In the spirit of Qkids and online teaching, “Hi there, my name is Suzanne…Nice to meet you”. A little background about me: I am a musician who wrote, recorded and performed songs for kids for many years. Then I completed my TESOL diploma and became a college-level ESL instructor. Those two careers 'mash-up' nicely for my current online teaching gig with Qkids.
Teaching English to children online is so much more than grammar, pronunciation and literacy skills. It is full of surprises, funny moments and unexpected situations. Thinking on your feet is required when working with children and online teaching is no exception. Just when you think you have a good handle on running your online English classes, something new happens! Something that gives you pause and makes you wonder exactly what to do. Here’s an example.
A sweet and smart little girl was doing everything right in my Qkids class. Actually, all four students in this higher level class were strong performers with very little assistance needed from me. Then out of the blue, 10 minutes into class, this smart girl stopped and said “teacher, teacher” with her hand raised and a serious look on her face. When I asked what was up, she clearly and thoughtfully explained that the other three students had 43 diamonds while she had only 42. She was serious, and she was clearly concerned by this situation since diamonds are rewarded for good work, and she was one diamond behind!
I was rapidly thinking about what to say and how to diffuse this situation. It didn't seem serious to me, but she clearly meant business and I had to respond. At the same time, I wanted to maintain being in charge of the class. I feel like it's my job to give out diamonds, not the students.
All of this was flashing through my head at rapid-fire speed when another student raised his hand and said politely, "Teacher, may I respond?". Figuring that gave me a moment to decide on my response to the girl, I said: "sure, of course". The polite boy then explained to the girl (who could only hear him, not see him) that diamonds are unimportant and learning English is the reason they were in class and that she should just focus on the English, not the diamonds.
Man, I could have hugged that boy. I wanted to high five him and shout “yeah – you got it!”, but I maintained my composure, turned back to the girl and asked her what she thought of the polite boy’s comment and if she agreed. She paused – for a long time – and reluctantly said “yes”. I asked if she would also like me to even up the diamond totals. She responded quickly, “yes”. I evened up the totals and pressed on with no further comments. The lesson continued swimmingly – I awarded everyone equally (and fairly) with diamonds and everyone left happy. Whew! Crisis averted.
Managing students in an online class is different in many ways from managing a live, face-to-face classroom. Being even-handed is important, however, in both places. Whether face-to-face or online, when I have a challenging ‘situation’, I usually take a breath, and hold myself in check, so as NOT to overreact. I think this is crucial in online teaching where some of the upper-level students can ‘disappear’ in a second, as they are very adept at quickly going on- and offline when they want to skip something they don't like or don't understand. I was very grateful for the polite boy's intervention because it gave me just a moment to decide on my reaction to the smart girl’s comment. Between the polite boy and me, I think everyone ended up happy with the class and the diamonds.
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