Japan’s Festival of Good Fortune

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Kumade (lucky charms) at Shinjuku’s Tori no Ichi festival in 2018. Photo by Laura Cooper.

On certain November nights in Tokyo you may find yourself in a crowd drawn to Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku’s San-chome district.Walking by the tourist hotspot of Golden Gai you’ll spy a line a food stalls stretching down the street ahead, nearby shop doorways full of people munching on grilled chicken, plastic trays piled high with and the sad salt-crusted bodies of contorted fish skewered and grilled on chopsticks. …

Language teachers report back from the digital classroom

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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

It’s been just over two months since myself and my coworkers moved to an online classroom and although the quarantine restrictions are slowing easing off, it looks as though we won’t be returning to face-to-face teaching before the summer vacation.

I took a quick survey of colleagues in Japan and Spain to see how people have been adapting to their new classrooms and the general vibe seemed to be that while the learning curve for teachers resembled a coronavirus infection chart, most had “flattened the curve”, settling into their new set-up for the coming months, though perhaps not for the long-term. …

What’s wearing you down in your online classroom?

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What my eye feel like after 6 hours on Zoom. Photo by Slim Emcee on Unsplash

I was full of enthusiasm for the massive change that online teaching made to my life when my school closed and went digital two months ago. I’m still enjoying this style of teaching, and the general feedback from the teachers at my centre all concur that they have fewer behavioural issues to deal with and have seen an improvement in student progress.

For all that though, some people are getting a little fed up with their “class-zoom” and finding themselves fatigued. One colleague mentioned that she often gets up from her classes and finds herself face-planting into her bed with exhaustion. …

Some teachers don’t

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Photo by Luca Upper on Unsplash

A few weeks into our online lockdown classes, I asked my English language students what they had come to appreciate over the previous weeks.

“School,” they answered. “I miss school.”

“You mean, you miss your friends?”

“No, everything,” they replied.

Colour me surprised. Before coronavirus shut our private academy, most of my students had frequently told me they hated school and that my after-school lesson wasn’t all that much better. All that looking at the clock during class, asking each other what the time was in their mother tongue, asking me if they could go home, ignoring me while I was talking, rolling their eyes when asked to do anything — none of it went unnoticed. Schoolwork was always getting in the way of TikTok, Fortnite, and hanging out with their friends. …

Reading Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory” During A Pandemic

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Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

The choice to take a closer reading of Carmen Maria Machado’s short story “Inventory” was made before I found myself in lockdown. Having read it back in 2018 in Machado’s collection “Her Body and Other Parties”, the story stuck with me, and though it had not been a conscious decision, reading a pandemic tale during a pandemic makes for a different perspective than the circumstances the first reading allowed. How more pertinent and engaging could a story be than when mirroring one’s own current experiences?

I had first enjoyed the slow drip of information, the list of lovers, the cast of characters passing through and on to an uncertain world. It feels like “uncertain” is a word too frequently bandied around at the moment, but that feeling closes the door on a future, forces us to sit in the present and invites us to assess our pasts, much like the narrator of the story. …

Building connection and interest in online learners

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Since moving classes online, have you noticed any differences in your student’s behaviour? On the plus side, you may find that rather than being ignored, you have a much fairer chance of being able to give instructions to receptive ears, rather than talking to a wall of chatter (hello, mute button). On the downside, you may have found that your classes are a little lack-lustre and once communicative students are now less vocal than normal.

It could be down to this new platform for learning: maybe some students just don’t get on well with online classes, particularly those who require extra learning support. Others may be experiencing isolation and frustration, or are getting slammed with school work and running out of steam. Additionally, being at home might be making them more self-conscious, especially if their parents are hanging around while they're taking lessons. …

Health and safety hacks for your makeshift office

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Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that your “office” doesn’t look like the image above. If you’re like myself and my coworkers, you were given a weekend’s notice to prepare yourself for online teaching from home, and you probably lack the financial resources to set up a proper working space.

Protecting your physical and mental health when working from home is key to getting through the transition from the classroom to bedroom/kitchen/sofa.

Here are some ways to mitigate the physical shock of sitting in a chair all day, not something most teachers are used to. …

6 Tips to Managing Your Online Classroom Without Tears

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Photo by Fabrizio Chiagano on Unsplash

My introduction to Zoom was in a stuffy classroom on the Friday morning before lockdown began: 30-plus teachers sardined in front of an interactive whiteboard with their laptops and tablets balanced on tiny desktops, all vying for temporary connection to the dodgy school Wi-Fi. After ninety minutes of watching trainers who barely had a grasp on things themselves getting overexcited about the background function, I went home pretty much none the wiser.

Here’s what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.

  1. The Mute Button

The number of times I’ve prayed for a roll of duct tape to fasten certain people’s mouths while I’m giving instructions defies mathematics, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to find I can silence group chatter with the click of a button. …

Get started moving from desk to desktop

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Moving from a bricks and mortar classroom to the virtual world was a steep learning curve for me, but now the initial teething troubles are over, I’ve come to like my virtual classroom so much that I am dreading returning to a real one.

According to some of my colleagues, I appear to be in a minority enjoying the switch. Before our lockdown here in Spain, I was feeling pretty miserable about teaching, but since moving online, I’ve found that I’ve had far fewer behavioural and discipline problems, students are more engaged and motivated, and for the first time, I feel like real progress can be achieved. …

Ever get that weird urge to jump? Here’s why.

Man standing on edge of building in Hong Kong.
Man standing on edge of building in Hong Kong.
Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

The first time I recall experiencing the “call of the void” was when I was traversing the footbridge across the lake on my university campus. On my daily walk, I often experienced an urge to throw either myself, or my mobile phone, into the lake, and I wasn’t the only one. My friends on campus reported experiencing similar feelings as they crossed the lake. The urge has never really left me, it seems. Only this afternoon, twenty years after those initial feelings were first recognised, I experienced the same urge whilst sitting on the edge of the harbour in the city when I currently live. I watched the boats’ gentle rise and fall, observed a cormorant dive down to feed and wondered whether I might find myself making a similar journey myself. My legs turned to jelly. …


Laura Cooper

UEA MA Creative Writing student. Former teacher writing about career change, literature, and random bits of research I’ve done.

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