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The brave new world of teachers in 2020

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Every teacher takes on multiple roles, specialist, advisor, friend, facilitator and above all a teacher is in loco parentis. This continues in the virtual world too. But the biggest question is – who will guide us in these difficult times? I think the teaching community – all of us teachers will have to help and guide each other.

We have found out that Work from home is not as easy as it appears to be. It means no set time for profession or domestic duties. In such a situation teachers are working harder than ever.

Teachers are creatures of habit and are adventurous as well. These two qualities have made teachers the unsung heroes of 2020. We have taken to remote teaching along with its many new and unique challenges. We had to adapt to the new and unprecedented situation with no prior planning and mental adjustment.

The situation the world is facing is unprecedented for everyone including the school management, faculty, teachers and parents. Every one of us is learning on the go and is managing the situation as well as possible. It has taken a lot of learning, unlearning, relearning and of course sharing and handholding.

Before the pandemic hit us, we have been using educational technology, but it was always to supplement and enhance the classroom teaching-learning experiences.  Various educational software and techniques were used to bring the text books to life and to bring in the outdoors inside the classrooms.

When we had a lockdown in late March 2020, it was thought of as a much needed break in the routine. But as March slid into April and the lockdown continued, the powers that be realized that there is going to be no letup in the near future and remote teaching began. With little or no training in the techniques, the trio of School Management, students and teachers plunged headlong to start and continue teaching and learning virtually. Hurdles were aplenty. Connectivity and lack of computers or smartphones were the major ones. Teachers were jittery and students were exploring new techniques to be on par.

Students and teachers miss the physical contact. Videos, audios, new platforms like zoom, MS Teams can never replace the charm of going to school, meeting friends and colleagues. But being teachers, we, the unsung heroes of the society took the plunge and showed the world come what may, we march ahead, holding the hands of our students.

Through this post I would like to thank the school management, dear colleagues and my lovely students for being there during these difficult and unprecedented times.

Support from Management:

My school started remote teaching for only senior classes i.e. grades 9-12 in April 2020 and the support from the Management was immense. Classes were comfortably timed keeping in mind the pros and cons of working from home. Slowly other grades began remotely and the entire school was connected online.

Timing of the remote classes was staggered with different classes at different time of the day. This helped the members of the computer department to be present with the teachers and students and for scaffolding both teaching and learning. There were a few students who were not connected because of various reasons. These students had classes during weekends or other convenient time.

Support from Computer Department of the School:

Remote teaching began in earnest and we realized that it is an entirely different cup of tea. This cup of tea needed many cooks to enhance the taste. My school has an outstanding Computer /Information Technology Department whose members have been the pillar of the school to attain excellence in using technology. Every teacher was already computer savvy and was able to use software comfortably for teaching-learning. We were using among other things Kahoot!, Whatsapp, Padlet, Quizlet, Flip Grid.

The point to remember was these were used sporadically and not regularly or routinely. Remote teaching had the teachers scrambling to find out, learn and use other online techniques to make both teaching and learning interesting and useful.

My school has been a Microsoft School and we seamlessly started using MS Teams for our remote teaching. Teachers of the School’s Computer / I.T. Department gave us extensive training on ‘how to and what to’ in MS Teams.  Trial Teams were formed and teachers were able to ‘practice’ logging in/out, screen sharing, using videos and presentations during these trial sessions. In these sessions the computer teachers were present to handhold, gently prod and always motivate and support. Each teacher, each Department had unique worries, doubts and strategies. There were a few teachers who were not comfortable in using technology. Designated computer teachers took care of their queries and worries. As the efforts of teachers were polished our confidence grew. Lessons were recorded and shared.

Training:

As I stated above, these are unprecedented times for everyone. Training has been an integral part of the successful and seamless integration of technology in virtual teaching. I and my colleagues have attended many webinars and online workshops. Every one of them was useful as tried and tested methods of teaching were shared. TeachingEnglish has been with us in this journey with many webinars and useful resources.

Sharing is caring:

WhatsApp groups have been the old and are going to be the new normal. WhatsApp groups have been the life line to many during the pandemic. The same is true for teachers of my school. There are groups among members of same department, members of same level of class and a group for Master Trainers from across the country of which I am a member. More than a means of communication, these groups are platforms where we shared many things - newly created resource as well as useful resources from other groups.

A few of us started YouTube channel to share creative virtual teaching. I started sharing my experience in my blog Akila's English Class. My organisation’s Centre for Academic Excellence which takes care of in-service training organized virtual workshops and seminars to update and upgrade our knowledge and skills. With participants from across the country joining virtually, newer, interesting virtual platforms, resources, techniques were discussed and shared.  

We have to take 2020 as new and interesting experience. Blended learning will be the new norm in the coming times. Let us keep learning and sharing. Let us continue passing on life skills and human values to our students.

New Year brings new hopes, new joys, exciting expectations, and much awaited successes. Let us pray for all these things in the dawn of 2021.

Wishing everyone a very happy 2021.

By S.Akilandeswari