Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Sexual Harassment

If you live in Egypt you've probably heard about the sexual harassment/rape case that's been in the news this past week. If you don't know, the trash in question is Ahmed Bassem Zaki, and I will not be posting his smug, ugly mug on my blog. About a week or so ago, girls started sharing their stories about this predator on social media. The number of victims grew to over 100 girls. The stories ranged from harassment, to assault, to threats to rape. This human garbage preyed on girls as young as 14, boys, and women in Egypt and in Spain. 

Naturally, this story has had people talking and it's everywhere, TV shows, social media, and news magazines. I knew that many people here in Egypt have old fashioned views and ideas but the sheer amount of victim-blaming I read online was sickening. It's disgusting. NO, it doesn't matter what she wore. NO, it doesn't matter why she was there. NOTHING matters except the lack of consent. Full stop. It should go without saying. When you say "he's at fault, of course, but, she shouldn't have been there" 
You are excusing his behavior and shifting the blame to the girl. The girls in this case are without blame. They were strong to speak out and paved the way for him to be arrested. As of today, laws have been changed to increase the protection of sexual assault victims' identities.

A major reason why coming forward is so hard for women to do is fear. Fear of not being believed, fear of retaliation, fear of "disgracing their family". We need to stand behind victims and support them in order to achieve justice. ABZ is not the first, last, or only rapist/harasser in Egypt. There are so many more and if they make an example of him, it could set a precedent that will have a huge impact on how sexual harassment is viewed in this country. Already people are starting to have the conversation. Maybe a guy might think twice before groping a girl or texting an unsolicited photo. 

It's no secret that sexual harassment is a huge issue in Egypt. I doubt highly that there's a single female in Egypt that hasn't been harassed. It's, unfortunately, a daily thing. We, as a society, need to work together to fight it. Speak out against it. Especially men. Men who sit silently while their friends harass girls like it's a pastime need to say, "Hey, that's not cool." Not only out of fear of being outed but out of decency! A girl or woman doesn't have to be framed as someone's mom or sister to be worthy of not being looked at as an object.

Until now, ABZ has confessed to charges of blackmail and intimidation. This is only because there's actual evidence of this and it might be part of a deal, but more girls are bravely coming forward, and I have hope that justice will be served. You can't just use and abuse people for years and get away with it. You just can't.

To know more about this case and how to help, visit Assault Police on Instagram.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Racism In Egypt

The current uprising in the US has racism at the forefront of people's minds. There have been protests in all 50 US states and in cities around the world against police brutality and systematic racism.  This post is in no way taking away from this pressing matter. It's simply shedding light on our own, locally sourced, homegrown brand of racism. 

Some Egyptians might think we don't have that problem, but the truth is, we do. I'm not saying all Egyptians are racist, but many are, without even realizing it. Call it subconscious, call it what you will, but racism is ingrained in our culture whether we want to admit it or not.

I believe the younger generation is a bit more open-minded due to globalization, the internet, and whatnot. However, members of the older generation still hold racist beliefs and think nothing of it.  
  • They believe that a fair-skinned child is objectively more beautiful than a darker skinned one. 
  • They feel superior to their southeast Asian and Nigerian "helpers". 
  • People act sad and disappointed for you if you or your child get a dark tan. 
  • Sudanese refugees are often bullied and abused in Egypt. 
  • Asians were tormented in the streets being accused of carrying the Coronavirus. 
  • There are fairness creams for God's sake.
What some Egyptians fail to understand is this: YOU'RE NOT WHITE. Seriously, people have argued this. I don't mean technically, or what a census would say. I mean you're not caucasian and you would be considered a minority in any western country. 

Egypt also suffers from what is referred to as "3o2det el Khawaga" The Foreigner Complex. White foreigners here are all but worshiped. They're treated very well. They're paid higher salaries and people fall all over themselves to help them (admittedly often for a tip). People want to be friends with them, they want to actually BE them. It's rather sad, honestly. It comes from internalized racism. Some people actually believe white people are better than they are. They make their Facebook profile pictures blonde, blue-eyed children instead of posting photos of their own children. 

Racism has been a part of Egyptian society for hundreds of years due to colonization by European powers. Light skin signified the upper class or elite. Darker complexions have been portrayed as servants, doormen, and cleaners in the movies since their inception. Hell, blackface is still done here to this day!

All of us should look within ourselves, be honest, and ask ourselves some questions:
  • Have you ever made judgments about someone based solely on their race or ethnic background?
  • Have you ever asked questions about someone's ethnicity or race as if they're a spokesperson?
  • If your daughter wanted to marry a black man, how would you feel? 
  • Do you wish you or your children were lighter-skinned?
  • Do you use skin, hair, or eye color as a measure of attractiveness?
The whole idea that the whiter, the lighter the hair or eyes, the better is rooted in racism. Our culture is steeped in it. Trying to get as far away from dark features as possible is in itself ingrained racism.

We have to do better. With all the information and education available now, people can't claim ignorance. We should all look within and listen to black and other minority voices about the injustices they face and do what we can to change the status quo. Here are a few simple ideas to start:

  • Talk to your children about what is happening and why. Do your research and give accurate information on the history of these events. 
  • Pay attention to your thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking in a prejudiced way, stop, acknowledge it, and make a mental note not to follow that thought pattern the next time it comes up. 
  • Call people out on their racist jokes, comments, or judgments. Being silent in the presence of racism is being an accomplice to it. Ask, "What's funny about that?" Let them explain their racism. Who cares if they're uncomfortable? They should be.
Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The New Normal... Post COVID

Here in Egypt, much like the rest of the world, we're entering week 12 of quarantine. We've pretty much gotten used to staying home. However, in spite of a consistent rise in COVID cases here, things are gradually going to be opening up within a few weeks. Now, that doesn't mean things will go back to normal.

It's clear that things aren't ever really going to go back "normal" until there's a vaccine. Although according to the World Health Organization, more than 100 vaccines are in various stages of development around the world, it could take between 12-18 months for one to be read for the public. This means that we are going to have to coexist with the virus for the foreseeable future. 

Staying at home as much as possible is your best bet, but at times, going out is necessary. Masks are now mandatory in Egypt. As uncomfortable as they are, they're a must.  They're part of the new normal. Wearing a mask shows respect and protects you and those around you. Who knows how many asymptomatic carriers are roaming around the grocery store or your workplace? It could be you.

In Egypt, when we meet a friend or relative, we always greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. Kissing hello is a habit we have to break in this strange new world. Not even a handshake is ok anymore and you can forget about a hug. A hand on the chest with hearty salam from 6 feet away will have to suffice. 

I don't see open buffets or pot lucks being a thing again for a long time. It's not at all a good idea to have communal food at this moment in time. Shared serving utensils? Just no. Gatherings all together aren't wise right now but maybe outdoors, while keeping a safe distance? (Really, I'm asking.)

Hand cream, soap, and immune-boosting product sales are on the rise since the start of the pandemic. Obviously, handwashing is at an all-time high, as is using sanitizers and alcohol sprays. This is a great habit to keep no matter what, but it's very drying. Manufacturers are coming up with better, less drying formulas for soaps and sanitizing gels to keep up with consumer demands.

Before COVID invaded our world, most people's daily routine consisted of going into their places of work every day. Lockdown orders have forced employers to allow many people to work remotely. Now that we've seen that it can be done, it will encourage more companies to consider it long term. 

The toll this virus has taken on all of us is unprecedented, but it's not nearly as severe as the toll it's taken on healthcare workers.  The role of doctors, nurses, orderlies, and other essential workers in and out of the medical field has been nothing short of martyrdom. This unfortunately will be the case until there's a vaccine. Until then, following precautions and regulations is what we can do in order to minimize the cases. 

That's really the crux of it all. We need to make the new normal this: following government orders, taking every precaution, and sitting tight until we can relax things and not before. 

Monday, 18 May 2020

Tie Dye DIY Using Bleach

I think it's pretty cool considering I only used bleach. 
Tie-dye is back in fashion. Was it ever out of fashion? Not if you ask me. I don't know where or even if fabric dye is available here in Egypt to the general public, so I decided I'd try it using bleach. I found a Youtube video tutorial and got to it.

I took photos throughout, unsure if it would actually work or look decent. I'm actually really happy with the end result. 

Here's how to get a groovy tie-dye shirt in 9 easy steps.

  1. Find a T-shirt that you wouldn't mind possibly ruining.  
  2. Wet the T-shirt thoroughly. You want it damp, but not dripping wet, so wring it out.
  3. Use a fork to spin the T-shirt around itself from the middle.
  4. Wrap any extra pieces in the same direction as your swirl.
  5. Secure this with 3 rubber bands to keep the T-shirt tightly spun.
  6. Place it in a bucket or washing basin. 
  7. Use an old water bottle and fill it with half water and half bleach. Poke a hole in the top.
  8. Squirt the bleach on both sides of the bundle and let it sit for about half an hour.
  9. Remove the rubber bands and rise your T-shirt well with plenty of water.
And there you have it. You've breathed new life into an old T-shirt. I would wash it alone the first time before putting it in with the rest of your laundry to avoid any residual bleach from ruining your clothes.

Here it is after drying.
I was expecting varying shades of blue but was pleasantly surprised when the T-shirt turned out mostly pink. Maybe if I had left it longer, but I really like the way it turned out. It's colorful and I only used bleach. If you use a black T-shirt, you can achieve an orange-y tie-dye effect. We will definitely be doing this again.

Would you give this a try?

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Bullet Journal Basics

For years I tried to use a dated yearly planner and I would always give up or lose interest. I have a huge pile of old, half-used planners and notebooks. I always had one or two around to jot down notes or to-do lists, but it wasn't until I tried bullet journaling that I really enjoyed planning.

This coming week's layout
Basically, a bullet journal is a planner that you design yourself in a blank notebook. The name bullet journal came from the symbols people use that are like bullet points. Originally, they were all about following a key and using various symbols to indicate different things.

However, a bullet journal can be whatever you want it to be. You don't have to follow any certain rules or systems. It can be really organized or messy, simple, or complicated. It can be a month, a week, or a day per page. Whatever you feel works best for you and your life. You can create a new design or layout every week, and that's what I usually do. It keeps things fresh and interesting for me.

If I'm really into cherry blossoms right now, I can make that my design. Feel like using every color in the pack of markers? Why not!? Whatever you imagine, you can do. The sky's the limit, really, in terms of how you want your journal to look. The internet is a great source of ideas if you need some inspiration.

All you really need is a notebook and a pen. If you want to get artistic, you can also add the following to your planner supplies:
  • markers
  • a ruler
  • washi tape
  • stickers
  • mechanical pencil
  • eraser
  • white paint pen
Some tips: I usually use a pencil, go over it with a felt tip pen or a marker, then erase the pencil marks. A ruler is very helpful of course, but I prefer dotted notebooks. They make it easy to create a box or draw a straight line. Make a mistake? Cover it with a sticker or draw a black shape and write over it with a white paint pen. You can use washi tape to create tabs on important pages.

With a bullet journal, you can skip weeks when you don't have much going on, and pick right back up on the next page when you feel you need to plan again. This isn't so with a dated yearly planner.  It does take some effort, but it's fun and kind of relaxing for me. 

I have found that this way of planning or journaling is infinitely superior to pre-printed planners. It's a creative outlet as well as a great way to stay on top of your tasks and habits. It's actually something you can pick up as a hobby with supplies you probably already have. Do you use a planner or a journal?

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

The Purrfect Cuppa

I started writing about  Purrfect Cuppa in my Hurghada post, but I just had too much to say and to share about this wonderful place. It's truly a haven. It's my happy place.

It's an English tea room and a cat cafe. The cafe is owned and run by two lovely women with hearts of gold. They serve a wide variety of items from delicious soups and sandwiches to mouth-watering homemade cakes and pies. That's of course, alongside fresh coffee or your choice from a wide variety of teas. You can even have a proper full English cream tea, including finger sandwiches, scones, and dessert!

Meanwhile, cute cuddly kitties are around giving out positive energy. The cats at Purrfect Cuppa are all rescues and they're so well taken care of that we joke that all the street cats are jealous. The nearby cats outside are fed and given water and little beds, so they have it pretty good as well I'd say.

I swear I'm not sitting on him.

My absolute favorite is Apollo. He's like the mascot to me. He's regal, majestic, and quite large. He's basically one step away from being a panther.

God bless him, he's gorgeous.
There's also Tyson who's pretty much the boss but he loves cuddles. Shady is a real beauty as well.
You get the idea. I believe there are about 20 cats roaming around. They're very sweet. It goes without saying that visitors need to be gentle and treat the cats with respect.

Tyson, you sweet thing.

They also have a crafting club that's a lot of fun. It's really therapeutic to lose yourself in a project and think of little else for a few hours. In the end, you have things you can be proud to display in your home. It's a really great way to spend an afternoon, learning something new, and meeting people.

I made this mirror using cut up old CDs! 
String art birds, in case it's not completely obvious.

A painting class. I think it came out ok for a first try, but more importantly, it was a great experience.

The Purrfect Cuppa has games and puzzles you can use while you have your tea or whatever. It's such a homey atmosphere that you could easily spend the day there. 

A family game of Monopoly

I was in Hurghada one day over the weekend during the school year. I got my lesson plans done and had a lovely iced tea.

Chillin with Baloo.

There's also Purrfect Cuppa merch! 

Obviously, at the present time, Purrfect Cuppa is closed due to Covid-19 but you can still order food to take away.  Hopefully, when everything is back to normal, I can return. It's truly my favorite place in the world. If you're in Hurghada, do check it out. You'll love it too.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A Love Letter To Hurghada

If you know me, you probably know I lived in Hurghada for 12 years before moving to Cairo. It's a small beach town by the Red Sea and one of the more popular tourist spots in Egypt. Well, in normal times it is. Growing up we would go to Egypt in the summers, and sometimes we would spend a few days at a resort in Hurghada. It was the highlight of the trip, by far. 

A beach in the Magawish area of Hurghada.
The sea is amazing. It's calm and clear. Living on the east coast of the U.S., all we knew was the Atlantic. The sea in Hurghada has really gentle waves, and in many spots, you can go pretty far in before you're up to your waist. People come from all over the world to dive and snorkel in Hurghada. If that's not your thing, there are boat and submarine trips where you can see the beautiful sea creatures and corals. We've even seen dolphins in their natural habitat on a boat trip there. Now that I live in Cairo, I'm kicking myself for not going to the beach more often when it was just 5 minutes away!

This was from a street festival to promote tourism after the revolution.

Hurghada is really casual. I mean that in every sense of the word. No one's really dressed to impress like it seems here in Cairo. Flip flops are the official footwear. People are easy-going and for the most part, mind their business. It's a great mix of foreigners and locals living in harmony and understanding. I really love the unique dynamic. You have local shopkeepers who could very well be illiterate but can get by speaking a few different European languages. There are foreign or dual nationality kids who know how to ride the microbus and say "3ala gamb yasta" (drop me off here). A bonus is getting beauty services like nails and lashes for a fraction of the cost in Cairo. European professionals bring supplies from their country and provide excellent results for less.

I have to give recognition to Blue Moon Animal Center. It was founded by an angel called Monique Carrera. She, along with her husband and team, have dedicated their lives to rescue and treat street animals. Not only do they help stray cats and dogs, but they also rescue horses, donkeys, and camels who are being abused by their owners. They provide free veterinary services for these animals. They also run a wonderful spay/neuter and release program to help control the feral population. You can tell when a stray has been treated by Blue Moon by their ears. The dogs with ear tags and cats with an ear tipped have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The center is very well run and clean. You can visit on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They also hold seasonal open days to raise money for the animals. On these open days, you can buy hand made crafts, homemade baked goods, and have some barbeque for lunch. All the stray dogs in the streets of Hurghada are very friendly and used to people, in part because of Blue Moon and kind people feeding them.

I can't talk about Hurghada without mentioning The Purrfect Cuppa. It's my favorite place on earth so it deserves a post of its own soon.

To me, Hurghada is the closest thing to home that I have here. When someone asks where we're from, and I don't really want to get into the whole shpiel, I say we're from Hurghada. It's where I made so many great friends who I adore. It's where I started my career as a teacher and pushed the reset button after a difficult chapter of my life. It's where I want to be right now, but until we meet again, Hurghada, I love you.

Monday, 11 May 2020

7 Ideas For Eid in Quarantine

Eid is an Islamic holiday that we celebrate twice a year. One of those is just around the corner. Eid-el-Fitr is the one that follows the holy month of Ramadan and is usually filled with prayer in congregation, festive events, gatherings, and outings. This year, however, circumstances deem that it will be markedly different. We are all quarantined in our homes for the greater good, but that doesn't mean we can't still have a fun and festive Eid.

Here are 7 ideas to make Eid at home memorable and fun!

1. Decorations

Many of us decorate our homes for Ramadan, but I say decorate some more the night before Eid to add some extra festivity to your home. After all, that's where you and your family will be celebrating. Order some decorations online or make homemade ones. You can make an event of it, creating and decorating your place in preparation for the holiday. Pinterest has loads of DIY decoration ideas that can be made with things you may have on hand at home.

2. New Clothes

New clothes are a long-standing Eid tradition. I know, I know. What's the point of a new Eid outfit if we aren't going anywhere? If you feel that way, you can get new PJs or loungewear. Or just get a new outfit to wear for Eid and when the lockdown is over!  Get your online orders in quick!

3. Order In 

Don't bother with cooking on Eid. It's your day to celebrate too, and if you're like me, you've just cooked all month and could use a break! Plan your orders well in advance to be sure your delivery of choice will be available. Don't forget dessert!

4. Virtual Gatherings

Plan a Zoom or Messenger meeting with your relatives and/or friends. Pick a time when everyone is free after dinner and use the all mighty internet to bring you together. You can even play games over Messenger or laugh till your belly hurts at the filters. It's a great chance to catch up and just enjoy some time with the loved ones outside of your home. Don't forget to take screenshots for posterity!

5. Gift Exchange

Gifts make holidays more exciting! Why not organize a gift exchange with the members of your household? Provide a price range (it doesn't have to be much)  and pick names out of a bowl. You could also include others who you connected with online and take turns unwrapping the gifts. You'll have to get your online shopping done ASAP, though. If all else fails you can share a screenshot of what you ordered for them until it arrives.

6. Games 

Make it a game night. Allow each member of your household to choose one game so everyone is happy. Card games, board games, interactive phone games, or video games. You could also have all kinds of contests or races if you have an outdoor space. It's all good for some wholesome fun.

7. Give To Charity

Provide a pretty box for collecting money for the less fortunate. It should have a small opening on top for people to drop some of their eideya in. In the midst of our feasting and fun, it's a good idea to remember those in need. Choose your favorite charity and donate the money online.

Here's hoping that one day, not too far into the future, we'll look back on this time and recall that Eid in quarantine and remember that we tried to make the best of a difficult situation.

Ramadan Kareem and Eid Mubarak.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

How To Make Cauliflower Rice

Like you, I'd heard about cauliflower rice in recent years and while I do enjoy cauliflower, I thought making it would be tedious. Recently, I've been trying to lower my carb intake and thought I'd give it a go. Turns out, it's super easy and delicious! I followed a very basic recipe so if you have any tips, let me know!

Texturally, it feels more like eating couscous than rice but it definitely hits the spot and you can eat a  hearty serving, guilt-free. It's quick and easy to prepare and cook. Follow these easy steps and enjoy!

You need a head of cabbage or 2, depending on how many people you're cooking for.

Cut it up into small chunks or florets.

Wash it really well.

Pulse it in a food processor or chopper in batches for a few seconds. You can also use a grater.

It will look like this.

I like to add onions and garlic. 

Sautee the onions and garlic in some olive oil until transparent or slightly browned.

Add the cauliflower rice and cook, stirring sporadically on medium heat. 

I added some chopped parsley and cooked it for about 5-7 minutes.

Part of a delicious, healthy meal.
It's become a favorite in our house and it truly feels like a rice/couscous alternative.

Have you had cauliflower rice, do you like it?

Saturday, 9 May 2020

How To Make Origami Stars

These origami stars are different than the ninja stars that come to mind when someone says "origami star".

My love of these started when a girl came into my sociology class carrying a large jar of little orange stars. People thought they were candy and asked her for some. She explained it was a gift for her friend, 1000 folded paper stars. I thought to myself, that must have taken a lot of time and effort. She must really care about that friend. I later looked for these in one of those beautiful Asian stationary stores that have tons of Hello Kitty stuff and other equally adorable items.

The tiny, puffy, paper stars originate from the land of all things kawaii, Japan. They are used as a symbol of love and good luck and people often make a jar of 1000 stars to gift to a loved one. I just think they're really cute and pretty.

I recently made this using a RIBBA frame from IKEA and roughly 275-300 stars. It's hanging in my room, bringing me joy on the regular. I learned how to make these years ago but I could never find the paper strips here in Egypt, until recently. It might look difficult, but it's an easy process once you get the hang of it. 

So, full disclosure: I was going to make a video tutorial but I'm in dire need of a manicure right now and I wouldn't subject anyone to such a sight. 

The video below does a good job of showing the steps quite clearly. It's also easier to learn with the larger strips of paper she's using. 

You can even measure and cut your own strips of paper. It could be a nice quarantine activity. They look great in anything glass and can even be strung with thread for a decorative garland. 

Give it a try and let me know if you do!

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Avtree: Egypt's First Beauty Subscription Box

What's inside?!
When I first heard about Avtree last year, I was instantly intrigued. I couldn't click on the ad fast enough. I signed up to be notified when they launched and waited not so patiently for their first box, which was in October.

In the US beauty box subscriptions are plentiful and there are so many to choose from. When I moved to Egypt, I really wished there was such a service here. Years ago, when I told a friend about the concept of a beauty box, she thought it was really cool. But alas, there existed no such thing. So, we curated and exchanged surprise boxes for each other! It kind of replicated the experience but not quite.

I don't know about you, but I love getting a package in the mail. It's even more exciting when it's a surprise! Avtree sends 5+ products ranging from samples to full-size. They are partnered with both local and international brands to send you new and interesting products to try out. I've discovered brands I'd never tried before like Areej Aromatherapy and ORS. I've also received things that I've been wanting to try, like the Garnier sheet mask in this month's box. It was literally sitting in my Jumia shopping cart yesterday morning.

They have a theme each month and each box has a cool, unique design. I reuse the boxes around the house as they are really sturdy and cute to boot! One month's theme was makeup and it was 5 full-size L'oreal products. This month's theme below is the spring box.

That's actually a piece of astroturf (fake grass) lining the bottom of the box! Cute, right?

The box is 300le a month, (less if you pay a few months in advance). They accept credit, debit, and cash on delivery. I feel it's well worth the price to get yourself a little gift each month. You can see some of my previous boxes below. No, I don't work for them, nor do I even have an affiliate link. I just really love this company and the service they provide. I look forward to getting my box each month. It's really been an especially nice pick-me-up these past couple of months in quarantine.

If you live in Egypt, I obviously, adamantly recommend subscribing to Avtree. Don't miss out on the next box!

Monday, 4 May 2020

Leh La2? Why Not?

Recently, in the midst of telecom company and charity commercials, suddenly a song/video clip promo comes on starring Amina Khalil, among other notable actors. Is this a movie? A series? We're well into Ramadan so any series would have started already. I put confusion aside for a moment because it has captured my full attention.

At first glance the promo shows a happy wedding scene, posing for a photo. Soon we see Amina's character looking quite unsure. The wedding scene alternates with scenes showing a pensive Amina doing things on her own. She's entering a competition, cooking, and basically, doing things on her own. The climax of the trailer shows Amina just before signing the marriage contract, and then....she bolts. The runaway bride gains speed as she grows more and more sure of her decision.

The whole vibe seems to represent a woman going against the grain and abandoning the institution of marriage and possibly, gasp, living on her own!? The promo ends with her looking satisfied on her balcony. It's then revealed that it's a series called Leh La2? (Why not?) and it will show during the second half of Ramadan.

The song "Elly Adra" by Amal Maher goes perfectly with the feel of the trailer. It speaks of  women's empowerment and has us rooting for our heroine already.

The vast majority of unmarried, and even divorced women in Egypt, live with their parents. The expectation for a young woman in the region is to marry and have children. It's just what is done. What this series seems to do is challenge that very idea and show that a woman can be single and have success and happiness. Of course, this is all purely speculation on my part, as the series hasn't aired yet, but these are my initial takeaways from the trailer.

I truly feel the show's concept is fresh and appealing. I'm really anticipating seeing how this story unfolds.

The series Leh La2? (Why Not?) is due to premiere May 8th on MBC. No word yet on what time. One thing's for sure, I will definitely be tuning in.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Online Teaching Versus The Classroom

In light of the recent pandemic, teachers and students worldwide have been forced to adopt online learning. Practically overnight, educators everywhere have had to rethink everything. Teaching kids full time, online from home was a brand new challenge, and we rose to it.

Personally, our department has been using a learning management system, online resources, and online quizzes for some time already, in school. Doing so from home has proven to be entirely different.

It may surprise you that teaching online is harder than teaching at school. It's all the grueling work without the reward of seeing a kid light up when they finally understand something. It requires more planning and preparation than teaching in a classroom does. Working as a teacher online feels like you're on call 24/7. Messages from students and parents flood your notifications at all hours of the day.  Many will say that one must set office hours and stick to them in order to remain sane... but we're teachers! Since when did our workday end at 3pm?

The differences between online teaching and a traditional classroom are plenty. The connection you get with students in person is very difficult to replicate over a Zoom meeting. We as teachers are accustomed to having personal interactions with our students, as are they. This interaction creates a bond that's renewed daily and so much of that is lost over the internet. Kids are shy on camera. Also, getting a point across is so much easier in person. Another point is that one on one attention is sorely lacking with the time constraints of online lessons. In the traditional classroom setting, students who need extra help or have late/missing work can easily stay in class during an elective lesson to get that extra explanation or finish work they missed. This is nearly impossible with online learning. Some students, even with constant reminders, and nagging messages, will still fall behind on their work.

 Furthermore, with digital school, teachers have no way of knowing for sure if the child is doing their work for themselves. It could be a parent or an older sibling doing the assignments. This completely defeats the purpose of giving assignments and there's really no way to prove it besides the fact that the student who was getting Ds is suddenly making As. Parents are meant to guide their children and ensure that their kids are doing their work daily. They aren't doing them any favors by solving their assignments for them. It also creates a false sense of security that will be met with a huge wake-up call when they are ill-prepared the following year.

Online school is not without benefits, however. I've found that some students who are easily distracted in a classroom setting, thrive when working from home, on their own, where there aren't distractions from classmates. Online schooling has the benefit of allowing students to have a bit of flexibility in their day. While Zoom lessons may be scheduled at certain times, students can do their daily assignments at their own pace. This also teaches kids self-discipline and time management. While most students were already familiar with our LMS and how to navigate it, there were some who rarely logged on and were forced to learn how to use it now. This will be a world of help in the future.

None of us know how long this will last and with the end of the school year in sight, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing we've neared the finish line. I honestly can't imagine starting a new school year online and being introduced to new students over Zoom. I'm hoping and praying that our corner of the world will be safe enough to return to the classroom again come September. All things considered, this experience has given us perspective. It's taught us to appreciate the little things. Getting a high five from a student in the hall, or staff room commiserations from a colleague over coffee, these are things we won't soon take for granted again.

Are you a teacher working online, or a parent of a student currently learning online? What are your thoughts on the subject? Comment below.