Sonia Jain has been in the teaching profession for over 25 years. After all these years, the 53-year-old found herself relearning many new teaching practices when lessons went online necessitated by the sudden imposition of a countrywide lockdown in March. Like most others from the teaching community, she was caught off-guard by the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation. Five months down the line, however, the initial disbelief has been replaced with a zeal to adapt and educate in newer tech-friendly ways.
“When schools were asked to shut down in March, we were all enveloped by a feeling of disbelief. At our age, it is a little difficult to handle technology all of a sudden. Children today are born with technology whereas teachers like me are akin to dinosaurs when it comes to our familiarity with new-age technology. Despite these apprehensions, we got going and managed to learn the ropes,” said Jain, who teaches English to students of classes 11 and 12 in a private school.
With schools shutting down in view of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers, along with students, were compelled to switch to online classes almost overnight. While students found hand-holding support from parents, teachers also had to rise up to the occasion and pivot towards newer forms of dissemination of lessons. From struggling with technology to embracing it and learning from students, the past five months, teachers say, have been a cycle of learning and unlearning for them.
Starting out as a novice, Jain faced some glitches initially but soon started experimenting with different video platforms and other options, ranging from Youtube to Jamboard to quizzes. She even took her students on a virtual tour of a museum for a class. “After the initial apprehension, I was learning something new every day along with the children. If I get stuck anywhere, children also pitch in with inputs. We are also learning from students as far as technology is concerned. At my age, I have become quite adept at handling so many platforms and feel proud of myself,” said Jain.
Manju Bala Bhardwaj, an English teacher at a government school, started recording her lectures on a mobile phone after schools were closed in view of the pandemic. Bhardwaj took help from her sons in the first few months of the lockdown but gradually learned to record and upload the lessons to her YouTube channel. The recorded lectures are shared with students via WhatsApp groups and are also telecast via the state government’s EDUSAT channel.
“The past five months have been a roller-coaster ride for me. In the first few weeks of the lockdown, even recording a single video seemed a challenging process. Everything from YouTube uploads to video compression was new to me. But now, I have become adept at handling almost all tasks myself and have an active YouTube channel. What started as a small initiative for children of my school is now being used to engage with students across the state,” said Bhardwaj, who juggles multiple responsibilities at once. Her day starts early in the morning when she visits the school for paperwork, holds lessons via WhatsApp, calls students for feedback, and returns back in the evening only to record videos for the next lecture.
“A lot of multitasking is involved. As government employees, we have certain responsibilities. These need to be handled together with lessons and household chores. While there is a growing sense of familiarity with technology, we are constantly evolving and putting in extra effort,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by other teachers. Most teachers said that they were always on the lookout for newer resources that would give a fillip to their teaching methods. “There is so much more that goes into online classes since one is unable to meet physically. We work within an endless loop of meetings, webinars, assignments, and assessments while making an effort to adapt to the latest technologies,” said Deepika Chauhan, a private school teacher.
School administrators say that while coronavirus had caused a big change in the ways of teaching, the teaching community had risen to the occasion and coped despite all the challenges. Sapna Dhawan, dean (student welfare), DPS, Sector 45, said that teacher across the country did not let technological challenges stall the teaching process.
“Teachers continued with the lessons despite the tough circumstances. They are working hard to engage with students by learning different tools and platforms. Every teacher who is still connected with students needs to be applauded for not losing faith in these unusual times,” said Dhawan.