Schools on five continents, and the many thousands of teachers who teach there, are weathering the pandemic--which has peaked at different magnitudes at different times--with skill, flexibility, creativity, positivity, and resilience. At Search Associates, we have something of a panoramic view of what is going on, and we are simply awestruck at how wonderfully educators around the world have responded to the call of continuing to serve their students in these changed circumstances with dedication, skill, and unwavering resolve. Education is adapting, and prevailing, and we are one world, helping one another. At this time of unprecedented change, we wanted to offer some glimpses of what Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 is like.
The Dimateras, Teachers, Beijing City International School (BCIS)
Since February 3rd, the Dimateras have been working online with their students at Beijing City International School (BCIS) from their home in the Philippines. Receiving clear and specific guidelines from the school helped Bri and Vince organize their schedules and prepare for virtual teaching. Student learning activities are uploaded by 9 a.m., and the regular office hours are used to prepare lessons, provide feedback, and hold Zoom consultations.
The greatest challenge for Bri and Vince is internet connectivity in the Philippines. As a middle school science teacher, Vince has had to come up with creative ways to set up home experiments since students have no access to lab materials. Bri, who teaches IB Middle Years and Diploma Programmes for Math, says keeping students consistently motivated and in-touch is another hurdle. BCIS has recently responded to this by implementing a blended learning model, which allows for synchronous class meetings and more opportunities for student wellness.
Bri and Vince are grateful to be near family, to witness incredible student resourcefulness, and to learn new digital skills on platforms provided for free to educators.
Tyler Sherwood, Head of Schools, Chatsworth International School - Singapore
Tyler has been balancing the work of leading his community of Chatsworth from home with being a husband and father of two primary-aged children doing Home-Based Learning (HBL).
In February, Chatsworth turned two professional development days into planning days for HBL in preparation for stay-at-home orders, which happened on the 8th of April. International schools in Singapore have taken the lead from the local schools following directives from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ministry of Health. For HBL, Chatsworth uses Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Managebac. Tyler describes what Chatsworth learned from other schools:
"We eased into our online learning, gradually increasing expectation for teachers and students as we moved forward. We continue to evaluate and adjust, adding and modifying as we go along. Surveys with parents, teachers, and students help us to adjust."
The greatest challenge for Tyler has been managing the expectations of everyone “during a time of great stress and uncertainty.” He adds, “Some parents do not understand the amount of work that is done by teachers.” Differentiating instruction virtually has been most challenging for his staff, and some students need frequent check-in. For their ability to “pivot and shift so (seemingly) effortlessly,” Tyler says his “hat is off to all our teachers and staff, and teachers around the world.”
While nothing can replace face-to-face interaction and collaboration, the quarantine has brought the Chatsworth Singapore community together. Staff members check in regularly on Google Meet; teachers share videos they’ve made; one teacher runs a weekly student Jeopardy online event and events for staff; and, most thrilling, students have performed two live, virtual concerts. Tyler says the time of COVID-19 “has helped us reflect on priorities and, it would be a shame if we do not bring this back with us when we return to campus.”
Megan Hills Teacher, Australian International School Saigon, Vietnam
Megan spent a total of 14 weeks teaching her Year 4 class online before returning to school on the 11th of May. Social distancing restrictions in Vietnam have eased, and things are slowly returning to normal. However, the learning environment Megan returned to is “vastly different” to the one she left: masks to be worn in common spaces, playgrounds and sports equipment off limits, temperature checks entering the school grounds, and hand sanitizer stations in each classroom.
Megan, who never imagined her first year in international education would be like this, has nevertheless learned more about herself, her colleagues, and her profession than she ever thought possible. She encourages everyone around the world still experiencing lockdowns and school closures to “hang in there . . . your return to school will come.”
Andrew Cross, Head of School, International School of Hamburg, Germany
The International School of Hamburg (ISH), Germany, following all hygiene and social distancing rules, re-opened its doors to two grade levels on May 4th. All staff meetings take place online. Looking back, Andrew is glad they added two professional days in early March to prepare for remote learning. Just two weeks later, they felt more confident managing a program of “synchronous and asynchronous learning,” using Seesaw, Veracross, Google Classroom, and Kognity—for International Baccalaureate Diploma students. ISH expanded its use of Google Meet and Zoom, and their partnership with a cyber-security firm has ensured the secure use of all these platforms.
Managing the needs and expectations of parents juggling their work with helping their children at home—while helping his staff meet the academic and social/emotional needs of students whose world has been turned upside down—has been a significant challenge for this head of school and his team. Andrew is concerned about the well-being of his “outstanding” teachers whose ability to deliver “meaningful and challenging instruction across grade levels” can result in long workdays—which include checking in with students struggling with academics or social isolation and scheduling meetings online during non-teaching times. Andrew’s pride is apparent:
“Our students, parents, and staff have shown tremendous resilience [and] a genuine spirit of mutual support and encouragement throughout the past few months, and we have found ways to remain connected even though many of us are physically separated.”
Whether you are a teacher or an administrator, we applaud your efforts in navigating these challenging times with fortitude, positivity, and creativity, and we continue to offer our unwavering support. Change is ever present, but we must all continue to learn, to grow, and (strive to) deliver quality education to students around the world. We at Search Associates thank you for your service.