Maintaining Balance & Thriving During COVID-19

Painted rocks, creative outlet, message of hope.
Image source: Gonul Turkdogan

What can EAP/ESL/EFL instructors do if they are laid off or have much reduced hours during COVID-19? This question concerns most of us. Like many others, I was laid off. I believe that with persistence and creativity we can stay positive. As examples to stimulate discussion, here are several things that I have found beneficial.  

  1. I do a lot of professional development via Tutela and TESL Ontario. Their webinars help me keep up to date with technology and online teaching resources. And most importantly, they keep me connected with other instructors.
  1. I also recommend online courses via Coursera, for instance, “Psychological First Aid” (Johns Hopkins University) and “Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19” (University of Toronto). These totally free courses have been valuable to me and to friends and family members.
  1. It’s always useful to take or retake the free courses offered by the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks. COVID-19 gave me a chance to complete all four free courses as a refresher: “Maximizing the CLB Support Kit,” “CLB: ESL for ALL Support Kit Training,” “CLB Bootcamp,” and “An Orientation to ESL for ALL.”
  1. I have taken quite a few very useful courses through LinkedIn Learning. Although these courses are not free, those still working within an institution will likely have free access. If not, the first month is free.
  1. It’s wonderful to support our community and help others around the world. Also, this can be a great opportunity for novice ESL teachers to practice what they have learned. For example, I volunteered for 7 months with VietSkype, a project connecting international volunteers with Vietnamese students or teachers. I found VietSkype through a job posting on Tutela, which has since been taken down, but there is information at Also, Roger Gillespie always needs volunteers and can be reached at
  1. Currently, I am a volunteer with TESL Ontario as an Exchange Video Moderator. I am learning a lot and I recommend this experience. TESL Ontario’s YouTube channel offers short videos (5-15 minutes), created monthly by members about lesson ideas, time-saving tips, activities, and useful technologies.
  1. Similarly, I have written posts for the TESL Blog, which I suggest as another very rewarding outlet. The task is not overwhelming (blog posts should be 350-700 words long), and the opportunity to share ideas and receive feedback is exceptional. If you’re interested, you can check out the general guidelines for contributing to the blog and two earlier posts I wrote about extensive reading and related resources.
  1. I have also found it extremely satisfying to do presentations, webinars, and posters for TESL Ontario, Tutela and other ELT conferences. Promoting and supporting ESL learners is always worthwhile. Different conferences each have their specific guidelines; as examples, here are specifications for various categories at TESL Ontario and from TESOL International.
  1. A valuable website (new to me) is LearnIT2teach/ It has great resources: online learning activities, online quizzes, articles, conference sessions, podcasts, online courses, and digital books.
  1. But don’t forget getting some physical exercise! For me that means simple options like riding my bike or going for a walk. On days when I don’t want to go outside, my favorite home workout is Zumba (basically, an intense exercise through dancing).
  1. Finally, there’s creativity. I paint beach rocks that I collect whenever I go for a walk. I support a friend’s MS treatment in Russia. Painting rocks helps me release negative energy and build optimism. I name my rocks “HOPE ROCKS”. I hope you enjoy this creative activity and take pleasure in sharing positive thoughts as much as I do. Please keep this advisory from Parks Canada in mind when placing your rocks out there in the world.

We can use our current challenge in creative ways that support our intellectual, mental, and physical health! These are very challenging times but perhaps in 3 or 4 years some of us will look back and say that 2020 was helpful on our path in various ways.

Please share what other things you do during the lockdown in the comment box below this post. I would love to know.

Post written by: Gonul Turkdogan

Gonul has a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics (TESL) and a BA in Sociology with a minor in Women Studies, both from Brock University. Prior to the downturn in international student enrolment caused by the pandemic, Gonul was an ESL instructor at Niagara College, teaching a variety of EAP courses. She is currently the academic drop-in facilitator at the college’s library, as well as a Turkish interpreter for the Canadian Border Service. She previously taught ESL in China and Turkey. Her research interests include extensive reading and second language reading.


19 thoughts on “Maintaining Balance & Thriving During COVID-19”

  1. Great Idea Gonul!
    I have also been doing similar things. Our public library also offers free online courses, so I did few of them. I also learnt swimming this summer and participated in art and community kitchen project .
    Our public library also got new embroidery, paper craft, wood craft machines and 3D printers. On weekends I usually go and create some art and crafts on these machines.

  2. You have some great ideas Gonul. Teaching is about unlearning, learning and relearning and you are doing exactly that. I will definitely try painting rocks and taking online courses on Coursera. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great ideas Gonul!!!
    I’m so grateful for this post.
    Times are definitely tough right now, and it’s great to hear how others are coping.

    1. Thanks, Brenda for reading my post! I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Please, feel free to share some of your coping strategies.

  4. Wow Gonul! First, good for you for continuing to keep yourself active, learning and in touch. Then, thank you for sharing all this! Your positive attitude and perseverance is so important for us to remember and try to do ourselves.

    1. Thank you, Caroyln! I appreciate your kind words. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed my blogpost.

      It’s my pleasure to share with everyone. I hope this post will help/motivate/courage/support instructors who are going through challenging times.

  5. Good article, Gönül. I think I will look back on this time and try to forget it , but I have logged a lot of time on my bike and Duolingo.

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