I always look forward to waking up in the morning, and seeing students in a classroom. Most people don’t particularly like waking up in the morning, but if it means that I get to do a job that makes me happy, I’m ready to handle any challenge that gets thrown my way. I tried to not pay too much attention to the growing fears of COVID-19 (or the more popular Coronavirus, as we have all come to call it) over the last few months. I figured that it was probably best to make sure that I maintain a somewhat sanitary lifestyle, and continue to do the best possible job that I could. Then the Government of Spain decided to shut down all public schools, and businesses began recommending that people work remotely from their laptops or PCs at home. I don’t think I need to tell you that this affected the way I would normally go to work. Panic set in, and people began bulk buying sanitary products by the kilo. One of the things that I admired about my workplace is that we did everything that we could to maintain a certain level of calm. Instead of taking the easy way out, which would have been understandable, we wanted to let each other and our students know that they could still count on us to help them with what they needed. It also gave TE Madrid an opportunity. Over the last few months, the staff has been quietly working on putting our curriculum and our classes online. We believe that people still want to achieve something in their lives, and we knew that we could deliver on it. We didn’t like the circumstances that forced our hand. Of course not, and we still don’t. We still want people to be able to achieve their goals, and so we tasked ourselves with giving TE Madrid’s first online classes. How did we achieve this end, and what will we do with it?
It was Wednesday afternoon on the eleventh of March. I don’t think there was a street in Madrid that didn’t give off that depressed tone that is now obscure to the people who normally roam its streets. The students I was working with were upset because they wouldn’t be able to take their online TOEFL exams because of the fears surrounding the Coronavirus. We still did the exercises. There wasn’t any immediate requirement for it, but my students still soldiered on. Some of them showed exemplary performance under the stressful conditions of the TOEFL exam. At this moment, I had no idea that we would have to do. Cut to two days later, and Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish President began shutting down cafés, restaurants, and stores, keeping open only pharmacies and supermarkets to allow consumers to make necessary purchases. I don’t think I need to tell you that this certainly would make anyone nervous. If the biological threat doesn’t immediately do that to someone, the economical threat will over the long-term. Then, I saw that quite a few of my students were still interested in doing classes online. I was happy to oblige. It just goes to show that people didn’t want to let even a global pandemic stop them from wanting to really do something with their lives. So, along with the other English Teachers at TE Madrid, we got Skype addresses, confirmed a good connection with each of those students, and began screen-sharing content. The students, from the comfort of their own homes, were still able to showcase their talent to the people at the academy. What could I say? I was happy to see that there were those who were willing to make those all-too-common mistakes with English, and improving. It was inspiring to see them continue to meet up with me. We opened up the materials that they needed to work on, and it really felt like they were in the classroom with me. It was a good feeling because TE Madrid was already planning to take their exam preparation courses online. I’ve worked in retail property management, and it was a great feeling knowing that I was at the very forefront of a very real opportunity once again. The only thing I had to do was continue providing a good service to the community. If one was to take our activities into perspective, one could say that we were trying to keep everyone calm by keeping them focused on their goals, rather than on the panic. It’s working with me so far, I won’t lie.
While TE Madrid doesn’t have the fully-constructed platform fully operational as of yet, we nonetheless began this venture over the last couple of days. We still needed to gather materials. We needed to deliver good classes, and let them know that while we weren’t able to give all the classes that they wanted, we were still able to keep them ahead of the curve. How would we do that in practice? The first thing that we did was take note as to how we could improve and make each class a professional experience, rather than an act of desperation. We began by making notes as to how we were initially delivering our classes, and then comparing it to where we wanted the classes to be, even under the present circumstances. We wanted study material to be current. We wanted to adhere to the adapted examination format. We wanted to give homework to our students. We wanted to make sure that our students knew how to submit homework via an online platform. In other words, we didn’t want them to miss a day. We worked together, and found a lot of new material, related to our respective exams. On Friday, after finishing a day of online classes, we put our heads together and came up with a way to be consistent with our students while Spain itself was coming up with a way to combat this global pandemic. We were also very confident that we would be able to continue helping our students. After all, at some point in the near future, the coronavirus will become a thing of the past. If we continue to show our students a level of professionalism that can still be regularly demonstrated by the staff of knowledgeable and caring individuals working their way through this like everyone else is, then by the time that this is over, they’ll be a step ahead of the curve, and ready to hit the ground running. This is not just a single objective that we’re following. That’s the company’s mission. It’s our directive. It’s what we hope to achieve in the minds of our students. Being an English Teacher in Spain has been, and still is, a wonderful opportunity for people to explore. We are certain that the best way for teachers and students to go forward is to go forward together.
Regardless of how events continue to unfold, the development of TE Madrid’s online platform is front and centre in our minds. To the TEFL Teachers who continue to provide that exemplary service to their students, and to the students who want to succeed in the professional world, we know that things are not ideal, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put our ambitions on hold. I was put in a state of concern over what was going to happen until we had that staff meeting at TE Madrid. At no point during that conversation were the words ‘quit’ and ‘stop’ uttered. ‘Adapt’, ‘move forward’, ‘teamwork’, and ‘family’ were the things that I heard, and thus far, I’m proud to say that I’m a part of a small group of TEFL Teachers in Madrid who simply wouldn’t throw in the towel. With this determination in hand, I reached out to my students, and I was pretty shocked to see that many of them were still in. As a result, we’ve completed several Online English classes in Madrid, and we’re carrying on with the development of TE Madrid’s online offering of all of our Exam Preparation programs. All we had to do was will ourselves forth, and reach out to the people who’ve entrusted us with their professional growth and standing in the world. There is one thing that I would like everyone to remember. It doesn’t matter what has happened, good or bad. When they happen, there you are. You’re still able to think and make decisions that will impact you for days, weeks, months, and years into your future. Why let that stop you? There are many ways to look at this situation. You could see it as the end of your journey, or another day in the path of your journey. No matter how you look at it, there you are. The great moments in your life will come, there’s absolutely no doubt of that. It could be the moment you meet someone. It could be the moment you get that job. It could be the moment you invent something that could change everything. It could be the moment you’re robbed or struck by a car. It could be the day that a global pandemic forces everyone to stay indoors. There’s no stopping these moments, but it’s what you do afterwards that counts.