Coping with Covid-19 as an ESL/EFL Teacher

Coping with Covid-19 as an ESL/EFL Teacher

Teachers & Covid-19 | TELL Japan


“Unprecedented” and “COVID-anything” are probably words that feel a bit worn out at this point in the year, but each day still never ceases to surprise me with what new twist is presented. As we are now well into the new academic year, here at Via Lingua we have had to embrace a host of modifications to the way we “do school” on a daily basis. We have accepted smaller class sizes and reduced hours of operation. We welcome hand sanitizer on every table corner and implement extra measures to ensure sanitization. And now, lessons with plexiglass partitions and masks almost seem normal (I don’t remember what my students and colleagues look like without them, anymore!)


            Maybe some other teachers and students out there can relate: I am the type of person who finds comfort in consistency and predictability. Of course, part of the fun of teaching for me is that it challenges those concepts and requires me to improvise at times and think on my feet. But this year has been exceptional. It seems like the only thing that is predictable is that things are unpredictable! Every day we are left anticipating what new regulations are coming down for businesses, schools, and public spaces as a result of the current state of the virus here in Italy. And this sense of unpredictability has filtered down from the top to all of us on a smaller scale as well. Language schools may find that their enrollment numbers are unpredictable this year. Student attendance is also turbulent as everyone is juggling a bit of chaos in all realms: work, school, and their own health, especially.


            But, even if it feels like it at times, this is not the end of the world! Not all hope is lost. An effective teacher knows how to be flexible, and this has become more important than ever. I recently heard this quote: “You are the river, not the rock.” This has been a good reminder for me in my own teaching as the “plot twists” of 2020 continue to pile up. Instead of scrambling to find a stability that may not be as reliable as I’m used to, I can focus on being flexible instead and figuring out how to adapt to this unique situation.


            Flexibility can mean many different things to an EFL teacher right now. Students seem to be leaning towards private lessons this year instead of group courses, and understandably so. In a language school, less enrollment for group courses may require some flexibility on the part of the teacher when adapting instruction to a varied level of students. Many private students are also seeking Skype lessons now. As a result, we might find ourselves hopping back and forth between face-to-face lessons and lessons in front of the computer. We are also continually exercising patience when it comes to any other surprises that arise. A lot of people are experiencing instability with work, school, and maybe in their personal lives right now, so this could result in some last minute changes with lesson scheduling or other factors that impact interactions with students.


            Hand in hand with staying flexible and patient, we as effective teachers can continue to try being reasonable and understanding of our students, and of ourselves! We don’t completely understand what is “behind the scenes” for our students, and what they are dealing with this year. Despite everything, they are still choosing to come and learn, which is something to celebrate! And for ourselves, it’s been nothing short of a wild year. But teachers are resilient and adaptable. We don’t know yet what is to come, but taking all these things into consideration, we as effective teachers will handle what is presented to us, and we can continue to thrive in the present one moment at a time.

Via Lingua International - The Center for Citizen Diplomacy




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