This image resembles a classroom for many students and teachers for more than a year now. We have welcomed our teachers in our home, yet they have never been so further apart.
This distance has produced many challenges for them. Some of them are exploring video-conferencing platforms, combating weak or non-existent internet connectivity, troubleshooting technical difficulties, and dealing with power-cutting. However, acclimatizing to the online world is only the tip of the iceberg.
The Covid-19 pandemic has, undoubtedly, thrown life out of gear for everyone. It has completely turned the education sector topsy-turvy. The sudden shift from traditional to online teaching is demanding. Teachers have had to innovate ways to engage their students, maintain participation, and provide necessary resources which otherwise would have been easier.
These obstacles are a part of the story of millions of teachers striving hard to provide uninterrupted learning even amidst the pandemic. We are glad to have some of these hard-working teachers among us at UPAY.
It is no secret that India suffers from a vast socio-economic divide. Thus, switching to virtual platforms has been relatively more manageable for those in high-end private and public institutions. However, for the underprivileged community, mere affordability of appropriate devices and then internet connection has been the biggest obstacle. The issues accompanying the switch have been further deepened by the existing educational divide in our country.
This has not deterred the spirits of our teaching volunteers. The sudden plunge of the education sector into the virtual world has only met our teachers’ unmatched dedication and dexterity.
A collection drive was organized to gather old smartphones to ensure that our students had the necessary resources to continue learning. Despite it, many students had to attend classes in groups and rotate one device among neighbors. Our teachers ensured that the classes were scheduled to meet the individual needs of each student. Sometimes classes were even conducted over voice calls when the situation called for it.
Our teachers had to do some learning themselves as many were unfamiliar with the educational use of technology. They struggled with videoconferencing applications, preparing online presentations and accessing necessary tools. In turn, they had difficulty solving similar issues faced by their students. It was a massive haul up, but teachers pulled together as UPAY organised training sessions to aid the teachers.
Technology and training alone haven’t posed a roadblock. Student’s engagement has also taken a hit. Teachers are met with an uncomfortable silence in class when they ask questions. Talking to lifeless screens is quite annoying. It only breaks the lesson flow and can be quite demotivating.
In order to cope with this problem, our volunteers have come up with fun activities that facilitate conceptual understanding. They also make use of discussions and quizzes to encourage active participation and break the monotony. Our volunteers have found that calling on students who don’t participate in class also helps to increase engagement. The keen attention of teachers on each student and the constant awareness of being picked keep the students alert. The teachers are taking different innovative approaches to make online classes exciting and rewarding. They are leaving no stone unturned to make the learning process convenient and efficient.
“It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.”Michael Morpurgo
A teacher is the heart of the education system. This teachers’ day, as we collectively celebrate teachers for their continued commitment, we appreciate their effort to bridge the transition while coping with the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic. We salute our unsung heroes for the central role they have played and continue to play in building the future.