Teaching overseas during a worldwide pandemic: the ‘new normal’ of international teaching.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly changed teaching as we know it. A teacher in the forefront of this is Luke Blackburn, who we helped place at Tenby International School Setia EcoHill in Selangor, Malaysia. A year on, we caught up with Luke to discuss how his first-year teaching overseas has been affected and what it’s like working in the ‘new normal’ of international schools.
How did your school first deal with the pandemic?
The school dealt with the situation very well. Under the guidance set out by the Ministry of Education, the school closed immediately. However, the leadership were conscious of the likelihood of this happening, so lots of training and preparation took place prior to the day that schools officially closed.
Have you done any online teaching? How did you find it/ overcome technical obstacles?
By coincidence, in my role as e-learning coordinator I had started to train our staff in using Microsoft Teams at the start of the academic year. This meant by the time the school closed, we were all experts and proficient with using Microsoft Teams for teaching during the lockdown!
We received praise from the other schools within our group for the excellent provision we had in place for online learning. The school were also generous in providing additional equipment to the Maths department so that they were able to carry out high quality lessons.
How has the way you teach changed? Have you adapted to the new normal?
Microsoft Teams is now fully integrated in supporting the teaching and learning in the school. Most teachers use some of its features for setting homework, storing files for students to use in lessons, and monitoring student progress over time.
Are you returning to in class teaching this term? If so, what do you feel is the biggest challenge?
The school has reopened for the new academic year; the biggest challenge so far is keeping the classroom tables socially distanced, as well as having to curb the use of kinaesthetic activities and group work.
What did you do during lockdown?
I was grateful for the opportunity to spend more quality time with my children.
The end of the lockdown coincided with the start of the religious festival Raya. My local friend held a Raya celebration for his friends who lived nearby, and he invited me a long to attend - I even got to wear the full traditional clothes for the day. It was quite the experience!
Any advice you would give new international teachers starting during a pandemic?
Be grateful for the opportunity to live and work abroad - there will still be plenty of places to explore and travel to within your host country despite not being able to fly to other countries. I had an amazing time, traveling all over Malaysia during the 5-week summer break.
TIC helped Luke find his job and be selected for his teaching position at Tenby International School Setia EcoHill, Malaysia. If you are interested in teaching internationally, register with TIC here for free. It’s quick and easy and gives you access to many international school jobs in reputable, accredited international schools, some that are not advertised anywhere else.