„Laughing and smiling is just as important as the learning content“

 

Even though BIS students can now gradually return to the campus, Distance Learning will continue - for example, for rotating classes or children who have to stay at home. Today Mark Thompson talks about his experiences as a virtual teacher. He is British, homeroom teacher of class 5 at the City Campus of Bavarian International School (BIS) and also an Open Water Scuba Instructor...

How do you manage Distance Learning? 

Mark Thompson: „In Grade 5 CC we manage our Distance Learning through Google Suite and Seesaw. The students all receive assignments through Google Classroom and we have virtual learning via Google Meets every day. This has been our standard routine over the past weeks. On top of the ‘usual’ learning, the students have also been busy researching for their individual Exhibition inquiries.“

What is your secret recipe of Distance Learning? 

„I’m not sure there is a secret recipe to all of this to be honest. As educators, we should always be prepared to be flexible. This has proved to be vital over the past couple of months. Even before Distance Learning went ‘all-in’, I had a large number of students who were joining my class remotely. Even now I have a student who has moved back to the USA and needs teaching at a totally different time of the day. Without flexibility and changing when things aren’t working, or improving when they are, none of this would have been possible. Above all though I would say it’s a great amount of hard work from everyone involved. Not just the teachers, but the students, parents and other BIS staff who are trying their best to support us all in these difficult times.“

What is most important for teaching and communicating virtually?

„I feel it is very easy to get bogged-down in the negatives of Distance Learning, as there are a huge number of challenges. Keeping spirits high for everyone is vital. Having little Spirit Days with my class has been a great way to do something a little funny and different. Humour is also important and during lessons it has been great to have a laugh when possible. The relationships we, as teachers, develop with our classes is really being put to the test at the moment. So getting people laughing and smiling is just as important as the learning content in the tasks we assign.“

How are the students coping with the new situation?

„This is a situation that none of us have been through before. So purely based on that they are doing fantastically. It hasn’t been easy for them, learning in a home environment. Added onto that the pressures and challenges of Exhibition and I would say that their real-life organisation skills have really improved. Needing to meet deadlines and become more independent will hopefully be huge bonuses for them in the future. It has been a pleasure to ‘virtually’ let my class into my home life though. They have welcomed the little interruptions from my infant son, often entertaining him and making him smile as well…“

What is your summary of Distance Learning so far?

„It has been a huge challenge for everyone. But with all challenges in life, you only really appreciate how much you have grown through it when you look back afterwards. I’m sure that will be the case with our DL experiences. I hope we can look back on the positives and growth, just as much as the tough challenges that we are currently facing.“