'What next?' by Aleksandra Popovski

6th April 2021

Living in the current surreal reality has taken a great toll on everyone and teachers are no exception. After a year in this situation now is the time to look back and reflect on some lessons learnt.

Your physical and mental health is your priority.

Being online is exhausting both mentally and physically. Teachers are vulnerable just like everyone else. They are not superheroes with special superpowers. They need time to rest, spend time with family, reflect on their work to be better at what they do. It is of utmost importance to find time for things that bring joy, peace and happiness. This can be anything, from taking long walks to cooking or binging on Netflix. I also don’t think teachers have been completely honest about how the virtual teaching world makes them feel. I don’t like it. Some of my friends hate it. Some love it. Either way, the virtual teaching world is exhausting, energy-draining, mentally and physically demanding. So many teachers have to teach more than 8 hours a day just to provide for their families or keep their businesses afloat. This is exactly why teachers need to focus on themselves.   

Ask for help.

Teachers forget that they sometimes need help and that they need to ask for help. If you are not feeling well today, ask for a substitute. If you feel too tired to prepare a lesson, ask a colleague to help you out. If your laundry hasn’t been done or your house hasn’t been cleaned, ask your family to help you out. I had COVID-19. I couldn’t leave the house for 5 weeks. I needed help getting out of bed, getting dressed, walking. I didn’t care about work or the house and I was very clear about that. I did not feel well and I asked for help. If someone asks you ‘Are you OK?’ tell them the truth. Not being OK is OK. Accept your weaknesses.

You can learn anything with time and effort.

Looking back and making a list of all the new things learnt since March 2020 can be beneficial. I am certain there are at least 5 new things you have learnt this past year about technology, online teaching/learning, digital pedagogy, flipped classroom, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc. There are also new things you have learnt about your family and students too. Some students are not comfortable with being on camera. Some love being on camera. Some don’t have a quiet place for their online classes. Some don’t have a computer or an internet connection. Knowing our students’ context is extremely important in deciding what direction to take in teaching, what new skills or tools should be learnt, what kind of emotional support might the students need.

Your PLN (Professional Learning Network) is more important than ever.

Just think about how many professional development events you have attended in the last 12 months or so. What have you learnt from them? How many colleagues, FB friends/teachers have you turned to for advice? How much support have you received from your national teachers’ association? Have you joined a professional association at all? If not, you definitely should. Professional associations have shown great adaptability and provided free professional development events that improved our content knowledge, but also connected us with teachers from around the world. That is the power of a PLN - connecting professionals across the globe.

No one knows what the future holds for us. Will the wave of love and support for the teaching profession continue? Will we be able to keep our jobs although we are both physically and mentally exhausted? Will we want to go back to what we had before COVID-19? I don’t know.

One thing I know for certain is that we will never be the same.  

About Aleksandra Popovski

Aleksandra Popovski holds an MA from the University of Chichester, UK.  She is a teacher and teacher trainer with over 20 years of teaching experience. She is an invited speaker at national and international conferences. Aleksandra is also Coordinator of IATEFL MaWSIG and President of ELTAM MK, N. Macedonia.

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