Teacher turned Student

 

March 2020 was a turning point in the way schools functioned across the world. As per a report by UNICEF, globally, 1.5 billion students (over 87 percent) had their schools closed. In response to this completely unforeseen situation, teachers had to literally shift gears overnight and adapt to new teaching modalities. From filming themselves conducting experiments to preparing material for students with varied access to Internet to even demonstrating outside screen doors. Teacher have truly risen to the occasion.   

But this transition was not easy. A lack of teacher training, accessible tools, and preparation time made the roll-out of remote learning a jerky ride for everyone concerned. Added to this was the fact that teachers were now dealing with their own anxieties and fears caused by the continued spread of the virus. They also had to do a tight rope walk while teaching and assessing students remotely, completing their administrative tasks and also taking care of their families. Imagine the plight of teachers who had small children or special children at home. The situation was extremely stressful. Some teachers reported being busier than they were before the pandemic as they were expected to extend their normal working hours to accommodate the parents’ schedule as sometimes there was only one laptop at home or the parents’ mobile would only be available after working hours. As whatsapp groups became the new way of conversation with parents, parents expected teachers to be available round the clock and to respond immediately to the queries posted on such groups. All of this was happening while they were simultaneously taking care of their family or instructing their own children who were home. A teacher is also a care giver and hence is emotionally connected to her students. Many teachers were thus stressed about their students whose families had either been affected by Covid or who did not turn up in the new academic year.  

Additional difficulties were caused by the fact that the sanctity of the classroom was now breached. Many times parents or other family members were part of the online schooling and would interrupt sessions. Above all this, was the need to adapt to new technologies and trouble shoot technical issues not only for self but also for the students. Dealing with power and internet outages brought in their own share of stressors. Another challenge was to keep the students interested in the class as there was no direct way of monitoring what the child was up to. Making the classes truly interactive and interesting while adapting to the online platform became the need of the hour 

Despite the numerous challenges, teachers quickly adapted and came up with new methods to engage their students.  

    • Teachers have increasingly started using multimedia content, reduced use of pen-and-paper during classes, changed how homework is assigned, used mind mapping tools to assess their children 
    • The role of a teacher has also evolved from someone who provides knowledge to students as knowledge is now available at finger tips. Instead teachers teach children how to use the knowledge by developing their critical thinking and problem solving abilities thus allowing them to make informed judgments. Activity-based learning is also one of the most common ways of teaching adopted by teachers during the pandemic. 
    • Without a lab, many teachers started finding alternative means of explaining science by using everyday items available in the kitchen 
    • Teachers are now using a more holistic approach towards assessment as compared to pen and paper-based. Several apps and online tools among others help in assessing based on understanding of subject. 
    • They also had to come up with non-googlable forms of assessment.  

The pandemic has opened many parents’ eyes to the role that teachers play in taking care of their little ones- not just taking care of their learning needs but many time their emotional and psychological needs. And all this with a smile on their face.  

The pandemic has thus prompted teachers to rethink every part of their job. In short, teachers are reinventing themselves adapt themselves to the requirements of their students. Some of these changes are long lasting and need to be taken forward in the post pandemic world.  

    • Teachers must be future-focused and constantly upskill themselves on new student centered learning approaches.  
    • Teachers must be willing to continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn to improve their mode of instruction  
    • The job of teachers is not to show students how smart they are but to empower students to become independent thinkers.  
    • Teacher must enhance instruction by connecting it to the world around us  

In this crisis, teachers as always have shown great leadership and innovation in ensuring that  learning never stops. But it is equally important that the rest of us – politicians and parents, superintendents and school board members, employers and education school faculty must also rethink our respective roles and provide our teachers with the support, trust and freedom to educate our children.  All teachers should be equipped with digital and pedagogical skills to teach remotely or through blended learning. Governments should do their bit to ensure the availability of digital infrastructure and connectivity everywhere. Equally important is to free teachers up from cumbersome and time consuming administrative tasks. This would then allow them to focus on teaching and providing emotional support to their students. 

Thus, the unprecedented pandemic has also been an extraordinary time for learning. It has shown everyone how adaptable and resilient our teachers can be.  

By Pravda Nair
Special educator, Sunderji Early Intervention Centre, India

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