Across continents, teachers are among those whose work has been most deeply affected by the coronavirus outbreak. As many turn to teaching English online in response to the global lockdown, how are global TEFL/TESOL teachers, in particular, coping? We checked in with English teachers in different regions to find out what they were doing when the crisis hit, how it impacted their livelihood, and how they’re adapting to the situation.
Carolina Carrizo, a Chilean English teacher in Chile
What were you doing when the crisis first hit?
I was having classes that day, like any normal workday, here in Chile. I checked the news and the first case in our nation was confirmed. To be completely honest with you, I never thought this would turn out to be a major crisis. I was very naïve, I suppose. So, I have to admit I finally took it seriously when the institute decided to close its headquarters and go online. Then I was like, “Okay, this is very real.”
How has coronavirus affected your job and day-to-day life?
Well, I was teaching online before, but it was about 20% or 30% of all my teaching. Now 100% of my teaching is online, and entirely from home. It’s such a huge change, as teaching longer classes online requires a different set of skills and materials. I feel I’m constantly perfecting myself in this area at the moment.
When it comes to its effects on my life, being at home at all times is a challenge. I’m not used to this but I’m doing my best to keep myself physically and mentally healthy.
How are you adapting?
I believe the best adaptation tool I have at the moment is trying to improve myself and be the best online teacher I can get to be. It’s not an easy task, especially when you’re feeling some anxiety regarding this global situation, but it’s worth it. I think it’ll be an important skill to have even after we finish dealing with this whole crisis.
Vimbai Muzonda, from Zimbabwe, teaching English online for London-based companies
Where were you when the pandemic hit?
I teach English online for a language school based in Brighton, United Kingdom, a role I have held since October 2018. When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, I was at home in between teaching online and picking my children from school. Once the WHO declared a global pandemic, our leaders first immediately announced the closing of schools, followed shortly by a national lockdown call, that same week.
How has the crisis affected you as a teacher?
As many nations go into lockdown, I am currently on day 12 of a 21-day lockdown period, which is likely to be extended. This new situation has found many students and teachers turning to online learning. For me, the impact has actually been positive in that I have maintained a stable and regular schedule for my current students, and I have had a welcomed increase of new students and additional lessons. I used to teach three days a week, but now I am teaching every single day.
How have you adapted?
Since I have already been teaching English online for two years, I’ve only had to adapt to a fuller weekly schedule, which I am really grateful for. I look at my online English teaching job as my contribution to help fight this global crisis in two ways: firstly, by helping to flatten the curve by staying at home and secondly, by supporting my students in maintaining their English language learning goals as they, too, play their part by staying at home. I’m able to provide students with activities and a sense of normalcy in these very uncertain and irregular times.
Britta du Plessis, a South African English teacher in the Republic of Georgia
What were you doing when the coronavirus crisis hit?
I work in the public school system in Georgia through a government organization that employs native speakers to assist their English teachers in rural schools. Our schools closed down a week before our spring break, we had news of the virus but had no idea that it would impact us. We were informed that the early close was for disinfecting the schools throughout the country. I thought to myself, “Wow, these guys are on the ball.”
During the Spring break, we were informed that schools would re-open on the 1st of April so we had a long break to look forward to. But by the 18th we had news about the extended lockdown and that it would last till 21st April. We were then asked to start with online lessons and videos.
How has the pandemic impacted your work?
I haven’t been at school since then but the program I am involved in kept in contact with me and I was also paid. We, the teachers in the program, have been creating online lessons using PowerPoint and videos, as well as working online with students and teachers. It is very different from being in the classroom, but it is a new experience altogether.
How are you adapting, currently?
There has been excitement at trying out new methods and learning new skills, and now we also have that feather in our caps. We are still working with our co-teachers and most of our students are taking part. I still do a few one-on-one lessons with some students that have a great love for English, and my days are busy and never boring.
Lejla Karaga, an English teacher from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Egypt
What were you doing during the onset of the crisis?
As the end of the school year was approaching, I was considering applying for new jobs to gain new experiences and acquaintances. I recognized new opportunities and discovered completely new places that would help me in my personal and professional development. The warm weather in Cairo was simply tempting outside and there was a handful of paperwork and housework to do.
How has the situation impacted your work?
The pandemic has affected the way of teaching itself. A little unprepared and unexpected, I found myself in front of a monitor, using applications which I was simply not ready for nor had a vision of how to use. Negativity and wasting time were simply not options, so I quickly got to work.
How have you adapted?
Being an introvert is a mitigating circumstance in this madness. Being in isolation means appreciating time and using it on things we once didn’t have time for or didn’t want to have time for, such as reading more books, taking online courses, and practicing self-care. All of us, teachers and parents, are a little scared and cautious about accepting new information about what the next school year might look like, but the time ahead is one challenge that we hope to quickly adapt to.
Lisa Shockley, an online teacher from the U.S., teaching in Florida
What were you doing when the crisis hit?
I’m a stay-at-home mom teaching English online for work, so it’s business as usual here for me.
Has the coronavirus situation affected your teaching job negatively?
No, it hasn’t. I’m actually busier now than I was before, maybe because people are home and have more time to learn online. On the other hand, the negative impacts that I’m experiencing from the coronavirus situation are having to distance myself from family and friends, and it also has to do with the fear and uncertainty of what’s to come.
How have you adapted?
During this crisis, I’m focusing on maintaining a steady income by continuing to teach English classes online with several different tutoring companies (VIPKid, GoGoKid, and Cambly) to accommodate for the hours I’m available.
Ana Flávia, a Brazilian English teacher in China
Where were you when the crisis broke?
At first, I was still in China. It was close to the holidays, so we were working in the office, but not having classes with the kids. Then I left for Thailand for some days of vacation and when I returned to China, everything was closed, the country was already on lockdown, and there wasn’t much we could do.
How have you been affected as a teacher?
Well, many foreign teachers are not getting their normal salary, and some of them have no income at all. Besides that, we have to adapt to online teaching because most companies decided to teach online, which is very interesting because it’s nice to have work to do and learn something new, but at the same time it’s not that easy, considering I teach kids.
How have you adapted?
During this crisis, I’m trying to stay positive and improve myself, as well as my teaching abilities. From my point of view, learning continuously is the only way we can adapt.
As more and more countries call for confinement to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the situation’s economic impact has tested the resilience of many industries, including English language teaching. Luckily, most educators have the option to teach online so they can adapt, cope, and even thrive in these tough times.