During an online class, a student of Seth Anandaram Japuria School, Lucknow, happened to confront his teacher, “I have this wandering fear building up whenever I switch on the TV. All I come across is news of people dying everywhere. I am even scared to step out to my lawn.” And then he asked the most dreaded question, “Ma’am, are we all going to die?”
He was advised to stop watching such news and focus on the better things happening in the world. Shilpi Kumar, PGT English, Seth Anandaram Jaipuria School, then had a major brainstorming session with the student to make him understand that this pandemic is here to teach us that we should focus more on the positive things.
Teachers have been fielding such questions for some time now, as part of their efforts to overcome the hurdles presented by the lockdown — from counselling students to keeping them engaged amidst the lockdown.
Keeping ourselves and the students engaged has become the priority since the lockdown, and virtual classes have proved to be helpful in these difficult times
“Teachers are the next level of COVID warriors, fighting for the nation and shaping the future of tomorrow,” says Raghav Podar, chairman, Podar Education, Mumbai.
Here is first-hand information from the teachers about how they are coping up with the new normal and overcoming all the associated challenges.
Unlearning is the new learning
For Kumar of Jaipuria school, who hails from an Army background, remote working was never a challenge, but remote teaching definitely is.
Kumar says, “As a teacher today, this difficult situation has taught me to unlearn a lot of things and learn some more.”
Having been in the education sector for the past 15 years, today, Kumar finds taking online classes challenging. She says, “In spite of the availability of the content, its application, how to use it and deliver it to the students in the right manner is the real deal.”
According to Kumar, when one meets a student physically, a connection is established and it becomes possible to deal with or clarify any situation immediately. In online classes, however, somewhere, the connection gets lost. But she also believes that over a period of time, a teacher has to build that connection with the content delivery and also the way she interacts with the student.
“If the content is delivered in a proper manner, the student will not only be present but also participate actively during the sessions,” adds Kumar.
Kumar has made the maximum efforts to keep her students engrossed with different tasks and has incorporated several apps, such as Flipgrid, Padlet, Quizlet, Storyboard and Pixton to ensure interactive learning.
“Not only are students interested but these little fun ways of learning have kept them captivated and helped them concentrate during the online classes,” reveals Kumar.
Teachers are the next level of COVID warriors, fighting for the nation and shaping the future of tomorrow
“We are still not aware as to when things will be back to normal. So, instead of leaving everything to the future, teachers should plan ahead, keeping one thing in mind — that learning should not stop.”
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
So far, it has been a constant struggle for Aditya Mishra, English teacher at Grand Columbus International School, to maintain work-life balance while there isn’t even a semblance of normalcy around.
However, Mishra believes that the best way to forget one’s own challenges is to help others and solve theirs.
Therefore, Mishra begins his online classes with little poems which he and the students read together, followed by an exchange of random thoughts and inputs related to those poems, before beginning to study anything from the curriculum. A truly unique and interesting way to begin!
Mishra says, “Teaching in this atmosphere has proven to be extremely challenging. Most of us have had to adapt to technology that we weren’t familiar with, overnight. And as a result, the working hours have increased. Our phones never seem to stop buzzing.” Along with being the authority on their subjects, teachers have had to play technology trouble-shooters.
Students are being kept engaged in different forms of art — be it yoga, meditation, sports, music or dance classes — online. “These fun activities along with their regular curriculum help take their minds off things troubling them, and provide much-needed respite,” adds Mishra.
“While there is no dearth of apps and tools that can aid learning at this time, our focus has been on keeping things simple,” continues Mishra. “Video lessons, PowerPoint presentations, live classes, online quizzes, and so on are undertaken to keep ourselves as well as our students engaged during these tough times,” he adds.
Teaching in this atmosphere has proven to be extremely challenging. Most of us have had to adapt to technology that we weren’t familiar with, overnight
Mishra concludes by saying, “The education system in India has been waiting for an upgrade for a very long time. Institutions which were oblivious to the importance of technology, have realised they can’t survive without upgrading themselves. We’re faced with immense opportunities to create simplified, dynamic, and indigenous solutions to aid the education sector in the country.”
Building 21st century skills
Three days into the lockdown, teachers at the Podar Group of Schools were deeply involved with research on online classes and training practices, day and night.
Sharing his experience with HRKatha, Raghav Podar, chairman, Podar Education, says, “All that brainstorming and research paid off so well that from nursery to the higher classes, everything had gone online within a matter of a few days. For students of the higher classes, the sessions went on for three to four hours while for the younger kids, they lasted an hour.”
The only challenge, and the biggest one for teachers, according to Podar, was that they were unable to see the reactions of the students.
The need of the hour, Podar believes, is for teachers to be passionate so that they can enjoy themselves while teaching online.
“At the Podar Group of Schools, not only the students, but even the teachers are enjoying virtual classes and keeping themselves engaged. Engagement happens automatically when everyone is having fun during the lectures.”
“Rising above all the challenges, our teachers surpassed all odds and stepped up,” Podar adds.
As a teacher today, this difficult situation has taught me to unlearn a lot of things and learn some more
When our school reopens, Podar continues, “Our teachers will not only focus on the academics but also on building 21st century skills, such as resilience, ability to cope with limited resources, flexibility and critical thinking.”
Online education is the ‘new’ future
While some teachers still believe that the future of education is in the classrooms, Dr Rashmi, TGT Hindi, Cambridge School, Indirapuram, holds a different opinion.
She believes that the pandemic has radically changed the concept of traditional education in the past few months and virtual learning will be the new future of education. Before the pandemic, technology was just considered as a means of entertainment.
Today, Rashmi continues, “Keeping ourselves and the students engaged has become the priority since the lockdown, and virtual classes have proved to be helpful in these difficult times. This powerful medium has diversified the field of teaching.”
“Earlier, teachers were not so familiar with online teaching at the school level, except for the computer lectures. Now, along with teachers, every profession has chosen the virtual platform, providing precious opportunities to both new learners and experts,” points out Rashmi.
There appears to be no dearth of online resources of academic value. And therefore, online teaching is more an opportunity than a challenge for teachers today.