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.