Even before the whole Covid 19 thing hit, my work had experienced a downturn in student enrollment. That it came after finally securing a CBA struck me as ironic because people who expected that unionization would secure their jobs were suddenly out of work. I know the two aren’t actually related….but they kind of are. They used to juggle things to keep the teachers they wanted. This meant fewer hours for some, but more teachers working. I wasn’t in this group, so I didn’t know how to look at it.
When Covid 19 hit, we suddenly lost all future bookings and scared people started going home. I work as an ESL teacher for students who come from foreign countries for the express purpose of learning English. Sometimes it is a vacation and sometimes it is with the intention of going on to post-secondary school here. There are even some who are here to do an MBA or join some other Masters program.
After hastily organizing online classes, most of us were still working. However, things continued to decrease week by week. Some students got flights home and didn’t want to continue taking classes. Other students didn’t really like the online delivery and postponed or cancelled their education. What it meant was that the number of students started shrinking and every week another teacher or a bunch of teachers were out of work.
Since we are unionized, that meant layoffs were done according to the seniority list. I am number two on the list, but the number one person did not enjoy the online teaching experience and took voluntary layoff. I morbidly joked at the time that I would be the last teacher standing. I was only joking at the time because, like most of us, I figured a month of quarantine and we would have the thing licked. As we all know, it didn’t turn out that way.
As of Monday, I will be the last teacher teaching regular courses. There is one other teacher preparing students for those Post Secondary school options, so he will probably be busy until January. Instead of joking, I now sound like a prophet.
We will be opening up for face to face classes in about 3 weeks–and then there will be at least two teachers to accommodate class size, physical distancing, and class time. Until then, however, I am going to be seeing a lot of the same faces.