Teaching English during COVID: What Has Changed?

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The last few years have wreaked havoc on people’s lives all across the globe thanks to COVID-19. Many of us have started working from home, which has been both a blessing and a curse. Some of our job roles have changed, and some of us have changed jobs completely. Many TEFL teachers had to adapt to teaching English as a Foreign Language online. Others had to put their plans to teach and travel abroad on hold. To be sure, teaching English during COVID has continued, but what has changed?

Read more: The Boom of Online English Teaching – and Why You Should be Doing It

Father and son sitting in front of computers

Is teaching still possible during COVID?

First of all, let’s get the facts straight.

While there was a time when many borders were closed, and many schools converted their in-class lessons to online lessons, that time is thankfully over. With vaccines being rolled out all over the world, we are returning to normal.

Some of us have discovered a love for teaching online, and so will continue to do so. Others have missed the classroom and the connections with our students, and have gone back to the classroom as soon as humanly possible.

But what has been the experience of teachers who have continued to teach throughout the global pandemic? We spoke to a few teachers who have been teaching over the last year or so to find out what has changed in TEFL as a result of COVID-19.

This is what they had to say.

Teachers experienced a few roadblocks

Yes, it is possible to teach English abroad now, but a few months ago this wasn’t possible in certain countries. Borders were closed and re-opened and closed and re-opened before you could finish reading about it in the news. Of course, the situation was different for people in different countries. As a result, some TEFL teachers who applied for teaching jobs or internships abroad were forced to wait a little bit longer before they could pack their bags.

This didn’t deter TEFL teachers, though. It was still possible to apply for jobs and many teachers applied for jobs with the knowledge that their timeline might look a little different to what they were expecting. Many took the opportunity to upskill themselves by doing extra courses or getting some experience (and extra money!) teaching online.

Read more: 5 Ways to Upgrade Your TEFL

TEFL teachers are still in high demand

Even with all the changes we are having to deal with on a daily basis, the one thing that has remained constant is the need for English language education. People all over the world have a need to learn English in order to succeed on the global stage, and this is where TEFL teachers come in.

While the teaching environment may have changed somewhat since BC (Before COVID), that doesn’t mean that the demand for TEFL teachers has lessened. What’s more, while in-class lessons will still be in demand, English language students have realised the convenience of online lessons – which has opened up the market even more.

An online English lesson

Teachers have embraced technology

But we’ve always used technology, we hear you say! Well, yes, but COVID-19 has certainly taken those skills to new heights. Because most of us were teaching from home, we no longer had access to the materials in our classrooms. Schools had to make a plan and make all their materials available online. At the same time, teachers discovered new websites and apps to help them in their teaching.

Read more: From Zero to Hero: Cool (Free) Resources to Make Your Online Lessons Amazing  

Teachers have learnt how to social distance in the classroom

For those of us who are back in the classroom, our classrooms might seem a little different to before. For the most part, schools require both teachers and students to wear masks – but this is now routine in public places, anyway and again, the rules are different in different countries.

There are often restrictions on class sizes, with student numbers being capped at a lot fewer students than before. Also, classrooms have been rearranged in order to comply with social distancing rules, with desks being 1 metre apart. For teachers, this has meant adapting our activities and classroom groupings to comply with the school rules.

TEFL students social distancing

Teachers have proven their flexibility

One of our natural traits as teachers is our flexibility. This is tested time and time again in the classroom, whether it’s covering a last-minute lesson for an absent colleague, making a plan when technology fails, or quickly changing direction when an activity bombs.

These last few months we have shown the same resilience when it comes to rolling with the punches. For some of us that meant adapting our in-class lessons to online learning. For others, it meant changing our travel plans. But for all of us it has meant keeping abreast of the policies and restrictions around the world regarding quarantines, vaccination passports, improved health and travel insurance, and ever-changing red and green lists.

Teachers are more adaptable than ever

Thinking on our feet is a part of every TEFL teacher’s DNA. COVID-19 might have brought about changes none of us could have expected, but we are used to rolling with the punches. From having to take PCR tests before boarding a flight, to meeting students for the first time over Zoom, to being away from the staff room for weeks at a time – we have made a plan.

We may have encountered a few obstacles in our journeys to teach abroad, but that doesn’t mean that we have given up on our dreams. COVID-19 has only served to show that teaching English abroad is a dream we are willing to fight for.

For those newly-qualified teachers who have been considering teaching English abroad, now is the time to get excited! Figure out where in the world you want to go to teach and find out everything you need to know about work visas, flights and contracts. Check in with your embassy in your chosen country to make sure you tick all the boxes in order to move there and teach English abroad.


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