On Virtual Teaching and More

Cohort 11 Fellow Mohamad Said answers Cohort 12 Fellow-to-be Ruba Hemade’s questions about the Fellowship and what awaits her!

Mohamad in his classroom before the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Based on your experience, how can we approach sensitive topics that the students might be anxious about such as the crisis, the explosion, and the revolution?

There is nodoubt that these topics are very sensitive and the teacher must handle them in an objective way considering the different reactions that the students may have.  If they had opinions regarding any sensitive topic, I will let them know that we can talk about anything that they feel like sharing about. However, to be able to maintain good classroom management and a positive classroom environment, we set boundaries and rules to what to discuss and how to interact with others who have a different opinion than ours (for example, political discussions). Therefore, I will lead the conversation by asking the right questions or introducing the topic in a certain way that makes them understand the situation and then to hear their opinions.

For example, last year the revolution started in Lebanon and the students were very curious to know my opinion regarding the political events happening around that time. I told them that these events can happen in any country and we should be able to talk rationally about it and understand the causes and factors. We focused on the triggers that lead the Lebanese people to revolt such as, the economic situation. After that, I answered some questions in a very objective way and we moved on to the lesson.

Students should be safe, respected and appreciated when sharing their thoughts and feelings. We should always remember that we can’t solve all of their problems and we should always refer them to professional help upon their approval and their parents’ consent when needed.

  • Since Lebanon is not well equipped for online learning, what challenges did you face and how did you handle them?

I faced a lot of challenges that made our job harder and more challenging. The most important one is that most of the parents didn’t have internet access at home which made the communication with the students much harder. Moreover, the pandemic was such a surprise for all of us; teachers and parents were both not equipped to shift to virtual learning.

And like many other schools, my school was not prepared to shift to online teaching and was not able to put schedules and instructions for teachers and parents.

 I tried to handle these challenges with the resources that were available to me at that time. For example, I focused on one application that I knew all the parents had (WhatsApp) to ensure that all the students received the material. I also tried my best to send explanations and homework at times where both parents were home, so I scheduled the time to 7 pm every day.

In addition, I tried to give the parents clear instructions on how they can help and how to answer questions if needed taking into consideration that parents were playing the biggest role in the education of their kids during that period. I used both languages (Arabic and English) to ensure that parents were able to understand the instructions to support their kids.

  • How did you cater for the mixed abilities and learning styles in the classroom when schools shifted to online learning?

I used short and fun videos with cartoon characters; other lessons involved writing the rules on a paper and sheets to practice. Sometimes, I sent a video of me explaining a lesson and the students could later ask questions privately.

By trying different ways of delivering content, I was able to cater the mixed abilities of the students and the feedback from the school administration and the parents was great!

In addition, I allocated an hour a day to low achievers so that they could ask questions and I could provide support.

  • Which methods and tools did you use to reach all the students? How effective were they?

I used differentiated learning techniques to ensure that all types of learners were able to understand the lessons. There was different sets of explanation tools and exercises dedicated to high and low achievers, also I divided the students into groups of two (high achiever + low achiever), so they would solve an exercise together by meeting via a WhatsApp video call.

  • Which assessment methods did you use to ensure that the students were meeting the

objectives?

At the end of each lesson, we played a game that included all the objectives of the lesson as a fun assessment to help me guarantee that all objectives were attained.

  • What challenges did you face during the assessments, and how did you handle them?

In some cases, I was not sure if the parents were only helping the students or doing their homework for them. I tried to solve this problem by inviting the parents to a group video call during which I explained the importance of letting the students do their homework on their own, specially that the assessments were not graded. A number of students were not convinced by the effectiveness of virtual learning and didn’t take the assessment seriously. I tried to keep my lessons filled with fun and interactive games to grab the attention of my students. We agreed that the most engaged and persistent students will get a certificate sent to their parents. This increased their motivation to engage and learn more.