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Memoirs of a Teacher during Distant Learning

By: Dalia Ibrahim

Being a teacher is not an easy job, not only because the idea of explaining something you already know to someone else who does not can be very challenging, but also because you deal every day with different types of students, having different academic levels, interests and attitudes. 

It is through the human interaction between the teacher and students that the teaching and learning process succeeds and through the students' interaction with each other. It is this human bond that completes the chain of teaching and learning in the best of ways. While teaching, you just observe each one sitting in front of you; you simply "scan" their faces, their reactions and their body language. Doing this, you can tell when they are engaged or not, when confused, perplexed or even discouraged because they could not get that equation or the symbolic meaning of that line in the short story everyone gets. You can get it from their look, from the way they throw the pen on the desk or angrily cross their arms. By looking at them, you can feel when they are sad and when happy, when bored and when excited. In fact, sometimes the experience of being in class with them is more related to the human interaction than the academic content you are teaching. Dealing with students every day is what makes this profession unique. 

Imagine waking up one day and being destined to leave all this, to stay home and to start teaching your students online. You just feel lost and you believe this will turn teaching into a passionless task, like watching a live concert online: you cannot feel it properly, but you can just imagine how it could have been being there. This is the first feeling you get, before fully understanding what is going on. 

In the beginning, I was lost, but later I understood that I had to take action and that I had to work on myself, to develop my E-learning skills and to be able to adapt lessons according to my students' level and technological background. I decided that I had to do my best, to make the distant learning an experience full of engagement, interaction and passion. 

This is when I started being a student myself, looking for online courses on how to be an online tutor and design online courses – like the courses offered by Hamdan Bin Mohamed Smart University - courses on supporting equity in a remote learning environment, how to keep students engaged and build strong student/teacher connections or how to empower every student with an inclusive classroom, like the courses offered by Microsoft Educator Center, using Teams, OneNote, PowerPoint, and many other Microsoft programs and features, as well as more professional courses on practical teaching with technology, offered by Coursera. 

I started dividing my time among the online classes I gave to my students, the correction and marking of their assignments, the feedback they needed to receive from me and the courses I wanted to take to be able to teach them properly in these new circumstances. I created a schedule and hung it on the wall: a full-time schedule for teaching and learning, for them and for me.