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John Kenwright: « Rethinking classes in a digital and interactive format is a very interesting challenge.»

Published on April 27, 2020
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Since March 17th, students and staff at Grenoble INP have been working from home. John Kenwright, an English teacher at Grenoble INP – Pagora and a member of PerForm*, shares with us his experience with teaching online and the current Covid crisis.

JFK

JFK

How have you been dealing with the current situation?


It’s been a surprisingly huge deal for me. It’s as if we’re living on another planet. And the situation is quite stressful. I have a friend who’s in a coma in intensive care. He’s between life and death despite having no medical history. The danger is real!

But I also see the positive side of this situation: In life you either win or learn. But you never lose! It’s a unique opportunity for introspection, thinking about life and becoming aware of all the little things that make up our “normal” daily life and contribute to our happiness.

This situation offers me a unique chance to spend more time with my son. And despite the limitations of telecommuting, we can still continue working from home.
 

How has your work changed since the beginning of the lockdown?


The primary changes are related to our approach to teaching and our ability to acquire technological skills for our students. We’ve had to rethink our educational methods and I’m convinced that once we start “normal” classes again, we’ll have learned valuable lessons from this extraordinary situation. Teachers will have learned new technological skills and will be able to rethink certain approaches thanks to these tools.

As a language teacher, it’s almost easier for me to lead my classes from home rather than in the classroom. I use the Discord platform and it’s been fun to discover that my students are more disciplined at home than in the classroom.

As a member of PerForm, I have a good grasp of technological tools as we’ve been using online technology and virtual classrooms for 10 years! During the first 2-3 weeks of the lockdown, I spent a lot of time helping colleagues set up their online classes. However, this also means spending many hours per day in front of a screen and it’s really very tiring. We’ve changed how we work and as a result we are rethinking our classes and all of our digital, interactive content. It’s a very interesting challenge.
 

How do you keep up relationships with your colleagues?


Discord offers us a platform to keep up working relationships, but we also set up activities for social interactions: tea times, apéros, snacks or coffee breaks using video chats.
What has been most difficult? What do you miss the most?

The hardest is obviously not seeing the people I love every day and not being able to hold them in my arms. The other thing I miss is being outside, going for hikes, a walk in town or in a park, or seeing a concert or festival.
 

What are your little tips to improve organization?


I’m already an extremely organized person. But I think a good little tip for teaching is to keep a digital copy of everything. You also have to prioritize tasks and ensure you manage your time in order to have regular 5-10 minute breaks away from the computer.
 

How do you separate professional life and personal life with both activities taking place in the same location?


I’m lucky to have a little garden. Every day, I go outside for 20 minutes to run a bit or play ball. We play ping pong, billiards and darts with my son. I also take an afternoon break to have tea outside. We have set up locations within the house: my son’s room is the classroom, the living room is my office. As we live together 24/7, it’s important that we not step on each other's toes all the time. I try to follow a schedule and take time off, but the first weeks, I was often working until midnight!


How do you relax?


Music helps a lot. I take ten minute breaks to play songs on my guitar. I set up a little sound and light system in my garage where I can make small videos. As I’ve been a musician for a long time, I also keep social interactions going by posting a live, acoustic video of a song everyday on facebook. Thanks to these videos, people I hadn’t spoken to in 30 years got back in touch. I even had people reach out from Australia or New Zealand! This is really one of the positive sides of this situation.

What is most difficult is also not being able to do sports. I don’t want to go for a run outside, so I follow Nelson Mandela’s example: I walk quickly 50-80 times around my garden. I also go up and down the stairs for my cardiovascular health.
 

What’s the first thing you’re going to do once the lockdown is finished?


Throw a huge party with 100 to 200 people, a gigantic barbecue and concerts in my garage. The best part will be being able to go more than 10 meters away from my home, to have a drink outside and share knowing looks with complete strangers because we’re all having the same feeling.

If you want to relax in front of a show, follow this link for John’s live videos every evening.

Support healthcare professionals by staying at home.

*PerForm is part of the department of transversal teaching at Grenoble INP
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Date of update April 27, 2020

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