More compassion for students, teachers needed

As a teacher, I believe home-based learning (HBL) is a poor substitution for the quality of teacher-student interaction that can take place in the classroom.

So when the announcement was made to re-open schools, I was overjoyed because when it comes to virtual learning, students from underprivileged background are disadvantaged by the lack of support and resources. Hence I looked forward to closing the gap between students from various socio-economic groups.

However, instead of easing into the lessons after such a long ‘break’, we found ourselves being confronted by inspections of the quality of our teaching during school closure.

Teachers are generally not against inspections. However, this is an uncharted territory. We are faced with a new normal and all of us are trying our best to adapt to the changes brought on by this unprecedented crisis.

Thus, we would much prefer to focus all our attention on bringing disadvantaged children up to speed and preparing all the students for the upcoming exams.

Instead, we were being evaluated immediately. For those who used Zoom to conduct HBL are being graded higher than those who opted for WhatsApp.

Such a method of assessment is frankly unfair. Zoom requires a lot of data usage; and for the disadvantaged students, the cost may be equivalent to a meal for the entire family.

Furthermore, the long break means a lot of students are struggling to resume the level of focus needed for quality learning.

School is meant to be a place of structure, stimulation and social support. And as teachers, it is our job to provide them with a sense of wonder and fun. Instead we find ourselves being stressed over the choices we made during school closure such as the teaching method in conducting virtual lessons.

The HBL also took a heavy toll on some teachers due to the doubling of workload, disproportionate administrative work distribution, pressure from school leaders, unappreciative parents and extra expenditure.

Due to the HBL mandate, a number of teachers had to transfer data credit to disadvantaged students to keep them from missing too many online lessons.

Some schools are already pressuring their teachers to address the academic gap between students by holding extra classes.

What these leaders fail to understand is that these students need time to absorb the learning material, instead of shoving more classes at them in the hope that they would catch up quicker.

We would like school leaders to show more compassion not just towards their teachers but also the students. This COVID-19 outbreak has put all of us through a lot of stress, especially children who are not emotionally as equipped to deal with all the changes and uncertainty.

These children need time to adjust to the new normal, and as educators, we need to be more understanding of their predicament and adapt our lessons accordingly instead of employing the ‘business as usual’ approach to education.

Concerned teacher