The Before: Concern, Worry, Preparation for Online Teaching
10 days ago, I was sent this text message on WeChat: “Hi, Connie! I received all the lesson plans you sent me but, unfortunately, I don’t have your book. Can you tell me how to get your textbook? I maybe will teach some of your conversation classes.”
That was Danli, one of my department’s novice English teachers who has been assigned to teach my freshmen conversation course. She lives off campus with her parents and was unable to come across town due to travel restrictions in the city and at the college, both of which were limiting access to our school except for administrators and necessary personnel. Basically, the message for all was: “Stay at home unless allowed.”
At that time, I had coordinated with “Bruce” Lu (who lives below me in the same apartment building and has my apartment key) to enter my home, get the book needed and arrange for a Didi (a private taxi service, comparable to Uber) to pick up the book and deliver it to her across town.
My back-up plan, if she never received it, was to send photographed pages from the textbook itself, which I just happen to have an older version of sitting here in my Marshall home.
As the days progressed, Danli still hadn’t arranged for the textbook’s arrival, nor had the school set up their online teaching system quite yet.
Administrators and school leaders, I heard, have been working around the clock addressing government city and provincial edicts, announcements, reports and required health initiatives for the campus grounds. This includes constant disinfectant spraying (dubious as to why or if that helps), checking up on workers who are taking turns in the cafeteria for those on campus needing fed (leaders, administrators, teachers or students still housed at the school) and monitoring the South Africans who are still stuck in their dormitories. Every day, early morning, they are visited for temperature checks by whoever is in charge and those temperatures are recorded for health officials.
This has been ongoing for the past 10 days.
And now? The country’s cases are beginning to level off.
Rays of Hope
CNN reported the following today:
“Dr. Bruce Aylward, team leader for the World Health Organization-China joint mission on coronavirus, ……. and a team of 25 people visited several areas in China, including Wuhan, went to see how China was addressing the virus. Aylward said China is using basic public health tools and applying them with rigor and innovation on a scale never seen in history.
“It’s the unanimous assessment of the team that they have changed the course of this outbreak. What was a rapidly escalating outbreak has plateaued and then come down faster than one would have expected,” Aylward said, adding hundreds of thousands of people in China did not get this because of this response.”
Effects of Positivity
Danli’s texts and voice mails today gave far more upbeat news than before.
Next week, teachers will be able to come to the campus in staggered entries to go to their offices, pick up materials and other important documents. Special ID cards will be given to all teachers which will allow them to enter the school as sanctioned faculty. Everyone, however, must still wear a mask.
Online teaching at my college has not yet begun but is expected to begin in the next few weeks, after a system has been installed. I imagine detailed instructions are needed for both teachers and students involved: how to log on, when to log on, how attendance will be taken, interaction policies (homework collections, assignment sharing, etc) and what will be eventually set up for final exam testing.
My guess is that testing will take place when students are allowed to return to the campus. That would make sense and give validity to crediting students for having completed mandatory courses for their graduation certificates.
My foreign language-teaching Friends: Online instruction has already begun
I have heard from several of my friends who have already started online teaching.
Ian Groves, a former Amity Foundation teacher, returned to Britain in early January due to the death of his mother. He has been teaching for numerous years in a Hong Kong junior high school. He arrived in England just before the virus had been announced a problem. His school immediately set up their online teaching program and he has been doing from early February while in Britain. He was required to return by Feb. 17, to attend meetings and continue with in-school duties, but I have not heard if his school gave permission for him to delay his arrival.
A current Amity teacher, Karin, is from Germany. This is to be her last semester in China before retiring in full from her many years working for Amity. She returned to her home country for the Chinese New Year and over a week ago, had plans of being back at her school in Baotou (located in China’s province, Inner Mongolia), despite the fact students were not to return yet. That was before her university said they would enforce her to participate in a 2-week quarantine in her campus apartment with no ability to go out . Daily temperature checks would be required and her meals would be delivered until that 14-day confinement ended.
She was also informed by Lufthansa, her airline, that it would be mid-March before a return to China was an option. At present, all flights have been canceled with only tentative start-up dates given. Like with my US airlines, adjustments will be made according to the progression of the virus.
Like me, Karin is stuck where she is.
Karin’s school has already started with their online courses. Devoted teacher that she is, Karin told me she has already coordinated with her students’ monitors (class leaders) when to log on to WeChat for group classes.
Good for her! You go, girl!
My Situation: Helper, Presenter and House-mover
As for me, my college didn’t ask me to move to online teaching from America but merely assigned my classes to someone else. I will be working with those needing help as much as I can.
And, as mentioned before, I will be itinerating (traveling) in my state of Illinois and also in Georgia and South Carolina to give presentations on the Amity Foundation and my experiences in China as a teacher and a Christian.
Plus, strangely enough, this extra time in America is proving to be a blessing in disguise. My mom is downsizing, moving to a smaller home, and this is giving me plenty of time to weed out my stuff from hers, package need-to-keep things into storage bins, haul off give-aways to the Goodwill, clean out drawers and tackle all else that needs done for a full house move.
Yesterday’s Adventure: A Visit to the Attic
Yesterday was the attic, which no one had visited in 37 years. That had me dragging boxes down and piling into my old bedroom for a go-through. My mom and I will be tackling that room this week.
What treasures will we be finding? I’ve already pulled out her 1950’s hats, her wedding dress hoop-skirt and petticoat, clothes she sewed herself (she was a master seamstress!) along with her hat collection,
my comic book collection (300 +),
not to mention piles of detailed journals from junior high, a 2-week archaeological dig in Tunisia (high school), college years, and Japan.
Goodness! So much stuff, and so many memories.
Wish us luck, folks. We’ll need it. Here’s wishing you 平安 (ping an, peace) for your day.