In this post I have attempted to collect and collate the various pieces of advice and suggestions that have come up in the first few days of the facebook discussion group “Language School Management in the time of Covid-19″at https://www.facebook.com/groups/schoolmanagementcovid/
I’ve divided the ideas up into 3 sections:
- Moving classes online
- Teacher wellbeing and support
- Student support
Moving classes online
Teachers and students seem to be working well together, there are lots of stories both in the group and elsewhere on social media of teachers taking on the challenge, experimenting and coming up with amazing ideas, and leading by example. I’m quite sure that there are also many teachers who are struggling, but this isn’t being reported as much, so good to keep checking in with them, and supporting – find ways to keep the teachers connected so that those who are doing well can help those who are struggling
Promoting collaboration across schools and around networks. Teachers can help each other. Goodwill seems to be really high (in general, though of course not everywhere) – among teachers and students. Encourage teachers to work with others (this helps also with wellbeing – not only good for ideas but important to know that you’re not alone)
Tools – It seems that most people are using Zoom, though I have heard that Zoom’s servers are beginning to really struggle (unsurprisingly) with the massive surge in demand. Various other options such as Google Meet and others.
Access is a huge question. Some of us work in contexts where it is possible or probable that all our teachers and students have access to a device and an internet connection. Others do not. Also, in many places, data is a finite resource on whatever internet plan we have and charges will apply for using too much. It’s important not to assume that everyone can attend an online class (or if they’re on the best device – many of our students will be using their phone. Is that the best way to access lesson content?) Be aware of these issues and see if there is a plan B.
Teacher wellbeing and support
Importance of meetings and check-ins. Regular meeting times seem to be a successful approach (amazing that meetings, previously everyone’s least favourite part of the work day, could be something that everybody would start looking forward to 🙂 ). Suggestions of launching a virtual staffroom, where teachers could drop in between classes and chat, catch up, share stories without needing to schedule.
Schools that have committeed to supporting their teachers are ones that are getting a lot of positive energy and goodwill building and people are really coming together (I should note that I think probably all managers on this group wish they could do this, but some managers have been left in the unenviable position of laying people off and/or cutting their hours right back. If it can be avoided, this should be, though I realise that for many it almost certainly isn’t in your hands)
Key for managers to regularly check in with staff. (Almost certainly for manager wellbeing too!)
Offer support if you can or connect teachers with one another if it is necessary. Stories of using Whatsapp group, Zoom, etc to connect people and build and create a sense of community
Transparency and communication are key. At all times.
See Dave Cleary’s set of tips for Managing Remotely here. This is an excellent set of useful recommendations
Convincing students (and parents) of the value of online teaching
Remember that they too are going through all of the fear and uncertainty that we are. Don’t expect too much. Especially important in “offshore” language teaching – where students are far from home and family, and perhaps unsure of things like accommodation, visas, money, etc.
Many stories of students being very happy with online lessons, as it gives them routine and makes them feel less isolated. Encourage others. If students are not showing up, follow up, they may need a nudge. They may be depressed or suffering from anxiety.
Refunds and discounts: Obviously the vast majority of schools are not in a position to offer discounts and refunds for classes that have gone online. The costs haven’t gone down (and in many cases have risen). Some ideas from the group:
- Offer a discount from future courses (+ goodwill, – lots of admin);
- See what the competition are doing;
- Option to “freeze” courses (not public knowledge, just offered to v. unhappy Ss)
- Guarantee system (if students attend at least 80% of the course and do all the homework tasks but then fail the end-of-course assessment, they can repeat the course for free)
- Stress that quality of learning and teaching is the same (hence no discounts)
- Real time video classes means that classroom time is the same (hence no discounts)
Some countries’ governments have pledged to support businesses financially while they are shut down. Others have not. Important to be transparent with students, parents etc about what the current shift to online learning means. Talk to them about the value of online teaching, reassure them about this aspect of study and encourage them to try it out. One member mentioned explaining that the lessons would be going on as normal, and students should try it out, but if it wasn’t to their liking, then they would discuss options after the crisis as past (what would the options be – apply payment of previous class to a future one, partial refund, full refund, etc?)
Questions still unanswered/open
- Teaching VYLs
- Pricing things going forward
- Assessment issues
- Many others!
I would like to offer my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the following group members especially who have been extremely generous with their time, support, and advice to everyone
- Dave Cleary
- Lucie Cotterill
- Alex Fayle
- Sue Gollagher
- Andreea Katia
- Matt Lunt
- Sandy Millin
- Michelle Ocriciano
- Dana Poklepovic
- Corazon Recto
- Silvia Rovegno
- Glenn Standish
Good luck everyone, and stay safe!