates which was a different genre again. I…(shrug). But teacher is more fixated on this Apple pages template thingy and in goes the anecdote, which the teacher is now going through and correcting with the student who wrote it.  Am hoping that we will run out of time to get to me. But two students left at break time so there is less cushioning time-wise in that sense.

WE HAVE HOMEWORK! The above. Ok, I will write something. Maybe I will just invent something. I tried to explain my problem. The mismatch between an anecdote and a newspaper and not understanding what it is I am supposed to write, I said I’d like to see an example of what I am aiming for, but it fell on deaf ears. The teacher got quite defensive. Even though I tried to explain I want to do it I just don’t understand what to produce.  

Interesting night!

Homework

  1. Se Luigi avessi preso la medicina, forse adesso sarebbe guarito.
  2. Se il vestito avesse costato meno, forse l’avrei comprato.
  3. Forse sarei riuscità ad andare al lavoro ieri se non ci fosse stato uno sciopero degli autobus.
  4. Se fossimo stati meno stanchi,  saremmo partiti per il fine settimana.
  5. Se fossimo usciti più presto, forse saremmo arrivati in tempo all’appuntamento con il nostro amico.
  6. Se l’agenzia di viaggi fosse stata sempre aperta, sarebbero potuto comprare il biglietto.
  7. Se fossero arrivati in tempo, non avranno perso il treno.
  8. Se non avessi mangiato troppo, non avresti avuto un indigestione.
  9. Se non avessi passato troppo tempo al computer ieri sera, non avrei avuto mal di testa.
  10. Se fossimo rientrati più presto, avremmo potuto vedere un bel documentario in tv.

Qualche settimana fa, c’era un incidente di macchina a Woodseats, su una piccola strada nella periferia di Sheffield. Coinvolte erano tre macchine, due che andavano troppo veloce e una che era parcheggiata accanto al marchepiede, e una delle due che andavano troppo veloce era rimasta sottosopra. Quella che era parcheggiata sosteneva anche dei danni. Gli autisti non erano feriti ma poi hanno litigato nel bel mezzo della strada. La polizia dovevano chiudere la strada. Uno degli autisi lavora per una pizzeria e sfortunatamente i clienti quella sera non ricevevano le pizze.

Reflections

  • It is weird when the first half of the lesson before break and the second half after the break have absolutely no discernible connection. Would have been nice to do some speaking or writing that were connected to the text we read, which itself connected to the grammar we had done. Or at least either at the end of the first half or start of the second half some kind of transitional element between the two.  I seem to spend a lot of time wondering where we are going and how where we are relates to where we have been. So though I began the lesson feeling more relaxed, it was a bit stressful at times. But not as stressful as it would have been if I hadn’t been more relaxed to start with! So I still feel that I am making progress in (coping with) being a learner again! 🙂
  • We are now 4 lessons in to the course, nearly 50%, and there hasn’t been any opportunity for speaking directly to classmates even though we are upper intermediate and capable of conversing even if we make a bunch of mistakes. Nearly half way through the course and I barely know who they are.
  • It is really hard when, with the best will in the world, you don’t understand the task you have to do. Especially if that is then taken as being obstructive. Relatedly, models are worth a thousand instructions. If I could have seen a model, I would have been able to figure out the task requirement. Not understanding made me feel frustrated and sad. I wasn’t being deliberately obtuse. Would have been handy to be able to ask classmates quietly, as one could in a regular classroom!
  • It was exciting to have homework even though I didn’t understand it very well. I also made my own homework by finishing the activity we started in class. And it was also good to have time to read silently before doing things with the text. Hopefully this won’t be a one-off!
  • My couple of attempts to use the everyone chat box to communicate directly with other learners kinda failed. But at least I experimented! It might be because who I addressed is the same one who doesn’t like writing because it is too time-consuming.
  • Having background grammar knowledge is useful. More difficult if L1 doesn’t have equivalents or you don’t have explicit meta-knowledge of the L1 equivalents.

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 3

I am here with a minute to spare. Phew. Ooooo Ghost Student (the silent “X’s Ipad) from the last two lessons now has a face (and a new internet connection – apparently that was the issue), yay!

Omg we’re back to the fridges! But just a short review, this time, phew.

Oooo there’s a new student, but connecting connecting…

p75 Se le strade del mio quartiere potessero parlare (parlassero), chiederanno chiederebbero dove sono tutti gli abitanti.

I had to complete above phrase, from course book but then we have switched to chatting, with the new student (she managed to connect in the end! – new to me but not new to the courses). New student is really good at having a go and not worrying about making mistakes, seeking missing language etc, though speaking in English a lot around the Italian. Is interesting, the use of various strategies but so much in English.

Ooo back to my sentence. Oh except now being asked again which one I want to do. I had thought I was being asked for my sentence because we went through the which do you want to do ok now do it before. Oh well. Everyone has now got a sentence to complete.

My feedback may have been listened to – we were told the purpose of this activity: to review the grammar structure. At the same time, we are talking about a listening activity but some of us don’t have the cd (others) or haven’t got it on the computer (me). The chopping and changing is a bit confusing.

Back to the sentences, teacher has now changed the stem a bit, hence the bit in brackets. Oooo there are now four of us students. I wonder if pair-work will be a thing tonight?

My turn for the sentence: p75 Se le strade del mio quartiere potessero parlare (parlassero), chiederanno chiederebbero dove sono tutti gli abitanti.

I made a mistake with the conjugation – I am tired! I guess we all are.

Now p65 – for the listening activity (jumping around in the course book big time!)

No time to read the questions, then a leetle bit of time cos tech issues. But not enough!

1.a 2 falso (vero – in parte, stupid question) 3 falso 4. vero 5. vero 6 un litigio…/ una tempesta 7. falso 8. falso 9. alla rubrica delle lettere 10. vero 11. falso

We listened once in entirety then went through bit by bit. The audio quality was poor.  The teacher repeated the audio slowly and then elicited answers from us (also making us read aloud the question first, of course!). No pair checking stages or anything.  

It’s also difficult when teacher connection struggles and words get lost. Or is it my connection creating this… connections, ay. Perennial problem.

…break time? Hopefully soon, is the time. I need it! Ahhh after we have finished this feedback. Yayyy.

BREAK

Everyone came back after break – there’s a first time for everything!

The teacher did a screen share, my screen then went funny format-wise (went tiny, couldn’t see them etc), I was on mute but didn’t realise, all a bit of a mess but eventually sorted it.  Gotta love tech. We are looking at images which apparently have something to do with some reading we will do. Hopefully not aloud. No idea where in the course book or the overall topic…! Trying to see poor quality pics and understand what is happening is hard, turns out…

p.84 (!) Oh we’re reading aloud. Joy. Guess my feedback fell on deaf ears. Teacher started to tell us to read it ourselves but then stopped and reverted to read aloud. I made everyone wait very briefly so I could read my bits quietly first, so I could chunk it all properly – that worked better. Then I read the whole text properly while teacher did the ‘underline the words you don’t know’ and my classmates took turns asking their words. Given the chance to read, I didn’t need to ask about any words. I had no understanding of the text until I could read it through quietly myself though. Only my bits in isolation, not the meaning of the whole.

We then had to put the pictures in order according to the story. Except we can’t see them all, so we have to have the memory of all them and which are and aren’t already used. And the teacher is scrolling up and down randomly which hurts my eyes. Haiya.

We are asked who wants to retell the story using the pictures (that are still being repeatedly scrolled…). I didn’t volunteer.  This could have been a good activity in pairs having sent us a pdf with the pics on it. Both the ordering and telling. The pairs/groups feedback also fell on deaf ears I guess. In the coursebook, this and another text were a paired information gap activity, but not for us. We just looked at the one text as described. I had to contribute anyway, to this retelling, and managed to without any trouble. (See, I did understand the text when given the chance to actually read it…)

5 minutes before the end of the lesson, the teacher started explaining the (different from the one we have already looked at which came later in the course book) congiuntivo structure in the text (there was one example). Haiya…

p.81 with 3 mins to go… we look at an activity  about this new grammar point and then the teacher does the first one for us and that brings the lesson to an end with a “we’ll continue this next time” – which I can try to use as a springboard for preparation!

What I learnt about being a student in this session:

  • Jumping around in the coursebook is confusing. This doesn’t mean I think it should be followed to the letter, but at least the general direction for new learning should be forwards through the units (within each of which, of course, you might add, add to, remove from, remove etc activities depending on the type of lesson and students). It’s been a while since I have taught using a coursebook though – in my current context, we have set materials for each lesson (powerpoints, student handouts where relevant). I edit them to suit my class but that is generally in terms of how I think best to reach the goals of the week across the 3 lessons I have with students. This term I am reteaching Term 1 to a new cohort so last term I made a lot more changes, this term it’s more tweaks based on the students being different and what did/didn’t work last time. I think, on reflection, having been an EAP teacher for a good number of years now, I am used to EAP-style teaching and learning, which is quite different from general language teaching and learning. So being a student in a general language classroom is another level of very different experience, than just being in student shoes full-stop is. This is helpful to realise though. From my point of view as a student, I realise I need to relax my expectations as to what I will get out of the course learning Italian-wise and accept that’s it’s just a once a week general language evening class and there won’t be the structure to things that I am used to in my context. I came into it wanting to get as much as I can out of it, maybe I need to be more realistic about what that is. E.g. the opportunity to speak was a big one but given pair and group work aren’t a thing, there’s more limit on how much – I need to work with that, figure out how to maximise what there is. But also, from my own students’ point of view that this is how they might feel as they adjust from their previous systems of learning to the college’s system of learning. So this is now another way I can empathise with my students.
  • Jumping around in the coursebook being a thing means it is impossible to prepare for lessons in advance unless information about the following lesson is given in advance. Of course I am referring to my plan to read ahead to make the reading aloud thing less of an issue for me. I didn’t actually get round to it in advance of this lesson (partly  I suppose because I was hoping my feedback would lead to there being time to read silently before reading aloud! As, I had an email saying the feedback had been anonymously passed on to the instructor and would be acted on…) but if I had, it would have been fruitless anyway.  I would have had to have read about 10 pages of coursebook, including well into the next unit. For the listening, another 10+ pages in the other direction. I think next lesson, if we have to read aloud without time to read silently first, I will raise my hand and ask for a couple of minutes! Try the direct approach to problem solving.
  • It takes time to read and understand listening questions. Because they are out of context, you need to read the question, process the language and deal with the decontextualised nature of it all. Particularly when questions are quite random! And if you don’t have time to do that before you start listening, you get woefully left behind, trying to read questions and listen to the recording at the same time. Ohhhh, we didn’t do any lead in to the listening topic.  I think a bit of a lead-in and some time to read the questions before listening would have helped a lot. A pair work stage after the first listening would have been good too, to share what we understood so far before listening again. I think because we are a small group, the teacher doesn’t think breakout rooms are necessary, maybe. But I think they could still be put to good use.
  • It’s frustrating to be asked to give feedback, to put effort into making it constructive (rather than just complain without explanation or suggestion or just say all is fine) and for it all to be ignored even though it would be easy to implement. I suppose the centre is collecting feedback rather than the tutor. (The original information about the course email said there will be questionnaires sent out regularly to get feedback to improve the courses etc so I guess I will be asked again. We shall see!) Where I work, feedback is also solicited at centre-level, but I do my own Google forms as well. I’m assuming there is no test for us to take at the end of the course, though I guess there might be and I just don’t know it yet! There shouldn’t therefore be tension in terms of what needs to be covered in a given time period (this supposition is also based on how long we spend on some activities and the repetition of the activity from the first lesson which didn’t go exactly to plan etc.). Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t know where we are headed or how we are planning to get there or how we will know when we have arrived. Actually I remember in the first class of the course, it didn’t feel like a first class because I was the only new student and it seemed like a continuation of something else rather than a beginning. I’m assuming we aren’t intending to get all through the course book given we only have 10 lessons and it is a substantial book. Half of it maybe? I remember that is how it was when I taught in Italy. Half a book per course. Clearer information around this would be useful, not least to inform expectations!
  • If you want students to look at pictures and do things like order them and use them to tell a story, make a one page pdf that they all fit on to and share that with the students to refer to during those activities. This would save eye strain from the repeated scrolling up and down thing and free up brain space that would no longer be taken up by trying to remember which pictures have been used and which still remain and what are they again. Handouts can still be a thing in the virtual classroom?
  • I think the teacher can over-rely on students’ L1 to explain things. I don’t speak enough Mandarin or Arabic for that to be an issue for me with my students (majority of them are from those linguistic backgrounds) but when I was in Italy and had learned some Italian, I didn’t keep speaking to the students in Italian. It would be the odd incidental word where translation would be easier than explanation, not instructions and explanations of instructions etc. I think encouragement to speak the target language combined with patience when understanding or communicating falters would be better. I wonder if that student using all the communication strategies in English would be able to use those strategies in Italian if that – classroom language/language for clarification/circumlocution etc in the target language – had been encouraged to develop (by Upper Intermediate, there is no reason why that shouldn’t be possible) rather than reliance on L1 still being a thing.
  • It’s hard to feel comfortable with classmates who you don’t have the opportunity to speak directly with. There was very little in the way of getting to know you in Lesson 1 and no incidental chat can happen if you are never in pairs or groups with any of them. It’s a bit of a shame really, in that if I am not getting to know my classmates or working directly with them, I might as well be in a 1-1 lesson or teaching myself. Until now, they are mostly just people who happen to be in the virtual classroom with me. I don’t know their motivation for doing the class, I don’t know what they do outside the class, I don’t know how they feel about the activities we are doing and so on and so on. I think virtual classrooms are tricky. Unless you use breakout rooms, it’s like the teacher is standing on top of you the whole time and the focus is on the teacher so there is no room for target language phatic communication. In a real classroom you can be less conspicuous but if you are all in the main room, whatever the size of the group, it is as though in a real classroom the teacher is sitting at the table with you or standing right by it (and in this case leading the discussion/task/whatever it is at the time). As teachers, we learn how to use body language and position in the classroom to achieve various things; I guess we have to relearn how to do that in a virtual environment effectively too.
  • Being a student really is a great way to challenge and explore one’s beliefs about teaching and learning!

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 2

I am on time, first to arrive again. 2 others are on time too and arrive soon after. Warm up chitchat is about Covid.

Io non sono un complottista – I am not a conspiracy theorist

Rendersi conto di – realise.

Our disappearing weaker student has arrived 5 mins late. “x’s iPad” no video like the rest of us. I hope she is ok. Silence when addressed by the teacher…

Talking about Covid for quite a while. Then link into review of congiuntivo. Se tu fossi Boris Johnson, cosa faresti?

Per evitare la diffusione del virus…

I am boiling! Don’t want to go away from the class/video but am wearing thermal vest and fluffy jumper and turns out the heating makes it warm in here in the evening! (By day when I work in here, heating is off, I am dressed for that, oops…) = environmental factors sure do influence ability to concentrate!  

… Finally I switched off video to go and put something more suitable on. Phew. Switching off video/audio to do something seems to be acceptable. Not something I have experience with from teaching point of view because we have classes of 18-21 students so they don’t have their video on a lot of the time (and could therefore nip away to do something quite easily!)

No way!!! We are going to repeat the fridge thing from last time! Can we just not…. Haiiya. Flogging a dead horse comes to mind…

At least this time I know not to reply for the “What is the nickname of your fridge?” bit!

Soppranome: Miele

5 aggietivi: Grande, alto, fresco, pulito, pieno

2 pensieri del frigorifero:

  • Mangi un sacco di verdure, no?
  • Perché tante foglie?

Here we go again <copy paste>. Wonder if the connection between tasks will be clearer,

Oh now it’s changed to 3 adjectives of physical description and 3 adjectives of character description. 

Era una notte nera e tempestuosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno.

Doing it differently this time, we have to send the line of the story to the teacher rather than to another student. Teacher sends the sentence to someone who adds a new sentence and sends it back. I think the nickname and adjectives was supposed to “get the creative juices flowing”.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Fede il frigo era irritato. “Smettila di fare uscire il freddo!”  Ma non c’era nessuno a cui parlare.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno, chiedeva al forno “ma perche mi rubano sempre e danno il mio cibo a te” Ma perché lo chiedi a me? Che ne so Io? Non voglio nemmeno questo cibo né il calore che mi fanno entrare.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Fede il frigo era irritato. “Smettila di fare uscire il freddo!”  Ma non c’era nessuno con cui parlare. il cibo all’interno del frigo ha iniziato a ballare. “Lasciamo uscire, abbiamo freddo” cantavano insieme.

I have the course book now, so I can look through it while waiting after each time I send my line through, which is nice.

Era una notte nera e tempestosa e Miele stava nella cucina che parlava con il forno, chiedeva al forno “ma perche mi rubano sempre e danno il mio cibo a te”. “io sono il prescelto” ha detto forno, “rispettami!” il forno non sapeva che Miele aveva poteri speciali. il giorno successivo il forno non era più caldo, e il forno non rubò più il cibo… Il forno se n’è andò via ma poi tutto il cibo di Miele alla fine imputridii.

We end up with three stories this time. <I forgot to copy paste them all> We had to each take a turn to read one aloud and then say which one we liked best.

Oooo we get a break again tonight despite no tech issues, phewww. So break time is A Thing not just a response to tech issues, good to know. Very helpful in a 2hr class when you are staring at a screen after having stared at a screen all day!

<Break>

Silent student has gone (having not said anything up the point of leaving), student no3 has also gone, we are down to 2 again. Wonder if student 3 will arrive late again like last time or just not appear again?

p69

editori – publishing houses

sono pago’a di qualcosa… sono sodisfatto,a di qualcosa

una iattura – una sfortuna

ripiegare – fall back

Reading aloud a written text, sentence by sentence. Hard. No time to read it silently first and as soon as we have taken our turn to read aloud, we are quizzed on vocabulary. No time to process the text meaning. Then, trying to read while the other person reads aloud. This also interferes with actual understanding.

We then had to make up two comprehension questions for each other.

  • Cosa succederebbe se non ce n’era più  ci fosse più la stampa tradizionale, se ciascuno stampava stampasse il suo quotidiano da solo? (Dohhh, I missed that here I should have used the structure we did last week!)
  • Lo scrittore pensa sì or non che la stampa fatta a casa sarebbe una cosa positiva?

I am so tired and my eyes hurt (Cos work all day at the computer too). Makes it really hard to come up with words/phrases/sentences. Soooo tempted to do like the others and leave!

We had to argue a given point of view.

E’ meglio RIMANERE con il giornalismo perché COSI l’informazione c’è e dobbiamo solo trovarlo and leggerlo con criticità per sapere cosa succede nel mondo. Senza il giornalismo, sapremmo solo quello che i politici vogliono che sappiamo.

He asked the other student to respond to me but didn’t let me give my final line. I am too tired to argue. Bad student!

Ooo we had a small wrap-up this time – the teacher mentioned the stories we wrote in the repeat from last week activity…After starting a new activity, which we did orally, with 3 minutes of lesson time left. Whyyyy.  Neither of us students were thrilled about that.

What I learnt about being a student in this session:

  • It’s really hard to understand a text if you aren’t given time to read and process it quietly before being expected to do things with it. Oooo. I have an idea. I will read ahead in the course book. I don’t know which activities we will do or how we will do them but if I read any texts in advance then reading aloud will be less difficult.
  • seeking feedback is important. The language centre sent a feedback form this morning, so I mentioned that I find reading aloud without time to process silently first difficult and that I thought clearer lessons objectives (as in made clear to us) and opportunities for pair and groupwork would enhance the lessons. I also said the teacher is good at giving us feedback on what we say (didn’t want to only give “to improve” feedback!). It’s difficult to give feedback unless invited to do so. I will give my students a feedback form at the end of this week, I think!
  • If you are going to repeat an activity from a previous lesson, specially one which takes up a large amount of time (it took a good half an hour in the end!), have a really good justification for it and make that clear to the students. The activity didn’t work as planned last time, but we did it and had the freer practice it offered despite ending up one story down. It would have been nice to do some thing different this week.
  • Unconscious bias is a thing. Male teacher assumed male student had understood the activity last week and that it was me who had messed up. This came through clearly in the way the activity was explained this week. He’s a nice dude, I don’t for a moment think it was deliberate but it is interesting. I think as teachers we need to try and be self-aware in this and question our assumptions about things.
  • Fatigue is a thing. I know one of my students is doing school lessons by China day and our (the college) lessons by China night until 1-2a.m. (cos of the time difference) – she must be exhausted. This was one of the useful things I learnt during my tutorials with my students which took place last Friday. Learning on top of other commitments is difficult. Learning when tired is very difficult and frustrating. For the slot where I do one half of the class then the other, I will make sure she is in the first half.
  • Guidance regarding how to improve between lessons is helpful and students don’t know it for themselves without the teacher helping. For all we can search for websites, we have no way of knowing which are good or less good and are likely to miss good ones because searching is like that, it’s hit and miss. For autonomous learning to succeed, students need knowledge of resources as well as to know how to learn. I want something like the Experimenting with English handout I made for my learners in Sicily!
  • Don’t start a new activity 3 minutes before the lesson is due to end. Lesson plan timing going south is a thing but adapting to that is important. Being clear about what the key goal of the lesson is, and what activity(ies) need to be done in order for it to be achieved, is crucial as that informs choices about how long to spend on activities (both at the planning stage and in the lesson), what to skip if skipping is required etc. I’m not sure what the key goal of the lesson was. Perhaps using the congiuntivo imperfetto part 2? Not sure where the text fitted in with that – my comprehension question involved the structure but it was accidental and it was the only question that did. It was a 2hr lesson, ½ hr was spent chatting about covid (with some congiuntivo imperfetto worked in eventually), ½ hr (perhaps a bit more actually) spent on repeating the story, 10 minutes was break time. I think we had about 45 minutes on the reading text, approx. Which was reading aloud, sentence by sentence, vocabulary, “comprehension” questions and then the writing and then reading what we wrote activity about defending a given point of view relating to the text.
  • Italian coursebooks  (or at least this one) aren’t like English coursebooks. Rather than lead in/intro to a topic, texts, language work, oral/written production kind of flows, this one goes text, fill in grammar from memory, grammar focus, other random speaking and writing tasks and different texts. It’s confusing! And interesting! I read the introduction to the course book and apparently it assumes you have already used the previous coursebook where a given character does this and that and now the character is going to do the other. And it’s very much teaching culture too (hence the text at the start of each chapter), which it makes explicit in the introduction too. I’ve got the teacher book too. So that I can do the units I’ve missed (which I guess they did in the previous course) and have the answers. It may also shed some light on how the course book works, not had a chance to look yet!

I’m learning a lot from being a student again, it has to be said! A most excellent form of CPD! Hope this is of interest to some of you, apologies if not – it is a useful way for me to process the lessons and to store all my reflections and learnings!

Cambridge Assessment English – Resilience: Teaching in tough times webinar

Here is the link to this webinar. It was delivered by Pablo Toledo and Alberto Costa. The link has links to related handouts too. I recommend checking those out! I was alerted to the existence of this webinar by the ELTC TD team (of which I am no longer part as I stepped down at the end of last academic year!), thanks guys! While watching the webinar, I made the notes here below and also reflected on the webinar content (at the end of this post). Hope someone finds this interesting/useful!

What is your life like now? is the first question asked. There has been lots of change with Covid and the shift to online teaching and learning. There are many strategies teachers are using to adapt to our new reality and there have been lots of articles about this. One such article has a headline “Teachers reinvent themselves to teach online” Teachers mentioned improvisation, getting used to new tech, learning from the experience and drawing conclusions from it. During another webinar by CAE, they used a poll to survey the teachers about the platforms being used – Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, other. Zoom was the majority choice by a big margin. In the current webinar, the speakers give us a different poll relating to the initial question, What is your life like now?

  1. in full lockdown, without teaching?
  2. teaching online from your institutional platform?
  3. teaching online using your own online tools (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Hangouts)
  4. a combination of 2 and 3 above?
  5. teaching face-to-face in an ordinary classoom?

For me, the answer is 2. We use Blackboard VLE including Collaborate for online lessons and Google Hangouts and chat for working with colleagues. In a previous delivery (the previous day) of the webinar, most of the participants selected 2, while in the current delivery 3 and 4 were more common. The fact that Covid and lockdowns just happened with no warning means that there was no time to prepare, which had an impact of stress and resilience.

What is resilience?

The speaker quotes Nelson Mandela “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” and defines resilience as the ability to be happy, successful etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened. Definition taken from Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. The relevance to current times is clear. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant stress. It involves bouncing back and can also involve profound personal growth. This is according to the American Psychology Association. It is a good thing but feels messy. It doesn’t mean that you will not experience difficult or distress. If something difficult happens and you feel bad, that is normal, you are not doing anything wrong and it doesn’t mean you won’t recover. It is not a personality trait that only some people possess, it can be developed by anyone. It isn’t a fixed quantity, you can’t use up all your resilience. There is always more, you can always develop more. To do that we need to take into consideration what resilience is about and how to build it.

How to build resilience.

This is very important for teachers. It’s a difficult time both in the home sphere and the work sphere, and it is a difficult time for our students and for society at large. We have responsibility for ourselves personally and professionally but also for our students as we are leaders in their learning so we need to support them through this too. The seven Cs of resiliences are as follows:

C1 – Control

The most disempowering feeling we can have is that something bad is having and we can have no effect on it. We need to provide ourselves and students to feel a sense of control. Offer students choices, things that they can manage. Let them make some decisions. Also about realising that we can take an active role in our emotional health.

C2 – Competence

We have the skills to get through this. Teaching online happened, it is difficult and stressful but we have our competence and skills as teachers to bring to it, which will help us get through. We can help students identify how they are handling the challenges of the situation and what strengths they are bringing to it and this will help them too.

C3 – Coping

Managing. How do we manage the situation? When something difficult happens, we respond to it in different ways. Distraction for example – shifting attention away from something difficult on to something else. Withdrawal – I cannot deal with this today – and denial – No no not happening! These aren’t positive strategies but they are strategies. An example of a positive strategy is positive reframing. Good idea to talk to students about coping strategies, different options they could use.

C4 – Confidence

Feeling confident in yourself and your ability to manage the situation is important. We can praise students for overcoming obstacles and help them realise it isn’t luck but agency.

C5 – Connection

We are at home but not alone. We feel emotionally secure when we are connecting with other people. Staying in touch is very important. Developing that connection and empathy is important. The most important question to ask students in a class is “how are you? how are you feeling? how are you doing with your school work?”. Not an activity to do and move on. Spend time with it. The teacher-learner relationship is more important now than ever. Not a book/explanation/platform etc that is doing the teaching, it is the relationship between the teacher and the learner.

C6 – Character

Need to develop character. We have to strengthen our characters, our personalities. We should talk to students about their values, about who they are, their identity, what makes them who they are. The things that they believe in and which re important and strong for them.

C7 – Contribution

You have to acknowledge the contribution you are making for the situation. How can we help students with this? Talk about the ways in which they are contributing e.g. at home – making the bed, cleaning the house, staying in your room and trying not to make noise while your parents were working in the living room. These are all positive contributions.

Teacher resilience checklist

  • look after yourself
  • be true to yourself
  • be realistic
  • keep in touch
  • trust
  • focus on the essentials

If you are not ok, you cannot teach well. Look after your mental health, your body, work on your resilience. You are your key tool.

Be you. YOU can do this.

Don’t set crazy expectations. If you feel that it is too much, pull back. Don’t try to be normal. You almost certainly can’t do as much as before, don’t judge yourself by past metrics.

Connect, connect, connect.

Trust yourself, your colleagues, your learners, that things will get better. How do we know students are telling the truth? We just have to trust.

Focus on the basics. Don’t try and be fancy.

“Keep calm and carry on” was a WW2 poster but the message for resilience is “Keep calm and adapt” – nothing is normal/the same. We need to adapt.

Embracing change

When we are struggling with new platforms, resources, environment, we are doing our best to make learning effective. There is a lot of trial and reflection. Lots of new tools and terminology to deal with it, very different from before. We need a computer with a camera, a headset, stable internet connection and a platform for teaching live. But we also need staples like a whiteboard, pictures, puppets, realia. There is a vast array of online resources. Your students also need to get used to them. Think about context and learners:

  • What is the actual learning environment like?
  • How can I engage my students?
  • What can technology offer me?

Are you teaching synchronously or asynchronously? Both? How about the families? Are they ready to deal with the new reality? How much access to online resources do you and your learners have? How old are your students? How expert are they at using technology – their own and that which you provide? Students are at home and may be interrupted by other family members doing housework. playing, using band-width?

To engage students, you need empathy. See the situation through the other person’s eyes rather than your own. Withhold judgement and provide as much support as you can. Try to understand students’ feelings and communicate that to students. Allow for short breaks when you are teaching. Make sure things are clear. Clear instructions and task steps. Help students learn how to study in this way, to organise their learning etc. Where relevant, advise family on their role in this.

Technology offers variety and flexibility. Flexibility is very important. We can’t reproduce classroom teaching exactly, there have to be lots of adjustments. Tech offers creative language practice, opportunities to develop learner autonomy. You need to teach them how to be autonomous. What kind of resources can they make use of for this? Online dictionaries? Make sure you allow for self-assessment. Ask them how did you feel after completing this task? How did you like this handout, did it help you? What do you think about this way of using online dictionaries, did it help? Set up collaborative projects e.g. doing research together, short presentations, recording videos of it. You can also use a flipped classroom approach. Tech also allows for lots of professional development – learning how to teach remotely and make use of resources is a good opportunity for development.

Points of reference are helpful. E.g. https://thedigitalteacher.com One of things this portal allows is to do self-assessment of where you are at technologically and suggestions for moving from the level where you are now to the next level. There is also a review section which has reviews about different online views. Along with the reviews there also strategies for using the tools and short courses in using them. A good go-to place for developing digital skills.

Choosing digital tools for language learning

There are 3 things to consider when choosing online tools.

  1. user experience
  2. language learning
  3. technical information

It’s very important to establish clear criteria and we can use the above categories.

  1. Is the content presented clearly? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is navigation easy?

2. What skills can learners practice through the resource? How much control do learners have over pace of learning. This goes back to learner autonomy and giving learners control. How helpful is the tool for teaching large classes? Can learners set their own learning goals? Are there self-assessment opportunities? Does it allow students to reflect on their completion of the task? Can teachers observe learners’ strengths and weaknesses? What opportunities are there for communication between learners? What collaborative opportunities are there? E.g. using breakout rooms in an online platform. Padlet and Flipgrid are other tools which enable this. What kind of communities can develop? What opportunities are there for developing intercultural skills (essential in today’s world). How can learners use language to build knowledge in school subjects? What critical thinking skills can learners develop?

3. What devices and internet connections are needed? Ones that require a lot of bandwidth can create difficulty. How will the product company use your data? What user support does the product company provide?

Cambridge Assessment English has put together “Supporting every teacher” which is a one-stop shop for many things such as webinars for teachers, activities for learners and lots of different things to help you and your students. Cambridge Assessment International Education also has a support pack that can help you keep abreast with this new reality. You can also find a playlist of all the webinars that have been delivered (there are 3 or 4 every week). CUP has World of Better Learning which has great blog posts from teachers, course book writers etc. You can also download a number of resources which help you extend your repertoire of ideas.

Recap

As we apply these principles and start teaching in new ways, there are 4 fundamental questions that we should take away and use:

  • What really matters? What are the key things that learners should take away?
  • How much structure does it need? There is a tendency to over-plan. Sometimes a very structured lesson is exactly what you need, sometimes you need to go in with a few questions and just let things happen.
  • Should I try new approaches today? You are using an LMS and video conferencing. Don’t try to do everything new all at once, innovate step by step.
  • What I have learned so far? Keep being reflective, reflection is very important now. Talk to your class, talk to colleagues, keep a journal.

Today’s takeaways

This is new, this isn’t normal, but we are still teachers and we are still teaching students, who are people first and students second. So, do what you know. Make use of your pedagogical skills. You can do this. Good enough is good enough. What you are doing right now is making a difference – so celebrate instead of feeling guilty.

“I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

My reflections:

I actually found this webinar to be a bit disjointed (BUT got a lot out of it never the less!). The blurb focused on resilience so I was surprised by the switch to the focus on technological tools. I had thought the tools it referred to in the blurb (“the tools that can help us make sense of tough times”) would relate to resilience.

Nevertheless, my favourite part of the webinar was the bit about the seven C’s and how to help our students with them. The timing of when I watched that part (I couldn’t watch the recording in one sitting as time didn’t allow) meant it influenced the shape of my tutorials with my new group of students this morning and I think in a beneficial way. It has also helped me think of ideas for asynchronous content to include in my Class Noticeboard padlet. Firstly, a column for “getting to know you” in which so far I will add a new question each week for students to respond to, so that the group continues to get to know each other in the background of the lessons. (My context is EAP and the duration of the lessons and course in combination with the assessment demands means that there is limited space for personalisation as speaking activities tend to be focused on topics that require research and evidence to support ideas etc.) Secondly, a Wellbeing column, to share links about maintaining mental health and wellbeing generally and in trying times. I am hoping by making it a part of the Noticeboard, and therefore students’ daily life, it will emphasise the importance of it and normalise talking about it and asking for help when things are difficult.

Otherwise, it is always helpful to hear the need to look after oneself be reiterated. It is the foundation of everything else but it is so easy to either let it slip or feel guilty for doing it! And while the bit on technological tools was nothing new to me, it still has given me food for thought.

Upper Intermediate Italian Lesson 1

I have just started doing a ten-week upper intermediate online course in Italian. My first lesson was on Monday evening. Here are my notes and reflections from that evening. It is fun being a language learner again!

I am so nervous!! Now I know how my students this morning felt, but luckily for me I am not trying to get to university off the back of this course! There are supposed to be 5 of us students.  I arrived first so asked about this.

We started with icebreakery chit chat, which turned into an impromptu teaching using the whiteboard about ci as a pronoun, based on something someone said that needed correcting. Spent a lot of time on this. Is this the objective for today’s class? Pronouns?

We eventually end up with 4 students.

Se avessi più tempo libero, che cosa facessi? (last bit of discussion, this structure turned out to somewhat be the topic)

Ma gli obiettivi…cosa sono?

The dicussion is all through the teacher, asking us questions one by one.

The teacher (Italiano) speaks in English! Haiyaaa! I want to hear ITALIAN!!!

Il tempo è limitato.

Half an hour.

Then, we move on to grammar – indication that the lesson proper is beginning now. Review? I am the only newbie to this course, the rest did the previous level…

Ohhh the topic of our chat was for the topic of a listening in the coursebook!

….which we didn’t listen to.

We had to read aloud the rubric… and bits of task (not sure why).

The COURSEBOOK has English in too. Upper Intermediate. Whyyyyy. Or does it? Perhaps the grammar info comes from a grammar book that has English in it. I’ll find out when I have the coursebook (told to wait til after the first lesson to purchase it – this was in the pre-course bumpf so a general rule)!

T isn’t nominating, confused whether to reply or not!

I eventually chip in. Sometimes I am right to, sometimes not.

Congiuntivo imperfetto

There’s even a powerpoint now, it just didn’t involve objectives. I guess so far the objective is to talk about hypothetical situations, unreal if-clauses.

Grammar activity joys

Fill in the table, t asks us each in turn for the answers but no time to do the activity first. Doing it lockstep item by item.

I am sleeeepy.

We then had to say aloud in turn what was in the table already for the irregular verb Essere not pictured above.

Then some sentence completions but again not doing it ourselves first.

I got If I could eat anything for dinner,  I would… and I said I already ate dinner, sorry teacher.

One of the students seemed much weaker than everyone else but had done previous course so was in this one.

p.68

I was to have a photo of the book but he talkin about it and I don’t have it yet ayyyy tech. Apparently it has a fumetto. Not sure what one of them is. A cartoon? Would help if I could see the page!

BREAK TIME!! Poor teacher called it to get some time to fix the tech issue!

We haven’t used breakout rooms yet, all communication goes via the teacher, no direct communication between students. When asked to define things I circomlocuted in Italiano to explain then got asked for English definition haha

Tech worked after break, I now have a picture, well, it is being shared on screen, though not entirely clear round the edges. Fumetto is indeed a cartoon.

Write a couple of sentences about how the world would be if run by kids. Had to ask to see the book page again, hah.

Se la societa fosse governate da bambini e ragazzi, cambierebbero molte cose. Per esempio, l’ambiente sarebbe prioritizzato quando delle legge nuovo fossero creato. Ma anche il cibo alla scuola sarebbe meglio.

Avrebbe  la precedenza (yay, language upgrade!)

I thought upper intermediates would be better at speaking and answering questions, communicating, based on my experience of teaching upper ints!

Non peggiorerebbe

Se il frigo potesse parlare

If fridges could talk…

2 ss have now disappeared, me and 1 other left.  One of those who have disappeared is the weakest one.

“Writing competition” about the fridges

We have to write a story about a fridge, about OUR fridge.

Un soprannome.  I made a mistake, didn’t know we had to keep info til later and spoke out of turn with my nickname, oops.

Soppranome: Miele

5 aggietivi: Grande, alto, fresco, pulito, pieno

2 pensieri del frigorifero:

  • Mangi un sacco di verdure, no?
  • Perché tante foglie?

Then suddenly he said if you prefer write it in English first. NO!!

(Edit: we never came back to this, which also contributed to confusion in the next stage…we didn’t do the “writing competition” that we had to read aloud through a sentence each in turn…oh wait we did the chain story was it…)

He then said dieci sentences and it confused me. I want him to speak all in Italian so I could have my  brain fully in Italian mode rather than be constantly switching.

“Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando…” ‘ opening line.

Chain story using private chat, nice activity actually. Write a sentence and “pass it on” using direct message option to the designated “person sitting next to you”.

One of the missing students returned (not the weakest one). Teacher asked her to do the activity by herself because we had already started.

Difficulties: Private chat and everyone chat go in the same box, just labelled differently. Total communication breakdown.

Turns out I had understood the task but boy oh boy were we all confused. Including a phase of I thought I had misunderstood the task following the second explanation and so on and so forth. Poor teacher, he got quite flustered. I wanted to say, it’s ok, things going thoroughly tits up from time to time is a thing, don’t worry. Maybe try having written instructions for the activity next time, it might help.

We ended up with two stories instead of 3. Definitely without 10 sentences apiece.

Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando uno strano rumore mi svegliò, come un rumore di rane. “Che cos’è?” mi chiedevo con il cuore che batteva velocissimi. Avevo tanto paura…

Era una notte buia e tempestosa, quando il mio frigo dice ad alta voce “Non sono trattato bene”. La sedia gli risponde: “ Cosa vuoi? Anch’io vedi sono vecchia e fragile e il padrone è pesante come una montagna” Giusto ma io devo contenere tutto il cibo e ce n’è un sacco.

My remaining active classmate had still not understood the activity. In fairness, I mainly had because of having done similar activities as a teacher before! The late-returning student was asked to judge which story was better.

Lesson then ended, very abruptly, no homework set, no wrapping up. Still no group work/talking directly to other students.

What I learnt from being a student again:

  • Lesson objectives are really helpful.
  • Understanding the purpose of an activity is helpful.
  • Clear linking between stages is helpful.
  • Being consistent in use of target language is helpful.
  • Being given time to complete an activity before feedback is helpful.
  • Clear instructions, which online means with visual support, are helpful.
  • Absence of the above can be a mixture of confusing and frustrating, not helpful.
  • Reading aloud for the sake of reading aloud is not helpful.
  • Every last bit of communication going through the teacher is tedious (hoping this will change!).
  • Ending abruptly is a bit confusing and disconcerting, not helpful.
  • Language upgrades are welcome!

The good news is, I kept up easily enough, phew (I thought I was being ambitious taking upper int as I consider myself more an intermediate really. 9 more lessons to go. I guess if each course is only 9 lessons and you go up a level after each course, it might not be enough for people to really change level. Not sure how their levelling/course progression works, ‘spose I will find out at some point! Anyway, Now that I know what the lessons are like, what to expect, I can set about making the most of it in terms of what I learn (Italian AND what it’s like being a student – what works and doesn’t so much)! For a start, I need to up my game in the note-taking department, so they they are useful rather than a stream of consciousness!

Wrapping up 2020 with a reflective “challenge”!

I am signed up to the emailing list for Life-Resourceful, Rachael Roberts’s website, which connects with her Facebook group, Lightbulb Moments – helping ELT Professionals manage stress and gain balance. (If you want to sign up too, it is easy to do so via her website and Facebook.) In her most recent email, she invited us to reflect on 2020 in a positive way despite what a challenge it has posed globally. She offered us the following questions as a starting point:

  1. What achievement this year are you most proud of?
  2. What new things did you discover about yourself this year?
  3. Which of your personal qualities was the most helpful this year?
  4. What new skills did you learn, work-related or otherwise?
  5. What, or who, are you most grateful for?
  6. What little things did you most enjoy during lock-down, and if you want to, how could you make them part of your life going forward?
  7. Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
  8. What experience would you love to do all over again?
  9. Who or what had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

I’m a sucker for reflective questions, so I thought I would accept the challenge and have a stab at answering her questions as a wrap-up post for 2020.

Question 1 – What achievement this year are you most proud of?

No answer came readily to mind, largely because this year seems to have lasted about 60 squillion days so I’m not sure what counts! Turns out I was in fact awarded SFHEA (Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy) recognition this year not last year. Ah yes, having confirmed the date via my email inbox, a vague recollection starts to swim to the surface – working on the portfolio and getting it finished at the end of last year, to then submit in late January this year (the halcyon days of pre-Covid!) and receive confirmation of my success on 4th May.

So I suppose that would be my greatest work-related achievement for this year. There again, so was the (really not so) small matter of surviving the shift to online teaching and ADoSing thrust upon us by the pandemic! In connection with that, getting better at asking for help/support at work when I have needed it has proved useful, as has making the conscious decision to prioritise my health and wellbeing, and that of my relationship. This doesn’t mean slacking off, it just means being more careful about what I take on at work – what I say yes to, and what I say no to. It has also meant going down to 4 day weeks from the beginning of this academic year which has made a real difference to my life balance!

Question 2 – What new things did you discover about yourself this year?

  • I discovered that Google meet gives me sensory overload quite easily. I had to come up with strategies to deal with this when the high volume of meetings that characterised the start of lockdown made it apparent. It made me wonder if I am neurodiverse in this way because others I spoke to didn’t experience the same effects as I did.
  • I read extensively in the area of neuroscience and now have a much better (though still growing) understanding of how brains, and my brain in particular, work. This helps me handle myself better in both professional and personal arenas.
  • I like working from home! (Apart from the Google meet thing :-p ) The lack of commute time freed up lots of time for pre-work exercise and a lunch break is a real break (with freshly prepared food rather than food that has sat in a thermos all morning!). I find it easier to concentrate too as it is quieter at home than in a staffroom.

Question 3 – Which of your personal qualities was the most helpful this year?

Ummm….my carefully cultivated ability to find things to be grateful for and feel positive about? Does that count? I started keeping a gratitude calendar in December last year; it started as an advent calendar but I kept going. And every day, however difficult, there has been something and mostly (always?) more than one thing, however small, to write on it. Or…maybe that I am mentally and emotionally quite strong as a consequence of the challenges life has thrown at me over the years? I’m not really sure! Maybe I need to further clarify for myself what my personal qualities are before I can evaluate them in terms of helpfulness during a pandemic!

Question 4 – What new skills did you learn, work-related or otherwise?

  • How to teach online! Including how to use Blackboard collaborate, how to adapt materials to make them work in an online classroom, how to build rapport with students online and so forth. A steep (and ongoing) learning curve!
  • How to keep a new relationship going through lockdown – not an experience I wish to repeat. Of course, like anybody, I am hoping this relationship is it so no more new relationships! It involved establishing routines, using google meet for things like yoga, crossword-ing, art, dancing – being creative, really!

Question 5 – What, or who, are you most grateful for?

My lovely girlfriend. This year would have been the pits without her! Being able finally to move in with her so we don’t have to wonder if/when the government/pandemic will stop us seeing one another again. Also, my job/people at work. I am so lucky to work with a fab team of colleagues.

Question 6 – What little things did you most enjoy during lock-down, and if you want to, how could you make them part of your life going forward?

I really enjoyed doing more art! I could make it part of my life by….doing it more! Hopefully that will be a thing once the moving in/unpacking has finished. I also enjoyed being able to be selective in my exercise due to not commuting to/from work on the bike. Commuting to/from work will be a thing again but now I live closer to work so commutes will be short unless I want to make them long by going via the Peak!

Question 7 – Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

Hard to say… Mindfulness has helped me become better at noticing when I am worrying about the future and shifting my attention to now. I worried a lot when family members were ill with Covid but though they are now better I would not say that was unnecessary worry. I suppose in the earlier part of this year, worrying that my girlfriend would get to know the real me and be disappointed! But I did recognise the irrationality of that at the time and manage it successfully.

Question 8 – What experience would you love to do all over again?

Long bike rides on sunny days, days out paddling with my girlfriend, walks in the Peak district in the sunshine together…. there will be more of all the above in 2021!

Question 9 – Who or what had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

I guess the answer to this is obvious! My girlfriend, hands down. Also my line manager/programme leader though. He has been incredibly supportive and another year of working in a supportive environment has done wonders for my confidence and calmness professionally. For a “what”, mindfulness. It has helped me negotiate a very challenging year in a generally positive way.

2020 has certainly been…different! I am lucky to have come through it as well as I have. I am lucky that I had such a positive thing (my relationship) threading through all the challenges I’ve faced.

As for 2021… these are the goals, or values, I identified at the start of the academic year and they stand:

  • Be curious! By being curious about everything that I encounter, all the newness that is ahead, I can open up lots of opportunities for learning and growth. 
  • Be patient! With myself, with my colleagues, with my students. It won’t be an easy year and that is ok, it can still be a positive one.
  • Be grateful! Look for the positives and appreciate them. Smile lots. 
  • Be open to challenge! It’s ok, good even, for things to be difficult, challenge leads to discovery and growth. 
  • Be kind to myself! Look after myself appropriately, maintain a good work-life balance (easier with the 4-day week!), keep meditating, eat well, exercise regularly, spend quality time with my girlfriend regularly.

Happy Christmas and New Year everybody. I (as ever) hope to blog more next year, particularly as I will be starting an online Italian course in late January and am hoping to learn as much about teaching and learning a language online as I do about Italian, so see you on the other side! Here’s hoping 2021 is kinder to us all.

To finish off, here is a 2020 meme that made me smile:

Here’s looking at you, Academic Year 2020-21!

I am in a reflective mood as I reach the end of a much-needed restful holiday and contemplate what lies ahead. 

I finished the academic year 19-20 with stress-induced perioptical dermatitis – perhaps unsurprising given the whole pandemic thing! It has been quite a (calendar) year so far. I started it in poor health, due to a virus (I do not know if it was THE virus, either way it wiped me out completely) which I didn’t fully recover from until early-mid February. Shortly after that one of my companion animals passed away following multiple vet visits and sustained nursing at home. By our Easter v weeks I was ready for a holiday and had a week in Sicily booked. Of course in practice it coincided with the pandemic accelerating in Italy and then here so the trip didn’t happen and the stress of the unknown (will we lock down? When?) and then the start of lock down ensued instead, for me against the backdrop of a new relationship. A week off in June coincided with finally being able to see my girlfriend again, which was wonderful but not restful (lots of emotions to deal with for both of us!). So it’s not surprising that I was a wreck by the time the proper holidays arrived in mid-August. I have largely spent them eating, resting, spending time with my girlfriend and getting a diagnosis for my eye skin condition which led to 2 weeks of 6 times a day taking and/or administering (tablets and creams) both plural!) an array of drugs. 

And here I am, eyes still look a bit weird but I no longer feel like death, which really helps! Another academic year looms. My inbox is full of emails to make sense of, I’m still not sure how much of “back to work” = back in the office, and everything ahead, pretty much will be new. A positive new thing is that I have decided to go down to 4 days a week for at least this year (it’s a reviewed yearly thing). Hopefully that will make for a better work-life balance. (My main decision of last year was to submit a request form for going down in hours rather than apply for an academic director position which would have been the opposite! I wouldn’t have got it anyway, because my colleague who did definitely deserves it more and has much more relevant experience to bring to it than I would have, but it was still a choice with regards to what direction I wanted to pursue.) 

This academic year, it feels like I will be starting a new job except with all my colleagues and without moving! It will still be EAP of course, but new timetable structure, syllabus, materials and platforms. Some assessment will be the same but some will be different. It’s quite an interesting position to be in really, the cognitive challenge of (nearly) everything being different but against the backdrop of a familiar team and with the added bonus of having an extra day off per week to regroup. Another bonus is that there will be plenty of development work to do in terms of materials, so that will be good to get stuck into. I have stepped down from my bulletin-writing TD role now (finished at the end of last academic year) and another role-related question remains to be answered: Will I continue to ADoS or not? It’s a decision I will have to make fairly imminently. But that is for another post!

For now, these are my academic year goals:

  • Be curious! By being curious about everything that I encounter, all the newness that is ahead, I can open up lots of opportunities for learning and growth. 
  • Be patient! With myself, with my colleagues, with my students. It won’t be an easy year and that is ok, it can still be a positive one.
  • Be grateful! Look for the positives and appreciate them. Smile lots. 
  • Be open to challenge! It’s ok, good even, for things to be difficult, challenge leads to discovery and growth. 
  • Be kind to myself! Look after myself appropriately, maintain a good work-life balance (easier with the 4-day week!), keep meditating, eat well, exercise regularly, spend quality time with my girlfriend regularly. 

Perhaps, in fact, on reflection, these aren’t goals so much as values. And in line with these guiding values I can set specific goals. My goal for the first week back is finish it with a clear idea of what this term will look like and be ready to embark on teaching a new group the following week! 

Bring it on, academic year 2020-21, I am ready for you! Um, I think… :-p Good luck to everyone who is kicking off a new academic year around now (northern hemisphere) and to everyone else, keep going only a few months left of this calendar year! 🙂 

IATEFL Training session – Mental health, Resilience and Covid 19

By dint of starting work verrrry early in order to get all my marking done, I have made time to attend this training session run by Hayley Broughton-McKinna for IATEFL. It is on Zoom! I must be the only person for whom it is the first time to use Zoom… (I’ve done Google Meet and Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams just!) Apparently it is a Zoom webinar room so as participants we just use the chat box, so not quite like being a student! Here are my notes from the session, with my own thoughts/reflections (added retrospectively) interspersed in italics.

Hayley is from PMAC. Im not sure what it stands for, need to look it up… but it aims to give people the tools they need to keep a workforce healthy, happy and functioning, and productive. She talked about her experience and warned us some themes may be distressing.

First thing I have noticed, Zoom audio quality is MUCH better than Blackboard Collaborate. <sigh>

The first portion was about Stress management

Life is already stressful, lockdown has added to that bringing with it lots of changes and worries.

  • Relationships with ourselves and those around us may have changed due to lockdown.
  • Work has been affected (not half!) – with furlough and working from home, and job losses and new jobs being hard to get, some jobs are more exposed and more at risk too.
  • Fear around the virus itself is a thing too, not knowing what the future will hold with it, doctors not knowing how best to treat it.
  • The grieving process has been made even more difficult and complicated.
  • Current affairs issues such as Black Lives Matter and conspiracy theories also affect us. Small talk around Covid19 has become very common but we can unwittingly have a big impact on people by doing this, depending on their experiences/situations.

Hayley introduced these terms:

Stress – how affected you are in mind and body by pressures that are unmanageable.

Trauma – impact of overwhelming stress, when coping is exceeded.

“The impact of Lockdown” might have meant spending a lot of time at home. For some people that’s great, for others they feel really trapped and isolated, out of control.

  • Some people may not have had access to safe outdoor space/sunlight, leading to poor mood and vitamin D deficiency. It is also living with constant fear and uncertainty.
  • We went from this is a virus that only affects the elderly and those with underlying conditions to this is a virus that affects everybody. So there is trauma around the fear of being ill but also around surviving, in terms of guilt.

I get this. I’m worried about getting ill (especially as I had a bad virus at Christmas through mid-Feb, the memory of which is enough to keep me being careful. Going from running the better part of 20 miles to being barely able to move is not nice. And the thought of losing, possibly permanently, some of my lung function is scary to me. At the same time, because I have been incredibly lucky in where I have lived through the first lockdown, almost feeling guilty not to have suffered more. 

  •  Grieving loved ones and family members, made more difficult as you may not be able to be around people who you can talk to, share memories with, to celebrate someone’s life with all who loved that person. This in combination with other people being excited about restaurants reopening and suchlike.
  • Grief also covers our life and sense of purpose. Routines and purpose may have been lost. Our reality is shaped by who we are in different circumstances with different people. You at work can be different than you at home than you with friends. We may have lost those different aspects of ourselves.

I’m still working, remotely of course, but I can imagine how much bigger an effect the whole thing might have had on me if I didn’t have the continuity of my job, crazy as it has been, through it. It stills seems strange to think that, apart from my co-ADoS who came round once for some socially distanced outdoor working (we thought it might be a regular weekly thing, the weather thought otherwise!!), I’ve not seen my colleagues since mid-March apart from a small number in video chats (=my 2 programme leaders and the rest of the ADoS team + [separately] the dozen or so teachers – a different dozen-ish this term to last – that I have done weekly module meetings with). We are definitely continuing to work remotely for at least another term (not sure if we teachers will go back to the building occasionally in the mean time or not), so by the time we go back to the office it will potentially have been nearly a year! Extraordinary. 

  • Working from home has minimised separation between work and home.
  • We may be grieving relationships that have been lost due to lockdown.
  • Sleep is also affected. Lack of sleep can lead to impaired immune functioning, more headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating but also impacts on mental health as you lack the energy/strength to deal with things as they arise. Resilience is affected.

I have been really lucky with sleep. I have the odd bad night but by and large my sleep is good and I have a good pre-sleep routine to help that. 

So, there has been a real crisis of mental health during the pandemic.

  • Eating disorders are often triggered by feeling out of control.

Yep. Mine was triggered by losing my horse Alba nearly 2 years ago now. Then it was re-triggered when I was ill over Christmas. It liked me not being able to eat much and would have liked to keep it that way. So it was still very much present when Covid19 kicked off in the UK. I’m incredibly lucky that I have a very supportive girlfriend who has helped me be able to manage it better. 

  • People who are struggling have had less to distract them and resources available prior to lockdown may be no longer available.
  • Learned helplessness response may kick in because people feel they don’t have it in them anymore.
  • People with children who see work as a bit of respite from the parent role lost that during the lockdown.
  • Some people have got used to being alone at home and will be struggling with going back out into the world and to work.

This may be me when we do get to the point of returning to work. It will have been a LONG time so some readjustment will be necessary. 

  • Health is also impacted by the long term stress effects but also people have avoided seeking medical attention or been unable to access it. What is urgent or essential to you might not have been considered urgent enough to be provided during the pandemic. To not have access to support for your health can feel really difficult.

I have a weird eye condition going on, and getting it seen to has been complicated by Covid. I went to the pharmacy first, hoping I could just get something for it but they can’t give me anything over the counter. So I had to phone up for a GP appointment, which will be a phone appointment, so which has involved taking photos of my eye and uploading them to a link sent to be via text message. And we will see what happens next! Obviously this is all very minor compared to what some people will be going through. 

Lack of control has led to many people struggling massively.

  • Control includes routine, and not having that can be distressing. Emotion regulation can be more difficult when there is no predictability. This is also affected by not having the distractions you are used to having to help with it e.g. going to the gym, doing courses and other such coping mechanisms.

This really upset me at the start of lockdown. Feeling like my life had been thrown up in the air and all the bits were all over the place, and that I had to pick them all up and reorganise them again. Routine is very important to me, as it feels safe. Fortunately in the UK we were allowed out to exercise once per day so that was one organising principle – go for a run early early so that as few other people as possible would be out and about. I had also invested in a turbo trainer so that I could continue to do some cycling exercise, so there was that for late afternoon. Obviously there was work, with its meetings (so many meetings!) and lessons. I also established routines with my girlfriend – daily video chats, daily exercising via video chat and weekly virtual dates. I overdid the exercise initially so had to work out how much was the right amount and what to do instead of the dropped sessions (yoga, piano, art). 

  • We’ve also largely lost the physical presence of others e.g. a hand on the shoulder, a hug etc. Lots of feelings like anger, disappointment, frustration arise and can also lead to feelings of shame and lead people to react to us in uncomfortable ways as they don’t know what to do with it.

This is difficult. Especially when it will come to seeing people again after a long time. Like when my co-ADoS came round, the automatic feeling is to want to have a big hug having not seen each other for ages. I will be sad to lose that with people. 

  • Precarious finances impact what we can purchase, little comforts that might help.

I’m really lucky to be ok financially because I have a secure (as it is possible to be at the moment) job. 

  • Travel has become more difficult e.g. if you relied on public transport to go to work or the shop, and it isn’t available or it is now much more dangerous, that is difficult to deal with. It can feel like a no-win situation.

I am very lucky to have a weekly Ocado supermarket delivery and despite some kerfuffle initially have managed to maintain that, and share it with my housemate and once restrictions eased also my girlfriend. So the only shop I’ve been in since mid-March is the pharmacy which is less than a five minute walk away. 

  • Accessing support has become much more difficult, and the lack of being able to turn to people when you need them can really trigger feelings from previous trauma e.g. trust issues and that can make it difficult to let people in again and access support when things open up again.
  • Some people have enjoyed working from home but for some people going to work might be the only human interaction or the only respite from responsibilities in the home, making it more difficult to compartmentalise. Home life might be very chaotic and make it very difficult to get work done.
  • People might feel lots of pressure to get back to normal even if they don’t feel ready.

I have a bit of this going on. Luckily no pressure on the work side of things because of the whole remote working for the foreseeable future thing, but I haven’t yet seen anyone apart from my housemate, my girlfriend and the one visit from my ADoS colleague and have conflict between wanting to but not feeling comfortable to and then worrying that people will think I am being antisocial as a result. I am building up towards having some friends (one household at a time) round for pizza in the garden (restrictions permitting! by the time I build up to it that may no longer be an option..!)

Impact on relationships is another thing that has come out of lockdown.

  • It can put pressure on the relationship with the person you live with as there is less escape. Little irritants become big when you are stuck with someone and there is no break. Especially when you are navigating the emotional rollercoaster of trying to cope with the wider situation. Often the little daily small things that push us to breaking point and it is easier to take it out on someone who is around you than on the world at large.

I thought this would be an issue for me, as we have clashed over build ups of little things in the past, but it’s been ok. Actually my house mate has been super supportive of the whole working from home endeavour – letting me use the kitchen-dining room, helping me find my standing desk and plug in monitor etc – and also more generally in terms of helping me find and set up the turbo trainer in the sitting room, for e.g.! Hopefully I am easier to live with since taking up mindfulness and trying to be more aware in my interactions and how they are influenced by how I am feeling. (Work stress used to be a trigger in the past.)

  • For a lot of people it has meant spending more time in abusive situations.
  • Lots of people are now having to deal with relationship breakdowns – friendships, relationships that had been really invested in. Some people have had to quarantine apart and have suffered at the lack of physical intimacy and can lead to trust issues as you can’t physically get comfort/validation/assurance. Couples coming out of lockdown who survived it may now be at risk of separation anxiety. Some couples will feel so unified that there is a bit of co-dependency and resentment/jealousy/hurt when independence is regained. Even if things went really well for you in lockdown, easing out of lockdown can make things difficult.

My girlfriend and I don’t live together, and we had only got together a month or so before lockdown started, so we worked hard to keep things going. She is a keen paddler so once restrictions eased she started doing that again, I join her at weekends. But obviously during lockdown there was no paddling and before lockdown we hadn’t had much chance to figure out normal (and it was out of season) so there has been some adjustment around that. Recognising insecurity in myself, talking with her about it. (Mindful) communication has been key. 

Work relationships have been different. This particularly for colleagues who I consider friends but am no longer working closely with as they have been promoted. Pre-lockdown, it was about having lunch together when we were able to do. In and since lockdown, it has been about being proactive about organising video chats periodically, even though initially it felt a bit awkward and I was a bit nervous (go figure, just me…). Consistently it has been really positive in outcome to reconnect with them. Very important to do and something I need to keep doing! 

Teaching during lockdown

  • It has had a lot less human contact.
  • You haven’t the same small talk and catch up in between actual teaching sessions.
  • The interaction doesn’t feel as personal or genuine. It is easier to lose concentration when you are talking to a screen with no response.
  • There is a lot less separation between work and home, it is always there rather than being left behind at work physically. So more work done outside work hours, as there is less structure.
  • Students may not have the time or space at home to engage fully with the sessions however much they might want to. Their ability to concentrate may have been affected by lockdown.
  • More difficult to check in with students as you can’t see their response or reactions. Very different relationship with the students. You might spend more time worrying about them as a result.

Teaching…this term I really enjoyed it as I had the mental space to fully engage with it and lessons that worked more like lessons (as vs. the 30 minute tutorial slots of last term, though even with those I managed to do trial and error and established a good set-up!). Last term I had my students from the previous term so I already had rapport with them, that remained the case online. This term I shared my co-ADoS’s group and only had six lessons with them. So I did my best but it was difficult! Though by the end I felt I was getting somewhere. Time, eh. I have missed the face to face classroom though. Strange to think even when it becomes a thing again how different it will be. 

Re work-life balance, I have been pretty strict for the most part about maintaining it (bar yesterday when I worked from 7.20 til late afternoon in order to be able to attend this session!) because keeping myself in a state of reasonable wellbeing is essential to being able to continue doing the job. 

Trauma and stress in lockdown…

<ummm Zoom meeting crashed and when I tried to rejoin it said there was another meeting in progress. I can only hope I will be able to access the recording! Oh apparently the whole thing crashed, not just my problem, and now we need to find the speaker again!>

…What is the impact of all this?

  • Those feelings (everything we have talked about so far) can be very triggering. Particularly for people who have already experienced trauma.
  • Relationships may feel different, you may feel very detached from them.
  • Unprecedented time to ourselves can be stressful/traumatic, may lead to an existential crisis. Lots of big questions can crash around your mind. Loss of concrete knowing who you are, where you are headed in life, can lead to feel confused and overwhelmed.
  • You may feel some loss of identity, as the experiences that contribute to all our different versions of ourselves (work self, social self etc.) are not there.
  • Keeping conversations going without all the shared experience and new experience can be difficult.
  • May struggle to get out of bed and follow positive routines.
  • BLM activism, seeing people being killed, adds to the trauma. As a trauma response, we may shut down. Not consciously but we cannot deal with that level of grief. At the time is perfectly normal and healthy for coping but coming out of lockdown, how do we come out of that?
  • Social media exacerbates individual differences – comparison with others’ lives e.g. when you are having a bad day and see people on Fb/Twitter doing all different things and being productive which might bring feelings of shame and guilt in you. Loss of motivation can result.

I remember during lockdown seeing lots of posts of people baking cakes and suchlike while I was at full stretch with work and keeping my relationship with my girlfriend going. I may slightly have wished for a bit of being furloughed too! I can quite imagine that underneath all the cake photo posting, they were struggling with the massive change that sudden complete absence of work brings. 

  • People are all affected in different ways so can only offer limited support as are coping themselves.

Stress

We’ve talked about why it’s been stressful and why it’s been traumatic but what does that do to for us and to us? Stress is a very subjective thing, relative to our lives and our perceptions. At one time in your life something may seem very stressful, at another it may seem no big deal as your coping mechanisms, support network, context etc may be different. If you don’t perceive something as stressful, it won’t be a stressor for you and you won’t be emotionally and physically impacted.

Physical impact of stress

  • when we encounter a perceived threat, the hypothalmus in our brain sets off an alarm system and that sends signals through our body through nerves and hormones which prompts adrenal glands to release adrenaline (responsible for the fight flight freeze response) and cortisol (affects your body to prime it for response prepares muscles, activates release of things you need to response, suppresses non-essential things like digestive and reproductive system).
  • Normally once the threat passes, your body renormalises.
  • But really acute or prolonged stress can destruct your functioning e.g. digestive problems, slowed metabolism/weight gain especially round stomach as that is protective of organs, concentration is affected, affecting memory which is also affected by sleep.

Having an understanding of all this is important so that we take it seriously in terms of managing it.

I know for me the constant stress of the uncertainty, not knowing when lockdown would be lifted, seeing changes be made but not the one I wanted initially (to see my girlfriend properly) meant that my amygdala was more sensitive. It was something to be aware of, recognise that it was being more easily triggered than usual. And try to soothe it with meditation and emotional connection. 

Mental heatlh issues coming out of lockdown

  • Anxiety will be heightened – vomiting, dizziness, shaking, sweating, feelings of hopelessness and despair.
  • Depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and eating disorders may be re-triggered.
  • Insomnia and memory problems relating to inability to concentrate due to stress and lack of sleep.

Everyone has been affected differently by this pandemic. Everyone has had a different experience of it – lost someone, not lost someone, had a good place to shelter, been in a stressful living situation intensively, had time to take up hobbies, been taken up with working from home and childcare, have had previous difficult life experiences that are re-triggered or not, been in a comfortable space or really cramped space, have financial issues or not, be able to re-energise and rest or not, have coping mechanisms in place on hand or not, have a support network or not.

So coming out of lockdown we will all have very different needs.

And whatever our needs are, as long as they don’t harm others they are valid and it is ok for us to try and meet them. Is what I think. 

It may be just as stressful or more stressful in different ways. Uncertainty is very central. It is not “back to normal” but forward to something else and we aren’t sure quite what yet. Masks in themselves are a big difference to adjust to, can seem intimidating. We have to find ways to adjust with the world as we are meeting it now. There is no one correct way/one size fits all for dealing with it. It might be frustrating, especially as everyone is at different stages, ready for different things at different times. This might lead to difficult conversations and changing relationships. You might need to set boundaries in new ways. You need to allow yourself to be human and feel all the things you feel. Even going back to commuting will feel exhausting as you readjust.

I have not missed commuting to work on my bike – the cycling, the hills, no problem; the traffic, the near misses, the fumes, oof. Not missed. I am keeping fit, going out cycling since restrictions eased and continuing to run, but the stress of dealing with high volumes of traffic again will be hard when the time comes. 

Very important to acknowledge and validate what we have been through and are going through.

Don’t minimise your feelings and do reassure yourself that it is ok to think and feel what you are feeling. What you think and feel are not a reflection of who you are. So it is important to let them be and let them pass, rather than attaching shame to them. You matter, your experiences matter, your reality matters. Stress, pain and trauma are very subjective – if you feel more anxious than others it doesn’t mean they are doing better and you are doing worse, it just means that you are experiencing it differently. And you deserve what help and support you need.

In terms of business best practice – phased returns will be important to let people dip their toes in and readjust. Allows time to communicate problems before they become bigger problems. Make sure you tell your manager what you need. Not always easy to do but very important. And remember it might be obvious to you but not to other people – they may not realise what problems you are having or what is needed without you saying it. Communicating can go a long way. Team meetings can be a good source of ideas of things that might help more widely. Working together to find a way forward. Important to value people, giving them the opportunity to be heard and making adjustments based on that.

Resilience is essential. It is not concrete, defined variously but is about the ability to bounce back after things happen. With it,

  • you are more likely not to dwell on things and learn from things and move forward if you are resilient.
  • You view setbacks as challenges to overcome rather than something paralysing.
  • You don’t see mistakes etc as reflections of your worth, but something to learn from.
  • In the midst of a stressful situation, doesn’t mean you are necessarily super positive, it is more an ability to recognise that some things are outside your control, and allow yourself to be human, to know when to step back and ask for support.
  • You are more likely to adapt, more likely to reach out and feel human emotions, allowing yourself to do that without giving up or letting those emotions dictate your sense of self.
  • You are committed to your values, goals, hobbies, relationships, work, families etc so are committed to finding a way forward no matter what. It’s not easy, it can be scary and it can be overwhelming but ultimately it can be very empowering: “Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up” – Mary Holloway.

How to build resilience

We don’t have control but we can learn…

  • We can learn how to reframe things positively, we can form value-based goals rather than arbitrary goals. Value-based goals can bring other things but it is the value/intentions that matter.
  • Locus of control is important – the more control you feel you have the more empowered you feel. There are always thing you have no control over and feel powerless in front of but resilience helps you with that by letting you focus on things that you CAN control, little things. As a teacher there is only so much you can do and then the students have to put in the work.
  • Perspective is important – look at the bigger picture, see negative events as a part of this rather than the whole picture, so then you will be less likely to give up. Zoom out, look at things in the context of the whole not as all-consuming. A positive outlook now might look like believing that things WILL change, even if you don’t know when or how.
  • You need to build a sense of self, confidence in ability to get through things.
  • Relationships are important, and reaching out to people. Treating yourself as someone that matters, including to other people, being as kind to yourself as you try to be to other people.
  • Humour is also very important – the more able you are to able to find something funny, the better you will feel.

Going forward

  • Assess your stress – is it long term or short term? Deadlines? You might have no choice but it is for a short period of time. If it is long-term, you need to take more action/steps/put things in place to make sure you don’t burn out. What are your yearly pinch points? Identify them and make a plan for how you will manage them. Plan to reward yourself afterwards too!

I have done this with my final 3 weeks of term, of which one down and two to go. I also decided to take it one day at a time and not waste energy worrying about how bad it might be. So far it’s been very busy but fine. I’m not unduly concerned about the next two weeks. They will be busy too but I will get through them one day at a time and be ok. And I get a rest afterwards! I am looking forward to my holiday. I’m not going anywhere but I will finally have a good rest. (Hopefully without illness, as Christmas, and without everything being about to kick off, as Easter. There might be local restrictions but it won’t be the first time, so there is that!)

  • Make sure your routine prioritises wellbeing. Routines often revolve around obligation but you need to revolve it around your wellbeing as well, as another key priority. Allocate time to yourself and hold on to it. Doesn’t have to be big things – going for a walk, trying a new class, therapy, whatever you need.

So important! My “me-time” is before work early morning running or cycling, having a lunch break (sitting in the garden when the weather allows), having my hour of yoga, meditating and piano between work and dinner time, and having my bath in the evening before bedtime. And weekends are girlfriend time. All of this contributes massively to my wellbeing. 

  • Make sure you have a sleep routine that is conducive to sleep and primes your brain to be ready for it – e.g. blue light filter, don’t use devices for a period of time before bed, do relaxing activities etc.

Newsflash: you never need blue light in the devices. Filter it permanently! That is what I do and I have a lot less eyestrain as a result, even with lockdown increased computer usage. 

  • Avoid having too much screen time – be mindful of your use of screens and social media and its effect on you. Watching a drama before bed might not be such a great idea.

Bath and meditating for me. And in the bath, listening to restful audiobooks, a bit of languages on Memrise, a bit of sudoku and yes a bit of Facebook scrolling but limited. 

  • Use your summer break to do some therapy, talk through your experiences. It can be really helpful also to develop coping mechanisms for the year ahead.

I wonder about this. I think I am ok but do I/should I wait until I am not to explore this option? Not sure… 

  • Find your sense of purpose – this can be a great guard against stress and ill mental health. It gives meaning to life and helps you refocus during adversity, it helps you know how you are and live according to your values (which we saw value-driven goals are key to resilience), caring for others is important.

My relationship with my girlfriend gives me a lot of purpose. Looking after her, being looked after by her. Working on the relationship, learning about myself in the context of it. Obviously work does too. So too does my veganism. So does learning! There is so much to learn. I have enjoyed learning about brains/minds and how they work in recent months, amongst other things. Work brings lots of learning too, of course. I value connection and compassion, I value learning and being open to learning, and growing. 

  • Play is also very important. Embrace your inner child! Sometimes it needs to be held and reassured, sometimes it needs some fun and laughter and enjoyment! Play is very mindful and brings you back to focusing on the present. Put aside shame/embarrassment/vulnerability to one side and do it!

I hadn’t thought about this before, but yes. Maybe this is why we enjoy our board games and going out paddling and suchlike together so much. 🙂 

  • Reframing – thinking about stress differently. If you see it as useful, it may be less damaging. E.g. the adrenalin rush. Rather than thinking it’s awful, if you smile, you can send signals to your brain that enable you to physically experience it differently. Emotions are very physical. For example, be excited to meet a deadline because then it’s done!!  The worst day at work possible will still be over in a number of hours, even if you aren’t sure how you will get there!

I have been trying some of this! Mindfulness is helpful here because it helps you recognise the stress response earlier and that awareness helps you step out of it. 

What if there is another lockdown?

Well, this seems particularly timely, given the tighter restrictions that have been imposed on some parts of Northern England at very short notice! Fortunately not yet Sheffield. It was a shock though. The speed/lack of warning, particular freedoms (being able to spend time with people) being taken away while others are not (pubs, going to work etc). This, in combination with this session, which I attended mere hours before these new restrictions arrived, has made me realise the importance of the below. The need to reflect, to learn, to be prepared…

Now we have a direct experience to learn from.

  • What has been helpful?
  • What hasn’t been helpful?
  • What has been harmful?
  • Have a plan for your stress. Know what you need in order to help yourself adjust, know what you need from your routine and plan it in.
  • But also let go of what you can’t control, focus on what you can control i.e. how you look after yourself.
  • Let yourself acknowledge when things feel difficult without making that about who you are. We instinctively seek support when things are difficult, because of oxytocin – go with that. Human connection is important. Find out what support services are available to you so that when your body tells you you need it, you can seek it. Oxytocin is very healing. The more social contact/support you allow yourself to seek, the better you will feel long term.

I briefly talked to my girlfriend about it earlier today. She agrees that we need to prepare ourselves mentally for another period of being separated, in case that is what happens. It might or it might not. For now, even with the new restrictions if they were to be imposed on Sheffield we would be ok as we are a “bubble” and bubbles are still ok. But the government could just as easily change that, just as it changes any number of things all the time, at any point. As I mentioned earlier, what happened to Greater Manchester et al. gave me a shock. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. That doesn’t mean that from now I want to spend lots of time worrying about it possibly happening – that won’t help. But having a conversation with my girlfriend about how we will manage if it does happen, asking the questions in the list above, that will help. 

There is no “quick fix”. It’s little daily changes that can either make things worse or improve them. Working on these can have an enormous impact. Get to know yourself and what things are difficult, what triggers you have, what you can do when they do arise. Do it compassionately as you would with someone else. Allow yourself to try, allow yourself to fail, be kind to yourself always.

I’m glad I made the effort to attend. It was kind of hard in a way to focus so much attention (was nearly 2hrs worth!) on lockdown and the stress around that. I think it’s human nature not to want to think about it. But it can be done in a constructive way and given the virus is still with us, it’s important to do so. I think we need to avoid the extremes of pretending it isn’t and doing everything same as before and spending 100% of the time worrying about it and not leaving our bedrooms because it’s too scary. But I think for the human mind it is difficult to hold that balance. Total avoidance or being completely caught up in a threat response are much easier, but a lot less helpful. I think as a society we need to face it with compassion for ourselves and for others but that will take work and may be difficult in the face of a government who doesn’t “do” compassion. Still, let’s see what happens and do our best! 

Thank you, IATEFL, for the chance to attend this session! 

Rachael Roberts – Avoiding Burnout for ELT professionals

On Tuesday 21st July, Rachael delivered a webinar for Macmillan Education called Avoiding Burnout for ELT professionals. I wasn’t able to attend live but have made a deliberate effort to watch the recording as soon as I could because I really do think this topic is SO important. Here is a link to the recording, I really recommend watching it as it is succinct, to the point and full of helpful tips.

I’m not going to summarise it here, because I really think you should watch it (!!); rather, this post is my response to it.

Now, I would say, at this point in time, I am doing pretty ok mentally. Like anybody, I find some days are harder than others, but all things considered I am making big effort to look after myself and my wellbeing, and managing fairly well. I have read and watched a fair bit around the topic of wellbeing, mental health, how brains work and the like, but nevertheless I learnt a LOT from this webinar. There were lots of “oh!” and “oooh!” moments. 🙂

So, there were five warning signs of burnout that Rachael mentioned. All of them are familiar to me. Thus far in my career, I haven’t crashed and burned completely, which I am grateful for, but I have definitely been in a precarious position in that regard. I would say these days I am much better at recognising when things aren’t right and doing something about it, and I am lucky in that I have a supportive line manager to turn to at such times. For example, last term, towards the start of our sudden shift online, probably not a lot more than a week in, my stress levels were through the roof because there was so much to adjust to. I’m sure this sounds familiar to a lot of you! For me, the major stressor was a massive increase in the amount of time spent in meetings, which took place on Google meet, that Covid strategy management required. I’m not a manager but I am an ADoS, and in that role collaboratively played an active part in negotiating our programme’s way through those muddy water, which involved attending a substantial number of lengthy meetings. At that point, I genuinely thought I was not going to be able to cope with the term and would end up getting signed off work for stress and I thought that I would be judged negatively for my inability to cope; everybody else seemed to be able to. So then I had to choose – keep struggling along until I went splat or say something. I opted for the latter and initiated a discussion with my line manager via email, which led to a (ironically!) video chat. I was lucky – my line manager was very reassuring and encouraged me to do whatever I needed to in order to manage better, including not attending some meetings and catching up the content from my co-ADoS. I also tried to work out what it was about these meetings that was so problematic, why they physically hurt and discovered the term “Zoom fatigue” which you may be familiar with. This enabled me to come up with strategies to make things easier for myself/my brain – namely, only have my webcam enabled and everybody else’s on screen at the start of the meeting and then switch mine off, and hide everyone else’s. Between that and knowing that I could opt out of a meeting if I needed to, stress returned to manageable levels.

Why the long and wittery example? To highlight the importance of being aware of the signs that things aren’t right for you – the alternative may be ending up like the frog in the metaphor Rachael used to illustrate how burnout can creep up on you. (Watch the webinar to see what I mean!)

As far as Rachael’s tips go, again, I thought I was pretty on this. I didn’t expect to be surprised or pick up anything particularly new. However, all the research she described about the links between the level of organisation in your environment and the level of stress your brain feels was new to me (really interesting for a brain geek like me!) and I discovered that I could really help myself by sorting out my email according to the system she described. Bleugh inbox. It’s…very full. So, it might take a while to get there but I’m game!

To understand what this ^ means properly, watch the webinar 🙂

I also learnt more about something very dear to my heart – to-do lists. (Who knew they have an effect on how safe or not the brain feels!) I love a good to-do list. Some weeks more than others (I use them more heavily when I need the motivator of crossing something off a list having done it to make me do it!). Rachael’s prioritising system is something I might actually adopt to refine my to-do list usage. I think it was Sandy Millin who described to do lists as a way of outsourcing memory. Outsourcing memory is helpful (hence my recent blog post series about teaching online – those posts will all be there come September when I teach again for me to refer back to and implement what I learnt this term!). Finding a way that works comes down to personal preference (e.g. a colleague of mine swears by Trello, which is useful as it is a collaborative to do list, but I’ve not managed to get into it as yet.) Anyway, I look forward to seeing if Rachael’s system will work for me. I anticipate yes because my current system will integrate quite easily, I can already picture how it will look. <happy Lizzie thinking about to-do lists!>

Another thing I apparently need to try is the Pomodoro technique, which Rachael described very clearly. Particularly timely as there will be a LOT to do in the next 3 weeks (assessment weeks, which are always fraught in our Term 4 because it is shorter than all the other terms, but even more so than usual this time round because of how assessment now works due to Covid19!). Time pressure is always stressful, so having a technique to try which should help me make more efficient use of time has to be a win. 🙂

The final thing which stood out from the practical tips was about set-up, having the right set-up. Rachael helpfully described that. I’d like to add another possibility to what she said (so watch the webinar, then include my possibility and you have options!) – standing desk and large monitor plugged in to laptop (As Rachael said, most of us who have been thrust into working from home have been using a laptop and I am no exception!). I don’t have an office at home, so it quickly became apparent that I needed to do *something* in order to have a suitable set up, despite lack of substantial space for that.  The first thing I did was order a standing desk – you can get them quite cheaply. The one I have is adjustable for height and angle of the desk surface. It is also small. It holds my laptop and a notebook on the main desk and I can fit a few little things on the little shelf underneath.

Total game-changer. However, very small screen. 13inch. When you spend a lot of time looking at things on a screen and doing things like assessing writing requires looking at a piece of work and a set of criteria ideally simultaneously, it’s a royal pain in the butt and you lose a lot of time switching between windows and squinting at very small things (enter eye strain headaches!). Solution: buy a large monitor, buy a monitor arm which you can affix to your standing desk and bingo! So now I type on the laptop keyboard which is the right height to type but look at the monitor which is the right height to look at and BIG. So I can have multiple windows open and use comfortable font sizes. Ok I’ll take a photo of the full set-up (the photo above was after stage 1 just!)

This particular standing desk has wheels, so can also easily be moved out of the way when not in use. In practice, it is ok where it is so stays put but it is a useful feature. My final piece of advice about set-up would be to change your screen settings to activate the blue light filter. Research shows that blue light has a negative impact on sleep if absorbed by the eyes too late on in the day and it is widely recommended to use blue light filter on devices in the evening. I say use it all the time! No blue light needed! On my “old” macbook (this one) this is not inbuilt but I could download an app that does it, newer macbooks have an inbuilt setting, Windows have a thing called “Nightshift”. It makes screens SO much easier on your eyes. Another real game-changer and so easy and FREE.

Having talked about practical tips, Rachael moved on to the question of mindset. For example, she talked about unconscious beliefs and how they influence our wellbeing. For me, the biggest change to my stress levels at this time in the term has come about as a result of letting go of the unconscious belief that life should be fair. It isn’t. But oh how my brain would rebel when work expectations seemed “unfair”. Result: stress response (all the physical stuff) being fed by this notion of unfairness. Letting go of the “unfairness of it all” frees up energy for dealing with the actual issue – I will be extremely busy and under pressure in the next 3 weeks, what can I do to help myself get through that? and conserves energy for when it all actually kicks off. Another similarly unhelpful belief is that certain things shouldn’t be difficult, such that when you find something difficult you have a stress/anxiety response to the difficulty as much as the actual thing itself. Result: maybe you avoid the actual thing because your stress/anxiety response is so intense, avoidance is the only thing that relieves it. Whereas if you acknowledge something is difficult and that it is ok for it to be difficult because sometimes things ARE difficult and that is ok, you free yourself up to focus on managing that thing rather than being afraid of it. What are yours? How could you make them more helpful? Worth watching the webinar to see what Rachael has to say about unconscious beliefs!

Amongst other things (watch the webinar!), Rachael also said we should treat ourselves as teachers like athletes treat themselves. I.e. look after ourselves in body and mind. I like this – to function effectively, to help others, we need to help ourselves. My manager encouraged me to look after myself how works for me in order to manage better (managers, it is really important to be explicit about the importance of looking after yourself when dealing with teachers – they may otherwise assume you don’t think it’s important and subconsciously feel it is not ok for them to prioritise their wellbeing when in fact it is central to their ability to function effectively in their role. As with my example about me at the start of this post – as it is, I am doing fine. It could just as easily have gone the other way without that supportive response from my line manager.

The final aspect of mindsets that Rachael talked about was Mindfulness. If you have followed by blog in the last year, then you will know that Mindfulness has become a big part of my personal and professional life – both in terms of informal day to day Mindfulness and the more “formal” meditation side of things. Listen to what Rachael has to say about it – she is right! I can vouch for it with my own experience. It has made such a difference.

The next and final part of the webinar was about what schools can do to help. Though I am not a manager, as a module coordinator I do lead teachers on the teaching side of things and at this point in term that is a bunch of rather frazzled teachers with a lot on their plates. So this part was of great interest to me. I hadn’t come across this article before, that Rachael mentioned to begin with – Teacher wellbeing isn’t compulsory yoga and cakes Tom Rogers. Teachers’ wellbeing depends on them having two things – time and respect. – have you? She made some very interesting points, most of which implementation is above my pay scale but I want to pass on some of the ideas to my programme leaders as I think they will be receptive to them (indeed some of them we already do, though I think it all falls apart a bit at key pressure points…). Any managers out there, please at least watch this portion of the webinar (it starts at around 42 minutes in and finishes around 47.22 so not exactly heavy on time!) but ideally the whole thing 🙂

What really struck me overall about this webinar was that for a webinar dealing with a potentially negative topic, it managed to stay positive throughout with its focus on what we CAN do as teachers, as managers, as humans to make a job that will always be stressful to varying degrees by its very nature more manageable and enjoyable.  Relating to this webinar, Rachael runs a great Facebook group aimed at educators that I am in, called Life Resourceful – Lightbulb Moments, in which she does lives, hosts guest lives, and regularly shares interesting content as well as posting thought-provoking questions and statements for discussion. It is one of those rare things on Facebook – something consistently uplifting! Well worth joining. She also has a website with lots of useful content such as free downloads and all her blog posts (which she shares links to in the Facebook group too). NB I am not getting any kind of commission for promoting the webinar or the Facebook group or the website. I just really believe in what Rachael is doing and have benefited enormously from it. Thank you, Rachael!