International school teachers around the world are all going through challenging times at their schools. The range of experiences goes from complete lockdowns with the government mandating remote learning for all schools to basically doing “normal” in-school teaching with only a few precautions being taken.
Regardless of what your international school is doing, COVID 19 is and has been taking its toll on all stakeholders: teachers, parents, students, etc.
We asked some ISC members about their experience related to their well-being at the moment living in these days of COVID 19 and lockdowns.
We also asked them…
1. What is the current state of COVID 19 in your city and country?
2. How is that current state affecting your school and teaching?
3. Because of this state, how is your well-being and the well-being of the students and staff at your school?
4. What is your international school doing to help and be supportive to all stakeholders during this time?
The American School of London (London, United Kingdom)
The numbers are currently rising and we are currently in a one-month lockdown (although you wouldn’t know it by the number of people you see).
I have appreciated the school’s steps to keep us all safe – strict bubbles, SD, increased cleaning & mask-wearing from K-12. We have had a few cases, with the majority in the upper years, but in general, they have been mostly linked to outside contact. The school has an excellent track & trace system & I feel very confident in their protocols. Admin has been very gracious & understanding that stress levels are higher and have changed PD days into holidays. I feel ASL cares a lot about my well-being.
That being said, enrollment has dropped and there is some obvious financial strain. There is a lot of mistrust in the UK government as their policies have been very inconsistent and people are fed up. Local schools do not require masks and people are not really adhering to social distancing. Cafes, restaurants, etc. are only open for take-out. The economic fallout will be huge and apparently take 3 years to recover.
The school has a solid continuous learning plan for teachers/students who have to isolate and it has been offered to families for 2 weeks post-winter break.
Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen International School)
In Denmark, the numbers right now are at the highest they’ve been since the pandemic began, but they are staying steady at the moment and the deaths per day are low (compared to other EU countries).
Right now my school is doing in-person teaching, and we are doing “Normal +” which means we are basically doing our normal teaching, but with all the added precautions (like middle and high school teachers and students wearing masks all day, teaching teams staying in their “bubbles” throughout the day, etc.). It seems unlikely that we would go to full remote teaching or an emergency learning setup again, but we’ll see.
Because it is normal teaching pretty much, many teachers are just getting on with their teaching without too much worry, but we do have teachers that are worried and concerned. We’ve had a handful of teachers and students that have tested positive and for the most part, my school has taken the correct actions and precautions.
My school has a work environment group that looks out for the wellbeing of the staff, and they have been regularly meeting with admin to discuss the current situation and what more can we do to make sure our school is following the guidelines set out by the Danish government and how best to support teachers during these crazy times. There is some extra added pressure for classroom teachers to make sure they are doing all these extra precautions (cleaning desks, washing hands, etc.) while also doing their normal planning and lessons. It is a lot and can be overwhelming!
KIS International School (Bangkok, Thailand)
CoVid in Thailand has been very well handled. We locked down in March and the schools stayed closed until August. The borders are still closed to most outsiders. Although this is killing tourism, it is not allowing the spread of the disease. Most of our kids held up well even with the IB debacle and most graduates managed to get a place at university although most are still studying here online. At school, it is masks all around both in and out of classrooms which is a tad annoying in the heat, but most things seem to be running well. Both my wife’s school [in Thailand] and mine have been trying to help the local communities with food drives, etc.
Hope International Academy Okinawa (Okinawa, Japan)
Here in Okinawa (Japan), we are facing the beginning of the third wave of COVID-19, which is expected to bring a higher number of cases than the first two waves that we experienced last July and August. As of November 29th, we are currently on Stage 3 on Japan’s scale of the pandemic’s severity, just one level below the highest warning level of widespread infection level.
We have been fortunate thus far and have had no COVID-19 cases among our school community. We still can have “normal” days at school, so our teaching duties and practices haven’t changed. On school grounds, teachers, school staff, students, and parents wear masks at all possible times. Also, we wash hands regularly, take water breaks, and open all windows in the buildings during the day. Besides these preventive measures, we have canceled all the major school events for the next month, including Sports Day, Ice-Skating field trip, and the Parent-Teaching Conference will be a virtual event.
After experiencing one month of remote learning last April, it seems everyone in our school community is aware of how lucky we are to go to school, meet each other, and support each other in different ways. The level of collaboration and communication among teachers and staff has significantly improved. For instance, creating online groups has helped us share ideas, concerns, and, most importantly, get a sense of belonging. We are in these difficult times together.
For the last four months, we have updated our communication tools (website, blogs, Google sites) to provide more efficient and transparent communication with parents, teachers, and school staff. For instance, renewing Seesaw for School licenses to increase student and family engagement, purchasing Amazon Echo smart speaker devices for all classes to improve communication among teachers and school staff. In other words, our school has invested in updating tech tools to enhance the level of communication among stakeholders.
If you work at an international school and would like to share what it is like at your international school in a future ISC blog article, please consider joining the International School Community Advisor’s Facebook Group.continue reading
Living abroad can be full of many surprises. Even more so when your host country is in the current world news (typically for something unfortunate). What happens then is that your friends and family from your home country (or other countries around the world where your international school friends live) write to you to see if you are safe or to ask how things are going there.
In this entry, we have 4 international school teachers sharing what is going in their host countries. They also share details about what they are experiencing and how they see things from their perspective.
“I recently returned to busy Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (my home for nearly 6 years), after three weeks away for Winter Break. The roads were packed with shoppers, outside vendors, and people enjoying chestnuts and sweet potatoes on the street corner. These are not the media images shown these days about Hong Kong. Yes, a lot has been going on in this city during the past 7 months, but depending where you live, you may see very little of the chaos. My school is on the south side of Hong Kong island where (as far as I know) there has been zero protest activity. The majority of our student population live in this area as do many teachers. Life carries on as usual for the most part in this part of Hong Kong. I, on the other hand, live where most large scales demonstrations begin and where there has been much protest activity and police presence. Despite this, I can sometimes go for weeks without feeling the affects of the protests. When my family and friends see the violence in the news, they are surprised to hear that most of the time, it is business as usual here in Hong Kong. Most pro-democracy/anti-government gatherings are easy to avoid if you choose to do so.
My first night back in Hong Kong in 2020, I went to dinner in Wan Chai. Restaurants were full and all felt normal- though normal has a different feel here these days.”
“There is a lot of news coverage about the bushfires in Australia these past few weeks, and there are definitely tremendous problems associated with them. There are numerous areas in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia that are being destroyed by all of these fires. They are still going on at the moment, with barely any relief (like rain) on the way. I have been traveling around many of these states for the past month, and I must say that I haven’t seen or gone through the parts of those states that have been damaged or destroyed. Life goes on pretty much as normal in all the parts that I’ve visited recently. Many of my friends and family abroad have messaged me about my safety and if I’m near the fires. I tell them no, and that I’m safe. When I turn on BBC and CNN, I can see why they would think I’m in trouble here as their reports are indeed showing a lot of danger and devastation. But people do need to realise that Australia is a huge country. And even though the fires are in numerous locations, they are not in the big city metropolises that the majority of Australians are living in. That is not to say these big cities aren’t feeling the effects of the fires. On certain days, the fire smoke is definitely hovering over the cities here and causing a lot of air pollution. Some days the air pollution is worse than cities in nations like India and China, but it is only at that level a day or two and then the air quality usually returns back to safer levels.
It is important to mention though, yesterday at a store in Sydney, I overhead two people saying things like “I didn’t think these fires were going to affect me and my house, and then it did…” it made it more real to me hearing that story in person and that these fires are indeed affecting many people here.”
“I have been living in Qatar with my family for 9 years. Originally moved here as my husband was offered a job (he is in construction) and I found a teaching job at one of the many international schools here. My school is located in the West Bay area where a lot of expats live and is surrounded by tall buildings, offices, hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls.
Two years ago, an air, land and sea blockade was imposed on Qatar by four other neighbouring countries which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha. About 60% of Qatar’s food supplies came from the countries causing the blockade. There was chaos at the supermarkets at the time. Shelves were emptied fast. While Qatar was trying to figure out alternative ways to import goods people were finding it difficult to find certain foods at the supermarket including milk. I remembered it last yesterday that I struggled, at that time, to find milk for my kids. It was a crazy couple of months.
Qatar actually imported tens of thousands of cows to ensure milk supplies.”
“Cambodia. The first thing I hear is “where?” Then I hear, “oh, yeah, Tomb Raider, right?” But my everyday life as a principal is so much more than ruins (although we’ve got plenty). Regular life is the open-air tuk-tuk rides to school, counting dogs with my six year old daughter. Regular life is using smiles and a mix of Khmer and English to negotiate for fresh vegetables for dinner. It’s the warm greetings from the owner of our favorite restaurant when we make our weekly visit, and the warm croissants from the corner bakery. It’s having friends from all over the world, who teach my daughter new words in their languages and invite us to their homelands for holidays. Most of all, my regular Cambodian life is about balance, because I can leave work at work, and enjoy my family and friends. Cambodia may be challenging in some ways, but it ultimately is about being able to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the ride (especially in a tuk-tuk).”
If your host country is in the world news at the moment and your family and friends are contacting you about what’s happening, please write to us and share your experience for an upcoming article in the blog series. We’d love to know what it is really like living in these countries all around the world. You will receive 6 months of premium membership for contributing 1-2 paragraphs about your host country.continue reading