Teaching During the Corona Virus Shutdown

By Maria Fachal Corbeira

Pontevedra, Spain

This is my 8th day here alone. The world seems to be spiraling into a terrible hole.. So much information, so many deaths, so much anguish around… worries, chaos, fever, fear of my own death, and the death of beloved people..

From school, they said we have to keep on working, sending our students revision activities.. as the world seems to be heading to a terrible doom, we have to liaise with them by whatever method we consider more convenient and offer them some distance learning. Just as when the Titanic was sinking, the band continued playing..

Footage of a nurse trying to give a pep talk to patients’ families, they will recover, we are doing our best until she breaks down and bursts into tears. I also burst into tears all alone here in front of my TV and my lunch. If the medical staff is so overwhelmed, so broken, what is the situation like inside that hospital?

I cry, and I cry, frantic calls, whatsapp messages, memes, jokes to help us swallow the horror we live in. Friends who are exasperated, people who argue, blows on a wall, cries and a void.. a black festering void..

I keep in contact with my students, try to send them links to some comedy shows. Some of my advanced students can understand Stephen Colbert, Noah Trevor, John Oliver and yes, Samantha Bee..whom I have just discovered thanks to the only native teacher at our school Helen Burns. Helen is herself such a good example of cultural exchange, she has mastered not only Spanish but Galician. Galician is a language in complete decline in our town. Most of our students do not speak it but Helen feels more comfortabler using it than speaking Spanish. So much about teaching students about the importance of languages. I bet there are not many Americans out there who have bothered to spend years studying our local language but she did. And I feel priviledged to know her as priviledged as she probably feels about the adventure of discovering our land and our culture.

What comforts me in these circumstances? The contact with my students. I set up work they hand it in, i need to mark it and hand it back to them. It is like a tennis game.. where the ball keeps bouncing.. but it really makes me feel so connected with others in my isolation.. They are there, and I am here but we are together.

Day 15th of Lockdown.

There are now two confirmed cases in my hometown, more than 100 a miles from where I am. My 81-year-old mother is taking inmunodepressors.. I have had fever myself, not easy to get a test, you need to stay confined. I am really blessed. My neighbours have heard me cry and offered help. They did my grocery shopping, they took out the garbage for me. A friend’s mother has died because of coronavirus. I send her my condolescence she replies that she feels lucky that she could see it, but now she needs to take the test herself.

Many people cannot see their beloveds when they die, they cannot accompany them in their agony. It is too dangerous. Many hospital staff and public workers have also got infected. The illness is spreading all around the world. More than one third of humankind is on lockdown…

Today, Nerea sent us a song to her class WhatsApp group. She dedicated her song to her classmates and me. She gave us a superb rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Like a Natural Woman. She made our day. Angles, sent me a gloomy text describing how she felt. She talked in very pessimistic terms as if we would not have the chance of ever getting out again and have to live confined for the rest of our lives. We chatted, I did my best to cheer her up.

I also broke up with my partner this day. He has been unkind for as long as I’ve known him. I have also minimized or stopped contact with some people I no longer consider as close.. It is a complete shutdown – our heart also makes choices. No more putting up with lack of respect. As we see the face of death looming over the whole planet, I send my students the lyrics for Respect by Queen. So on a microcosmic level, I am all for hygiene in our relationships, pick your supports, do away with those negative relationships that drag your energy.

Marta, who is only 20 says she believes her future is uncertain, I try to comfort her, I praise her personality, I remind her of her optimistic outlook on life. It is part of her identity. She says she is studying and working during the lockdown. She is very determined. She wants to become a PE teacher. I say I wish I could be born again and become one of your students.

I feel blessed and priviledged to be a teacher during the lockdown. My students keep me busy. We share our hopes for a better future and our passion for English. We exchange memes, texts, videos and we chat. It makes the solitude more bearable, it makes me feel like a natural woman…

I pray that on a global scale, coronavirus will bring us all together. We suffered this as a species, the solution must also be global. There are no borders, no nations, no different peoples fighting against it but rather all humans at unison. We need to reshape our priorities. Health for all, wellbeing for all, prosperity and education for all. A vaccine for all.



“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together “ Shakespeare.

“Todas estas borrascas que nos suceden son señales de que presto ha de serenar el tiempo y han de sucedernos bien las cosas” Cervantes