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Learning During Lockdown

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The question isn’t, “How do I teach this?” But, “How can they learn it?” – Jane Bozarth

It seems as if overnight teachers everywhere had to leave the comfort of their classrooms and focus on their laptop screens. In March 2020, as the world began grappling with the news of a deadly pandemic, teachers like myself were rapidly having to shift gears.

“I feel like I have suddenly become an IT teacher,” said a Science teacher. She has been teaching for over 15 years. “We have to make our classes child friendly online!” The feeling of insecurity was temporary. There was no time to hesitate.

One of the best features of teachers everywhere is their resilience. We were all now on the frontlines; learning new software, adopting new teaching tools and equipping ourselves for E-learning.

On April 5th the first E-learning class at ASPAM IIS, one of the best Schools in Sharjah, began. Grades full of eager students sat across their laptops and I-pads eager to see the familiar faces of their teachers. Parents too became a part of the learning process, assisting the youngest of learners who attached their headsets and connected to the internet. Of course, technology comes with its fair share of glitches. Students and their parents took some time to get used to the new method of learning. Many queries were raised as to how to view uploaded assignments. Often time’s students could not log in on time or hear the lessons, but all these teething issues took a few days to resolve. We soon learnt, the biggest lesson of all — that E-learning is here to stay.

The difference between E-learning and traditional methods are obvious. The human contact between teacher and student can never be replaced by machines. Students also miss meeting their friends and classmates. Those social interactions are so much better in person than online. Even notebook correction, a vital source of gauging how much is learnt, is lost under current circumstances. However, in these trying times, technology does at least offer the opportunity for learning to continue. The significant benefits of integrating technology into the classroom are also that it offers a certain degree of flexibility not found in the traditional model of education. E-learning at this scale, would have been impossible 20 years ago.

The task of E-learning is not easy for parents with more than one child in school. A parent who is struggling with three children who are enrolled in three different sections has no electronic gadgets to provide for all of them. “I have to take down notes for the youngest child, and later catch up with what is missed,” she says anonymously. “My whole day is spent doing this.”

As teachers, I often wonder how others like me are doing their household chores. There’s cooking, cleaning and tidying to do now that the house help is no longer on duty. Even though we have divided the chores, lunch is often delayed, the laundry piles up and I throw my hands up in the air. The importance of putting a routine in place has never been more vital.

However, not all is lost. The time at home has made me realize how important my family really is. We spend time catching up with the news and thank God and the authorities in charge for keeping us safe.  

Coming back to my subject, English, I offer students a chance to express themselves. It is nice to listen to their perspective on the impact of COVID- 19. They too have their doubts and are eager for the lockdown to end. Making use of Nearpod, Quiz and Padlet have made my classes more interesting for students. I’ve repeatedly realized that I too am a student in this new arena. One of the key takeaways of this experience is how strong an impact we make as teachers. Our role is here to stay. Not merely to impart knowledge but to build competent learners of the future.

By Abigail Mathias

English Teacher, ASPAM IIS