Post Title: Technology Provides Virtual Classrooms for Teaching
Mobility and Other Teaching Issues
In 2011, I reached a crossroads in my teaching career. The passion I had for teaching in the classroom slowly crumbled. The physical aspect of navigating the classroom to monitor my students’ progress in Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) exhausted me. Classroom management, something I had not struggled with since my early days, wore me out. Technically, I taught part-time, but because of transport issues and carpooling with another teacher at the school who lived near me, I put in a full-time day like the other instructors, including attending meetings and taking on extra duties. It rankled the school did not pay for my Master’s degree because of my part-time status.
Dissatisfied with my Contract Terms
Three weeks into the fall school term, and I still had not received my contract. Consequently, I went over my supervisor’s head to request it. I did receive it then. But … I still received an hourly wage for the hours I taught (several widely different preps) and no commensurate payment for my education. That night, my sister and I talked about my options for a long time. Through tears and heart-wrenching logic, we decided I should leave my job. I gave a week’s notice to my supervisor and cut my ties. Leaving a job after the semester started fell wrong, but so did their lack of acknowledgement for my experience and skills. Plus, I had so many navigational issues in the classroom.
After twenty-two years, I just “left.” I didn’t expect to end my career this way. I imagined teaching full time until retirement, go out in style with lots of joyful tears. Only then would I start my second career – writing my memoirs. But my eye condition changed all that. It limited where I could work and my comfort level in the classroom.
Grief and Change
After my initial relief, I did miss teaching. I also missed having a regular paycheck. But I slowly eased into writing. In 2014, after my first memoir was published, I began to seek out speaking engagements. To my surprise and delight, I discovered God had created opportunities in my speaking to educate others about vision loss and to share coping skills. I was teaching in an open classroom! Or a revolving one. My listeners became my students, and they, too, seemed to all be second-language learners – learning more about the language of disability, turning survival lessons into smoother, more fluent life skills. Although my teaching focused on new subject matter, I felt grateful after all my classes. God had really come through for me. He still enabled me to operate from a position of strength. He just repositioned me.
The Pandemic in 2020
Like everyone else, I struggled. Without speaking events, I no longer had my versatile classroom. Since I sold more books at face-to-face engagements, which no longer happened, my sales plummeted. I had to rely on online sales, which challenged me greatly. I received a monthly disability check but that barely paid my bills and I still had expenses with my writing business. Always a challenge to thrive on my sales, which were inconstant on my best days and nearly null on my worst, I knew I had to find something else.
Zoom Wears a Cape
Like Superman swooping in to rescue damsels in distress, Zoom flew in to rescue me. God set it all up. First, I became accustomed to zoom with my writing critique group. I simply had to click on a link and I was in. I also used zoom to attend online writing conferences, meetings for my volunteer work, and, toward the end of the year, a blind gentleman asked me to teach him Spanish through zoom. I was thrilled at this new turn of events. I could finally make some money using my language teaching skills. Mobility no longer posed an obstacle. Though I had to figure out how to make my content accessible to a learner with no sight, I started to research how we could both succeed. While this opportunity fell through in the end, it completely opened up my mind to teaching again!! And as a paid professional!
Well, that’s how it was supposed to work.
New International Students
I took out and updated my tattered teaching resume of eight years prior. It had been twelve years since I taught full time, but those skills don’t die. With new references to attest to my teaching skills, my resume gleamed and sparkled as it once did. My writing coach encouraged me to strike while the irons were hot online.
My first job turned out to be a volunteer position through The Edge Institute. I took on two Israeli women, retirees. I knew very little about Israel and this was a conversation class. It would be once a week for forty-five minutes for six weeks. Happy to circumvent any mobility issues, I took to this new forum. As in any ESL class, sometimes there are miscommunications, but we take that in stride.
Just a couple of weeks ago, my students and I talked about the Jewish holiday, Purim.
One of my students asked, “Do you know any Juice?”
“Juice? What kind of juice?” In my mind, I went through related language structure issues – my favorite juice? How to make juice? Did I know of a special holiday juice?
The student persevered. “Juice. Juice.”
Then I understood. Jews. Did I know any Jews? A single phonemic mispronunciation. /s/ vs, /z/
I feared my hearing would become an obstacle even in this simple forum. This never used to happen to me. Had I traded mobility issues for hearing problems?
Later I texted my niece about the misunderstanding. She responded, “Ha ha! It may help to build rapport with the students.”
Then I recalled a situation way back in 1994 with a taciturn Asian student, a six-foot tall Korean guy who abruptly stood up toward the end of class. We had about five minutes before lunch. “Where are you going, Lieutenant?”
“Nature’s calling.” He headed toward the door.
“Who’s calling?” And why are they interrupting my class?
The other students also chimed in repeating it, making his purpose clear.
I was so shocked, I covered my mouth unable to hide my laughter. “Ooh. Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
Poor guy. I was not expecting an idiom to escape his lips.
Armed with this memory, I realized I would be okay in my virtual classroom.
A Pilot Program Teaching Chinese Children
A teaching friend forwarded information about a new pilot program opportunity she had received in her email. It was through Kelly Educational Systems, which primarily caters to face-to-face substitute teacher program as fill-in support at K-12 schools. But this was an ESL opportunity. I decided to learn more. I thought I scheduled an interview for the following Tuesday, but I actually set it up that same day—in less than half an hour!
I breezed through the interview and moved through the hiring process. I am waiting to learn more about the Smart Panda Learning Center, which will train and connect me to work with the children. Each session will last 30 minutes. I will have one – three students between the ages 5-12 in my class. Each session will consist of a completely different set of students. The virtual classroom opens many previously closed doors to vision-impaired teachers. I think it can revolutionize our opportunities!
Assorted other Teaching Positions
I have just agreed to teach another six weeks with my students and have taken on another conversation class with a special needs student in the Kivunim School for special needs adults (age 18-30). I am in the initial stages and still have to fill out all the paperwork. Also, I will be a guest teacher for three groups in Brazil this Spring. These last two positions just came up this week. They are volunteer but I love culture and this is the way I can bring that element into my life and writing.
So I have come full circle with my teaching, and am excited!!
Can you share a situation you thought you had given up for good that came around full circle and doors opened for you again?
You have just read “Technology Provides Virtual Classrooms for Teaching” by Amy L. Bovaird. © March 2, 2021. All Rights Reserved.