Emma Stockton, originally from Scotland, has been teaching English in an in-company setting as well as in universities for over 20 years. She normally lives in Cologne and is a former chair and events coordinator of Elta Rhine. Here are her thoughts on the last 12 months.
The next challenge I was faced with was the massive effort required for getting up to speed with teaching online – something I had sworn I would never do, but being self-employed there was no choice! So, I enrolled on a course with Sabrina Lucidi, along with many colleagues from around Germany, where we learned about using Zoom and other platforms and picked up some ideas for teaching online. This was a great support, as were the colleagues I interacted with in and outside the course. What a fantastic community we have – I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have got through those first months without them. Thank you to you everyone.
Next came the questions of how to teach university courses online: endless meeting and reworking of materials took place as well all kinds of organisational and practical problems that needed taking care of. Finally there we were in a virtual classroom with the students. In the end, it was a great success – as far as I could tell – for me and for them. They learnt a lot and so did I. There were many ups and downs that semester, but the students were, for the most part, a delight.
Meanwhile, I managed to convert most of my business clients to online learning and started giving online classes in-company. Yes, there were some technical and logistical challenges, but they were ironed out fairly quickly and we haven’t looked back since. In fact I now have several classes where I have never met any of the participants in person. In the middle of all that change I managed to have an E-bike accident, where I broke 2 ribs, suffered a head injury and spent a couple of nights in hospital. Not my best memory of 2020, but it did show me how many wonderful friends I have. They cooked and cleaned and one even built me a new headboard so I could sleep sitting up!
Fast forward a few months and I was finally able to visit my family in the UK – my daughter and family in Cambridge and my mother and brothers in Scotland. On this trip the idea was hatched of coming back to the UK for a few months and working from here. So, here I am, having spent the winter in the wee coastal town of Kirkcudbright (I challenge you to pronounce it!) in a little holiday home with a great internet connection. What more could you want? I am able to spend the weekends with my 95-year-old mother and work during the week.
This time last year it would have been inconceivable to think about spending a few months in Scotland, unimaginable to think that my life would develop in this way, but who could know what the last year would bring? Right now I am just incredibly grateful that I get to spend so much time with my mum and brother and that I can enjoy the country (and particularly countryside) of my birth, while earning my living doing what I love. That is definitely the silver lining of the past year for me and I am very well aware how lucky I am.
The organisers of all the online events I have attended have definitely helped to keep me sane – thanks go to Khanh-Duc for all her sterling work for ELTA-Rhine and the committee behind her. The other thing that has kept me sane of late is sewing – I came to Scotland with 3 sewing machines! Those of you who know me know how much pleasure the world of sewing brings me. It is the only reason that I am on Instagram – you can check out my makes on #lotus_sewing if you are interested.
These are some of the tools and resources I like to use best when teaching. Many, but not all, of them are recent editions to my teaching tool arsenal.
I show online videos, mostly of TED talks (https://www.ted.com/or the app), but also short clips from BBC reels. These are great to watch at home or in class and provoke discussions, practice understanding etc. The one minute news from the BBC is a regular feature in some classes too.
I quite often use the worksheets from One Stop English with smaller classes – the topics are interesting and the activities interesting. My favourite discovery, thanks to a workshop with Russell Stannard, is wordwall. This is just the best platform for me. You can do all kind of activities with it, but my personal favourite is vocabulary revision. The free version is limited, so if you use it a lot it is worth using the paid version. Another favourite platform of mine is Kahoot. This is pre-online teaching for me and works well both online and offline. Good fun and motivating for learners as well. I can also recommend the grammar sections of both the British Council and BBC Learning. Both are invaluable.
Zoom is my platform of choice for teaching and there are 2 features I particularly like. One is the chat as I record new vocabulary there and send it to my students after class. The other is the breakout rooms – a great place for the students to focus on a particular skill or theme and/or to just chat and catch up with each other.
I often send my students materials by email, either as pdf or word documents, but in our recent Tech Talk session I was inspired to think about using Google docs for this and it is now on my “to do” list to set it up.
I know many of you are probably longing to get back to face-to-face teaching, but for me, I have to say, I am a total convert to online teaching and could imagine that it is my future… Time will tell.
Meanwhile, all the best from Scotland, where I will be for the next month or two at least.