First Podcast for 2021

It’s only fitting that my first podcast for the year 2021 should be labeled #21.  I plan to continue this podcasting endeavor that I started during a pandemic, not only for my English courses but for my own literary pursuits. My plans are to get the students more involved in my podcasts. It would be an excellent way to get them to converse in the English language. Some students prefer audio over video.

I could also explore the possibility of getting some colleagues involved. Who knows? Any option which includes a social interaction can be added to make the experience entertaining and enlightening. This year should be one to continue innovating in the virtual world.

Happy New Year to all! May the year 2021 be fruitful in all aspects of our lives. ~~LMMolina

Podcast Episode #21

Teaching during COVID-19

I might have thought that teaching during these times wouldn’t be so complicated but after 10 weeks, I have some serious doubts.

So many issues have surfaced. First of all, the students have had connection issues. Often they have to leave a Google Meet and rejoin the session because their WiFi signal may be weak. Sometimes the cameras won’t turn on or the microphones malfunction. So many issues when working online!

When it’s not a tech issue it’s something else. I’ve been entertained with some stories that could turn into best sellers in the publishing business.

 

Do some of these sound familiar?

 

“I have to help my grandfather with the groceries. Be right back!”

“Teach’ I just spilled my breakfast cereal. I’m off to get some napkins.”

“If you see me twice in the same Meet, it’s because I’m using my cellphone as a microphone and the camera on my laptop to join the session.”

“Did you ask us to look for an object in the yard? Um, right now, I’m in an apartment in Philadelphia and it’s kind of cold.” (Student should be in a warm-weather location.)

“When I get back in the evenings, I’ll turn in my work.” (Found out this student was at Disney World with the family.)

“Can’t connect right now, I’m driving my mom home. She just got out of the hospital. She had surgery and can’t drive.”

“I have to go out with my grandma.  She needs someone to help her get around the mall. I’ll connect as soon as I return.”

“Couldn’t connect, Dad wanted me to paint my room.”

” Sorry…can’t hear you! Someone is using a weed whacker in the neighbor’s yard.”

 

Just the other day, a colleague saw one of her students getting her nails done at a beauty salon as she attended the session!

 

And then there are those who often leave their accounts open so they don’t have to bother to log on again. But what happens when they get a new device? Ah, there’s the rub! They didn’t write down the credentials and therefore, can’t  access their school account!

These are just a few choice items but you get the idea of how trying online teaching and learning can be.

 

I’ve decided to ignore some of these issues. They’re not worth fussing over.

How do I make sure they’re with me? I usually post a question in Google Classroom and have them answer through the comments section. If I feel they’re not following, I post a question on the chat and have them answer through Classroom. If they have left the video call, they will have missed the question.  It’s tricky, but it usually works.

To add a little variety, I’ll have them go find something from the house (nothing sharp!) and come back and describe it using adjectives.   I’ve had them show their pets (most have dogs) and tell how they feel when in physical contact with their furry friends.

Of course, I will show them my favorite articles from home or the classroom. The classroom item will usually make them feel like they’re right there with me.  It makes this online learning /teaching experience a little bit more bearable. We’re in this for the long haul so let’s make the best of it!

As a student or teacher, what do you do to make this experience as pleasant as possible?  ~~LMMolina

 

 

 

 

Summer Break 2020: Preparing for a Virtual Semester

Things have not improved with Covid-19.  We’re preparing for various scenarios when the new school year begins. Everything indicates we will be 100% virtual through the first trimester and maybe beyond.

Teachers (myself included) have been attending webinars to polish their online teaching skills. I will be offering a few webinars myself to help advance the training. Distance education requires quite a few adjustments to the curriculum. Assessment is just one of the many adjustments to consider.

As a principal I often have to teach courses in my area of expertise (English language arts). I’ve come up with the idea of using a podcast to get my English-language learners to listen as they read short texts (I’ve added the RSS feed as a widget in this and my English class blog). I hope to get them interested and in the course of time maybe they’ll want to do some podcasting themselves. In times of a pandemic, online activities is the way to go!

Here’s to a successful school year in any scenario. ~~LMMolina

Spring Break, Anyone?

We deserve a break, even a short one. After two weeks of online education, it’s a blessing to be “off” for a week.  All personnel especially the teaching staff, have been at it for at least 10 hours a day since this covid-19 nightmare began.  And depending on their teaching load, some have worked longer hours.

The students have been busy, too.  Some have had tech problems: a cell phone that broke, a computer that crashed, a slow or non-existent Internet connection.  Teachers were subject to these situations also.

My colleagues working at other institutions have fared more or less the same.  They’ve also had to put in long hours of working online stopping only to take short breaks.

Last night, there were still some students who were “handing in” assignments and teachers responding “received.” As of today, Saturday, April 5, 2020 quite a few students are sending in their work. “No rest for the wicked.”

Our office personnel have been busy solving payment issues related to this year and next year’s tuition. Everyone has been online to continue offering as many of the services as possible.

 

Here’s a brief  summary of the past two weeks:

 

Students

“Teacher did you get my work? I e-mailed it, just in case.  Oops, sorry, I forgot to attach it!”

“I’m waiting for my little sister to finish her work. We only have one computer and my phone doesn’t have that app.”

“Why can’t I see the video?”

“My mom is helping me out with this assignment.”

“What are we supposed to do? I don’t understand the assignment.”

“I forgot to mark DONE. Can you give me a another chance?”

“Our Internet is slow and I’m having problems sending the work I owe you.”

“Why did I get that score on my work?”

“I forgot my login account information. Could you send it to me, please?”

“Thanks for your help!”

“I still can’t log on to my account.”

 

Teachers

“If you don’t understand, you can ask me as many times as you want.”

“I’ll be sending you an assignment tomorrow.”

“Send me your work anyway you can, as long as I get it.”

“Blessings for all. Take care.”

“Are you safe?”

“Remember to mark DONE when you’re finished with the work.”

“I’ll get back to you ASAP.”

“Let me know when you’ve logged onto the class.”

“Is everybody in?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. Watch the video again.”

 

Parents

“My son is having problems connecting. Is it the app he’s using? What can I do?”

“I’m not good with technology and I can’t help my daughter with her work. ”

“Thanks for letting me know my son has not attended his virtual classes. I’ll get right on it.”

“I’d love to be invited to join the virtual class! Thanks for asking.”

“I sure appreciate what you teachers are doing!”

“I’d like to pay this month’s tuition. How do I pay online?”

 

Administrative staff

To a parent:

“Would you like an invitation to Google Classroom?”

“Is your son (daughter) having problems “attending” class? Do the teachers know? Please write to them. ”

“Check the school blog for additional information.”

“We understand the area where you reside has problems with the Internet.  Let the teachers know when it’s up and running again.”

 

To a student:

“Try cleaning up your browsing history and log on again.”

“Remove an account and add a new account.  See if that helps.”

“We’ve noticed you’re not attending classes. We don’t want you to fall behind.”

 

To a teacher:

“Take it easy. You’ll get the hang of this!”

“When e-mailing a parent, remember to copy us.”

“Thanks for getting back to a student and his parents.”

 

So we’re taking a break. We won’t go completely off line because of the current situation.  But we will take a respite of a sort.  Teachers will be teachers 24/7.

As always, stay safe and stay at home if you can!  ~~LMMolina

 

Google Classroom in Times of a Pandemic

Working from home: Online Teaching

When I gave a workshop on Google Classroom at the beginning of the school year (2019-2020), little did I realize that the teaching staff would have to take its use seriously during a pandemic (coronovirus covid 19).   After the training, most of the teachers began using it and adopted it along with their blogs.  They realized the Google app had its merits.  They became adept and began exploring what other uses it could afford.

Now that the staff has been forced to look for ways to teach online, the application has become an essential tool. Other apps have been useful along with Google Classroom, such as, Whatsapp, Google Meet, Zoom, and video chats.  They help teachers reach out to students while in isolation.

As an administrator I’ve been invited to co-teach most of the classes.  It’s been an unusual but rewarding experience. I’ve had the opportunity to look closely at the work the students submit and help them with this particular app and other apps available to them.  As principal and IT coordinator, it’s my job to help keep things running as smoothly as possible during this time of crisis.  How has your school been able to cope with online teaching? ~~LMMolina

Students Leading Workshops

When you have a student willing to go the extra mile and lead a tech workshop, as an educator, you must be willing  to provide the time, space, and money. When you have other students also willing to learn something different and who have no qualms about being guided by a peer, PROVIDE that time, space, and costs if necessary.

Students are usually more eager to learn from a knowledgeable peer than an adult in the role of teacher/instructor. Let’s be honest, when it comes to technology, many young people are more savvy than adults. So why not sacrifice a bit of personal and professional time to facilitate this learning? As educators we should let these future professionals get a feel for working with their peers in small groups outside of the usual classroom environment.  In the process, as facilitators, we might reap some benefits and learn along the way!  Isn’t that what education is all about? Learning-teaching equals exercising the little gray cells. Through that exercise, creativity occurs and new things are invented. So let’s give it a thumbs up for those willing to lead and those willing to be lead in learning!  ~~LMMolina

New Year, New Ideas: Positive Change

After the turmoil on our beloved island this past summer, it seems like we have more troubles ahead but this time on a global level.

A new year should bring about a feeling of hope, especially for those beginning a new life involving work, studies or family. But when we listen to or look at the news whether through the regular channels or social media, we get this sense of despair. How can we get our students to handle this barrage of negativity?

In the classroom, students should always have the opportunity to express their feelings about any of the issues through a variety of outlets. In my previous post, I mentioned quite a few topics. This time I must stress global warming and the ominous possibility of another world war.

Besides expressing their views, what action can students take? I believe they can do plenty if they take into consideration what a young girl (Greta Thunberg) did this past year in her drive to challenge our ecological practices.

As educators we must challenge our students to think outside the box. Youth (or mental capacity) should not be a deterrent for the creation of novel ideas. The ideas may be unusual but who knows? These ideas may bring about the positive change this world so sorely needs. Let’s give them the chance to prove they can improve upon outdated thinking. Here’s to an excellent new year and a bright future! ~~LMMolina

In or Out of the Classroom: Discussing and Writing About Current Events

My tropical homeland is currently undergoing a political crisis. The tension can be felt; people are under much stress.  While it’s a shame that this is taking place, I find that this an excellent opportunity to hold class debates on the issues involved. Since students are out for the summer, these debates or conversations will have to wait.

The topics are endless: corruption, homophobia, misogyny, political favors, racial prejudice, social media, police brutality, obscene language, and the press.  I just mentioned a few that have emerged as a result of a leak through a chat (a social app) involving a group of political figures.

Even though classes are not in session, I’ve noticed that some of my colleagues have expressed their viewpoints through social media. Many of their followers include former students. Through these platforms they have initiated some colorful debates on the different issues.

Teachers should seize an opportunity like this to have students discuss intelligently problems that society faces. When the school year begins, teachers can have students reflect on what happened during the summer months. It’s a break from the traditional back-to-school composition exercise “What I did this past summer.”

I would submit the following questions for debate:

What brought about the events that occurred in July?

What was the immediate reaction?

How did the citizens of our island try to resolve the problems that emerged?

What was the result?

What was effective? What was ineffective?

What would you have done differently?

More questions will arise as the discussion progresses.  But this is a teaching opportunity that should not be missed. What better way to get students interested in discussing current events? The objective would be to get them to think critically and ask pertinent questions. As educators we must promote conversations that gives a student the option to voice his views.  We need to guide these students and help them become discerning citizens.  Citizens who will acquire the ability to vote intelligently at election time.  Citizens who will be able to distinguish truth from fallacy. As a result, he should be able to realize that his actions or inaction will affect his immediate and future well-being. ~~LMMolina

On the Importance of Writing

 

I came across an interesting article posted on Twitter which made made me think about the importance of teaching writing: Is teaching Writing as Important as Teaching Reading?

I agree that teaching writing is essential, but for a student to begin writing she must first learn to read adequately and independently. How else can a student acquire the necessary vocabulary skills along with the syntactical skills required of a competent writer? Reading a variety of texts empowers the student and as a result may induce her to write.

As the article states, the writing must be spontaneous. A student should feel free to write on topics of her choice.  In addition, this will give the teacher an idea of the student’s interests and passions.

How to get a student to write? I use a variety of writing prompts to get the juices flowing. I usually set a 5-minute time limit. When the timer goes off, each student may share what she writes with a classmate to get some general feedback on the content.  Grammar and spelling are not taken into account. Later, the student will select any of the writing prompts done in class and develop it into a narrative.

What to evaluate? That really depends on what the teacher wants to emphasize. It could be just syntax and vocabulary. Maybe the teacher wants to check the flow of ideas. As a teacher, I just want to get the student to feel confident in writing; confident enough to voice her opinion on a variety of topics.

On the topic of voicing opinions, most students do it using various mediums. The article mentions e-mailing, texting, and using social media platforms. A teacher could suggest the student select one of a number of topics addressing an issue discussed on any of the social platforms (cyber-bullying comes to mind).

Reading and writing go hand in hand. Which is more important to teach? You decide. ~~LMMolina

 

 

Blogging: Always an Adventure

One of the cool things about blogs is that they can be about any topic. As an educator I like to focus on topics that “teach.” So naturally I choose those that I know about and can enlighten my readers. Although I have been blogging for over ten years, I’m continually learning something new. Blogs are a wonderful way to practice and develop writing skills.

I’ve encouraged students and fellow teachers to have more than one blog. One blog can be used as a portfolio to document school or professional work and another blog can be on a favorite topic.  When I taught a film course a few years ago, I had the students create a blog about movies they had enjoyed watching. The blogs included movie trailers, film clips, quotes, reviews, and biographies of the main actors or production crew. You can check out a related post on the blog as an electronic portfolio here.

There are so many topics that can be blogged about that the list is endless. Whatever comes to mind you can probably blog about it. What would you blog about if you decided to create a blog?

My colleagues at school have created their blogs to communicate with students and parents. Those related to the English class are in English, of course.  The others are in Spanish. The platform most used is WordPress.  You have the option to make your blog private if you only want to do it for a select few. This might be a good way to start off.

I’ve listed a few hyperlinks to the teachers’ class blogs from our school blog.  Feel free to visit some and leave encouraging comments. I’m sure they will be much appreciated.

Blogs in the Spanish language:

https://dulcineatvg.wordpress.com/

http://tvazquez2014.wordpress.com/

http://cbcmrmatematicas.wordpress.com/

http://elblogdeloscronopios.wordpress.com/

 

Blogs in the English language:

https://bmachuca.wordpress.com/

https://ymcolonenglishclass.wordpress.com/

https://downtherabbitholeagainsite.wordpress.com/

 

I’ve noticed that some of my colleagues have become very techie through blogging. They’ve been able to insert images, widgets, links, and create pages or reblog. It’s just a matter of taking risks and a bit of practice. I cannot stress this enough. Practice makes perfect! But keep in mind that sometimes through mistakes we learn.

If you decide to plunge into this world of blogging there are many sources available to help you through the process. YouTube would be the main one. So why not give it try? I wish you success and many happy days of blogging! ~~LMMolina