Back to School
I left off my last piece by explaining how I was preparing for students returning to school. Well, since July 1st, we have had students back on campus every day with no hiccups. It’s been an interesting, and sometimes stressful and trying, time. Nonetheless, I think it’s important to share my experiences through this unprecedented time. I hope some of you may find this piece intriguing, or that it may even give comfort to teachers across the globe who are waiting to return to school semi-normally.
How did we prepare for the return of students?
There are many aspects that went into our preparation. First of all, we needed to clearly understand and adhere to the regulations and restrictions set by the government, the Office of the Basic Education Commission, and the Ministry of Education. Luckily, due to having smaller class sizes in our program, we didn’t have to split classes into two groups and work a six-day week like many government schools across Thailand have had to. However, we have had to cancel all upcoming school events, clubs, and out-of-schedule activities. The school postponed all trips indefinitely.
Before students even stepped foot on campus, we had to clean and disinfect all areas of our school buildings. Thankfully, our program only uses one building. All teachers and staff spent three days mopping floors, disinfecting, and cleaning tables, chairs, walls, windows and even ceilings! Once all items were dry, we had to assemble the classrooms in keeping with the requirements set by the MOE.
New Classroom Duties
We spaced out desks, maintaining a 1.5-2-meter distance between each student. We taped the floors to mark the exact alignment of the tables in case they moved throughout the day. Additionally, we implemented a new walking system throughout the building. This limits the number of people using different exits and stairwells.
The evening before students returned, a professional cleaning company disinfected all the corridors and stairwells again to ensure everything was extra clean! Other duties we have as teachers are our morning health checks and the building checks. These checks are where we take temperatures of students and teachers and observe them washing their hands as they enter the school campus and our buildings.
Adapting and Adjusting
Another part of our preparation meant updating our lesson plans. Many teachers had to amend their lesson plans and/or syllabus for the semester to accommodate the restrictions outlined by the MOE and OBEC. In terms of teaching art, this was frustrating. I had to rework a lot of my previous plans for this semester. I had to think of new projects and stick to materials that could be easily disinfected before and after class. Many projects I had spent months preparing for were now out of the question (for the foreseeable future).
This brings me to another part of preparing for students coming back to school: The mental preparation. It’s a scary and uneasy time; no one really knows what to expect. We’re all trying to stay afloat and do whatever we think is best. Yes, I feel disappointed that I’m unable to do all the things we had planned for this year. Despite that, I try not to allow myself to stress out too much over it. Instead, I think of this period as a challenge of my creativity, ingenuity, and resilience. I still want to deliver the best arts education possible to my students. I remind myself of my focus any time I feel that I may be getting swallowed up by self-doubt or worry.
Challenges in the Classroom
The first few days in the classroom were tough, I will admit. Students weren’t used to all of the rules and restrictions we put into place. Teachers were still getting used to the very rules they were meant to enforce, all while trying to make sure they didn’t forget anything. I taught our 8th-grade class for a double period the afternoon of the first day back; I don’t know how many times I had to stress to students to stay in their own seats, keep their masks on, and stop trying to sneak over to their friends’ desks.
In the end, I understand them. They don’t fully grasp the importance of these rules. It’s a lot of responsibility to put on children. They are adjusting to the new reality just as much as we are. While I didn’t once raise my voice with negativity in those first few days, I did have to raise my voice a lot to be heard clearly through my mask. I really had to exaggerate my enthusiasm to convey it from behind my mask.
All homeroom teachers spent the first morning presenting our new rules and regulations to our homeroom classes. Our students were made aware of what was expected. Of course, there were times when students would honestly forget some of the new rules. Sometimes, students purposely tried to push the limit to see how serious we were about social distancing. If I saw a student questioning the rules, I’d immediately stop. I’d take the time to explain to them why we took these measures and how we wanted to prevent any transmission of COVID-19 or other diseases. It’s important our students know we care about them and want to help them adjust to the ‘new normal’.
Repeat, Then Repeat Again
It was difficult having to repeat yourself (for what felt like) 30 times during a lesson. I lost count of how many times I said “keep your masks up please,” “remember, one person per table!” and “clean your hands before entering the room please.” Before the pandemic began, I used to think that cleaning art materials once or twice a day was tedious. Now, I’ve had to get used to running around disinfecting tables and individual coloured pencils between lessons. At first, I had to keep reminding myself that I couldn’t walk up to a students’ desk and help them with their shading and painting techniques. I couldn’t bend down to their level and help them with their exercises in English class. Unfortunately, I teach very hands-on. I like to move around the classroom, work alongside students during group work, and give real-life hands-on demonstrable examples.
My teaching style has changed drastically during this time. This is something I struggled with in the beginning. However, over the past few weeks, I have been able to find new resources and tools to use in my classroom I would never have found so quickly before. I have been using more digital applications to help my students to complete their assignments and projects in English and Project-Based Learning. I invested more time in creating videos, online resources, and digital media for my classes. This has really made me feel good about myself as a teacher.
I feel that I’ve been given an opportunity to try new things I may have never tried otherwise. I’m choosing to look on the bright side. Additionally, I have been able to introduce digital media into my Visual Arts subjects too, which has been exciting for students. We use Adobe Photoshop to create surrealist-inspired photography pieces, as well as use digital media to create magazines and refine research skills. With the younger students, we have been studying found objects in art and looking at ways they can create mixed-media art pieces using digital and traditional mediums and materials. It’s been a fun and somewhat experimental time in our arts classroom recently, and I look forward to what the future holds!
While we don’t know how the rest of our academic year will pan out, we are currently planning to follow the same schedule with the same requirements until Thailand’s Emergency Decree officially ends. The government have extended the Emergency Decree a number of times now, so we don’t know for sure when the government will officially allow it to end. Until then, things like masks and social distancing are a normal part of everyday life. Look out for my next piece in a month or so keeping you up to date with the situation here! What does it look like where all of you are? Are you also going back to school with students on campus or teaching online for this academic year? What has helped you all during this situation?
by Beth Young
26 thoughts on “Back to School in Thailand Post Quarantine”
I love how meticulous and careful Thailand is being with their back to school protocols. Here in the States, pretty much everything we’re doing is a complete disaster, and that includes back to school. it’s ridiculous.
I am so glad that you were able to get back to school. It really is so good for the students to be with one another again, even with social distancing. It beats isolation! And I feel for all of you. It is difficult to wear masks for hours at a time. I find myself needing to get bits of air here and there. And it’s difficult just to remember to do everything right! I can’t imagine you teaching art with so many restrictions. You have your work cut out for you but it sounds like you are rising to the occasion very well!
Back to school is very different for all of students it takes a lot of adjustment because of the pandemic but Thailand doing great job protocols for this opening school year I like their ideas!
This is really good to hear that kids are going back to school and its great news for the students. We dont get to hear too much about countires like Thailand in the news at the moment, so its good to witness things are slowly returning to how they once were.
Thank you for sharing what your experience has been like! Over here in my state we just went back without these careful protocols. You are keeping your students safe and that’s so valuable. Keep up the good work!
It’s great to see that students are able to go back to school with the help of thoroughly implemented protocols in place. And I agree, it could be taxing to have to repeat reminders and over communicate.. more so shifting your teaching style. Thank you for all that you do.
Here in Canada, I’m pretty nervous about kids going back to school and the possibility of it making our rates of COVID jump up again. I think distance education is the best route until at least the winter holidays.
We decided to do remote with our boys because it’s not safe enough here for me to feel comfortable sending them.
This is very helpful and timely. My husband is a teacher and we have been concerned about starting classes once again. Here in the Philippines, it was supposed to start on Monday but it was moved to October. Will keep in mind your tips and thank you for sharing your experience as it helps me manage my expectations.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as a teacher in Thailand! Teachers are amazing – the world would be lost without you.
I live in New Brunswick Canada and I have 3 teachers in my family. School doesn’t start until September. But we’re all feeling nervous about it. I read this to my husband (one of the teachers in my family). And he greatly appreciated it. Thank you for sharing!
Well,they are making masks mandatory for kids gr.4-12 and our numbers are rising. I am not sure why schools are opening in my Province when numbers are much higher than back in March when school closed.
Thailand has been so good at limiting infections. When I read about the efforts being done in your school, I can see why they have been so effective. The population itself is a big component of the success!
I can imagine there was a lot of prep work to do before students returned. The mask situation is important. I’m sure it’s frustrating reminding students to cover themselves properly.
very interesting. here in california kids are learning from home for the first month at least. one teacher said that when kids come back they’ll have their own supply kit for art and writing and etc. so that would i think make things easier for our teacher who had to adjust her art projects.
So glad you have been able to get back to school. We start next week and I’m feeling good with everything they have in place.
Happy that things are returning back to normal and Thailand is taking extra precautions now that students are returning back to school. It is important to adhere to all preventive methods and stay safe
Things are really going to be different. Everyone is going above and beyond though.
Thank you for sharing your experience. Other countries can definitely use your experience in reopening their classes. It feels so nice to see it’s slowly going back to normal.
You certainly are adjusting well! I appreciate reading how other teachers are facing the new classroom environment. I work in a university and we won’t be in the classroom until 2021, so I really wonder how it would be when we get there. Another teacher friend teacher kindergarten and they can’t do any singing which she says is weird, but is another adjustment that had to be made.
We are getting ready to start school again in my area. It will be interesting to see what the year turns out to be.
That’s a very thoughtfully written article, Beth. I admire you for adhering to and adjusting to all of the changes and restrictions. I’m not sure I’d be able or willing to do the same. Good for you.
My son’s school is doing the remote learning for the first semester. Only God knows what the second semester is going to be. But we’re taking it one day at a time and we’re just going with the flow.
Very commendable how well y’all are adhering to safety protocol. Nothing like a challenge to make one aware of faults and how to overcome them.
This very great!. My kids have school starting tomorrow. It is very exciting that kids are now homeschooling.
Thanks for telling your story. I found awesome tips!
Thanks for this story. They just announced masks are mandatory in our schools too, starting next week. I don’t really mind. Safety first. But I’m glad kids are back in school.