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Whilst it’s been challenging for teachers in the UK returning to their classrooms during the Covid 19 pandemic this term, we thought it would make an interesting read to share how it’s been for teachers across the globe.  Luckily our schools team are well connected and have ex teaching colleagues who were willing to share their stories.

From Bali to Bulgaria in Covid 19 – Jo was Head of English at an international school in Bali until recently.  Below she gives her account of how Covid impacted upon her, fellow staff and pupils in Indonesia.

Covid causes little trouble in Tasmania – Steve Coventry, Head of Junior School at The Hutchins School, Tasmania, Australia explains little impact Covid seems to have had at their school.

From Bali to Bulgaria in Covid 19

By Joanne Rowe

2020 Covid 19 and the year from hell. I have never worked so hard for so long an hour with so little school support and I have been teaching for over 40 years now. The Covid 19 school lockdown not only caused student stress and disorientation but had a great toll on teaching and administration alike. In March of 2020 I was the Head of English at an international school in Bali, Indonesia. The school was not an expensive private school and mainly catered for middle class Balinese, other Indonesians and expatriate students from Europe. It was a private business and generated a sound profit.

Prior to the outbreak of Covid 19 the school had a very limited computer-based learning program and the junior levels were discouraged from using laptops in school altogether. Many of these students were virtually computer illiterate, although they were proficient phone users. The internet system was slow and very unreliable. I taught years 8, 11 and 12 Cambridge English. I insisted that the 11s and 12s bring in laptops and overtly taught computer text layout and etiquette. The school did not have a computer-based learning platform so I set up email groups myself and encouraged students to share much of their work on line. I then emailed students assignments and work schedules. Year 8 students were also taught email etiquette and my year 8 homeroom class created a WhatsApp group. Thank goodness I had established a fundamental on-line culture as this was to assist in what followed.

The decision to begin online home-based teaching and learning, came with only a two days’ notice for staff and students. It was the end of March and suddenly all schools were closed. Staff literally had two days in which to set up google classrooms for each of their subjects and then to email students instructions. Many parents were left to register their students onto various online platforms. We were mandated to conduct live sessions in ZOOM and other video-conferencing platforms. No one was trained and it was sink or swim. I remember contacting my own grown up children to help me get my head around zoom technology. My weekends were spent getting familiar with technology and preparing interactive lessons.

Needless to say, amongst the hype and façade that everything was going super well many students simply dropped out as they were unable to access or use the technology. Others lazily informed their parents that they had nothing to do and stayed in bed playing video games. Stress levels soared as I rang parents and students individually to stress accountability and attendance to all lessons. My students attended my lessons but then informed me that many teachers did not give them work complaining they did not have the internet. Most of the teachers in the school had their own laptops. This was not the case for many of or our students who shared one computer amongst siblings. Some households had limited internet access. The real stress came during exam time when students were directed to take exams at home while we watched them on video conference sites that kept failing to cope.

Mid-June signalled the end of the year and semester. My three-year contract was over and I was distantly dismissed via zoom one detached Saturday morning. Yes, they had made us work over-time to show their gratitude. The students horrified and disturbed at the undignified ending of their school year journey sent emails of affection and appreciation and for that I felt valued. Not long after I moved from Bali to Bulgaria to retire with my husband. An unimaginable end to a long and happy teaching career.

Wishing everyone well as they struggle on through the Covid maze. Stay safe and well.

Jo

Covid causes little trouble in Tasmania

By Steve Coventry

I’m Steve, head of a Junior School in Tasmania, Australia and we have been so lucky here. There has been no community transmission since March so we’ve been in a 7 month bubble of watching the world struggle without any real understanding of the actual challenges. I’ve never even worn a face mask. Home learning occurred for us for 2 months then a full return to school for the past two terms. We take precautions like hand sanitizing and have limited numbers to gatherings and events but are operating normally. Borders have been closed to any visitors since the start of Covid. Any arrivals to Tassie have to go into 12 days quarantine. This is changing next week when the borders open to other Australian states. Hopefully it doesn’t go badly. We are totally desensitized to social distancing and don’t take enough care. We might have to step up our game.

As a head of junior school it’s been a tough year as weve tried to keep the day to day life of school ‘normal’ but that takes a lot of extra planning and preparing for staff and leaders. Staff are exhausted and emotions run high. We have 8 weeks till the end of the academic year and the whole school community is limping over the line. Wishing educators all over the world well and hoping for you all in the UK especially that it’s not too mad for you at the moment and things improve.

Best wishes and take care, Cov

 

Photo:  Lucile Noiriel on Unsplash

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