We all have to agree that teaching is a stressful job. Since the pandemic, it has become even more stressful. Before the pandemic, teachers had to make several sacrifices, now it’s even worse. Many teachers are mentally, physically, stressed and I dare say spiritually. Many teachers, due to online teaching, were exposed to types of behaviors that they would not be exposed to during face-to-face classes. These include parents revealing themselves in the background during classes, people using background explanations while the class is in session, or using them for students and teachers during class time, male parents at inappropriate and making sexual advances to female teachers, among other complaints. One of my experiences involves watching a fight between two siblings break out alongside a student who was online doing classes.
The concept of online teaching is new in Guyana and has been a very good innovation made by the PPP / C Ministry, however, although a few teachers have been trained to use Google Classroom and Zoom, there are All teachers are required to use the platforms. Whether or not the school reopens next term, our teachers should be given a tablet, laptop or mobile phone incentive as part of the tools used as part of the learning package – used to run classes online.
Online teaching and learning can undoubtedly be a challenge for many. We will never rule out or belittle this reality. However, the mindset of many educators, students and parents has made the experience much more boring and frustrating. Some people are just Luddites. They are opposed to using the new technologies and so can easily feel overwhelmed when gaps are being used. Still, a call for the resumption of face-to-face classes – in a modified manner, of course – cannot be the sole or foremost elixir.
We need to be open to adaptation. Adaptability is high on the list of skills that senior executives want in their employees. Such a skill enables one to survive and thrive, especially in this current milieu. Furthermore, “If we don’t adapt, we fail to move forward.” (John Wooden)
How well do our teachers adapt and how well do they model such a skill for our students? Do we simply complain and beat everyone we consider responsible for our woe?
If the great digital divide is repaired, but our education stakeholders remain technology resistant, many of our current problems with online teaching and learning will remain. We need a change of attitude. Otherwise, even our face-to-face sessions will negate the transformative impact of technology.
We can adapt effectively through learning too. In this informative age, we can teach ourselves to use the latest innovations. YouTube, for example, has taught me how to use many online tools. This weekend, I watched several tutorials, paused intermittently and practiced the shared steps. This was not always easy, but I was constantly open to learning and overcoming the challenges.
Teachers and parents, we must have an open and receptive mind. We are lifelong learners, and our professional portfolios should be diversified and enhanced throughout our tenure.
Let us be unforgiving and unjust to err in front of our students and children. In fact, our students and children are digital natives, and are happy to assist us when we are unsure what to do. Learn with them. Grow with them.
Remember, too, that there are many technological tools out there that can reduce your workload. Yes! Be open to exploration. We can do this! Stay positive! Teachers, you know how to do this in face-to-face classrooms. Parents, you know how to do that when bringing up children. For all of us, a sudden migration to an online teaching environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has strained our skills to the breaking point. There were many losses, failures and frustrations along the way.
However, many things went well. We discovered how to use videoconferencing, even though “you are still silenced” is now a showdown in classroom dialogue. We improved on organizing and providing educational materials online. We devised new ways to test what students could do. But better access to information is not enough to work the magic of turning information into knowledge.
Much of that transformation depends on engaging students. Some students can thrive when working alone, but most rely on their teachers to create structure and motivation. In fact, teaching is like parenting in this regard. Sometimes children don’t really care about what we are asking them to do. But they do it anyway because they don’t want to disappoint us or their fellow students. Almost in spite of themselves, they fall into the habit of doing their job, and they learn.
This reliance on teachers involves serious responsibility. It’s our job to believe in our students even – or especially – when they don’t believe in themselves. To cheer, sympathize with their struggles, and show them the way forward. We know this because, during these difficult months, students have repeatedly thanked teachers for believing in them. For caring about them as people and for believing that they can succeed.
Whether our teaching succeeds in the next school term will depend largely on how well we can forge those bonds outside face-to-face classrooms.
For most of us, that is a work in progress. Teachers will need more time and training to learn how to do this effectively online. Parents need more flexibility and recognition than ever before about their impossible balancing act of parenting, working, and now teaching. Let’s greet our teachers and parents with a deeper understanding of what “education” means.