Mental Health Check

I, like many others, got laid off once the pandemic shut everything down. For those that don’t know, I’m an ESL teacher at an international school where 99% of our students are from abroad. When the borders shut, we knew we’d be in trouble. We taught online for a while but it’s not what our students paid for and honestly, if I were them, I would have done the same and gone home to my family. So where does this leave me?

I had already been planning a career switch and was completing some schooling. Ironically (or maybe not?) my certificate was for online/eLearning instruction and I didn’t have a classroom to practice it in. I had planned on transitioning to training and development and instructional design but you know, it’s a pandemic and jobs are a little harder to come by and there’s a little more competition.

So, it’s been a few months of unsuccessful job hunting and I could feel my mental health spiralling downward. Today, I decided to take a break from job hunting and do a little daydreaming instead.

My husband and I have this dream of one day opening a little neighbourhood cafe that’s kid friendly, in terms of play, environment, and business hours (some inspo photos below). Realistically, we won’t be able to do this for a while but I thought it’d be fun to do a little more research into the costs and get some inspiration for what I’d want the cafe to look like. If anyone wants to be an investor, let me know! (Jokes! Or maybe not 😉 )

Needless to say it’s way more fun to do than job hunting and it’s been good for my mental health. I’ve been so fixated on finding a job and while I’ll be happy when I do find one, I know it’s not the end all be all. We’re doing ok financially, we have a roof over our heads, and everyone in our immediate and extended family is healthy. Plus, I get to spend more time with my daughters and that’s something I can’t put off for later. Like so many parents before us have said, the days are long but the years are short and my God is that true!

I feel like I’ve been rambling a bit but if you’re in a similar situation, remember perspective! Think of it as an opportunity to do things you perhaps didn’t have time for before. It’s also just good to take a break from the job hunting. My husband suggested that I focus less on getting a job and more on the number of applications sent out or the number of information interviews done. This is because I can control the latter and by shifting my focus to that, I feel less despair and more content with where I am now. I have often told others and so I need to listen to myself and remember that getting a job is so much about timing and being patient. So for those of you in the same boat, I offer the same advice:

  1. Focus on the things you can control.
  2. Shift your perspective.
  3. Be patient.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Face to Face to Online Classes

Well well well… the last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind! As everyone is aware, COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc on the world and in Vancouver, BC, we’ve been working hard to flatten the curve for the last 2 weeks. Thankfully, our language school did the right thing and closed our school to ensure everyone’s safety. Because of this, over the weekend, we had to take our classes online.

Just to give you some context, I’ve only taught in a face to face (f2f) classroom and have been doing that for the last 6 years. I’ve also been taking the VCC eLearning and Online Instruction course so I thought it would prepare me for what happened last week.

It did and it didn’t.

It did in the sense that I knew what to expect once my students got online. I can’t remember which article or research paper we read for EDUC 4150 but it is definitely true that just because someone is younger/ Gen Z/ uses tech for social purposes, it doesn’t mean they are able to just as easily use it for education purposes. My difficulties were compounded because I teach a beginners ESL class. At beginners, my students rely heavily on visual cues and I do as well to ensure their understanding.

After having taken EDUC 4150 and halfway through EDUC 4151, I truly understand the importance of building a community with my learners. Some of them started classes the week we shut down f2f classes and some I’ve taught for a month. Building rapport with my new students and helping them feel included was of utmost importance to me. I could feel their motivation waning in the first week of online classes because they weren’t 100% present. I don’t blame them though because they were debating whether they should go home or continue, despite not coming to Canada with the intention of online classes. I took a humanistic approach and touched base with each student as they signed into class. It must be a little scary for them to be away from their family, friends, and culture in this pandemic and I wanted to offer any kind of emotional support, even if brief.  Now, 2 weeks into it, the students that have stayed are doing well and they have formed a great and supportive learning and social community for each other.

What EDUC 4150 didn’t prepare me for was the frenzy of trying to get a hold of textbooks, plan, and execute an online class within 12 hours. To say it was chaotic would be an understatement. Training with colleagues was confusing because the trainers were also new to the platform and trying to figure things out for themselves.

All in all, I’m enjoying online teaching and I’ve found what works best for my learners. I initially tried doing PowerPoint presentations to deliver lessons but found that it was too clumsy switching between screens on our learning platform. Instead, I share my desktop screen with a PDF of the textbook open as well as a MS Word document that I treat like our interactive whiteboards at school.

If I could go back and offer myself advice, it would be to

teach the students not the book.

This has always been my teaching philosophy and it stands whether it’s a physical or virtual classroom. I could have the most beautiful PowerPoint presentation but I don’t need it for my ESL class. What matters most to my students is that they achieve their learning outcomes and I don’t need PowerPoint to do that. Everything is just a tool and it’s the instructor’s job to choose the tool that can best serve their teaching purpose. I had to take into consideration time, compatibility with our learning platform, and ease of delivery. Yours will probably be different but we all have the same goal, we want our students to learn something.

I’d love to hear your wins in transitioning from a f2f to online classroom. Please leave them in the comments and I’ll be cheering you on!

Networking as an Introvert

Let me preface this by saying that I relate as an introvert with extroverted tendencies. I usually choose to stay in to recharge but I also really enjoy hanging out with my best girlfriends as well. I’m usually reserved in public setting but if I’m with a large group of friends, my extroverted tendencies come out.

Okay, now that that’s out there, let me tell you about my first networking event since going to business school.

I recently went to a Leading Moms event, where they celebrated the top 30 mommy bloggers in Vancouver. I was invited by my former business mentor and I thought it would be a great way to get out of the house. For those that don’t know, I’m on maternity leave with my second baby girl and you sure get sick of staring at the same four walls of your home very quickly… I’m also considering a career change so, I thought this event would be a great way to get myself out there and get inspired by some amazing women doing amazing things.

I mainly wanted to attend the talks and skip the reception (this was the networking part for me) because, as I stated at the beginning, I’m an introvert. Ever since business school, I’ve always hated networking. Small talk is not my forté and I’m incredibly awkward when it comes to starting a conversation with a complete stranger. I also have a bit of anxiety about being alone in a crowded room. But, I pushed myself to buy tickets for both the reception and the talks. I knew this would be good for me but it made me nervous as hell.

A few days beforehand, I Googled “networking tips” and did some homework. I felt prepared but on my drive to the venue, nerves started getting the best of me. I was going alone and I only knew one person going to the event, my former business mentor, and I knew she’d be busy talking to others. I kept telling myself that it was going to be okay and I had set a goal for myself to speak to 5 people at the event. I figured that after I’d done that, I could revert to my introverted self and nom on some food in the back corner (teehee).

It was so nerve-racking walking into the reception room solo but I just took a deep breath, looked around, and decided to visit the buffet table first. As I scanned the room, I noticed that most people were already clustered into groups. My strategy was to try and talk to people that were alone, since that seemed less daunting. But there were hardly any! I started to panic a little but saw some vendor booths so, I headed there first to calm my nerves and buy some time. This was basically my strategy when I couldn’t find someone to talk to.

I eventually made eye contact and smiled at someone and we chatted for a bit. After a few minutes I could feel the conversation straining so I excused myself by saying I needed to refill my glass of water. I pretty much repeated this process until it was time for the talks. It was definitely stressful in the moment but, after some reflection, it didn’t need to be. It was a great learning experience and it’ll help me network better next time.

Here’s what I’d do differently next time:

  1. Stay in one spot for a few minutes instead of wandering the room. It’ll be easier to make eye contact with people if I’m still. Bonus, I’ll get to enjoy my food more.
  2. Bring a friend and try networking as a pair. Or, we could split up and arrange to meet back up after we’d talked to x amount of people.
  3. Have a little wine to calm the nerves 😉

Do any of you have tips for networking as an introvert?