Being A Teacher In The Times Of Covid19

Exams are not easy; teaching and discussions are even more challenging. Teachers are learning new skills, working with technology to make classes more and more engaging.

Coronavirus grappled the world in March 2020, and suddenly the new world was born. Regardless of age, profession, education, or location, each of us was expected to learn the new skill to conduct our business online, teach and learn online; in fact, shift our entire world to Zoom and Teams and Webex. 

We all knew that we could work online, but holding customer meetings, sales calls, appraisals, teaching students, job interviews, and almost everything online was unbelievable and unthinkable. It was probably fun initially as one could work from the comfort of home, was saved from travel hassles, and could be with family. But soon, it became overbearing. Four people on their various devices in the same home were noisy. Work boundaries burred and people started craving to go back to work. But the online world continued to dominate our lives even into the second year of Covid-19, especially for some of us in the teaching profession, as the Government decided to let the education sector be the last one to reopen in the physical setting. 

We were not allowed to hold classes on campus, and for two years, students have learned, appeared for exams, and graduated online. Well, I may wish to believe that online education does not compromise teaching and learning effectiveness, I must confess that it is not fun. As teachers, we miss the classrooms, the space, the ambience, the energy, and the bonds built in the face-to-face world. (They never seemed so important back then but greatly missed now) But the worst part is teaching online on Zoom with student pictures or nametags dominating your screen. I wonder whether I am trying to replicate offline class and teaching or recording my lecture for a later replay. 

The classrooms were so engaging. I could watch my students, interpret their energies, read their body language, and know if they are still with me or in their dream world. I could cold call and get energized with this unseen energy around me. But online- Oh my God! It’s a world where ‘can you see me?’ and ‘can you hear me?’ dominates. Students always have low bandwidth and poor connections and hence can’t switch on their videos. (except when during their events and personal meetings, bandwidth improves). Suddenly I have a wall between my students and me, and I try to peep through but in vain! So probably some of them are not even on their seats, others have logged in and comfortably gone back to bed, some others are more diligent and are lying down with laptops on their tummy, and here I am! all attentive and alert and with all my senses in super active, multitasking mode, trying to interpret and make sense of all I can’t see. The teacher in me still doesn’t give up. And I try cold calling. Lo and behold! Half of them do not respond or are not there.

Of course, what’s being cooked in the kitchen is more interesting than what’s cooking on Zoom. My ego crashes, and my heart sinks. A boring professor cannot compete with a mother’s food. And now, I am seeking new ways to re-energize myself. And I retort to Youtube videos, Mentimeters and Kahoots to get my class to pay attention. I remember those good old days when we did not allow laptops during sessions as we were not like competition from Facebook and Gmail. And now the competition has just multiplied to everything from computer apps, mobile phones, siblings distracting you and aroma of good food from kitchen and Netflix movie playing in the family room. 

Exams are not easy; teaching and discussions are even more challenging. Teachers are learning new skills, working with technology to make classes more and more engaging. Suddenly from being in-demand, teachers have become imposters for students. Yeah! Students feel tortured for being asked to keep their videos on or insulted when cold-called. I find myself pleading to my post-graduate students to keep their videos on and participate as I am failing to teach to pictures and name cards and yet emote and modulate. But it is not just me, but I find the same with my ten-year-old, whose teachers constantly remind kids to keep videos on, not to chat and pay attention. 

I know this seems trivial, but trust me, it is not easy to be a teacher during COVID-19. These years will always keep coming back to us, make us wonder at our agility, and scare us with dreams of no videos. From re-inventing pedagogy, learn new technology, integrate media and activities for engagement, managing multiple screens and breakout rooms to teaching to blank screens and yet emoting to engage. Isn’t it even more complex than a stage performance, I wonder!

Well, I hope ‘you all can hear us’ and ‘you can see our side of the story!’

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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