The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis, the kind which we have never experienced in our life, nor are we ever likely to experience in our lifetime.
A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulties and adverse circumstances. Ironically, all crises are not entirely bad. There will be good elements even in the worst of crises. So is the case with e-learning vis-a-vis the teachers and the children. We might call them a blessing in disguise.
Online teaching has fallen on the lap of teachers almost like a bolt from the blue. In the Indian situation, we have never even imagined such a scenario. However, teachers have taken it in their stride. Though sceptical in the first instance, they have started seeing the brighter side of the whole exercise. They have started realizing that there is a lot of benefit in going online. They have started rediscovering themselves and unearthing some of their hidden potential.
There come certain moments of serendipity when teachers prepare their lessons. Serendipity is that rare occurrence of finding something interesting or valuable by chance. Teachers have started experiencing those rare creative insights when doing their lessons.
New vistas of learning have begun to open up. Hitherto untapped pedagogical skills and strategies are being unravelled now. Every lesson becomes a voyage of discovery. For those who love challenges and learning new things, this is a god-sent of opportunities. In doing this, one gets an enormous sense of satisfaction.
This sense of discovery and ultimate satisfaction is finally accomplished when students receive the lessons and we realize that learning can take place in this new mode also. In fact, there is no time wasted. The preparation is thorough. There are no distractions.
Children can replay the lessons if the lessons are in a recorded format. Revision becomes easier and learning seamless. The ones with learning disabilities too can cope. Both teachers and students will realize their utter dismay that a lot of really good learning can happen in a short span of time.
The lacunae of recorded lessons can be overcome by live classes, with teacher-student interaction. But this is not practical, given a large number of students without proper connectivity and electronic devices. Recorded class is the only practical strategy available now. It cannot have interactions, but teachers can take recourse to discussions, questions and answers through email. In the case of live classes, there can be more effective interactions.
The absence of students in front of the teacher creates a huge void. Teachers feel that online teaching is a one-way street. They have said repeatedly in feedbacks that they miss their children. One is reminded of the adage, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. To address the cameraman instead of a group of students is a world of difference for the teachers.
In one of my surveys, a large number of teachers have said that preparation for online teaching has helped them hone their pedagogical skills. Many have confessed that they are preparing with much greater care and attention to detail. They are conscious of the fact that their teaching would be under the lens of parents and others. Going public with their lessons naturally takes its toll on teachers’ nerves.
Teachers who are superficial in their preparation and casual in their approach to teaching are sure to be exposed in this new mode. They never expected this challenge after several years of lackadaisical performance. So online teaching has awakened many dormant teachers, the very curse of the noble profession. This is one singular blessing. Nobody could bell these cats all along, but Corona has done it almost effortlessly.
Children too will be missing their school and their friends. I am not sure if they actually miss their teachers, except their favourites. Perhaps they too, because there is no greater fun than teasing the teachers behind their back, and complaining about them to the parents.
Teachers know that online teaching is not the best option, but in the present circumstances, there is no other alternative. So they have decided to make the most of it. Many of them have started seeing the brighter side of teaching online.
Technology is a far cry for many teachers. The use of computers, its many applications and software have been Greek and Latin to some of them, but now they are getting familiar with them slowly. Seeing their own recordings, rehearsing their lessons etc give them new confidence. They are no more overly self-conscious in front of the all-seeing camera. So now teachers have started feeling comfortable.
Being subject to corrections and criticism is another major challenge. Teachers now feel that they have to mind their P’s and Q’s. They have to be conscious of the correct pronunciation, grammar, their mannerisms etc. Earlier, subject teachers used to explain away some of their language deficiencies. Now that will not work. Teachers have learnt to accept corrections and criticism without their egos being bruised. That’s the best part of this exercise. However, some teachers find it hard to accept their mistakes, and they try to justify with not-so-convincing explanations. So be it.
There is no gainsaying the fact that face-to-face classroom teaching has no substitute. The problem today is that we had to find an alternative, and we have found one. It’s not the best thing, but the only one feasible and practical at the moment. We can’t let children be out in the wilderness for long; we need to keep them on track.
Children have to be brought into the learning mode at any cost. If they are left alone, without the regimen of learning, the loss will be irretrievable. A broken learning cycle will be hard to set right. So teachers and parents have to work hard to see that children get the best of both the worlds – home and school.