During the pandemic, the country created another record: it had the longest school closures in history. About 1.5 million of the schools that cumulatively employ nearly 95 lakh teachers remained almost completely closed in the year 2020. Even this year, only eight out of 29 states and 7 Union Territories have opened schools for some particular classes.
The challenges that students face in learning, in the absence of direct classrooms are widely discussed. However, the effort that teachers make to restore a semblance of continuity in education goes largely unnoticed. But despite salary cuts and job insecurities, the teaching community has risen to the occasion to ensure that the students are not left out.
It has been the worst of times for teachers. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken away what makes teachers, “teachers”, i.e., who they are teaching. Sitting before screens endlessly and interacting with sounds and images of students is not what they bargained for.
Ideally, teachers stand before a class and speak before a hundred gaping eyes and a hundred more eager ears. Consequently, this ensures the adrenalin rush, standing on the stage and delivering knowledge. But not knowledge alone prepares the mould of a teacher.
A mould made out of hard discipline and soft wonder. Due to the pandemic-induced circumstances, the stage that had placed teachers on a pedestal, literally so, has evaporated into thin viral air. Subsequently, the mould of discipline has crumbled into a listless routine.
Impact of Covid-19 on the teachers’ profession
A teacher must stand tall to inspire and must stoop to correct and console. The new reality prevents the teachers from doing both.
The task of making concepts come alive with words, sometimes with a little help of a blackboard, or the reading of a page, is reduced to screens communicating blithely with one another.
Instead of communicating, they often witness indifference, inattention, and inertia. The list of challenges before a teacher today, therefore, has a new addition to deal with.
They had indeed faced a tough time understanding digital tools. But it was the only available means to make the content reach the students amid school closures.
However, in recent months, the teachers were quick to adapt to the new normal. They now specialise in creating virtual classrooms, schedules and arranging virtual classes. Moreover, they have learned the specialised learning platforms that come with added security features. Additionally, they cope with work-life imbalances and answer queries of students via online chat or over the phone with video support, even beyond the routine school hours.
However, addressing disruptions in education is one thing and enhancing the quality of education is another. Even when normalcy returns, it will not be the case of business as usual. It is fairly clear now that future teachers will be seen in hybrid classrooms – an optimized blend of direct classroom and online education. Teachers would need to gear themselves up for a few realities.
1. From lecturing to curating:
With online teaching, there has been a huge rise in the consumption of educational content online. Today, the students have ready access to lectures, quizzes, mock tests, question banks, exercises, books, articles, reference materials and so on. Therefore, they will have access to world-class content on their screens.
In this context, the job of teachers will be more of curating the best content apart from just delivering it. This shift calls for a new and accommodative mindset.
2. Facilitator of discussions
Face time in online classrooms is meant for discussions. Having learned the subject in advance via online sources, the students now want to have a place for doubt clarification.
The ‘new normal’ classrooms will have one teacher facilitating discussion among students and not lecturing them. Besides clarifying doubts, teachers will be required to set an agenda, make opening remarks, give context and facilitate group thinking and discussions.
3. AI Partnership
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will continue to make inroads into the territory of teachers. Technology will allow the impartment of delivering personalised teaching to students.
Therefore, by partnering with technology, teachers can make their jobs easy. For instance, teachers can prepare question papers in a fraction of a second, make visuals or do plenty of other things with the help of different apps and software.
Online teaching will continue to be powered by compassion
The role of teachers will continue to evolve but the significance of their contributions to a student’s knowledge acquisition and character development will never diminish. Their careful eyes, compassionate heart and sharp intellect are more than what a student can ask for.
Also, read the approved names of new colleges under Delhi University here.