How the pandemic transformed my life… for the better!

When life gives you lockdown: Meet three GEMSters who discovered new passions, improved relationships and created new teaching methods through the challenges of the pandemic.

“I became a YouTuber”
Rehna Pavithran
, KG Teaching Assistant, Our Own English High School, Sharjah – Girls

“Cooking is ultimately about sharing, but I never thought of sharing my love for food online until the lockdown.

Like many people, I cooked at home more last year and had the time to indulge my passion for simple, hearty food. I was encouraged to create my YouTube channel by friends and family, and so Rehna’s Cook Book was born.

I think cooking brought a lot of joy during the lockdown because it’s a way to connect with your family, and the YouTube channel of family favourites is an extension of that. The channel now has 35 super easy yet delicious recipes, and I add new content every week. I’ve now got over 1,161 subscribers, in five months, and it’s growing every day.

Some of my most watched videos are the twisted doughnuts, bread lasagne and mini-pizzas. The channel has become quite the family affair – my daughters help and my husband gets in on the act, too. He has cooked some of his favourite recipes, and it has proven to be very popular with my subscribers.

I like to keep the recipes easy. I only create videos of dishes that are tried and tested by me. Our channel’s motto is, “We believe everyone can cook”, and if my husband can make a great pineapple curry – anyone can!”

“I revived my relationship with my father”

Jessy Paulose, Supervisor – National Agenda, UAE Social Studies & Moral Education, Designated Safeguarding Lead, Our Own English High School, Sharjah – Boys

“Since my teens, my relationship with my father has been tense. Like many Indian men of his generation, he believed that studying social studies was a ‘waste’. It’s considered a shame to go against the traditionally-valued subjects of maths or science.

Despite being an excellent all-round student, I had my heart set on humanities and I wouldn’t be swayed. That decision was sacrilegious to my father, and we became like strangers under one roof. Even after graduating and establishing myself, conversations continued but were kept to a bare minimum. My father and I are both stubborn and strong-willed, and because of the tensions, all my younger siblings chose careers in sciences because they didn’t want the disapproval that I faced. Once I had children of my own, things between my father and I mellowed somewhat, but never returned to how they were when I was a child.

Then last year, unfortunately, one of his closest friends passed away. I’d never seen him in such an agonising state. We spoke on the phone, and it seemed like years of stoicism thawed in a few minutes. I think his friend’s death and the continuing pandemic made him realise that we’re all on borrowed time. Before, if I called home, my mum would answer, but now he picks up the phone and we talk for hours about politics or the news, he even tells jokes – and I hadn’t heard my dad laugh in years. I wish we had ironed out our differences earlier, but we have now, and that’s what matters.”

 “I built my own lightboard for teaching economics”

Anthony Egan, High School Economics Teacher, Dubai American Academy

“As every teacher will tell you, we all had to adapt our teaching styles and methods for online learning. When students are in front of screens all day we have to grab their attention, so I developed a lightboard for teaching economics. A lightboard is an illuminated glass panel that can be written on. It’s a simple design, I watched some online videos and was able to manufacture my version using a frame, glass and LED lights. The purpose of it is to allow clear recorded lessons on a black background.

I record my lessons using a digital camera and edit the videos using Adobe Premiere Pro. I then post the videos to a YouTube channel and share the link with the students. Since I’ve started using the lightboard, my classes have been transformed – for me and the students. The students find it easier to learn a new topic and they can go back and watch the videos again after class. Furthermore, it is very useful in a flipped learning environment and works well for online learners.

I was concerned that student engagement would suffer during online learning but my students have given me positive feedback and encouraged me to make more videos. The fact that they’re actively engaged and thirsty for more information and knowledge is all the encouragement I need to keep going.”

Can you relate? Share your story on the GEMS in 10 Yammer community group.