One of our fantastic Action Language teaching volunteers, who leads some of our free English language classes for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants, has written us a blog post about what it’s like to teach via Zoom.

This is guaranteed to make you smile!

(All names are fictitious)

I wondered how you could teach without real contact, real items, real coffee breaks and stacks of real biscuits. Now I know – it’s possible. (Given the incredible support of Action Language staff who act as administrators for teachers whose techy skills range from Advanced to Zero.) The classes are definitely worth doing! But the words and pictures that you remember are so different from the lovely, heaving interactions of the past…

“Hello, Samuel! Hello Tesfaye! Maria, Ali, Yusuf, Maryam – hi everybody! Oh dear, no pictures today, Sara and Amir – just your names? Never mind. We know you’re with us. Hello, Mohammed! Hello, Mohammed? Mohammed, can you unmute yourself? Un – mute. The little picture at the bottom like a microphone. Mohammed, can you hear me? Can – you – hear – me? Okay, never mind… Leila, you’ve got your lovely baby with you today! How nice! He seems a bit unhappy, though..… oh, because the cat’s sitting on him – could you perhaps put the cat in another room? Thanks a lot.”

“Now, we’re going to talk about the past… Can you remember the first lockdown? We’re going to talk about what we were doing every day. The grammar is on the shared sheet. Can you all see it? As for me, I was getting up late and wearing old clothes. What about… Yes, Sara? Staying in bed all day? No clothes? Yes, it would save washing…. I was going for a walk in the afternoon for one hour. Maryam says she was going to the supermarket once a week – that’s good grammar, and well-organised, Maryam! Ali says he was going to the supermarket every day – Every day? For two hours every day? Why? Oh, your girlfriend worked there. Well, that was well-organised too, in its way, Ali…..”

“So now I want you all to ask another student the question: What were you doing in the lockdown? For example, Samuel ask Yusuf…. Oh dear, has Yusuf left? His phone was coming and going a bit. Samuel, can you ask Leila then? Leila, can you hear him? I know the baby’s crying rather loudly… Okay, don’t worry. Later is okay. Samuel, try Tesfaye. Well, Tesfaye, ‘Nothing’ is an honest answer but not very good grammar practice….”

My last image is usually of students waving wildly before their lights go out – and a scary close up of one student’s moustache and teeth as he closes his phone! By-ee! Keep safe!

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