I had originally planned to fly back home to the USA for my two-week break in April, but that flight was canceled twice. When that second flight was canceled, the coronavirus situation in both Bangkok and my hometown in Ohio were on the uptick. This was at the end of February. My mother, her boyfriend, and my brother are all considered high-risk and most vulnerable if exposed to the virus, and the family members I would be in most contact with, coupled with not having insurance in the States, meant it was best for me to just remain in Thailand. Prior to schools being shutdown here, we were warned that if we travelled during the Songkhran break, then we would need to be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days after our return and it would be considered as unpaid leave.
Prior to the influx of cases here in Thailand, which were quite low comparatively until the beginning of March when it started to increase at a faster rate, my school was pro-active and started to put together a contingency plan. We were to implement an educational app if we were not already doing so. Thankfully, my group of classes were already using Edmodo and one of the younger grades was using Class Dojo. We had to get the login and codes to disseminate to parents and also come up with a 3-week outline of materials to be taught if we were to be shutdown. This came after Thai public schools were ordered to close, which was announced close to the end of their school year. This meant that the schools could not offer summer school classes, in which a large portion of students typically attend. For the first week and a half, as we were shutdown mid-week on March 18th, we provided assignments and video links for students to watch via the apps our classes were using. At the beginning of the third week, we started using Zoom to hold some of our classes. There has been a lot of extra prep work in moving to online classes and also making sure that you are being as adaptable as possible to the situation. Many of the teachers, including myself, had to learn new technology to keep instruction going.
In addition to teaching my regular school lessons online, I am currently teaching English online with GoGoKid. I have been teaching with them since December 2018. I do not teach as often with them now that I am working at an International School, so I cannot say that my bookings went down. I did notice, however, a lot of rotating students compared to regulars.
Bangkok is currently only under a soft shutdown. This means that we are still allowed to go out and get essentials. You should be prepared to have your temperature taken before going into a mall and getting a sticker to show you were checked and do not have a fever. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, and restaurants serving take away are open. Some businesses are still open, but they have been encouraged to work from home if at all possible. A curfew was just implemented on Friday, April 3rd - from 10pm-4am, no one should be out and no businesses should be open. Delivery apps and public transportation were quick to adjust their schedules so that their workers were not caught out after 10pm. Prior to International Schools being shutdown on March 18th, bars, cinemas, spas and sporting events/arenas has their operations suspended, too. After the schools were shutdown, all malls, except for food and supermarkets were also ordered to close. Even though we are not in full lock down mode here, it is best advised to stay in. You are able to order your groceries online, but expect to wait at least four days before delivery as you can only book up to four days out from when you place the order.
Over the last couple of days, my condo has implemented temperature checking at our front gate. This happens even if you go downstairs just to collect a delivery. Most guards are also not letting delivery drivers past the main entrance, making them wait on the street. I have received many advertisements from my mobile phone company indicating that they are offering additional insurance for COVID-19 if you buy certain phone packages and plans. 7-eleven also has an insurance plan, but you must be a Thai national. Fortunately, there are some insurance companies that have allowed foreigners to purchase plans. I do have insurance through my school, but it is a basic plan, and just like at home, the cost of your medical care is fully dependent on where you go.
Currently, the order from the government is that all schools will be closed until April 12th. With the situation changing every day, we are still waiting for further information and guidance. My school is on holiday until April 16th for the teachers and until April 20th for the students. If the mandate of school closures continues after this date, we have been asked to be prepared to teach on Zoom as we see fit. My friend teaches at a Thai public school and tells me they have sent out surveys to see if students would have the capability to receive online classes. Thai Public Schools will start their school year at the beginning of May but it is unclear on whether they will physically be back at school.
As I have been providing lessons, classwork and technical assistance since the shutdown, I have been keeping busy with work. Starting today, April 4th, I am on holiday. My plan is to keep my screen time to a minimum and read, keep up with learning a language on Duolingo, and start back up again with yoga. I have been watching Netflix and some movies as well. My condo closed our gym and pool about a week before the shutdown, so all exercise needs to happen in your own condo. I have made a couple of trips to the store just to get some walking in and have also set up Zoom meetings with friends and family to help curb the feeling of loneliness. I went a little crazy playing around with Zoom virtual backgrounds so that I can transport to any place I have been before… even home!
For more comprehensive information regarding your TEFL options during COVID-19, please read Coronavirus FAQs: TEFL & Teaching English Abroad or Online - What Are My Options?
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