Olga Chashka is an Intensive ESL teacher at CS des Découvreurs.  She is currently teaching her students in the classroom, and online.  Her positivity and enthusiasm will impress you.  Here is how she describes her current teaching situation.

I think many teachers love to learn. So do I. Three months ago the world turned upside down and we had to adapt. And we did. Distance teaching was a great skill added to our repertoire. Then some of us had to experience yet another challenge: going back to school in May.  What an incredible opportunity to learn and to explore. As usual, I started this adventure with much enthusiasm.

Let me walk you through my COVID-style teaching. Here is what my typical day looks like. Wait! There’s no typical day… There’s no no typical week either. We’re adjusting all the time. It’s everyone’s first experience, so we’re all learning. The first week was exciting and very exhausting, but so satisfying. After the first week, I thought it was going to get easier. Not exactly. Every week we have new information, new rules, new challenges, new requirements, new problems and new solutions. I’ve always taught my students to be open minded, to take risks, to work hard, to be flexible, creative and motivated. Now I can teach them by example!

What’s changed? Almost everything. I wash my hands when I enter the school. I have to disinfect everything I touch. I can’t hi-5 my students or give them a hug. So every time I spray their hands with sanitizer, they say that it’s “Perlimpinpin magic powder”.  I start my day by saying “It’s Monday today, my favourite day. And it’s a great day to learn something new!” Every day is my favourite day.

My group is split into three smaller groups: 1 – with me, 2 – with a new teacher, 3 – distance learning. I have to wear a mask and a face shield if I want to approach a student. I can’t correct their work right away, I must wait 48 hours. So I’m using a new app to correct their work called, Explain Everything. My students can’t move around the class. So we learn outdoors. The computer lab and the library are closed. So I create new activities. My schedule is different. There are no special classes. I don’t see my teacher friends. We’ll catch up later. I’m learning to teach differently. Two-meter distancing is more difficult than it looks. So we discipline ourselves. Kids must wash their hands very often and they must clean their tables every day before they go home. I teach outdoors every day. My school day starts at 7:30 am. I teach 5h/ day. Then, I have my distance learners. I can’t give up on them, so I try to teach them as much as I can. We have our Google Meets two times a week, I send them a weekly planner, I correct their work and give them feedback. Even though they are very strong students, I can see that my classroom learners learn much faster than my distance learners. So I have to adjust. Then there is my third group. Luckily, they have a young and motivated ESL Specialist who used to be my student teacher! And our recess schedule is the same, so I can see if she needs help and make sure she’s okay.

If I’m productive, my school day finishes at 9:00 pm. My own children come to my room to give me a hug and a kiss. Sometimes my daughter sits next to me and watches me work or reads by my side while I plan for the next day and create new activities. Sometimes she helps me record short videos for my students.

It’s dinner time. We are all busy, so we have to work as a team. Everybody is doing their part.  We know that in just a few weeks this rush is going to be over. At school, I can see that my efforts pay off. My students mirror my enthusiasm. They are making much progress.  They are happy to be at school. However, my body is exhausted and I have to find new self-motivation techniques (most of the time, I google them). Sometimes I take a few hours to work on my Easy Breezy ESL projects. I love creating new things.

September will be different. It’s physically impossible to keep working this way…  But I have the whole summer to recharge my batteries, relax, figure out new ways of doing things, learn something new, create a few new activities and start a new adventure. And so do you 😉

Olga Chashka has taught ESL for over 20 years in three different countries. She was a pedagogical advisor at CS des Découvreurs and she is currently teaching Intensive ESL at the same school board. She received the SPEAQ Teacher of Merit Award in 2008. She has mentored, supported and inspired many new teachers and student teachers. She believes that with the right mindset, strategies and resources, all students can achieve success. She is also the author of EasyBreezyESL teaching resources.

Easy Breezy ESL