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Life as an international teacher requires you to be incredibly flexible as you move between countries, cultures, and schools. But nothing has required as much of a willingness to adapt and evolve my practice as being locked in my apartment and having to reinvent my approach to the classroom. Switching it up for my 10th grade Language Acquisition class was one hurdle, figuring out how to co-teach 7th grade Humanities required even more of a leap.
I am in my first year of working in Bangkok after several years in China. Like the rest of the world, I watched this pandemic unfold there with a heavy heart, fear for my former students and anxiety that it was coming soon to Thailand. But then it came, and step-by-step we readied for the change and in the end, it was a swift and easy transition to delivering my classes online and reaching students no matter where they are.
Our administrators warned us weeks in advance that this could happen and had a meeting to show us how to use Zoom. Our librarian made sure many digital resources are available on our library page. But at the end of the day, it was down to each individual teacher to remap their techniques and plans the day the call came to close.
First and foremost, we as educators have to change with the world around us and educate our students to operate in the world that is to come in the years ahead and not just the one we live in today. This challenge is forcing all of us to adapt our practices and approaches to teaching to reach across digital divides and keep learning alive. To be honest, I probably would have never drug all of my lessons into the modern age or ever opened Zoom or a Padlet if this hadn’t happened. No matter what, I am grateful for that. Silver linings!
Advice from Lockdown:
Take a deep breath and remember that no matter what, you are still the amazing teacher you were before your school closed. You will continue to be that teacher and your stress and worry for how you will keep teaching today is proof that you are dedicated and committed to reaching your students.
Your students are not only adapting to your new class and ways of digital teaching. They are also adapting to every other teacher they have and their new systems. Treat the first week like the first week of any school year. Teach expectations, set boundaries, get to know your kids in this new way, find a new balance and a new norm.
The biggest surprise to me was how little work my students were able to accomplish in the same amount of time. Even if I kept them in Zoom with me to complete something, they fumbled and struggled to get the task done. We take it for granted that they are digital wizards because they live on their devices all day. They don’t have any more experience at this than we do, and they need time.
Stick with what matters
Look at your unit and decide what the most important things are for your students to master in this unit and keep your focus on those critical components. Add in the rest if you have time, but lock a laser focus on the heart of the topics and achieve those goals first.
Do not let yourself fall into the trap of confusing down time and work time. Just because you moved your work to your home, doesn’t mean it should dominate your life. You and your students need you at peak mental and emotional health right now. Take breaks, walk away, and don’t let this overtake every part of your life. You are living in this crisis too. You have mental, emotional, and physical needs too. See to them first so you have something left to give to your students when you hit week 3, 6, or 10 of school closures. Locked in your home? Have a Zoom game night or dinner with friends. Take walks. Have a life. You need it to sustain you.
Remember you are not alone. There are countless teachers in the same situation you are in and we are all just figuring it out. Join a group where you can find resources and advice from other teachers like Educator Temporary School Closure Community. Don’t just Zoom with your students, have meetings with your co-workers to see what they are doing. Don’t feel as if you are the only one struggling. We are all adapting and coming together like never before.
In the end we will all come out of this as better teachers with countless hours of self-study professional development from all the new systems we are adapting to. So find your fellow teachers and learn from them, teach them, and stand strong. Show your students what it really looks like to embrace a life-long love of learning and take them on the journey with you.