For the first time in the thirty-two years since she became a teacher, Vidya Chowkase is being faced with a new reality, thanks to Covid-19.
Trading her chalk and duster for the keyboard of her shared home laptop, and taking the blackboard online, Vidya is navigating virtual learning with the help of her 23-year-old daughter Antara.
“Initially, it was tough, I had never used the computer to do things besides filling out forms,” the 51-year-old, who teaches English and Science at a secondary school in Kondhwa, said. “However, we had no choice, as the kids I teach come from poor income families and for them, getting access to a smartphone is a challenge. I thought it is my duty to learn new skills for them, and so, three decades later, I became a student of technology…”
As the country celebrates Teachers’ Day today, and celebrations take place through online classrooms, teachers recount how the last few months have forced them to learn new skills in order to be able to teach.
Fatima Khan, a pre-school teacher since 14 years, currently teaches at Sanskriti School in Undri. She said that earlier, she was averse to computers, and used them sparingly. “I asked my school management, colleagues, family, and everyone else for help. It took nearly a month, and my daughter helped me…Keeping younger kids engaged in class is tough, so online is even tougher….”
However, there have been memorable experiences too. Kamalpreet Chahal, who teaches social studies to Class VI and VII students, said, “I would earlier use the laptop only for Google searches, or to help children with projects, but online classroom is a whole new world…Once, during a one-on-one parent interaction…a student taught me how to use the app to activate a beep whenever a parent joins, thus saving my time.”
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If there is one thing the teachers have come up with amid these new circumstances, they unanimously concur that it is innovation.
“Since I teach drawing, I have to show certain things to students live,” said Bhaguji Vitthal Shikhare, a teacher at an aided Marathi medium school. “…I put the phone on a makeshift stand, with the camera turned downwards towards my paper, and I draw and colour live. Then I ask students to do the same. In the earlier months, when paper and colours were not available, students would practice with whatever they had, or they just watched. The Covid crisis has taught all teachers one thing, which is that learning never stops at any age.”