The Worst Year Ever!

Experiences of a Teaching Assistant from Greece

21 December, 2020

"Everything changed so rapidly.”

The thought of locking down at home isn’t nearly as comforting when you’re living overseas. Feeling like the walls are closing in on you and no real time to contemplate options, what’s the right call? The next teacher we’re going to hear from had been living in London for two years and spent the last year working as a teaching assistant. When the news of lockdown hit, she made the call to fly home to Greece. Read on to find out what happened in her experience of 2020:

🔒 Lockdown

How were you feeling at the end of February/early March? Did you feel safe at school?
I was feeling safe as I didn’t realize the severity of the situation.

Why did you move back home? How did you feel about leaving London? When did you expect to come back?
I moved back to Greece in mid-March as the situation was getting worse in both Greece and London. Greece was already in lockdown and England was moving towards this path. I stopped working, packed a suitcase in one day and the next day I took a one-way flight to Greece. I was really sad and irritated about the situation as I believed that the governments had overreacted. I left in March and I thought that I would stay in Greece just for 1 or 2 months. Eventually I got back to London in September to pack all my stuff and moved back to Greece officially. I still have no idea if I will come back to London in the future.

"I stopped working, packed a suitcase in one day and the next day I took a one-way flight to Greece."

What happened with schools in Greece in early March? How were teachers, students and parents feeling? Do you think it was any different to the feeling in London?
All schools kindergarten to secondary school were closed during March. Teachers didn't want to work as they were afraid of the virus. Parents had been unsure of what to do and annoyed as they didn't have anyone to drop their children off. In the end, everyone realised that the best solution to stay safe was to stay home and not go anywhere. The government in Greece took measures very early and spread the news to a greater extent so I think people were more scared than they were in London.

What happened to your work situation when you got back to Greece? How did you feel about that?
I just stopped working. Everything changed so rapidly so it was complicated. From one point of view I was feeling safer but from the other I was missing my everyday routine and my students.

After flying home to Greece, she self-isolated at her parent’s house and got a COVID test from a private doctor which fortunately came back negative. Even though there were no cases in her small town, under lockdown, she wasn’t allowed to leave the house for anything other than exercising, going to the pharmacy or grocery store. She didn’t return to teaching, instead worked for her dad - doing some accounting for her family’s fruit exporting business. She enjoyed learning new things but still had no idea what her longer term plans would be.

🎒 Schooling in Greece

Did teachers in Greece have to teach online? What did they have to provide for students?
The greatest problem was that most people were not familiar with technology and also there were limited online systems for the public. During lockdown many things changed and became more advanced. Better late than never. Another problem with online teaching was that many teachers and students didn’t have computers. So many teachers didn’t teach at all as they weren't in danger of losing their teaching positions. In addition, some families struggled a lot as they didn’t have two computers for their two children. Many students ended up watching lessons through their phones, which was very difficult and hard on the eyes.

What procedures or systems did schools in Greece put in place once students were back at school?
In May, secondary schools were open but all students were separated in groups so they didn’t go to school every day; Group A - Mondays & Wednesdays, Group B - Tuesdays & Thursdays. Everyone had to wash their hands often and timetables were changed so that classes had different break times. There were masses of complaints about wearing masks in schools. Primary schools and kindergartens were still closed but the term was ending on 15th June so there was no point in them going back to school before the summer. I think this was a different situation to London because towns here are small so young children could stay with grandparents therefore there was no point in them going to school and risking bringing the virus home. In London, young children cannot stay at home alone as many parents do not have any help from their elders!

How did students and teachers feel about going back to school?
They were excited but a bit worried. As face masks were made compulsory, students couldn’t play in the same way they used to. Teachers weren’t excited and were nervous about the new measures. They had to be very strict with the new safety measures in place and were not allowed to mix with students from other classes. Teachers saw big gaps in their students’ learning as students had missed out on many lessons.

Has school returned to 'normal' in Greece yet?
No, now we are in a second lockdown so schools are closed right now.

How did teachers find the workload this year?
Less - they don’t have much work to do when schools are closed.

💭 Reflections

What positives have come for you personally this year?
More time with my family.

Where to now?
I am trying to organize my life...I will not work in school this year - I will keep working for my family business and next year I will see!!

Sum up the year: The worst year ever!

Any thoughts, hopes or take-aways going into 2021?
I hope 2021 will be brighter and will heal many pains.


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