This Year, The Best Student Award Goes To The Teachers

While this transition has been pretty smooth for desk jobs where most of the work already happened online, it has been harsh for professions like teaching.

Learning and adapting to change has never been more important than it is in the challenging times we face today. In the past few months, almost every industry saw a huge shift, with most professionals working-from-home amidst a turbulent economy. The International Labour Organization estimated 1.25 billion workers around the world are employed in sectors that have been identified as being at risk of “drastic and devastating” layoffs and reductions in their wages and working hours. Many workers from this group are in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where the sudden loss of income will be catastrophic.   

Most people have been thrown into a situation where the old way of doing things is not an option and they must turn to technology to help them. While this transition has been pretty smooth for desk jobs where most of the work already happened online, it has been harsh for professions like teaching. When the schools closed, teachers were tasked with the most mind-boggling mission - teaching a curriculum that was designed to be taught in classrooms to their students over video calls and emails. While everyone’s focus was on the students and whether they will be able to adjust to online learning, the teachers’ struggle largely went unnoticed.  

A Rocky Beginning 

Till March 2020, when the schools closed, edtech had been a supplemental aid that was available and used in a small fraction of classrooms around the country. It was something schools put in their brochures to show parents that they had the best resources available for their students. Needless to say, most schools were not ready for the full transition to online learning.   

In addition to infrastructural challenges (72.6% of Indians use a mobile hotspot and only 15% have a broadband connection at home), most Indian teachers have no formal training in online tools and techniques. This lack of skills transformed into multiple hurdles that the teachers had to overcome like - understanding the digital medium itself, creating a teaching methodology that is efficient for online learning, understanding the needs of the student, and keeping the class engaged. New teachers, those who grew up in the digital era found it easier to work around these roadblocks than the older teachers.   

Apart from connectivity and technological access, distractions at home that students would have never encountered in school meant lower engagement and could have affected their ability to learn. Social media was flooded with videos of students being disruptive in class, playing pranks on teachers and taking advantage of the teacher’s lack of technical know-how. To combat this, teachers had to get creative. Many of them spent time understanding the video call platforms properly and even used online games and activities to make virtual classes an engaging experience not just for their students but also themselves. And parents sitting besides their children to monitor the teacher didn’t help the cause.  

Videos explaining concepts and online teaching platforms gained prominence as well as more acceptance not only in the student and parent community but the teaching fraternity as well. Teachers formed communities on Facebook to talk about their experience and share advice and tips with other teachers. 

Finally, Finding Steady Ground 

Slowly schools and teachers are starting to see technology as a great tool. The shift to online learning has made us rethink the years old curriculum and the “one size fits all” way it has was being taught in the classrooms. Even though the road to seamless online learning is a long one, the conversations this pandemic has sparked is leading us in the right direction. Finally, we’re talking about the mental and physical well-being of students, not just their marks.  

Recently at the Governors’ Conference on National Education Policy, President of India, Ram Nath Kovind said that India will develop a new curriculum for teacher training by 2021 with the long term aim of spreading high-quality education across the sector by 2030. He specified that teachers are at the core of this policy.   

The times are unique and so are these challenges. While teachers educate future generations, they themselves must become students in order to re-skill and up-skill in a way that allows them to seamlessly move between the real classroom and the virtual one. This journey starts with one small step - moving from your drawing room to the virtual world and making technology an ally! 

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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