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  • Writer's picturePete

EFL during COVID-19

A rambling yet informative exploration of teaching abroad during a global pandemic.

(TL;DR: We're postponing all courses until January 2021, because of reasons.)

The nature of our business encourages international travel. 🌍✈️💗

Although throughout the pandemic everything in our EFL world shifted to online teaching, there are currently many schools looking for teachers and many teachers with cabin fever itching to get out and about. As of the writing of this blog, all the TESOL/TEFL/ESL community pages for jobs are filled with international offers. And of course, TEFL certificate courses provide the means to get these sweet gigs.

But we are literally encouraging international travel - during a still uncontrolled pandemic. I'm not comfortable with that. Especially over here in the Americas. 🤔

We here at TEFL Colombia just concluded a two-day discussion about what to do for the foreseeable future. Let's break it down:

There are two facts that can't be ignored:

1- Overall, international new cases and death tolls aren't falling. As of October 27th, 2020, the numbers are either controlled per region, or mostly, rising.

2- Overall, there aren't enough people getting tested. It's safe to assume that with more testing, there will be more positive results. The numbers are skewed and not in a good way.

Non-clickable Source: Common sense. 🧠

Businesswise, how responsible is a company for their product, service and/or it's outcome? Like bartenders serving people that are over the drinking legal limit for driving. Or car dealerships selling lemons aka cars that break down after driving off the lot.

A company balances it's profit margin with the moral obligation of its effects on others and in turn, decides it's corporate culture.

💲 < or > 🌐

Sometimes companies balance it towards the positive side like some notable tech companies that really take care of their employees, and sometimes they balance it toward the negative side like some notable pharmaceutical companies and their production's environmental waste.

The bottom line to exist as a business is capital gain, but how a company balances its morals and profits defines said organization.

On the other hand, people need to take personal responsibility for their actions and make informed decisions. Consumer behavior drives markets.

Here in our very niche EFL industry I feel that in-class TESOL Certificate providers have a huge moral dilemma. Nobody wants to close shop for so long that it hurts too much financially and then have to close permanently. For the owners it can be their entire livelihood. And it's already been 5-7 months... Everyone has had to diversify.

I'm sure the in-class courses that have started running again are doing their absolute best to maintain a high level of biosecurity with proper sanitation and taking all the proper precautions.

Best case scenario, we as a specie learn to live and cope with this coronavirus until a vaccine is widely available. Worst case scenario, a trainee contracts COVID-19 from the international journey and dies while doing their TESOL course with us. 😳

With the notable exception of Australia and New Zealand, (good on ya mates!) the rest of the anglophone world is still in darker blue -> WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard.

And I quote from the conclusion of our admin meeting: "We must always hope for the best, but plan for the worst and take preventive measures. Hope isn't a good strategy."

I swear I heard that in a movie somewhere. 😄

I'm happy to report that we will be postponing courses until 2021, and taking it a month at a time starting January. I'm very happy to be able to work for an organization that takes care of its people first. We actually had a soft opening in March with a course of two trainees and management shut it down mid-month before going to a local school and doing our teacher practices. We've been on standby ever since. ⚕️

Like the rest of my fellow EFL folks, I've been teaching language classes online. Don't get me wrong, I present the most engaging class possible and have gotten decent reviews, but I miss standing in front of my classroom and drawing stuff on my whiteboard. I've been doing it for almost 20 years now and it's a big part of who I am. I'm sure a lot of teachers are super frustrated with the current situation. Furthermore, very few school administrations on Earth have set up their students' and teachers' virtual experience for success. Luckily, a big part of our job is to wing it. Wing away and stay strong my fellow educators! 💪

I've had to wing it personally as well:

No trainees = no course.

No course = no paycheck.

No paycheck = no special renal food for our drama queen cat. 😼

I want to welcome people at the airport, go out to eat together, take them all over the city, chill out on the beach and offer them a great course. I get to train people to do what I love and help them with jobs all over the world. I'm so lucky to be able to do what I love as a career. 💛💛💙❤️

As Confucius once said, "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

I think/hope most teachers feel this way.

And yet I'm happy to keep teaching online, have an empty classroom and not pick up anyone from the airport and welcome them to my beautiful Colombia because doing so puts them, me, my family and the world at risk.

We must keep in mind the two facts about our current situation: new cases and death tolls are either controlled or rising, and that there aren't enough people getting tested globally. Once it starts getting better globally then can we encourage international travel.

Let's all do our part and do what we already know we can do to help our human brothers and sisters;

- Be aware of your mental health. Like every airplane safety briefing tells you, you have to put the yellow cup/mask over your mouth first before helping anyone else. And if you need help putting on the yellow cup, i.e. talk about anything, talk to someone, anyone, me: Just saying things aloud to someone helps. You're not alone.

- Wear a mask over your mouth and nose keeping in mind that some people wear multiple masks all day and night in the heat to help cure others. The reason to wear the mask outweighs how very uncomfortable it is, especially for someone like me who is always hot and sweaty. 😷

- Wash your hands like you just cut some chili pepper and need to use the toilet, 🚽 If you're not sure what I mean, cut some chili pepper, don't wash your hands and let it burn. 🌶️

- Keep your distance as if people close to you farted. 🀁 Or if you lean more toward being embarrassed, pretend as if you just farted and wanted to be far enough from everyone so they can't smell it.

- Understand that unless you're a microbiologist or virologist or immunologist, or whoever is looking at slides under a microscope and doing science magic, you can't do anything about the problem except not spread the virus nor misinformation about it. Both have big consequences.

Our attitude about the problem determines our daily experience. Schools around the world won't come crumbling down if they don't have a certified EFL teacher. And we won't wither away teaching online if we can't live on a remote island somewhere giving English classes out of a hut, or in one of the biggest cities in the world in a contract-provided apartment in a high rise building giving classes out of a private academy overlooking the city, or having the view from your apartment being the Great Pyramid of Giza and getting used to it like it's not a big deal. I've literally done all three (Thailand - South Korea - Egypt) and in the near future, others will have the opportunity to write their own travel abroad stories. 🌍✈️💗✍️

Just not right now. We have to learn to live in the world the way it currently is and plan for a better future. 🔮

We're all passengers riding right next to each other on spaceship Earth and all we have is each other. Together we can build wonders that echo through the ages. 👁⃤ Together we will get through this and hopefully be a better specie because of it. 🗿

So when we have better news about the foreseeable future, when EFL teachers can teach live classes wearing see-through facemasks, we'll continue doing what we do. But for now we improvise, adapt and overcome one challenge at a time.

"Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere."

-Erma Bombeck

Take care of your mind, body and soul and take care of each other.

With love from Colombia,


Head Trainer's Blog

TEFL Colombia

Pete and the fams. The drama queen cat is social distancing.

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