Work Experience

Teaching and studying in the times of COVID-19

Hello everyone! My name is Ioana-Teodora Toc and I’m a 21-years-old Romanian psychology student who is currently doing her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. One month ago, I accepted to embark on a complementary journey beside the master’s studies, a journey in which I am no longer a passive receiver of knowledge, but an active giver of it. This translates into my new job as a humanities teacher in a British-curriculum high school, in which I am fully-employed as a humanities teacher who teaches geography, history, global perspectives, and sociology. In this article, I will tell you more about how I discovered the job, how it feels to be studying and teaching at the same time, and about how studying psychology has facilitated my teaching experience.

How did I find out about the job?

It was the beginning of May 2020, the world was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and things did not seem to be getting any better. I had approximately two months until I would have graduated online. The pressure of finding a job after finishing university and of gaining valuable experience in the field of psychology was rising each day and I knew I had to start looking for work opportunities. Hence, I browsed the internet for local work opportunities and within minutes I have stumbled upon what seems to be my current job: the position of teacher of humanities at Royal School in Transylvania located in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I thought I would be a good match for this position and the idea of teaching high school students seemed like a professional and personal challenge, so I applied for the job. Three months after, without expecting to hear any news related to the job, I got a call through which I was announced that I have been transferred to the last recruitment stage and soon after I was to be informed about my selection for the job in hand. I consider myself lucky for having discovered this job and even more for being selected for it, especially during these times of change and uncertainty.

Studying and teaching at the same time – the real challenge

Many of you might be wondering “How do you do it?” or “Is it possible to study and work such a job at the same time?”. My answer is a positive one. I believe we can achieve everything we can think of as long as we like what we do, we are willing to work for it and dedicate as much energy as necessary to reach our goals. As many of you might have experienced so far, being a working student requires serious time management skills. They entail thorough planning, prioritisation, self-care, and a “can do, will do” type of mentality. Of course, we are not all born with all of these characteristics, however, we can work on developing them as long as we are motivated to do that. Once we create a work plan and we start implementing it in our daily routine, things get easier. Remember the 30-days rule for creating a habit? My point exactly. Try to create work and study-related habits that you practice daily and soon you will play the teacher-student dichotomous role like a pro.

Another aspect which helped me is the way in which the classes at school and the ones at uni have been scheduled. It is important that the interference between these two is reduced to a minimum and that you still have time left for your personal life. One recommendation would be to opt for a master’s programme which offers afternoon or weekend classes if you work full-time during the week.

How has studying psychology helped me as a teacher?

Studying psychology as a bachelor’s degree student has offered me valuable life experience, moreover, it has laid the foundation of my teaching experience by providing me with interpersonal, communication and pedagogical skills. The past month has shown me how important it is for a teacher to build a solid relationship with his or her students, to cater to their needs, to know how to listen to them and pick up on their emotional cues. Students are more motivated to learn and behave correctly in class if their teacher inspires them, however inspiring the students is a continuous work in progress which has to be updated each class. I am beyond grateful for having studied psychology as a bachelor’s programme because it is a versatile subject that applies to a wide variety of settings, whether they are clinical, educational, organisational, and so on.

To conclude, teaching and studying at the same time during the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a big challenge at a first glance, however, it is a pleasant and manageable activity which provides me with a continuous stream of fruitful experiences and knowledge. I wholeheartedly recommend giving teaching a try during your university years, either as a teaching assistant or as a full-time teacher.

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Author: Ioana-Teodora Toc
Master’s in Clinical Psychology at Babeș-Bolyai University