Quarantine Teaching in Thailand
I have debated writing this blog for a long time. I didn’t know where to begin. The coronavirus has been on the forefront of all our minds for the last few weeks. For me, its been at the forefront of my mind since January 22nd, the day it was announced to the world. There is so much already out there on Covid 19, however I thought I would share my experiences.
I’ve lived in Thailand, on a small island called Koh Samui since Jan 2019, teaching at an international school here. Koh Samui is a very popular tourist destination.
I’m going to admit that when the news first came out about this mystery new coronavirus, I panicked. It was coming up to Lunar New Year, where millions of Chinese were due to travel out of China and this virus was like nothing seen ever before. Too many people said, ‘it’s not as bad as flu’ or ‘it’s nothing like SARS or MERS’. These comments did nothing to alleviate my fears. We (my boyfriend and I) spent HOURS trawling the internet for news, listening to scientists, doctors, researchers, gathering data and facts and analysing every bit of information that we could get our hands on.
I was particularly nervous having to teach a class full of 6/7 year olds. Children aren’t particularly well known for being clean, or polite when sneezing/coughing. I’ve been sneezed and coughed on more times than I care to count. But during this period, I was hyper aware. Any sniffle, any sneeze, any cough, the child was immediately sent to the bathroom to wash their hands – I didn’t even let them touch the door handle on the way out.
So we did what we could to minimise the risk of catching and spreading this virus.
Apart from the internal panic that had built up inside me, we tackled the problem with optimism. Most of this came from Chris. Thankfully, he’s a germophobe. None of this advise came from anywhere official – this is just something we did and continue to do.
- We upped our cleansing routine. We wash our hands every few minutes, and where this wasn’t possible, we use hand sanitiser – (obviously soap and water is preferred)
- We stopped touching our faces (as much)
- We made sure our immune systems were strong with daily vitamin supplements
- We made sure our bodies were strong and healthy- daily workouts where possible
- We went for daily walks to get sun and fresh air- a good dose of Vitamin D
- We avoided crowded places / tourist hotspots
- We thoroughly cleaned or cooked any raw foods
- We sanitised everything brought into the house – our shopping, bags, things from school
- I santised everything in school – computers, desks, door handles
- We laid our clothes out in the sun
- We social distanced well
After two months of these small changes to our daily routine, the Thai government finally decided to shut schools. The schools were closed to children on Tuesday 17th March. In my school, the teachers were allowed to work from home from Wednesday 25th March. The two weeks that have followed since then have seen more closures – gyms, bars, pools, non-essential buildings etc. A lot of restaurants are now only offering take-out service. Curfews have been implemented and then lifted and then implemented again. It is possible that it is law to wear masks now. It has been slow getting to this point. And the information hasn’t always been clear – especially to non- thai speakers.
Working from home
Here’s what I know now – I’m thankful to be working from home and I still have an important job to do.
My school ran full steam ahead into online learning. We are using two new platforms called Seesaw and Zoom. As this is a fee-paying international school, there is an understandable fear that the parents will not sign up for Term 3. This has caused obvious stress for both the school and teachers.
However, we are professionals and we love our jobs, so we carry on regardless.
The children are still our priority. We should not be building the pressure on them at this time. They are worried, they are bored and they are missing their friends.
Parents have been thrown into the deep end as home school teachers as well as having to run their own businesses/ careers from home. They are also feeling the pressure. It’s our job as teaches to try in any way possible to ease that burden.
How we Seesaw and Zoom
All of the children’s work and lesson objectives for each day are uploaded onto the Seesaw platform. The children have to access and complete this work on here. I quite like Seesaw as a database – it’s simple enough to use. The children are also having fun with it. It has had its teething problems with trying to teach very young children how to use a platform they have never seen before – on another platform they have never seen before. It’s been exceptionally high pressure the last couple of weeks, however, Seesaw itself is great.
Here are some of the fun activities that we have posted on Seesaw for them to do:
- PE with Joe Wicks. All the children seem to love this! I have even had requests for the videos
- Cosmic Yoga or Go Noodle
- Outdoor scavenger hunt – spotting rocks, sticks, plants etc
- Playdough / saltdough / fossil making
- Asking the children to record themselves doing – well pretty much anything. We’ve gone for reciting poetry recently
- The ‘learn how to draw…’ video tutorials that you can find on YouTube
- Taking a picture of themselves doing their favourite thing and then writing about it
- Taking a selfie and drawing on it to turn themselves into their favourite book character
- Dance tutorials on YouTube – especially KidzBopKids
- Sharing books – lots of resources out there at the moment, including many authors reading their own books live and free
The children also have four 30 minute Zoom sessions per day. Three with their classroom teachers (me), and one with their Thai teacher. These sessions are 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm and then a check in session at 3pm with me. Zoom, if you haven’t already heard, is a software that enables multiple people to be in a ‘meeting’ and speak at the same time. I teach them their lessons via these meetings. Yes, it is a little tricky.
The rest of the day they are expected to be engaged in some form of learning and completing online activities. This is full on learning from home.
There have been many emails and questions flying back and forward between myself and the parents. But hopefully, as the children get used to these two new platforms, the pressure will ease.
The positives of the last two hectic weeks so far have been, that I have absolutely loved seeing and hearing my children’s faces and voices. We’ve had fun just catching up over Zoom. One of my favourite tools on Zoom is the screen share. I also like switching my camera off, and just listening to them chat. Although sometimes they talk in Russian and I have no idea what they’re saying! They seem thrilled with having the chance to chat to their friends.
This might not be a sustainable way to teach though. There are some issues with online teaching, which I won’t go into here, but the main thing is, the children are missing their real-life connection. I’ve just signed off for our Easter break, and one of my girls asked me if she can still phone me sometimes. Children (and adults) need the physical and emotional connection that you can only get from face to face. Their lives have been turned upside down. Everything they have known has been changed, and they are now forced to stay home and speak to their best friends and their teacher through a computer.
But do you know what? They’re doing it. They’re absolutely smashing this challenge and they’re barely getting any praise for it. This makes them little heroes! So well done to all the children who are just getting on with it.
I have high hopes that this will end soon. In the meantime, I’m counting myself lucky.
I’m lucky that I live in a great place with my best friend. I’m thankful that Chris is on the ball with germs. Chris and I have built strong immune systems and are physically fit and healthy. We are away from family and anybody that could be vulnerable. We are using this time to learn and do new things. We laugh, we cook, we enjoy being in each others company.
We have become more appreciative of the smaller things. I count my blessings every day, and I truly believe that a positive mindset is what’s needed, now more than ever.
This could be the beginning of a very different future, so now is the time to make the changes you want to see.
Please, stay safe and stay happy, wherever you are in the world.