Post-LockDown Thoughts: Distant Education – 1

distant-education
DIstant education has become widely accepted (if reluctantly) during lockdown of 2020 (Image credit: zazaschool.com)

There are rumours that another lockdown is looming from mid-September onwards. Hence I thought it was high time to reflect on the first episode of our not-so-lovely soap opera. First, let me share some musings on distant education we’ve been through.

Speaking as a tutor, I have to say that I’m rather thankful to lockdown. On the one hand, it was a bit of a hassle to sort out the weekly schedule for my students. Up until May we all presumed that there would be Year 9 exams, analogous to the GCSEs in England. In May the Ministry of Education resolutely said ‘no’ to GCSEs and rescheduled A Levels to June. In case with private tutors it meant that we kept working all through May, June and even July. My personal vacations began on August, 2. To say that I’m tired is to say nothing. It looks and feels that I’d better stay in the city to avoid possible complications, but I certainly feel I have to go somewhere to get some rest.

On the other hand, I realised just how convenient my work suddenly became. I no longer had to visit students, neither they had to come to me, and yet we had quality lessons over the phone or Zoom. If I wanted, I could easily make myself a cup of tea or coffee, something I don’t practise when I work face-to-face. Most importantly, we were able to do so much more in a relatively short time. I felt that my secondary school students began to feel more confident.

Children, too, had more time on their hands to do something creative. In the next post on the topic I’ll show the animated plasticine videos one of my students created at home. Other students took to drawing, sewing, reading, and just enjoying themselves.

I’m not sure I want things to stay this way. The classroom experience means a lot to both students and teachers, so it is important that we all the chance to learn and teach face-to-face. However, I must admit, now relying on my own experience, that distant education is a good opportunity that should not be discarded.

To be continued…

Read posts from Stay Safe at Home

Neighbourhood Cam: The Peachy Sunset

As we often say, posting a picture taken by phone: “it doesn’t reflect the true colours”. The sun is setting at this precise moment in Moscow, and the beautiful peachy pastel shades have painted the sky.

I’ve had a very good day, if judged by 3 cones of ice cream that I ate. I wrote and read a lot, and now is the time to slow down and get ready for the night.

Neighbourhood Cam: Sunday Sunset

There’s little better than to spend a Sunday afternoon in a company of good friends. Years ago I wondered what to do to ensure I spend such lovely time with people whose company I treasure. It took me a decade to find such people but now I’m very happy to have them.

My school year has finally ended, the A-Levels are done with, and my students are looking forward to their results – and their new adult life. I wish them every happiness on their way.

These days in Russia we recall the 1980 Olympics. I’m doing two voiceover projects, in one of them I’m also a translator, and my text will apparently be used by the German team to produce a German version of an educational course. The French voiceover project involves me as an editor and a voiceover artist; this is a Psychology course for those who wish to overcome stress.

I’ve got enough time now to finish my editorial work, to develop my Yandex.Zen channel, and to do a couple of translation projects. I’ll probably finish a couple of knitting projects, too.

And to share the glimpses of my Moscow life with you, I’ve started the rubric Neighbourhood Cam. My Instagram account is also dedicated to the photos of the place where I was born and currently live.

Also, if there’s something you want to learn about life in Russia, or Moscow in particular, feel free to ask!

#SafeathomeinRussia: QR-codes introduced in Moscow

We’re in the new week of quarantine, and QR-codes are now necessary to get if you need to go to work. Officially, this is due to the Muscovites’ below-average observation of quarantine. Indeed, a lot of people, especially youngsters, still go out, so now they will have to order a QR-code that will then track their movement and whereabouts.

As for me, I’m in yet another week of distant teaching. There are many advantages, and perhaps my dogs appreciate the sudden absence of people more than I do. The biggest disadvantage is the need to operate multiple devices. In the past, if we used a textbook, then I didn’t need either phone or the Internet. Today, I often use both a textbook and the Internet, and I conduct a session via a phone.

#SafeathomeinRussia: Quarantine Shuts Moscow Down

As of March 30th nobody can leave the house in Moscow, unless a matter of urgency. Dental services have stopped working for a week, just as shopping malls, entertainment centres, cultural places and restaurants and cafés of sorts. People are advised not to walk in parks, therefore all major parks have been shut down. Only shops, pet shops, pharmacies, clinics, and municipal and state services remain operational.

Needless to say, this will cause a lot of damage to businesses; however, it will also reveal just to what extent these businesses are responsible and ethical. It’s one thing to report the growing profits but a totally different thing to consider the liabilities and a force major. It’s one thing to boast a team of people and another thing to avoid lay-offs at the time of an economic crisis.

The future will show what Russian businesses can withstand this frightening check on their skills. In the meantime, we’re all bracing up to a week off work… that may be extended, for all we know. I went shopping yesterday, so I’m going to stay at home mainly, except for short voyages to walk my dogs.

#SafeathomeinRussia: How We’re Getting Through

I’ve been working from home this week. It’s slightly challenging, delightfully novel and surprisingly wholesome. I start work in the morning and finish any time between 4.30pm and 8pm. And I still have time for other things.

I’m a bit concerned about the attitude of some new “divines” to coronavirus. They preach this is a great, albeit scary, way to “clear the planet”. Look, they say, dolphins are coming back to Venice, isn’t this amazing?! Sure, some people die, and still more will if they are too rigid. Be flexible, be liquid, learn to work online, and chances are, you’ll get through alright.

The reason these preachings perplex me slightly is because there is strong evidence of a new kind of biological weapon being tested. And as much as I’m glad for both Venice and dolphins, I feel anxious as to what the future holds.

However, I agree with the sages: we need to be flexible. In the time of great changes it’s futile to try and maintain status quo, ancien régime, the old order, you name it. I’ve just had a thought that this pandemic may hammer the nail in the EU’s coffin, perhaps penultimate yet. One of my students is going through his personal upheaval, and he’s managing it poorly, so I reason with him thus: everything that is yours will remain yours. Sadly, at time like this it is only us that remain ours; the rest may go.

I’ve been through these crises a few times already, and I’m grateful for the skills that will undoubtedly see me through. I’m grateful for my faith, my work, my talent. These are the things that will always remain mine.

I’ve just been through the posts I wrote in 2008 and 2009, and it’s wonderful to see how the above mentioned skills helped me then. Feel free to #readmyblog and find all the inspiration and support you need. And I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in Russia (particularly Moscow) and how things are going for me this time.

Take care and #staysafeathome

Megxit, or Coat-hangers and Coat-bearers

Being a trained specialist in English history, I cannot avoid commenting on the recent scandal in the British Royal Family, poignantly called Megxit by the media. I didn’t want to engage in the hysteria of Harry’s exiting the family when the news had just broken out, and I now feel I can share my view of the situation.

Personally, I don’t sympathise with either Harry or Meghan. Even Kate Middleton didn’t instantly become the nation’s favourite, and she’d been in the public eye for much longer before her marriage than Meghan. Never mind the latter’s cinema career, I suppose few people had heard of her before she got engaged to Prince Harry. So, I cannot see why the public wouldn’t judge Meghan where it previously judged Kate, and the British mouth can blurt out some really scathing criticism. This had to be foreseen, obviously, and not just by the PR services but by Meghan and Harry, too.

So, I feel for Meghan for any misery she endured at the royal court but it was in the cards anyway. The monarchy has to maintain its public image, and it costs a lot – financially, as emotionally. If she thought that the BRF is no Hollywood and she could be herself here, it was a very silly thought indeed. I’ve never been to either place but it seems no Hollywood may be as restricting and false (to someone’s liking anyway), as a royal family of any country.

To portray Harry as a poor guy torn between the beloved Granny, the native country and the wife-and-child is also to do him no justice. He’s not a teen nor even a young adult. He’s the sixth in line to the throne, and even if he was unlikely to get there ever in his life it doesn’t change the main thing: he represents the British monarchy. I cannot imagine what it was that eventually prompted him to break the news on Instagram of all places, but it is clear that this was a thoughtful decision, not a fly of fancy. Of course, he’s got a historical precedent in the face of Edward VIII. However, there isn’t as much pressure on Prince Harry, for he simply decided to get rid of royal responsibilities that demanded the presence of his wife. It is in no way critical as King Edward’s abdication amidst the war.

Following the Megxit has led me to this observation. When it comes to joining a high-profile family, women apparently fall into 2 categories: coat-hangers and coat-bearers. Coat-hangers dream of nice clothes, family jewellery, publicity and other perks of an aristocratic dolce vita. So duties and not-always-nice-comments come as a surprise. Coat-bearers are more grounded. Being women, they certainly dream of the above, but they realise that to be a wife to a president, a king, a prince etc. means to carry the coat-of-arms of his country and his family.

Speaking of royal couples, the Spanish Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia have long been my favourite Royal family, for they both had successful public careers before getting married and ascending the throne. Princess Letizia reported from war zones and was an established professional in her own right. The image of a “normal” family that Prince William and his wife have adopted has made them popular but I cannot see them projecting the country to any new heights. They were so “normal” that they left practically no mark on this world prior to their marriage. Perhaps, the forward movement is no longer important after Brexit.

Having said that, Kate Middleton is certainly a coat-bearer. And there’s a good reason why she also is. She’s British. Whether she’s always dreamt of joining the Royal family or it happened by chance, she’s aware that she represents the country – hers as her husband’s. You may remind me of members of other European royalty and aristocracy whose wives or husbands are foreigners (The Netherlands and Monaco come to my mind). What we still see is that a spouse becomes a full member of the royal household, complete with all duties this entails.

In case with Meghan Markle, she comes from the country that abandoned monarchy from the very beginning of its political life. America has been the country of the people – at least, nominally. When you elect and re-elect presidents, it’s hard to force yourself to be a part of the family where you will have to work like a queen but never get the chance to sit on the throne. British Royal family is very undemocratic and has evidently made some impossible demands on the good, young American.

So, Meghan is a coat-bearer, too – but of her own country and interests. It’s hard to say whether her attempt at bearing the arms of Britain and the Windsor family was good enough or it was doomed from the start. Her appearances as a coat-hanger didn’t always impress the media. Being a brunette meant constant comparisons to Kate. Since William is more likely to get the throne than Harry, it’s more important for the media to keep Kate in the spotlight, than to let Meghan have her share thereof.

The result is that Prince Harry chose to altogether abandon the Royal family instead of withdrawing from the public eye for some time and helping Meghan to come to terms with her duties and a new lifestyle. Perhaps, Meghan decided that being married to a Prince is quite enough for her. And Prince Harry whose past behaviour occasionally outraged the public apparently thought that he could finally live his life on his own terms. Whatever the reports say, he’s always been the younger brother: always second, always in the shadow. Now he’s got the spotlight, and it remains to be seen what use Harry and Meghan will make of it.

Julia Shuvalova

Image is courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Belated Snowfall

A late January snowfall in Moscow

There’s a chance that Moscow people will enjoy some proper winter weather soon. The first sign is the snow which is well overdue but is nonetheless welcome. I may try to be funny and say that Britain with the Brexit has waved goodbye to Europe and various European organisations, like PAEC, by sending a heatwave that saw the warmest December and January in all Russian history. But no, things are getting back to normal here, while we’re yet to see what lies ahead for Great Britain.

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