“Since it is going to be only online teaching from now on, you will have to shoot a video to introduce yourselves to the parents and the new students.” These words at the beginning of the pandemic, from our mentor Mrs.Nalini Ma’am, struck us like lightning and gave us the jitters, but also made us feel excited. We decided to follow Seth Godin who said “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”
We practiced just like nervous budding actors and shot our videos.
Oh, how far we have come from those days!
“Mute yourselves”, “Unmute”, “Turn on the cameras”, “Raise your hand to speak”, have been the regular lingo adopted by teachers all over.
In review, I have realized that we achieved a whole lot more, even with the constraints like connectivity, bandwidth (another word that we learned), the unconventional virtual meets, the interactions only through the computers, laptops. We had to learn and unlearn, try and adjust to the new learning curve. The situation taught us to build on 21st-century skills, resilience, flexibility, and critical thinking. Online teaching radically changed the concept of traditional teaching.
Our initial trepidation, uncertainty about the ‘New Normal’ gave way to confidence. As we tackled the new medium, we brainstormed, came up with novel ways to use the medium to enhance our interactions, design and structure the content, our lesson plans, engage the students with fun and goal-oriented activities to make learning effective, and productive.
Several studies indicate that the instructor’s interaction with the students has a considerable impact on learning. So our first aim was to make the students comfortable, happy, and engaged in the learning.
We blended conventional learning with books, notebooks, and digital software like PDFs and e-books.
Online collaboration actually turned out to be a very delightful and praiseworthy experience as everyone – the students, teachers, parents collaborated like never before to enable learning and teaching. There were presentations made by us wherein we ensured that they were not just textbook-oriented but connected the topics to real-world experiences.
A few enthusiastic and resourceful parents became our extended arms, adding to our repertoire.
We had some parents and eminent workers, joining us online during the pandemic times to expose the children to various concepts like ‘Content-writing’, ‘Importance of Honeybees’ and ‘Local Government’. These presentations made for an interesting learning experience for the children.
Children seldom know the importance of grammar, spelling, punctuation. The Content-writing presentation by Mrs. Heblekar helped them be aware of the importance of learning a language and how it could be useful to make an occupation out of it. The examples of advertisements helped the children realize novel ways to use language skills effectively to communicate.
The workshop on ‘Rearing of Honeybees’ courtesy of Mrs. Samel, in addition to giving information about the varieties of the species, their hierarchy in the colonies, related the huge impact that honeybees have on the cultivation of food. It also encouraged us to respect the significance of their contribution to our existence.
Local Government – Though children had understood the lesson thoroughly, we thought of enhancing their knowledge by calling someone from a governing body. Luckily for us, Mr. Bakoria, an IAS officer who has been Municipal commissioner of Pune & other cities (presently Sports Commissioner of Maharashtra) and father of two of our students, agreed to meet us online and make a presentation. The presentation was a very informative one and gave the students a first-person perspective of what and how a municipal commissioner performs his duties. The children were full of questions about how he did his preparation, whether he was scared, did he face any dangers. They asked him about what is a CEO, what does he do? Children also posed some very probing questions to him like – what do you do about people driving on the footpaths? One child asked – We know smoking is not good for our health, then what do you do to stop it? Why does the corporation not give houses to us too as they do for the slum-dwellers? How do they decide which slum-dweller will get a house? Were there any sad experiences that he had when he was in the Naxal area?
- Questioning skills are very important for gathering information in real life. We were happy to see that our aim to stimulate students to pursue knowledge on their own and ask their own questions was realized.
- Since we are citizens of a democratic country, we need to participate more in governance, ask questions fearlessly when needed. The questions posed by the students assured us that to some extent we were successful in sowing the seeds.
The recent online presentation on ‘Fossils, Meteorites’ by a parent Mr. Makki, was a revelation about the inhabitants & animals which existed on the Earth billions of years ago. The bones, teeth, hair samples of extinct animals like the dinosaurs, mammoths from across the globe had the children going gaga over it. The integration of Social studies and Science made for a very interesting experience.
The online school actually turned out to be a boon for all, as it could be accessed from any place, be it students stranded in other towns / on farms, or even some teachers, due to the Lockdown. It suits all types of learners – auditory, visual, kinesthetics too. For us teachers, it is an efficient and elegant way of delivering lessons using all the available resources like videos, PDFs, e-books, presentations. All in all, everyone has adopted and adapted to the new format. We have learned to roll with the punches.
In retrospect, all of us developed courage by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.