Teaching During COVID

By now, COVID-19 has made its way around the world, disrupting work, school, and social lives. Like so many others, my day-to-day life changed. I go out less, I haven’t been on a plane since returning from Bali. In fact, as I write this, I can’t help but realize that I would have been waiting to board a plane to Tokyo right now if things had been different. COVID has impacted so much of my life. It has caused great uncertainty about what comes next. But the greatest impact currently is navigating teaching during COVID.

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When COVID-19 first made its way into Korea, students were on Winter Break. As the disease spread, the Ministry of Education was faced with navigating sending students safely back to school. This came in the form of delaying the start of school and eventually adopting online learning for most students.

Since I work at the city youth center, the Ministry of Education’s decision to keep schools closed left our classrooms empty until the end of May. To fill the time, my coworkers and I made English videos for our website, cleaned out our storage rooms, and even used up our vacation days, realizing we would not be able to go abroad anytime soon. Each passing week we wondered when our classes would begin, if they ever would. Then finally, we opened our doors, allowing students in to take their class placement test. Classes would begin the following Monday, May 25.

This past week marked one month of teaching during COVID, and it feels both normal and limited. While some things have not changed, like the children getting excited and competitive during a bomb game, there are constant reminders that we are teaching in unprecedented times.

The Modified Classroom

Students are required to wear masks at all times, unless they are getting a drink of water from the water cooler. While the occasional student pulls their mask down, a quick reminder has them putting it back over their nose. They don’t complain, and I haven’t had a single student come to class without a mask.

Like the students, I am also required to wear a mask when teaching. We invested in special masks that allow students to see our mouths–something that is crucial in language learning. Personally, the masks don’t bother me. I wear a mask whenever I leave my house. It’s just the right thing to do given the circumstances.

Teaching during COVID also means that we have to limit student work to groups of two. I typically arrange my classroom in tables of four, but this semester sees my tables in rows. Distancing rules also impact what kind of games I can play during class. While it is easy to improvise for my older students, my go-to activities for my ABC class cannot be modified. This has left me doing way more crafts, reading stories to the students, and scheduling more book work which allows me to work with students one-on-one.

Schedule Changes

Along with changes within the classroom, there are also schedule changes caused by COVID. We have had to cancel smaller events, daytime programs, and entire camps.

Some cancellations directly impact the classes I am currently teaching. Typically, we allow parents to sit in and observe our class on Parent’s Day. Due to distancing rules, we will not hold a Parent’s Day this semester. Our end-of-semester talent show and award ceremony is also cancelled.

My center also runs a field trip program for local preschools. For this program, different preschools visit our center every day and we run mini-lessons with the students. In the past, I have taught a puppet show and did a singalong class. This semester, we are not running the program. Enforcing distancing and the amount of time needed to disinfect between groups would have made this program impossible.

While teaching during COVID has been an experience, I think that the need to innovate and create new activities for my classes is making me a better educator. I started a reading project with my elementary students. We are reading a chapter book once a week over the course of the semester. I have also placed more emphasis on self-reflection and asking students what they need from me throughout the course of their learning. While the virus has limited my teaching in some capacity, I think it has also opened a lot of doors into activities I would not have done before.

Are you a teacher? How has your approach to teaching changed as a result of COVID?

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