A day of live lessons? I think I need a glass of wine

Teaching online can turn you to drink – so maybe a rewards system to control intake is advisable, says Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty

Online learning: Teaching online is enough to turn you to drink, says Stephen Petty

I suspect dry January hasn’t featured strongly in too many teaching households this time around. Certainly not in this one. I don’t hold out much hope for a frugal February, either.

For some, a day of live online teaching calls for a calming glass or two during the relative peace of the evening. Others might prefer a weekly Friday night of hedonism with friends on Zoom, while some like to meet up virtually for a Google Classroom grog-fest some time on a Saturday. 

Whichever option, there is an understandable amount of “winding down” going on in many quarters. And why not? Given that the online job leaves us in a complete state of punchdrunk oblivion each day anyway, there’s not much to be lost in some degree of indulgence. 

However, in an attempt to rein things in a bit more now, I have devised for myself a special online teaching “rewards system” for each week. Rather than routinely downing the same amount every week, I am going to relate the units consumed to the degree of online strain and calamity experienced. 

The more polished I get at teaching from home, the less I will feel “deserving” of a drink. What could possibly go wrong? 

Online teaching: Will yours be an Ofsted or a Williamson, sir? 

So maybe others will want to try this system, too. Non-drinkers needn’t miss out on the fun: I’m sure it would work equally well with chocolate.

For each full-on day of undiluted live online teaching, now known as a “Williamson”: two glasses per day.

Alternatively, if you offer instead the “Ofsted cocktail” lesson – a mix each day of live online teaching combined with shots of set work and a couple of slices of recorded lesson: one glass per day. 

For each evening spent performing the teacher’s version of a Joe Wicks workout – where the head and upper body move into various new positions in order to mark all that photographed online homework: one glass.

Your live lesson from home is disrupted by a resident child or child-like partner deliberately lobbing an item of fruit on to your head, or by some other foolish domestic prank: one glass. 

For every time you try something new in your online teaching: one glass. You try, for instance, that recommended but risky-sounding option where you can separate the class into different online working groups, all theoretically discussing an issue privately in their own virtual “rooms”.

You try the above and they are never seen or heard of again that lesson: two additional glasses.

Deleting yourself from a job interview, and other disasters

You have an online job interview for a post at a new school. The panel have asked you to communicate with them via Microsoft Teams, whereas you are more familiar with the Google Classroom system favoured by your current school (education’s equivalent of the Oxford versus the Pfizer): one glass.

As agreed, you begin “presenting” your PowerPoint virtual lesson to the panel, but they inform you that they can neither hear nor see anything. In your nervous confusion, you then click on an unfamiliar icon and end up deleting yourself from your own interview: three glasses. 

“You’re on mute, Miss/Sir”. Oh, come on. If you are still making this mistake, then you really should subtract one glass from your weekly allocation. There are no excuses for this wearisome blunder any more – it’s so 2020

The class hear you mutter “bollocks”, or worse, when the file you hoped to present on the screen seems to have completely vanished. (Oh, for those 2020 days, when we would probably be on mute, anyway): one glass.

After sharing your computer screen with the class and hoping to reveal the relevant file, the class are surprisingly introduced instead to your latest shopping delivery order: one to three drinks, depending on what’s on the list (one additional drink if another “bollocks" is then overheard).

You recently worked out that you could log on twice to your own lesson, so that you can use your phone, say, to see how the screen looks from their end. After a few days of quiet self-satisfaction about this, you learn from one of the students that your microphone has interference (because of proximity to said phone), and has been making grotesque rasping noises for the past few days, much to the shared amusement of your students. Only now do you understand why one student has posted, “Sir’s mixing trap beats.” Well, sort of understand.

Just me on this one? One extra glass, anyway.

So there we are. That should surely help us all control and modify our consumption a little from now on. If we follow this system rigidly, then the better we get at this online teaching lark, the less we’ll all drink.

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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