COVID’s legacy in online Spanish learning

Before the pandemic in Europe, I combined my work as a Spanish teacher at the university with private online Spanish classes. The idea of ​​teaching virtual group classes was technically possible, but the results were not proven enough to guarantee the quality of our face-to-face class and many teachers considered it as a bet for an undetermined future. The confinement forced us from one day to the next to transform the face-to-face group class into virtual and to take the step that we did not dare to take.  Now it is  time for reflection, to value the experience and with guarantees of success, to offer a new service: the Spanish online group class.

When years ago in the Master for Teaching Spanish as a Foreign language I chose to write about” Anxiety of the Spanish language learner in the online class” I could not imagine that years later in 2020 the online class was going to replace the face-to-face class in all educational areas.

As we were unaware that one morning we could wake up with an “alarm state” in which educational centers, universities, everything  would be closed … , we saw distance education or virtual group classes as a technically feasible possibility and as an option for the future, but it always remained like that: future.

Learning for teaching

My experience as an online teacher was exclusively for private students in the field of Spanish for specific purposes and for specific students who want a private Spanish tutor.

The fact that we had to change our classes at the university and college and do it online at first caused me vertigo.

We are not going to go into clinical or technical aspects of brain working , but we start  from the premise that anxiety is the great enemy and hence, as teachers, the importance of facilitating an anxiety-free environment for our students, regardless of if the class is face-to-face or virtual.And here I believe that my condition as a longlife learner helped me to become not only a virtual teacher of university and high school students but also a consumer of virtual training. I shamelessly admit that everytime I  start with a new group of students I feel vertigo, a mixture of emotion, enthusiasm … and why not, stage fright. I think this has to do with that actor streak that every teacher has inside. The moment we joined virtual classes with our face-to-face groups for many of us, despite having previous online experience, was like jumping into the void, just a moment, but the feeling of vertigo was there. We felt weak, out of the comfort zone and as a palliative measure we consumed specific training related to tools, methodology, etc. We compared videomeeting systems, digital whiteboards, etc. Unfortunately, the anxiety I suffered those days resulted in many of the contents that I swallowed those days not being assimilated by my punished brain since I was being the victim of the main theme of my thesis: anxiety.

In conclusion, I can say that the results have been more than positive, extraordinary. After the initial panic, I verified from the first class that the structure of the face-to-face group class can be transferred to the virtual class. The same learning atmosphere can be created, the sense of belonging to the group and in some cases,  the fact of being in their own environment produces a reduction of anxiety and therefore more effective learning.

Virtual classes during confinement became the best time of the day not only for many of my students, but also for me as I never  have  felt before so valued for my work as during those days.

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