Experiences

Why am I sick and tired of Zoom classes?

Set up Zoom Meeting – Love Hz Movement Feedback

I am one of those educators who embraced online education wholeheartedly, with or without a pandemic going around. I thought it was a historical necessity that human kind had to adopt sooner or later. It was one of those landmarks in the inexorable progress of educational technology. I was all for it. In the beginning, my enthusiasm was so very palpable.

Then, as I conducted more and more Zoom classes, and as the novelty began to wear off, I was surprised to find myself dreading my Zoom classes. From that point on, things have gone downhill. Right now, I am just sick and tired of it for several reasons:

1. The intangibility of online learning

Back when I taught my students face to face, there was a certain tangibility to learning. I could say to some degree of confidence whether my students had understood what I had taught. I could see it in their body language, the way they sat, the expressions on their face, perhaps a nod of comprehension, or the way they stared back at me. I sort of knew whether I was reaching them. And depending on that knowledge, I could modify my lesson, or add some extra explanation here and there. It was an interactive experience, in which both my students and I actively participated till we were both reasonably happy about what we were doing.

But now, as I look at my students’ faces, they look back at me with an awkward blankness. Their faces lack expression, even when they say that they have understood what I have taught. To make matters worse, my students being adolescents, they have a chronic reluctance to show their faces on camera, and instead post myriad Korean actors and cartoon characters as their profile photos. (One of them told me once that she looked ugly at that time so could not switch on her camera). So sometimes I teach looking at these weird characters and wondering what on earth the real individuals behind the profile photos were doing. All in all, I have no way of knowing intuitively whether my teaching has been effective or not.

2. A lot depends on student motivation

Online learning is for students who are really motivated to learn. Sadly, some of my students have a chronic lack of that quality. Since I am not physically present in front of them, they like to play truant, and escape after class has begun, saying that their video or microphone has suddenly developed a problem. I have no way of verifying it, so have to swallow whatever explanation they give. There are some other students of mine who are expert multi-taskers. They listen to my classes, and play video games with each other at the same time. Technically they are present in my classes, but they are so distracted that they learn nothing. Sometimes I call the parents of students who are absent in my classes and ask them what happened. The parents are then surprised and say that their child is sitting in front of the computer and attending classes. But when they go close and check they see him playing games. It is worse in the case of working parents with no one at home to supervise the kids.

3. Marking student work is a circus

I teach English, and it involves a lot of marking of compositions. Right now I ask my students to email the compositions to me. Then they say that they don’t have a computer, and are only using their mobile phone to attend my lessons. So then I ask them to take photos of their compositions and send to me, which they do. But when I try to print out those compositions, it comes out very blurry. So finally what I do is after a couple of compositions I ask them to get their parents to bring the books to me. This gives rise to a host of other problems because parents find it difficult to bring it doing office times if they are also working. Some do manage to bring, and I mark them. Then getting the books back to the students is another hassle.

4. Lack of access to technology

I teach in a comparatively well-to-do country. Even here, half of my students do not have access to a steady wifi connection and a standard quality computer. Therefore, almost every day I have students messaging me that their wifi signal was not good that day, and they could not come online. Some of them would attend the class with a faulty microphone or video. Some of my students are not economically well-off, and I cannot expect them to be fully prepared with all the gadgets needed.

My Zoom classes, frankly speaking, have been more an exercise in crisis management, than in real teaching. Honestly, I cannot wait to get back to face to face teaching.

Experiences

My sleep hygiene strategies

I am trying to tackle the most worrisome factor in my life, that is, my sleep. More accurately the lack of sleep. So, from today onward, I am sticking to strict sleep hygiene strategies.

  1. My bed room will be cold, completely dark and without any distractions.
  2. I will have a comfortable pillow and blanket ready.
  3. I will not read or use my mobile phone on the bed.
  4. I will go to sleep only when I am really sleepy.
  5. I will read till I sleep.
  6. I will meditate for a while before I read.
  7. I will not drink coffee or tea after 6 pm.
  8. I will have a light dinner at 7 pm.
  9. I will go for a walk from 6 to 6.45 pm.
  10. I will have a bath at 6.45 pm.
  11. I will keep my mind free of stress, and try to have positive thoughts.
  12. I will do gardening in the evening, from 5.30 to 6 pm.
  13. I will have a bedtime routine – brush teeth and moisturize
  14. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I will not go out of the room. I will read for a while and when sleepy again, go back to sleep. (I have to buy a small reading light).
  15. I will not nap during the day.
  16. I will not use the mobile phone after 8 pm.

Thus begins a new chapter in my life, in which I am trying to take charge of my notorious sleeping habits. Wish me good luck.

Experiences

A Korean Winter – part 6

Seogwipo

Reaching the scenic Seogwipo, we checked into our hotel, Heyy Seogwipo,  an aristocratic – looking modern hotel in dark brown and white, overlooking the harbor. As is our custom, we did not dine at the hotel, but went out to explore the locale and sample the local delicacies.  We had a typical Korean lunch at one of the restaurants downtown, of grilled duck. Kimchi and other assorted side dishes completed the menu, and as usual, we all had to pitch in to the finish what was on the table.

Our bellies filled, we went for a stroll, and decided to visit the famous Teddy bear museum later in the day. I could not imagine why anyone would conceive an idea of a museum dedicated to teddy bears, but we were in the holiday mood, so we went. The effort that has gone into the creation of this museum is worth commenting. There are teddy bears in fairy tale costumes, traditional costumes of different nationalities and even famous paintings. We also came across a few of the world’s most expensive teddy bears, including a Louis Vuitton Bear which is valued at over $2.1 million and a bear made of exotic jewels and crystals.teddy bearteddy bear museum

Outside the Teddy bear museum it was bitingly cold and a bone-chilling wind was blowing. Opposite the Teddy bear museum, as though to continue the quirky mood, we saw Starbucks coffee with a very upside-down and cranky exterior. starbucks1Near to the Teddy bear museum is the Chocolate Land, and the K-pop museum, both of which we could not visit because it was too late.

We couldn’t wait to get back to the cozy warmth of the hotel room that night. The next day was going  to be our much-awaited trip to the Hallasan mountains. We slept well, and caught a bus to Hallasan mountain bright and fresh in the morning.  After a long, relaxing and cool bus ride, we reached the mountains and walked up the well-trodden trekking path. Being winter, trees looked bare and forlorncanopy. hallaWe walked for a while, and then decided to return, being not well-equipped to trek up to the peak in the biting cold.  Waiting at the bus stop to go back to the hotel, we marveled at the technological advancements that we could see even in the announcements at the bus stop and the displays. We were told exactly how many minutes there were for the bus to reach us, and on the dot, the bus was there.

Experiences

A Korean winter – part 5

To Seogwipo

Sunrise peak was a beautiful experience. With that we said good bye to Jeju Seongsan and set out on our way towards Seogwipo. We found a very jovial taxi driver to take us. All along  the way, we found orange trees on the side of the road; different types of oranges. Orange farms were found every now and then. Not a soul, not even the birds, were interested in tampering with nature’s bounty, and all the oranges were intact on their little trees. No passerby plucked a single one. We also treated those endless orange trees by the roadside with reverence. When we wanted to taste those oranges, we bought by the dozens for 2000 won, very cheap by any standards. And boy! They tasted heavenly.orange trees

Off we went, and soon reached a place that seemed bathed in deep pink. It was an orchard of Camellia trees in full bloom. They were exquisitely beautiful, and present in abundance. There were some tourists apart from us there; all of us gaping at the sea of camellia flowers. The orchard is so well-maintained that it looks fresh and untouched even though scores of tourists come to look at them and go wow. It was truly a feast for the eyes.camellia

If you look at individual camellia flowers, you will find a certain vitality and fresh vibrancy in them.  I felt the whole of Jeju island could be said to be symbolized by the camellia flower: deeply hued, fresh, abundant and very beautiful.

camellia 1

Experiences

A Korean winter- Part 3

sunrise

Jeju Island 18/12/2019 : Seongsan Ichullbong (Sunrise Peak)

Sweet is slumber on cold mornings, especially in the sleepy island of Jeju. On the 18th morning, we had decided to hike up the Sunrise Peak, Seongsan Ilchulbong,  which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Jeju Island’s well known geographical features. It was actually quite near our hotel, but we could not make it in time for sunrise. Even so, the short climb up the extremely well-maintained stone pathway presented us with exquisite sights. A panorama of sea and mountain lay before us, majestic in the quiet stillness of the morning.  Steps carved of stone led down to the sea shore.

Seongsan Ilchulbong is a bowl-shaped crater formed about 5,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption underneath the sea. This accounts for the dramatic landscape, full of jagged, rocky outcrops. Situated on Jeju‘s eastern side, the sunrise peak is known have the best view of sunrise on Jeju island. Ichullbong opens an hour before sunrise every single day. Watching the first sunset of the year on New Year day is a particularly popular activity among Jeju’s tourists. It is said to bring good luck.

ischullbongClimbing down along the stone steps we came face to face with the houses where the Haenyeo (sea women) of Ichullbong live.

sea womenThey are renowned for catching sea food for a living with only a knife while holding their breath as they dive into the sea. It is a testament to the enduring strength and empowerment of women that these women divers can brave the elements to catch abalone with no sophisticated equipment.

There are women diver shows at 1.30 pm and 3 pm at Ichullbong, but we had other plans, so did not stay to watch the actual diving. However, at their living quarters, one of the women came out and showed us the abalone they had caught, thinking that we were interested in buying them.

abaloneThe sea shore was strewn with abalone shells, and we took two for the sake of remembering the beautiful Seaongsan Ichullbong.

shell