AMIDST the many ironies that we witness each day as the pandemic unveils harsher realities, a heartening yet paradoxical one has been the role of teachers. It took a Delhi High Court verdict to declare them as corona warriors and award them their salaries. Teacher’s Day that is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm each year was limited to yet another online session of virtual celebrations, organised by school managements.
A video that has been doing rounds on social media and triggered a response from almost all who viewed it has been by Dr. Robert Antony, a pediatric surgeon based in Bangalore who talks about the challenges that teachers face amidst prying eyes of parents, harsh critique, the controversy surrounding the collection of school fees and the dual role the teachers play at home and yet teach 20 to 40 students online every day, using technology that most of us were unfamiliar with until March 2020.
Divya Rajgopalan, a teacher with Bhavan Vidalaya School, Chandigarh admits that the last six months have been a whirlwind of change for teachers. “Taking refuge in Dickens, one could say ‘it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ It’s tested our strength and stretched our faith, but times like these foster our courage and creativity. For us at BVC, it has been about celeritous adaptability and creative engagement. And I’m proud to say that we’ve adjusted our sails and weathered the storm with a tenacity that we didn’t even know we had. Of course, this exultation comes after several challenges we faced at the start. I remember, as early as the first week of March, even before the lockdown began our Senior Principal had begun discussing online classes. Initially, we were sceptical about the feasibility of classes online. Not all were technologically adept, some were just plain uncertain about the longevity of such an exercise. But the one thought that united all of us was the unwavering passion to give our students the best of what was possible. Juggling between work and home is not new to teachers, but the absence of household helps and being connected round the clock made this balance all the more backbreaking. But a supportive management made it possible as sometimes all one looks forward to is empathy and encouragement.”
Virtual teaching could be a potent emotional challenge both for students and teachers. Sharmila Singh, a play class teacher says that it online teaching can never substitute the joy of being physically present with the children. “I miss the hugs. Imagine all 20 of these tiny tots sitting in front of the computer screen and trying to make an emotional connect or bond with the teacher. Also, when they do return to school, they will take a longer time to adjust to this environment. The truth is that the teachers miss the students a lot and amidst these sentiments are the critical eyes of the parents, who would rather crib about high fees and how a teacher should dress up.”
The school managements have had to do a balancing act, keeping communication channels open with teachers, students, the parents and sometimes even the Courts. Ravinder Sabharwal, director of Smart Kids School in Mohali, and a pioneer in running playschool with computer-aided technology says that it is overwhelming to observe the teachers going
beyond the expected and giving their best.
“The education sector continued to function relentlessly because of the teachers. Technology came to their rescue but that wasn’t easy. All of us are not technology savvy, some are camera shy, your privacy is encroached upon and parents watch you at every step…Despite the stress teachers perform their roles. I feel despite the efforts teachers are unsung heroes. But we smile, do our bit and make sure that the show must go on.”
Dr. Antony in his video said that even the best of the surgeons including him do not allow family members to enter the operation theatre and it’s not only because the family is not prepared for it, but the best hands also tremble when watched with critique. And that’s once in a while. Teachers face this test every single day. To sir and ma’am, with love!
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