Being a teacher is incredibly challenging in the best of times and in the pandemic, it’s even more complex. Whether its about managing the technology, self learning a new way of teaching, making emotional connections with students and having to steer different capabilities among children through a screen. We spoke to several teachers about virtual teaching during coronavirus and what their working lives are like now and are likely to be in the future.
Shailini Anna, Full time School Teacher, Mumbai.
“These are challenging times. When we started out, we were not just teaching but also learning. Because we aren’t regular with technology it wasn’t simple. But since I use a lot of social media and following how the world over teachers have been using digital and virtual tools.
But what tugs us more, is that one gets emotional sometimes. There is a totally different set up now. When you see all your students right there as little boxes on the screen.
I wait for the kids so easily that half hour before the class itself, I was sitting in front of the screen. I couldn’t wait to see my students. When we all got online, we all had a misty eyed smile and it was so good to see them. 22 of them all look at you connecting with the familiar teacher, it’s hard to express what a teacher goes through.
We have done over 10 virtual sessions so far. I have learnt from my own mistakes. How to sit, how to talk, how to make the experience good for them. There were times, I found it so difficult to explain some concepts but slowing I learnt too, and came up with solutions for it.
My heartbreaks to know that it will be a long time before we will all meet. Everyday when you meet kids, there is a connection. With teachers, children have a different comfort zone compared with their relationship with their parents. When kids are doing their e learning, sometimes parents are sitting with them. And so even if the kid doesn’t know the answer, the parents nudge them. This takes away their independence and learning capabilities. So that’s a challenge that’s a bit out of my control in a virtual class. As a teacher too I have to set goals for children. In schools since the children are captive to me. But in a virtual set up, they aren’t.
Saumya Kulshreshtha, Freelance Teacher, New Delhi
“Two different things are happening with me. The college at which I teach, at NIFT, those students I had started missing terribly. Finally the college and teachers have decided to use tech, zoom and other conferencing to start classes and stay connected. Creativity needs connection.
If you look at teaching as a profession, these virtual sessions are excellent and I see this heralding a change and this could well be the future. I am a freelance teacher, there is a time, travel cost for me to go deliver a workshop. But now I am hosting poetry writing workshops and the digital classroom that’s created, it gives us all a lot to do virtually. And because I am in my own physical space, my notes are around, my books are around, my references are around so I can freely use it in the class. We can also do a long meaningful sessions, and students can join from different parts of the country and even the world.
Being able to do digital classes at the same fee would be far more efficient even in the future. Institutionally how fees are getting reworked I am not sure. But as an individual I have cut down fee prices by 50% but doubled the number of the classes I can offer because its energy efficient as well. So theoretically even if some fee structures change for virtual classes, I also see a drop in costs, so net-net it is not so worse off.
For freelance teachers, there is an opportunity for us to do more and more types of classes with different organisations than we have before due to commute and other restrictions.”
Sharanya Vaidhyanathan, Kids Yoga Teacher, Mumbai
“This is a very difficult time especially with children who are just not used to sitting at home at all. We were in a spring break, and suddenly we had the lockdown. School thought of doing virtual or e-learning for kids. It took us a few days to figure out things for ourselves. We did meetings on Google Meet to learn as teachers. For Yoga, the kids were receptive since they are quite bored at home. They say ‘we miss going to school.’
Virtual teaching during coronavirus is both a solution and a real emotional challenge says teachers across India
We tried sending task sheets home but that didn’t help. Good thing about virtual classes is that we at least chat, see each other and make some connection even though its remote. Parents are also having to make special effort to do more. There are times we then speak to parents to help children under the asanas better.
The thing with the kids is that right now I can’t make them close their eyes and meditate. So I am asking them to put their books on their head and close their eyes to focus. It’s a healthy combination of breathing exercises, and physical movement. I also take some feedback from the children.
It was overwhelming for me, and I was really missing the kids. The one week I was learning I really lost it and got hassled with this. Once I met the kids, I saw their enthusiasm and I felt better about doing this virtually.
Though I can’t wait for the day we will be back to normal.
Sapna Sayal, Principal of a Play School, Gurgaon
“We are trying to figure out something for little children who otherwise in school. We are missing our children. Honestly, I don’t know how many believe this, but the truth is teachers miss their little children quite a lot. Teachers want to just come to school, see the kids, the hustle and bustle and get and give the hugs. The sweetness and simplicity of life through the kids is a huge thing.
It’s not like there is a syllabus and for that there are tech solutions. We have had to cancel the farewell where the kids would do a little skit for which they had prepared so much but the emergency pandemic meant that had to be cancelled. These are little things that build up a lot of confidence and it’s very important. Every day matters in the life of little kids who are growing up. Each day, every week matters. We are thinking about what we can do to make our kids smile. That’s the enthusiasm we work with. I have had enough, it’s been 18 years and I have never sat like this in my life. We are all missing the kids, since our interactions with the kids is very different.”
Amarbit Kaur, Delhi University College Teacher
“Teaching as everyone says is not that easy. We have to manage our whole day according to the clock. I am not saying it’s a bad profession all I am saying is that it’s not that easy as people say it is. And nowadays when everything has taken a complete U-turn it has become a bit more challenging for us as well. When we got a notice that classes will be resumed soon but before that, we have to make every student aware of the procedure that has to be followed and also tell them that on which app you’ll be taking classes I got a bit nervous because I am not that much into phones and social media.
Since my son is also having his lessons with his teachers on an app known as zoom he suggested me to use the same because it has easy. So I opted for that. Since I teach in college, my students were well aware of the applications in this app as they are grown-ups but still on our first day when we started a session we all were laughing and smiling seeing each other because it was the first time we were studying like this.
Teaching students like this is a little problematic because when I use to explain them something they do not get it in one time I have to repeat my every line two to three times because of noise and obviously connection which does not stay good all the time. And this problem always occurs in between my session sometimes from my side or sometimes from the students.
But we are trying our best each day to make it work properly. Apart from this I also have a WhatsApp group with them where I send study material to them each day regarding their syllabus and tell them to read it so that we all can discuss it in our next online session.”
Arshi Gupta, Grade II Teacher, Noida
We were one of the first schools to start tech learning. This was a new experience and we started the zoom sessions. Every week we have been increasing the number of sessions too. It was manageable initially but honestly the other factors we forget to think about is that teachers also have homes to manage like anyone else in this pandemic. We too don’t have much help.
Like many others I am agitated with the current situation. On one side there are parents who are saying they are paying full fees. Parents are wanting more classes and multiple lessons. Their point is that ‘either you give us a slash in the fee or you keep our children busy, because we are also finding it very difficult to keep our children busy in the current scenario.’
These children are too little with small attention spans. Too much on screen time is also not good. Finding a balance between parents expectations and teachers‘ capability to do this is very tough. I am also exhausted because of the many tasks I have to do, aside of giving assignments, teaching on screen, checking feedback, filing my teacher submissions, network issues and more. These are one set of challenges. Also I am like many others running my household. Finding a small break to put the lunch on the table is quite a struggle for us all too. On a typical school day, we have house help and that’s not our current reality.
We understand there are pressures everywhere. We don’t want to all burnout do we because this is a mentally and physically exhausting. Let’s give this a real good thought.” (Teacher’s name changed on request)
It’s not easy for teachers, it’s not easy for children. Being on a roster is tiring, distanced and new. We are all watching this space for more and explore how we can make the most of tech without succumbing to it.