As I prepare for a rematch with the pandemic in the fall, I often find myself reflecting on what I did during my first bout with it during the spring semester. Last year, I was the Grade 1 teacher at an international school in Seoul, South Korea, so we were among the first groups hit by the full force of the pandemic. Our school quickly transitioned to teaching online. At the time, most of us did not realize the scope of what was happening and expected that we would return to school in a week or so. This short-term mentality continued until the middle of May, when school leadership finally said that we would, in fact, finish the school year online and return to school in the fall.
Throughout my time teaching during the pandemic, it felt as though I was never quite able to get my feet on the ground due to the ever-changing government guidelines, school-wide crisis management plans, technical issues, spikes in cases, among other issues. It just seemed like there was a lot of uncertainty about how to respond, with little research to guide us.
However, we did still have each other. We were able to collaborate, share best practices, and exchange ideas for new apps or technology, and we began to stumble our way forward through the dark together. The constant planning, data gathering, assessing, and reflecting on such a short-term basis is what ultimately reminded me of the quote from Bruce Lee:
“Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
As we move forward into our next fight with the pandemic, we educators need to become like water. We need to take the shape of online education, in-school education, or a mixture of both. We need to adapt to new forms of technology, even if we aren’t familiar with them. We need to abide by the health and safety regulations, even if they make us feel physically uncomfortable. We need to adapt to the needs of our personal and professional lives, even as the lines blur and we find ourselves overworked and overwhelmed. We have to take steps to ensure we don't get stuck in one way of thinking or teaching. We must in essence become like water in that we are able to take on any form of teaching. Only then will we be able to make it through this ever-challenging time in our lives and our careers.
From my personal experiences during the pandemic, I have gained some insights into what worked and what I found challenging, which I share below.
Insights and Challenges
1. Start Every Day With Face Time.
Especially as the Grade 1 teacher, I found it effective to show my face to my students every morning. Since our school was on an asynchronous time frame, which I’ll discuss more below, I would record myself greeting students, allowing them to send me shoutout videos, giving announcements, and going over the tasks for the day. Of course, because I was the Grade 1 teacher, I would fill my videos with sound and video effects to entertain and engage students.