The Challenges of Online Teaching

After a semester of online teaching, teachers can now be asked which one they would prefer when classes resume after the summer break – to teach online or face-to-face.

Answers may vary depending on what kind of experiences teachers had during the recently-concluded spring semester or how seriously they carried out their pedagogical functions when their respective schools decided to deliver learning through the online platform.

Having gone through what I have experienced during the spring semester, I have much to say about online teaching. I could sum them up in one word – challenging. If I want to I could also say which one I would prefer when the fall semester begins –  online  or face-to-face teaching? But I wouldn’t for  it won’t matter. Why? Because whether  schools would still do online teaching or go back to the classrooms for traditional classes is not contingent upon which one the teachers (or even the students and school officials) prefer but what their  government leaders would tell the academic community to do based on the status of the current pandemic.

So, if the marching order is for me to teach online, I should follow – the way a good soldier would. The question to ask therefore should not whether the teachers prefer to teach online or in the classrooms. The “essential” question is whether or not they are ready should the situation next semester warrants  that for the safety and well-being of everybody, most especially the students, they should teach online again.

When the current school year started, many teachers were probably caught by surprise when out of the blue their schools announced that classes would  be held online. Nobody saw the coronavirus coming. By the time COVID-19 started spreading in different parts of the world, schools already had plans laid out for this school year. Such plans were changed factoring the effects of what eventually became a pandemic.

The academe was left with not choice but to switch to remote learning.

Now, let’s answer the following question: Did the teachers really have only a few weeks to prepare for online teaching?

I don’t think so!

They had all the time in the past.

In one of my previous essays about online teaching, I asserted the following:

“With or without COVID-19, the ability to use technology in  the classroom – to apply all available technology resources to education – is something that teachers should have trained themselves to do a long time ago. The use of technology has become an integral part of being a 21st century teacher. There’s no way out of it. Schools should have made it a basic requirement for the teachers they hire. The abilities to create, evaluate, and effectively utilize information, media, and technology are  required 21st century skills. Teachers are expected to possess them.”

Take it from HG Wells – “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” The landscape of education is very dynamic, it keeps changing. Most of the changes are driven by advances in communication and information technology.

Based on what I have personally experienced, online teaching is very challenging. I actually consider it more difficult than teaching in the classroom.

Remember that online teaching will test not only the extent of your accumulated knowledge and skills in communication and information technology but also how you incorporate such knowledge and skills in pedagogy, in the major activities that teachers do – planning, instruction and assessment.

Online teaching is not only a matter of learning how to use video conferencing applications. Video conferencing is only the tip of the iceberg called online teaching. As I emphasized in another essay –  “Online or otherwise, when you are a teacher, you should teach. You ought to find a way to achieve the objectives of the course/s you are teaching, cover the topics enumerated in the syllabus, motivate your students, discuss the lessons, give assignments, and evaluate learning.  It will definitely test the limits of your creativity, resourcefulness, and patience.

Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

Is it to impress?

I don’t write to impress. I’m well aware of the fact that my writing skill is nowhere near excellent. It seems to me that I am not even halfway my journey to excellence in writing. But I am sure I’ll get there before I breathe my last. Right now, I am still inside the “room for improvement.” 

Let me go back to the question – Why do I write?

Do I write in the hope that I earn money and become famous?

Not even!

Becoming famous and earning money are not my primary reasons for writing. Of course I need money. It’s hypocritical to say that I don’t like to have additional numbers to the farthest north of the first digit in my bank account.

But can writing earn you money?

Writing is very financially rewarding specially if you are a script writer of one of the popular TV networks or movie outfits in your own country or a novelist who belongs in the league of the likes of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and Stephen King.

Yes, I am also earning from writing. It’s actually my secondary source of income. I got paid for some of the articles/papers I have written. When I began writing when I was young, I did not expect that someday it would be an extra income source. I used to think that “there’s no money in writing.”

The university where I am currently employed offer cash incentives to professors for research works published in international (indexed) journals. The university also gives honorarium  for articles  contributed to the school’s publication in English.

I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hone my skills as a writer and researcher, to possibly add to the sum of existing knowledge, to have my works read, and to even earn extra money in the process. So, I have been publishing papers in international journals and contributing articles to our university publication. In addition, I have been doing it (the publication of research papers) because university professors are supposed to publish.  Our university is not requiring us but I consider publishing as a “professional obligation.”

Once in a while, some individuals would also commission me for writing jobs. There were times I did it for free. There were also times that I was promised remunerations for what I wrote but didn’t get any. I was also duped once by an online news organization who did not pay me a single cent for the articles I wrote for them.

I consider the cash incentives as my reward for doing what I love doing – WRITE.   But it’s not all about the money. The money is not the reason I write.

The rewards that writing gives, for me, are hard to quantify. Such rewards are transcendental. That’s not me trying to sound philosophical. That’s just the way I feel about it.

What about fame? What about the accolades? Are those the the things that inspire me to write?

NOPE!

As a matter of fact, when I write and allow people to read my works I am unnecessarily putting myself under the microscope. I am putting myself in the line of fire if among my readers there are unforgiving members of the grammar police who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot on sight anyone whose spoken and written English are perforated with errors in grammar. When they start firing you can not hide. My missing the comma between the words “firing” and “you” in the previous sentence is something they could not miss.

So, instead of accolades I may get negative comments.  This is the reason, a friend said, that he would never write for any publication or post any of his writings on any of the social networking sites. He is afraid he may not  be able to take negative comments. He added he fears committing errors  in grammar. He considers it embarrassing to be corrected for such mistakes.

In my case, criticisms and corrections are welcome. I won’t die if criticized and corrected. As a matter of fact, I have already received a lot of those and here I am – still alive and kicking. I don’t mind if somebody calls my attention for mistakes I committed.  Just break it to me gently and constructively.

The reason erasers were invented and keyboards of computers have backspace and delete keys is…  nobody’s perfect.

I keep rereading my stuffs in this website to correct possible errors and to improve them.

People may read or disregard what I write. If they do read, a million thanks. If not – no hard feelings. And for having reached this far into my essay, I want to say thanks to you.

I may have received some good comments from  my  friends  for  some    of my writings  in the past.   But of course,    those   comments may have   been   either meritorious or simply generous. Sometimes there are people who give positive and encouraging compliments. Thanks to them.

But aside from good comments some of my works have also angered some individuals who were offended thinking that what I wrote pertained to them. Writing sometimes is a magnet for trouble. I remember quite well when I wrote a satirical poem in Filipino (about a wolf in sheep’s clothing) when I was working in a Catholic college. The parish priest who felt alluded to (and I was really alluding to him) reportedly asked the Sister-President of the college, my superior, to summon me to the latter’s office so he could talk to me about what I wrote. However he was dissuaded from pursuing his request. But even if he was able to convince the President and the College Dean then, I wouldn’t see him. Why? That poem I wrote and my act of writing it had nothing to do with my employment. My being a writer has no personality and office that could be connected to any of the lines that run vertical and horizontal in our organizational chart. In short, the priest had no authority over me. The priest never bugged me again but I wrote another poem for him (Habit and Habit).

My quatrains (in Filipino) are the ones that brought me some colorful moments. I have lost a friend or two (or is it three… perhaps more) for the quatrains I have posted in a social networking site. I once wrote a quatrain and a friend liked it. Almost a year later, I re-posted the same quatrain and surprisingly the same person who previously liked it was angered and gave me a mouthful. We’re very good friends so we talked about it. He understood, apologized, and we both forgot about it since then.

Also, my writings where my political beliefs are in full display had me losing very dear friends.

So, why do I write then?

Is it for the “likes,” “reactions,” and compliments I get when I have those poems, stories, and essays posted in my social networking accounts or in this website?

Not also.

Of course those things make me happy and I am so thankful for those friends who take time to read my works then reacted and commented on them.

Then, why? Why do I write?

It’s hard to explain. It’s  something like a combination of the answers to the following questions:  Why do people need to eat when they are hungry? Why do they need to drink when they are thirsty? Why do they need to take medicine when they are sick? Why do they laugh? Why do they cry?

There is a kind of hunger within me that only writing can satisfy. There’s an insatiable thirst in my soul that would go away only when I read what I write. I suffer from a very mysterious illness that goes away only when I write in sentences or verses  the equivalent words of the thoughts and feelings that drown me during quiet moments in my life.

Writing is my endorphin.

I must release my pain, anger and disagreement by writing about them or else they will haunt me endlessly. When I feel wronged I have to respond, not by violent means. I respond in a creative manner – through poems – sometimes satirical. I do it usually using anthropomorphism.

If the spirits of William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Browning I could not summon through the glass to inspire me to express in poetry whatever I wish to say then I turn to Francis Bacon and Michel de Montaigne’s way of capturing into words – essays – whatever it is that I wish to convey. If I don’t wish to be so direct with my points and would like to hide my feelings and thoughts between lines and behind symbolism then I walked the path that Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassant paved. I write stories.

I just don’t keep quiet when I notice human follies displayed by my loved one, friends, and other people around me. Again I resort to anthropomorphism. I use animals to represent their irrationality. It may hurt them and make them angry but the truth may be bitter but sweeter than the sweetest lie. VERO NIHIL VERIUS. Nothing is truer than the truth.

This is not saying that I am a perfect human being. I am as imperfect as anyone else and may have, perhaps, done more terrible things. Thus, the satires I wrote are like boomerangs. They sometimes hit me also.

Pain is like a prison cell. It is by writing that I break free from that hell. As my heart churns out the words, I go through the pain, feel it,  not escape from it. And as I write the final sentence or verse, as I put the final punctuation mark, the pain vanishes.

Even my happiness and satisfaction wouldn’t be complete if I do not write about them. I need to  capture in either prose or poetry those moments so I can feel more deeply the joy they bring. I do write about  them so I can relive those moments any time I wish to.

I need neither material rewards nor accolades for what I have written (and will be writing.) The essays, plays, poems, research works, and stories I create are themselves the rewards. I love and treasure them.

I write  not to impress but rather to express my thoughts, feelings and ideals. Writing is my freedom, my happiness.

SCRIBO, ERGO SUM. I write, therefore I am.

Ako’y Hinog Na

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Ika’y nagbantay,
Matyagang naghintay.

Sa wakas, ako’y nahinog.
Hinog na hinog!
Pagmasdan mong mabuti ang aking alindog.
Hayaan mo munang mata mo’y mabusog.

Ika’y lumapit.
Di ba’t ako’y walang kasing-kinis?
Batid mo nang ako’y ubod tamis.
Batid mo ring ako’y makatas…
na ako’y walang kasing-sarap.

Halina.
Lapit pa.
Hawakan mo ako.
Hinay-hinay lang.

Ako’y hinog na.
Hinog na hinog.
Ako’y haplusin,
Dahan-dahang pitasin.
Amuyin…
Kagatin…
Gutom mo’y iyo nang pawiin.

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