Online learning in MYP English Language and Literature
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Online learning in MYP English Language and Literature

It’s Sunday evening, we’re all clustered around TV’s, laptops and smartphones as the news breaks that all schools will be closed as of March 16 for three weeks! It’s been coming, but it feels surreal nonetheless. Conflicting thoughts are floating through my mind on how to approach this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime event, but I can’t help but grin as I briefly think how I have more time now to go to the supermarket during work hours and buy that desperately needed toilet paper. Soon after I realise a million soon-to-be working-from-home people are thinking the exact same thing and will probably beat me to it, again.

By Thomas Middleton, secondary English teacher

Luckily, ISUtrecht has been preparing for online teaching and learning. We get reassuring emails from the leadership team and hilarious messages in WhatsApp groups. We are to use Microsoft Teams for our e-learning lessons, but so is almost every school in the Netherlands I soon learn from my other teacher friends. Still, the platform looks good and it seems easy enough to master. I’m sure the students will figure this out in no time.

Hectic planning

Monday is filled with hectic planning to adapt existing lesson plans into shorter 30-minute e-learning sessions. I’m lucky, all you need for English language and literature is language — and students. I can’t imagine how the other subjects must be faring. At least my foundation is solid, I go to bed relaxed and ready to take on the challenge!

The students assemble on Teams to start their lesson

I’m set, coffee at the ready and snugly ensconced on the couch. I open up the meeting ten minutes before class starts and lo and behold, students are pouring into the meeting. It’s not even time yet, but here they are, more eager than ever! No hassle with attendance either, everyone’s here. This is shaping up nicely! No issues with people talking over you, everyone’s as quiet as mouse! Of course, the muted microphones help a lot. Planners are shared, instructions given, expectations alluded to and before I realise it the lesson’s over already. Alright, that’s to be expected, a lot to go through in the first lesson, the next ones will be more interactive.

Socratic seminars

Roll on grade 7, Socratic seminars, group discussions, and lots of inquiring students. If this works online —well — then anything’s possible! I’m holding two seminars at half capacity at the same time for maximum efficiency. I shoot in and out of the meetings and I’m hugely impressed with the students’ ability to adapt and continue as normal. Then, disaster, I’m booted from Teams for, presumably, impersonating a bot by joining and leaving meetings too quickly. The students have no clue, they assume I’m in the other seminar and carry on blissfully and as enthusiastically as before. I barely make it back in time to wrap up the lesson, but I hardly needn’t to. The students ran their own lesson flawlessly and enjoyed it just as much, perhaps even more so, than a face-to-face seminar!

Emotions

While it took a lot of energy to adapt the lessons for e-learning in the first half of the week, the second half flew by in no time. I’m even hearing snippets from teachers and students who don’t want to go back to regular teaching! I wonder how they’ll feel after three to, possibly, six weeks of e-learning. To me, it still feels surreal. I miss the human interaction, the back-and-forth with challenging students, the conversations, the jokes and the emotions on everyone’s face.