A Teacher’s Springtime Quarantine

A Teachers Springtime Quarantine

It is March again. Spring has officially arrived and the equinox is promising more sunlight and longer warmer days. After a gloomy winter this is the time to open the windows and let the fresh air in. It is the time to step outside and enjoy the birds singing sweetly, the wildflowers coming into bloom, the trees displaying vibrant colors. It is the time to smell jasmine and feel hopeful! 

By Ellen Tsourounaki Peck, ELT Teacher

Easter is round the corner bringing a long-awaited break for students and us, the teachers, before the May and June exams. Some of us might experience these weird mood swings which keep coming back every spring affecting our behaviour from self-doubt to high self-esteem, from nervousness to anticipation, from bliss to misery. It can be overwhelming but nonetheless surprising. Teachers have a work environment where they have to respond effectively to new challenges when frequent changes take place in the role ascribed to them, in the curriculum, in the groups of learners and in the methodology. Managing our emotions and self- awareness through a continuous and evolving process are, therefore, an integral part of our personality, if it is to live up to our students ’expectations as well as ours. And it is this time of year that we engage in reflective practice wondering if we had covered all the material over the past months, if we were thorough enough, if a different approach evaded us. We even wonder how we are going to familiarise ourselves with these dastardly new technological tools and whether our students are going to excel in the exams or just scrape through. A lot of questions, no definite answers, but having worked diligently soothes our doubts and calms our fears.

And personally? Well, there is reflection there too. Our social relationships might have suffered and we often go on a guilt trip... "Have we been too absorbed in preparing and delivering lessons? Have we cared for the elderly members of our family? Have we spent some quality time with children, grandchildren, people whom we love? Most probably, we have not, but this is who we are and this is what we do. Undoubtedly, there is always room for improvement but is there any room for dramatic changes? It is unlikely because, more often than not, work tends to dominate a teacher's life.

Alas! The unthinkable happens while all these internal mental processes above are taking place. No more time for self-reflection as sometimes life has other plans! A virus outbreak emerging in a densely populated city in China managed to spread all over the planet. China? But China is far away... We had been reading all about it since January and, really, it was just a local situation to handle so we did not have to worry. Or so we thought.... It should have never reached Europe! And yet it has! All of a sudden our daily life is near a standstill. When the authorities announce a lockdown we are watching the news on TV speechless. A lockdown? We do not wish to have a lockdown! There is no survival guide for living in lockdown! It is early March when the schools and universities close, businesses close, public transport timetables are modified. Disposable gloves, masks and disinfectant wipes are items we cannot do without now and have to wear them at all times in our everyday transactions. No hugs and kisses anymore, no friend visits, be self- isolated, stay safe, stay away from everybody- including our students.  What kind of dystopian universe are we living in? Some of us might have been avid readers of science fiction novels and have watched every pandemic film ever been produced, but this is not a film. It is a nightmare coming to life. So many challenges are awaiting now to be faced. How are we going to manage?

Without a doubt we will. We are used to facing challenges and overcoming obstacles; we are flexible and adjustable to be able to survive both as a species and as teachers. We will be trained, we will be practising on digital platforms, we will be using all the online resources and tools available and we will be teaching remotely for as long as we have to or even in our future practice. It is not the same, one can argue. Dwelling on the past is not the way forward, though. The world keeps changing and so do we; in fact, we are the living proof of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

It’s the Holy Week now. I am opening the window to breathe the cool spring air. This is the perfect time to smell jasmine and feel hopeful!