We are officially in a new school year. COVID hit us harder than a ton of bricks in March and disrupted everything, including school, not only for students but also for teachers. Some countries have restarted school as normal and some are still teaching virtually. Here in Barcelona, schools are back in the classroom (with COVID restrictions in place). I have seen several questions from ESL teachers wondering what COVID in the classroom has been like. I have returned to the classroom and here is what it’s been like for me…
Before starting my teaching journey, I was a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Miami, FL. Looking for a change of scenery, I decided to get my TEFL Certification and move to Barcelona to start teaching English as a second language. I arrived in Barcelona in January of 2020 with very little experience. After trying to find a job for two months, I finally got an offer in the first week of March 2020. I was all set to sign the contract on “Monday.”
Well Monday never came, because two days before, on the Saturday, the Spanish government declared a state of emergency and just like that, we were under a mandatory lockdown.
Unfortunately, the school that I was to start working with was not set up for online teaching, so there went my first job. With no job in place but bills still needing to be paid, I went online to start applying to online teaching platforms. I was lucky to get hired with one very early on and get some classes. As the time went on for what seemed to be forever in lockdown, the classes online started to diminish. So many companies had hired teachers during this time, but there just weren’t enough students to go around. So here I was again, without a job. By this time, things were starting to ease up in Barcelona. The plan was to focus on finding a new job, one that could guarantee that if by any chance there was another lockdown, the school would be equipped to move classes online. This would mean that I would likely have a more secure job.
Back in the classroom
Thankfully, I was offered a teaching position at an academy. I was grateful to have obtained this job for a number of reasons. The first and most important benefit was some sort of job security. They were able to show me that they had developed an online platform to move classes online if needed. Also, I had to ensure that they had implemented good COVID safety measures. Another box ticked. There was a brand new ventilation system and lots of windows….the anxiety began to subside.
Here in Barcelona the government has laid out COVID regulations for schools. They even provided workshops for personnel to attend. In addition to adequate social distancing in the classroom, teachers must wear a mask at all times while teaching. Students were initially allowed to take off their masks during class, however after the first week, students must remain in their masks for the duration of class. Sanitize, sanitize and sanitize. Sounds pretty simple, and in reality it is. However, what these rules have done is opened our eyes to just how much physical interaction takes place in a classroom and how different COVID in the classroom has made it for the teaching/learning process.
How are things different
A teacher wears many hats in the classroom, and to add to that, we now have to monitor the social distancing of young learners in the classroom and overall sanitizing of the entire classroom environment. We now have to make sure students are not sharing anything with other students as well as us, the teachers. Using one classroom for more than one class means sanitizing every desk and chair before your next class comes in. You know all those fun interactive games we play with our young learners? We now have to modify those games to create social distancing and limiting multiple hands on props for lessons and games. For ESL teachers, having our mouths covered when trying to teach phonetics for new words has become quite difficult. The masks add to the difficulty for students to hear properly what we are saying as well as they cannot see the movement of our mouths for pronunciation. Someone must have felt the hardship for us teachers, because there is now a mask with a clear front for mouth visibility. I will definitely be trying this out.
It’s a trying time for everyone
If you are back in the classroom or thinking about going back and are feeling anxious, your feelings are completely valid. There are few things to keep in mind that may level out some of those feelings. Remember that this is not new for only the teachers. The students have also never had to learn with these types of restrictions and it may take them a while to warm up to the new way. Parents are also anxious about having their kids in a classroom and not safely at home with them. It is definitely a learning process that’s easier to overcome once you start. I have adapted my lesson planning techniques to attend to these new norms and as each day passes it does actually start to feel…a little bit more… normal.
Are you a teacher that has gone back to the classroom? How has it been for you? If anyone has game suggestions that are great while maintaining social distance in the classroom I would love to hear them… leave me a comment.
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