While we are all aware of the tremendous fortitude displayed unerringly by medical staff, administrative services and security officials, et al, across the world, during the pandemic, what has largely been overlooked is the robust performance of the teaching fraternity.
Teachers are often belittled and even reviled by parents in our country, mostly with no justification. During the current crisis, many parents have refused to pay their children’s fees even though schools have made arrangements for digital education despite several constraints across India.
Government schools too have risen to the occasion and have somehow managed to keep the educational system afloat by innovatively sending course material and instructions to children through WhatsApp, email or other channels. Copies are being corrected and video/audio classes being conducted by most schools, despite little or no training of teaching staff in such methods.
The pandemic came almost unannounced and no one was prepared for what was to come. People have lost their jobs and others have hung on by the skin of their teeth. Teachers have had to adapt from the comfortable norm of being in command in a classroom full of students, to being pale shadows of themselves as small blips on a tiny screen.
The larger than life personas that many teachers possess, especially in the eyes of their students, equips them with an aura that enables them weave their magic through the time-tested way of classroom teaching. And although many schools had already shifted to blended learning modules before the pandemic, most teachers preferred the traditional paradigm of education.
Now, suddenly, they have to act like performers before a camera with dozens of parents and relatives crowding the space where their students are supposed to attend online classes from home! Teachers have had to not only prepare their teaching material but also to learn the ropes of online sessions. They have tried to “zoom” in on each and every child with little or no success. Children are often found sleeping or playing games at the other end of the online connection, and it is not their fault either. The medium of online learning is onerous beyond a point, even for the millennial generation. They yearn to get back to their campuses just as their educators do!
The Government has clearly specified that more than three hours of daily online learning is not wholesome for a primary school child. I dare say that the same is true for the teacher. I find that my own eyes and brain need a rest after a long webinar. However, most schools are insistent on longer hours per day, in order to finish off the much-dreaded syllabus.
Asynchronous modes have been prescribed for tiny tots, instead of live classes, but many institutions have been carrying out synchronous teaching methods for them too. Little minds are thus bearing the burden of increased screen time.
The shocking aspect of all this is that it is the parents who have been demanding more online hours for their wards, and yet have been loath to pay the fees to schools. Parental WhatsApp groups have been discussing the need to resist payment of fees despite court orders.
Many parents have of course suffered as a result of the collapse of the economy but one would think that their children’s fees would take priority, unless they are in penury.
The teachers meanwhile have carried on with amazing skills of multi-tasking, they have really slogged to balance their motherly or fatherly and housekeeping duties along with their teaching burdens. Several of them have become so adept at online teaching that they have amazed themselves with their new found expertise.
In a series of webinars for boosting the morale of teachers, titled Ideas That Matter, which I have been carrying out with Shoolini University, I have discovered a new respect for the teaching community. Having become half a teacher myself these days, I often wonder why our nation does not give them the status and affection that they deserve.
Their impact upon our precious growing children is obviously infinite. As Henry Brooks Adams said, “Teachers affect eternity…”.
It is clearly time to sing the praises of the unsung heroes, our teachers.
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