Coronavirus ( COVID-19) and the subsequent media frenzy continues to spread around the globe. International schools have been closed in Hong Kong and mainland China for sometime now, while Italy, Iran and other countries have joined in on the closures. While international schools either begin to close or remain so, international teachers and students are left wondering “what now?” we have put together some considerations for international teachers in this time of uncertainty.
Teacher Horizons is a reputable source of information for international teachers all around the world and we are lucky to be able to reach out to our international teachers, schools and recruitment advisers for first hand accounts and insights into key concerns and questions that have arisen among our community of international educators.
What is Coronavirus?
Firstly, getting information from a reputable source is critical amongst the midst of multiple accounts making news in the media. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV):
“ are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS- CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in Humans. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.”
While there is fear circulating about the spread of this new virus, especially as standardisation and policy vary all over the world, the standard recommendations of prevention according to the World Health Organization includes “regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.” With the closing of schools, many international teachers have returned to their home countries and are working remotely. So what does this mean for both schools and educators, home and abroad?
How does Coronavirus impact both schools and educators in China?
Mainland China was one of the first places where cases developed and for schools to close. We hear first hand from Adika, an international educator living in Shanghai, China who gives her insight into the current situation:
“When the epidemic started in early February, it took everyone by surprise. Many were holidaying abroad or in other cities in China for the Chinese New Year holidays, when information about this Coronavirus came trickling in. Since then, schools have been closed until further notice to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Hence, we have been creative in delivering continuing education until we return back to campus. This has led to a lot of brainstorming, collaboration, reflection and supporting each other as educators within our school and with others externally; which helps us cope better, knowing that we are doing our best in a time like this, as we continue to show that we care and support our families and communities through consistent communication and improvising on our delivery of virtual learning to serve the different needs required on the go.”
Adika goes on to express how it also affects herself as an educator, the power of community and the importance of being aware of the sources of information you obtain:
“As an international educator living here in Shanghai during this epidemic time, it made me realize how important it is to be proactive and open to changes wherever I am in the world. Life in itself is unpredictable so we should try to adapt our minds to accept and respond to situations as positively as we can because fear and anxiety do not help in any situation, regardless of its form. The best ways for myself and my family to do during this time, is to follow the guidelines in protecting ourselves and keeping up with the news. However, being aware of fake news and social media as there have been many exaggerated or falsely broadcasted about the Coronavirus. Life in Shanghai and many other cities are unlike Wuhan, who suffered the most, though situations are improving. We are getting normal supply of food and water, with a few setbacks such as many restaurants and business are still closed, and many people abroad are still unable to enter China due to the travel bans imposed recently. While all these issues and more impact on our daily lives today, I have faith that the Coronavirus epidemic will end soon. A positive outcome from this experience is surviving through it by embracing all the learning, sharing, risk-taking and caring for one another as a community.”
How does Coronavirus impact international teachers who have been sent back to their home countries?
Most teachers in our community have reported to be currently teaching online, remotely. Many left for their home country and continue to match regular teaching hours there. This often means they have to take on irregular teaching times to fit in with the time differences. This is especially challenging when having to uphold other regular daily tasks or when taking care of their family.
What does the rise of remote schooling look like?
The COVID-19 Breakout has seen many schools move entirely to an online learning environment. While it is extremely
challenging to move into a digital environment it is also a reflection of our time and is possible it can bring a rich learning experience. The Dulwich school group is a prime example. The school group stated to us that they brought “Dulwhich learning principles online in order to deliver a compelling learning experience online as we did offline.”
Dehong International School, which is part of the Dulwich Group is a great example of how a large group of schools in China is handling the online learning process/system. They reached out to us at Teacher Horizons with the following:
“If any of your candidates are interested in online learning that is currently happening in our schools, please feel free to send the following school link to them. This is a brand new section we’ve put on the School Webpage.”
What are the challenges of remote learning in International Schools?
Let’s get familiar with the challenges that are arising with remote learning so that we can face them together.
Teaching Arts subjects online in remote international schools
Teaching remotely is especially challenging for teachers of the Arts and practical subjects like Drama and Music. They are having to think creatively to set activities for students that can be guided online.
Emotional toil for international students and teachers
Our Operations Manager at Teacher Horizons, Emily, said that she feels teachers are finding it challenging from an education perspective as well as an emotional perspective:
“Lots of students are finding the quarantine hard and the teachers don’t feel like they can support them properly. Teachers are also sharing that they have lots of guilt for leaving China on the last
flights while their students had to stay. They sort of feel like they have abandoned their students.”
Uncertainty around the time frame in remote international schools
No one is really sure what is going to happen as the school start dates continue to be pushed further back. As we noted above the time frames of classes are also ambiguous. Flexibility is key at the moment.
Exam preparation in remote international schools
One community member says that their son has been enrolled in UK exam centres just in case the exams don’t go ahead but the current aim is that if schools are all resumed by May exams can run as usual.
How is the IB Curriculum affected under Coronavirus?
If you are an IB school that has been closed due to the Coronavirus you will likely be functioning remotely now. According to IB online, deadline extensions have been granted to schools that have closed. The IB website is incredibly useful for keeping upto date with details on extension dates and online oral assessments. Many schools are working on creating policies around remote work and assessments.
What can International teachers and students do to stay calm amidst the uncertainty?
As our CEO, Alex said earlier this week, “With all the media frenzy going on at the moment, it’s important to keep perspective. Arguably the hysteria surrounding the virus could be much more damaging than the virus itself. Whilst most teachers will not have had to deal with this sort of situation before, we are trained and well equipped to think on our feet and to be creative in thinking of alternative ways of teaching. As this increasingly becomes a global issue, it’s our duty, as international educators, to be good role models for our students – wherever we are in the world”.
One thing that stands out from all the accounts that we have heard is that community is important. In a time when teachers feel under great emotional strain, as well as looming academic pressures, it is our community and ability to share our experiences among each other that remains incredibly important and valuable. A massive thank you to Adika for helping craft this post and to all of the team and teachers sharing their current experiences.
We also urge you to keep using reputable sources like the World Health Organization, and to check in with school websites, or sources such as the IB website. You can also reach out to us at Teacher Horizons. We will try and keep this article updated for teachers as the situation develops. If you are a teacher affected by Coronavirus, please share your story by sending it to email@example.com