This year may have been difficult for everyone across the globe, but it has been especially challenging for teachers. They have had to transform their lessons into online sessions and adapt to rules and advice to keep their students safe and make sure they can continue learning. In this two-part blog series, we contacted this year’s Headway Scholars to find out more about their pandemic teaching experiences and any advice they have for our teaching community. Read their stories below!
Comments have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Dr. Ahmad Khalil Awad, Saudi Arabia
This pandemic has taught me to value everything we have; our families, friends, books, life, pets and countries. It has taught me a priceless lesson of not taking things for granted. Life is full of ups and downs, but there is no mountain too high nor is there an ocean too deep.
It has been really challenging to teach students during this time. Their fears and uncertainty around the situation overwhelmed their thoughts so we have had to help with this. Teaching online was new to all of us and it was difficult not being able to meet our students face-to-face.
TOP TIP: Sometimes, I felt like I was talking to myself and no one was participating in the online lesson. Using a flipped-classroom approach with tools such as Kahoot, Wordify, Padlet, and Oxford Learn are amazing in helping us achieve our teaching and learning outcomes.
“The pandemic has taught me to value everything we have.”
Fariha Haidary, Afghanistan
During the pandemic, I have been teaching English to business and journalist students at university. Although it was my first time teaching online, I received good feedback from my students and felt satisfied with my teaching. They said that they didn’t feel like they were online during my lessons as I made it feel like the usual classroom experience.
TOP TIP: WhatsApp has been very helpful during this time. I make sure to share the link for the online lesson and lesson recordings in our WhatsApp groups before and after our sessions. Google forms have also been useful for producing quick online quizzes for students.
Safa Abdul Razak, India
The most challenging part of online lessons in India was how many students were not able to participate because of a lack of technological know-how and poor internet connection. It was also difficult to get students to understand the importance of attending these sessions.
There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on. However, on the bright side, since students have less school work, we have been able to explore new surroundings, talk about incidents that we would never have thought of until this lockdown, and spend a lot more time learning English.
TOP TIP: Connect with other teachers and students around the world! I started a pen-pal project with several schools in other countries and it yielded wonderful results. My students were able to learn about other students’ lifestyles and how the pandemic was affecting them.
“There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on.”
Begoña Urruticoechea, Spain
Teaching during the pandemic has been very intense. Online lessons have been tailor-made to fit my students’ needs and this has been very demanding. Despite it being really tiring, it’s also been satisfying. Students’ good results are always gratifying for teachers, but to be told that they have enjoyed my lessons is equally delightful.
TOP TIP: Teachers should inspire students and the best way to do this is showing our enthusiasm for what we do. I make sure to establish a close connection with my students and get to know them and their needs. I then pick materials according to their interests and needs to help stimulate their learning process and help them become autonomous learners.
Santina Mandelli, Italy
My experience was challenging as I had never taught online lessons. It was also difficult to get students to attend and concentrate during these lessons. Some struggled with their internet connection and others did not have a laptop or tablet. I had to be very patient, but eventually more and more students were able to attend lessons. Does teaching online mean avoiding books? Of course not! Sharing the pages of Headway through video lessons was great because I could show pictures, texts and the corrections of the exercises straight to the students’ screens.
TOP TIP: I split the classes into small groups. Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully. This solution was quite difficult because I had to increase the number of sessions in our timetable, but it was more satisfying for me and my students.
“Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully.”
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, this year’s Summer Seminar at Oxford University was cancelled. Instead, we are excited to welcome our winners to Oxford in 2021 and thank them for sharing their stories and advice.
How have you found teaching during the pandemic? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!
Coming soon: For more stories from our Headway Scholars about teaching during the pandemic read Teaching During The Pandemic: Postcards From Around The World (part 2).