This has NOT been an easy month and 2021 is, generally, a much worse year than 2020 thus far.

In Thailand, COVID-19 cases continue to surge and we are now averaging around 22,000 new cases per day. Frontline workers are so overwhelmed that people have been dying in the streets and left there as nobody is available to remove them. Crematoriums in the Buddhist temples are working overtime. There has been an escalation of violent protests in Bangkok in recent weeks. The Delta variant has a hold on this nation that has no sign of ending anytime soon.

My island of Phuket in the southern part of the country fared better than the capital of Bangkok but we have also been isolated to a degree.  There has not been any local mail delivery for months and schools have remained shuttered since April other than for about a week at the end of June and beginning of July. Despite the latter, for the past four weeks I have had to report to my school on a regular schedule in order to teach online putting my own safety at risk. Cases on Phuket are beginning to surge and, again, there is no end in sight although lockdown measures are increasing rapidly.

Yes, I am teaching online which is easier in one aspect only — classroom management!  However, there is a HUGE amount of preparation involved. The system our school is using is quite limiting and a massive downgrade from platforms such as Google Meet and ZOOM. I spend all of my non-teaching hours (and non-sleeping, non-eating, etc. hours) just getting ready for upcoming lessons.

Since I have 19 different classes each week, the amount of prep work involved is massive. In the classrooms, you have a whiteboard available and can show flashcards for vocabulary and grammar structures. I can also utilize materials that are already in the classroom or that I bring from home. Online, EVERYTHING has to be created visually to broadcast to the children. Most will not see your image as the call-leader (teacher) cannot have their video pinned to the top of their screens.

Thus, everything needs to be shown in a different screen shared from the teacher’s device. That includes video clips (and the school wants a song for almost every lesson — YouTube cannot be shared and the audio from my shared players often cannot be heard by the students), images and vocabulary, grammar structures, as well as interactive worksheets. I also need to remember that most of the students will be watching the classes on their parents’ mobile phones. Most of the families are poor and do not own tablets, PC’s or printers so I cannot just sent them worksheets for them to do; these need to be recreated and done on the screen thus must be kept relatively simple so that they can copy them into their notebooks.

When the students write something in their notebooks or do an “online” worksheet, they then need to take a photo (which are often blurry or otherwise unclear) and then send to the class album for me to check. Although I constantly remind them to put their names on these before sending the photos, many forget or they write their names in Thai script which I cannot read. If I am lucky, they remember to include their individual student numbers but these are sometimes written in Thai numerals as well.

In addition to pre-class preparation and post-class sorting and marking the notebook and worksheet images, there is much more paperwork involved than the schools required for in-class instruction. We need to submit the attendance records daily. Just taking roll is time-consuming during the lessons as I need to read through a long list of full Thai names — pronunciation can be a real task as the transliterations into English are often inaccurate — and I often cannot hear the children telling me they are “present” or “ma” in Thai. Sometimes, I catch students I marked as “absent” when they submit notebook images.  We also need to send frequent reports on each class, including screenshots taken during the lesson. The latter is often difficult to do as there is already an abundance of tasks to take care of during each session.

The downside of all of this pre-class and post-class work is that there is really no time to do anything else. My evenings and weekends for the past four weeks have been consumed mainly with school-related tasks. While I do take at least an hour each day to read a book, I really do not have the desire or energy for anything “fun” on the computer.

After sitting all day at school staring at my computer screen (I recently upgraded to a 24-inch all-in-one which I have to lug to school each and every day as my old laptop no longer works), and spending my late afternoons and evenings preparing for upcoming classes on the same computer (not to mention most of each weekend), the last thing I want to do is spend time on it searching for new stamp issues and then researching and putting together blog entries about them.

As a result, I am putting this website (not to mention my other hobby-related blogs) on hiatus until at least the end of the school term. According to our contract, that should occur at the end of September. With all of the delays, however, that MIGHT be extended until sometime in mid- or late October. We will see. While I highly doubt that there will be few, if any, new articles posted before that time there is a possibility that I will update a few things along the way. I have recently seen a few Tokyo Olympics stamps that are not included in my topical catalogue so I may add those at some point in the near future. I would also like to start a full update of the Stamp Schedule pages as this will give me an indication of how far behind I really am!

I will continue to post semi-regular general updates in my “Daily Phuket” series on my Asian Meanderings blog when my mood and free time coincide.

At any rate, I am sorry that this site has become so stagnant of late. While I am happy to be working (and receiving a salary once again although we certainly are not being paid for the many hours spent preparing for and reporting on our classes), I would much rather be pursuing philatelic activities. I do hope that you understand.

Now, back to lesson planning…

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