This story of how one Spanish school moved online was originally written in the ‘Language school management in the time of COVID-19‘ facebook group on the 21st March 2020. I asked Alex Fayle if he would like to share it here, and he kindly consented.
When the nearby city of Vitoria was the first Spanish city to close schools, we knew it was only a matter of time before the San Sebastián schools would close as well. As Academic Director, my first reaction was panic. I run half the academy and I was terrified that my teachers would find themselves on the street in no time. Given that our tag line is “It’s the people” I couldn’t let that happen.
Not to my teachers, and more importantly, not to our students and their parents. If students were suddenly without class, they would have no social contact, and no structure to their days. For the sake of their parents’ sanity, I knew we had to be prepared before schools were actually closed.
Many people recommended Zoom, but we went a different route. We already use Google Drive and Google Docs, so we looked into Google Meet. And since our initial desire was to create a straight substitution for face-to-face classes with online classes, Google Meet provided us with a tool that offered everything we needed.
So, we wrote messages to parents, created 64 recurring “meetings” (one for each group) and got teachers set up with technology to be able to work from home. On the first full day of cancelled classes, we had an 85% attendance rate. The same the next day. And on the third day when the Monday classes had their second weekly class, we were up to our usual attendance rate.
The amazing thing wasn’t organizing all that. Many of us have experienced that pressure, the extra hours and the satisfaction of completing the challenge of getting up online in such a short time. What left tears in my eyes were the responses from parents, from students, and from teachers.
I knew I had a great team before this crisis happened, but as the academy owner said to the teachers (via our shared WhatsApp groups): “In hard times, we show who we are, and I can see only beauty here.” Every single teacher stepped up, overcame the huge learning curve and continued to give class. Actually no, they even managed to give what I believe are better classes, geared to engage and educate students.
Students who hated English a week ago are now asking their parents if it’s time for English yet.
And parents are sending message after message thanking us for giving structure to the suddenly chaotic lives of their children.
Looking back at these hectic two weeks, I ask myself how we did it, and I realize we did it because we didn’t have a choice. Our passion for what we do made it one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. And it’s that passion that is going to make us infinitely stronger when we come out the other side of all this.
Alex Fayle, the DELTA certified Academic Director at Well & Will, has – apart from his passion for English – a drive to organize and streamline. With a Masters in Library Science and as a former President of Professional Organizers in Canada, he has worked in many organizing-related fields, from records management and business process engineering to personal coaching.
Well & Will Language Academy, based in the city of San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country, is more than just a language academy. We are a learning institution built on trust and personal responsibility that inspires students to expand themselves and their horizons through the medium of English. We focus on the delivery of language and on transferring the passion for English from teacher to students, making English an integral part of their lives.