“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything, without losing your temper or your self –confidence.”
The above quote by Robert Frost on education, rightly describes what it takes to be a teacher, in a Corona infected world.
Education Industry is one of the severely hit sectors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
January 2020 rolled in with the reports about the rate at which the disease was spreading in China, yet no one expected its outreach to balloon into this alarming proportion.
Before the country went on a lock-down on March 23, schools had already shut their gates for children, while teachers were coming to school.
They were working on winding up the academic session, awaiting instructions about the pending assessments and updation of final results.
Shutting down of schools was welcomed as an early onset of mid-summer vacation and in the initial days of relaxation at home, no teacher must have even had a fleeting thought about what is awaiting her in the months to come.
Schools which had their new academic session commencing in April, quickly resorted to platforms like Zoom and Gsuite and started classes for their secondary session.
The numbers of infected cased shot up exponentially, and for teachers it was just the beginning of numerous challenges.
The tussle between parents and private schools began, with parents demanding rollback of fee hike. Some schools obliged, while others came up with options for installment payment.
Some parents paid and others did not, stating No school, No Fees.
Little did they think about the teachers who faced a 30-50% reduction in their salaries due to non payment of school fees. Even if it was a reciprocal causality with parents themselves facing pay cuts, their hostile approach towards school management had perilous effects on the major stake holder of their wards education -the teacher. Teachers had new hurdles set on their path which they had to overcome with only their fortitude and Dunkirk spirit.
Their first challenge was being forced out of their comfort zones . A teacher’s realm is a classroom with a whiteboard and marker or chalkboard and duster. Now they had to find a quiet place in their own homes with their families around which was the impossible task of seeking solitude in multitude.
Their second challenge was establishing a deeper and stronger relation with technology. They had to master new skills like creating classrooms, scheduling meetings, sharing screens, sharing video while allowing the audio to play simultaneously, creating Google forms for assessments and also inviting parents for PTMs. It clearly became a living nightmare especially for Hindi subject teachers.
But they prevailed. They spent time late into the night trying and trying again till they were confident enough to deliver. That was a feather in their hats along with a sense of taming the shrew which looked so fierce and formidable at one point of time.
The next challenge came in modifying the lessons to suit an online format. Gone were the hands – on and group activities which never failed to engage children. She researched, brainstormed and came up with ideas. Sometimes and idea popped up while cooking dinner or late in the night and she had to inform her Grade Coordinator immediately rather than running out of her room crying “Eureka”. More than ever, her cerebrum was on an overdrive and she prevailed. She came up with engaging lesson plans for online classes and also techniques to keep discipline without the intermittent reminders of “mute yourself”
Next came resources, Most of them did not have a laptop or WiFi connection. Even if she had a laptop, with the spouse working from home and children having their own online classes scheduled at the same time, she struggled finding a device free for her to use without interruption.
Then she had to master navigating the online delivery platform. She had to create classes, subject channels, create meeting schedules and post them for children to join, share screen, check audio settings before sharing videos, manage settings so that she has the control, create Google forms for assessments etc. She also had to guide her students and set ground rules for discipline and also train parents in checking links and uploading assessments. She struggled and prevailed.
Then came the most difficult challenge of them all. The ever scrutinizing eyes of the hovering parent.
Parents waited for the session to be over to ambush the teachers with their complaints which ranged from their child not being allowed to answer, to the lack of supervised written work and sometimes even the school fee became a reason for verbal assaults.
A private school teacher is coached to be diplomatic with parents and not to lose her cool, even if the parent gets aggressive, and the parents are aware of their esteemed status as the ones who contribute to the salary of the teacher. Teachers who had nightmares about the demanding parent’s ire, reached out, sometimes again late in the night.
The teachers were also being observed by their Reporting Managers like Coordinator, Vice Principal and Principal. Even though it came with a statute “for feedback and improvement purpose only” it sometimes lowered the morale of even teachers who are exemplary otherwise. They shared their apprehensions which included power disruption and slow connectivity through late night talks with their mentors. The teachers prevailed again with a healing word and vote of confidence.
So if spectators out there judge teachers, let me set the record straight, teachers have been working overtime with reduced salaries and with hundreds of freshly made Gordian knots to untangle.
They rose up to the occasion finding comfort in the supportive social media posts by a handful of generous parents
Teachers’ profession is based on the solid belief that teaching gives them challenges and opportunities to get better at their highly skilled craft every day.
The focus of a teacher is always on her students. She is only destined to set the wheel in motion. She starts things that she never see finished and the gratitude she receives always comes on one particular day of the year when her children presents her with a rose or a Happy Teacher’s Day Card .