I Am A Failed Distance Learning Teacher

You'll know just by looking at the participation rates in my Google Classrooms... sigh...

Prior to the MCO, I had already formed groups in WhatsApp with students with access to mobile phones for my English language classes at school. However, after two weeks of using WhatsApp groups to manage learning, I quickly realized that it was a terrible place to manage any kind of work (which makes me wonder why school admins use WhatsApp/Telegram to manage their schools, but that's another story for another day. For those who are interested in alternatives, try Teams / Slack. You & your entire staff will thank me.). I needed a more specialized piece of software.

Since the MOE has provided each teacher with a Google suite account, I was one of the few teachers at my school who decided to make use of it. After spending an entire day setting up & loading up all the past assignments onto it for each of my 4 classes, I found out to great chagrin that only students with MOE accounts could join those classrooms. My students had not been assigned their accounts yet, so I had to spend another day migrating everything to a Google Classroom under my personal Google account. (For those considering Google Classroom, it is a horrible LMS. There are plenty of better options out there, try Schoology / Canvas / Teams also has an LMS function.) However, this was not the biggest challenge yet.

During the weekend, I made an announcement in the respective WhatsApp groups & encouraged students to join before the week begun. All I got from most of the groups were . By Monday, only a few students had signed up. I figured that the students might not be familiar with the app so I created two videos on how to use Google Classroom:

Still . So I decided to get aggressive. I posted a warning in all the groups, "Dear students, if you don't join the Google Classroom today, I will call you tomorrow to check if you're okay." Suddenly, there was a surge in interest & several students actually signed up because of that message, but there were still many . So, the next day, I made good on my promise.

I decided to call the Form 5 students first since they were facing down a looming SPM. 15 students were called over the next few days. A few of my students didn't pick up & ignored my phone calls when they were called repeatedly during the week. Out of the 15, 9 picked up. First I asked about how they were doing. Then, I asked if they were studying. Most of them were not. They were either gaming or helping around at home. Only a few were studying, but none of them were studying English. All of them said okay to joining the Google Classroom, only one did not keep his promise.

With this method, I was able to get 45% of my students (35/77) to join Google Classrooms. However, it was not sustainable. I was using my own mobile phone service & was paying for the phone conversations out of my own pocket. It would be costly to call them every week to encourage them to join  classes & complete assignments, so after that first week, I decided not to continue calling the students who were still not on Google Classrooms.

Getting students to join the classroom was the first hurdle. What about getting them to actually participate in the discussions & complete the assignments within? Yes, this is the problem that I'm still struggling with right now. Worst still, participation waned as the days passed. I've posted reminders in the WhatsApp group & I've tried PMs. I shared motivational photos & messages. Most of the time, I'm just syok sendiri, lovely .

Two weeks ago, I decided to return to WhatsApp, since 77% of my students (59/77) were in the WhatsApp groups & I wasn't getting much participation in Google Classrooms. I used simple activities and simple reading materials with explanations voice recorded in BM. Despite doing that, I was also getting . Last week, at the suggestion of a Facebook commenter to use projects that have real-world relevance, I asked students to choose a teacher at school & record a 1-minute video wishing the teacher a Happy Teacher's Day... still . I'll push them this week to get this done.

Nonetheless, I'm very appreciative of the few students who have consistently been participating over the weeks, as well as the students who are doing their own revision despite being out of reach. That's 5 out of 77 students actually practicing English for a few minutes every week during the MCO. God bless you with success because of your diligence.

I don't know about your classrooms, but a large majority of my students have already disengaged. I don't know if I'll ever get them back. I'm very aware that they've had very little exposure to English since the MCO began March. With MCO being extended into June, I fear that this will affect their English proficiency, as most of my students, despite being state athletes, come from B40 families in rural parts of Sarawak. If you have ideas on what I can do for my students, please share them with me. I open to suggestions. I'm at my wits end.

There's one final thing I haven't tried, a reward system. I'm actually very tight in my personal finances, being a new dad in a single-income family & all. So, this is my last resort. With limited resources, I've decided to conduct a lucky draw for students who actually complete their assignments. Every month, each class will have two winners of an RM10 top-up each. 1 complete assignment entitles a student to 1 ticket for the lucky draw. Thankfully, I have good friends like Sarah L. & Evelyn Z. who have contributed financially to this reward system after reading about it on Facebook. I hope that it works!

If you're a company or individual who would like to donate/pledge products/funds to efforts that encourage students to motivate students to learn during the MCO, contact me! I'll distribute your resources to the teachers I know who are working with B40 students in rural parts of Sarawak! I'm willing to advertise for you in-exchange for your assistance. Thank you!

If you know someone from Sarawak who has an extraordinary/inspiring story, please contact me. I'd love to interview them as motivational material for my students. Thank you!

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