In today’s world where breathing has become a sin, two questions have been constantly haunting me – “Where’s your phone kid? “, “Won’t you watch the TV today? “These are the questions I thought, I would ask a kid when pigs flew. But these gadgets have become a painful reality and an inextricable entity in a student’s life today.
Before I share my experience as a teacher about the online classes, it would be fair enough to share my views, in a few words, about the quagmire we are currently in. A few months ago the invisible enemy brought even the strongest of men to his knees. Education dreams – shattered to bits. The most INTELLIGENT chaps to the duds all put in a mix of confusion about their future, as education, technically called the transmission of knowledge, came to stagnation and the only available means to remobilise it was through the online mode viz. the television and the mobile.
As this journey called ONLINE CLASSES started, so started my new experience that could be termed as a tumultuous and a memorable one. It has been a potpourri of emotions that helped me rediscover new facets of the human psyche and rediscover myself as a human being and a teacher.
I wish to CATEGORISE MY EXPERIENCE in various sections.
The announcement – A herald?
Amidst confusion and anxiety, the announcement about the online classes was made. Everyone was anxious and I was the foremost amongst the lot as I am neither a techno-geek nor tech-savvy and I was worried about my role in the process. Hitherto, I had been frugal when it came to spending my time on WhatsApp but post-announcement I dedicated my one eye to the WhatsApp and the other to the news channels for obvious reasons. I was desperate to know the timetable and the process of conducting the classes. But the million-dollar question still lurked in my mind – will this announcement herald a new beginning and how this experience is going to be.
Brought out the actor in me :
Speculations were rife that the online classes would be a piece of cake. But I still kept my fingers crossed. I started calling my students to motivate them and as expected, I found myself at the receiving end of a volley of questions from my students about the online classes. I was apprehensive to tell them that my guess was as good as theirs and even I was sailing in the same boat lest I should demoralise them hence, I started clearing their doubts some with my experience and some purely with my imagination. This led to the discovery of the actor in me as most students were indeed satisfied with my answers and were motivated as well.
The challenge :
All our students hail from a financially constrained background who struggle to make both ends meet. Out of the one hundred and nineteen students, ninety-three had television sets but the mammoth challenge was to get those recharged as owing to lock down most of the parents lost their livelihood and asking them to get the television sets recharged would be no less than a crime in such a situation. Some parents loaned money and a few others followed suit to fill their children’s minds with knowledge though they couldn’t fill their stomachs with food.
Finding the feet :
Children’s future can not be built on assumptions and this online journey proved the same. Children suffered to find their feet and acclimatise themselves to the changed situation. First, they found it difficult to comprehend the classes. The common complaints: Fast pace of deliverance of lectures, diverting from the main topic. I continued to motivate them but I failed miserably. As a teacher of English, I realised that indeed all these were true and some reinforcement was needed. This prompted me to make my videos for my students.
Discovery of the liar in me :
Probably even the authorities realised the complexity of the situation and decided to launch the RRBADI website for which even I was selected and I pitched in with my contribution. More than half of the students had no access to smartphones. Some of them called me frantically and I pacified them with the blatant lie that these classes on the website weren’t paramount and made no difference. This was just to alleviate the fear in those sensitive minds who could have resorted to extreme measures if they were told otherwise. Thus I discovered that lying is indeed good and I am indeed good at lying.
The challenge (extended) – An unforgettable experience
We planned to jump through the hoops and start the zoom sessions for class ten though the tides were against us. Out of twenty-four, only nine had smartphones and six decided to join their classmates. An unforgettable experience was awaiting me. To ensure proper understanding, I had instructed my students to keep their video on but one student didn’t comply. When asked, her reply left a lasting effect on me. She didn’t want others to see her rags and tatters hence, she didn’t comply with my instructions. I was shaken to the core and realised that I need to learn to see the other side of the coin as well. It was an important lesson for me. But it also explains how much her father could have sacrificed to get the smartphone. Another challenge, in which I miserably failed, was to counsel the handful who made it their ambition to acquire mastery in online games.
The decision: Self-realization
We decided to brave corona and visit students’ houses at least twice a week to clarify doubts and correct their notes but for me, it was an opportunity to see my students after such a long time. The mask and face shield that I wore made me realize every moment the importance of fresh air. Every parent asked me the same question as to when would the schools start. I held my tears back. I wanted to put my heart out that I missed my students but as a teacher, I decided to be formal and evaded the question.
The conclusion :
All this experience made me realize that human beings are perfectly imperfect. Time and again we have proven the same since ages. In our quest for perfection and comfort, we have invented myriad glorious entities in medical, mechanical, electronic fields but not without collateral damage. The ramifications though beneficial to an extent have also proven counterproductive and at times lethal to human existence as well. The coronavirus is probably one such mistake. We should have learnt from the Spanish flu pandemic or at least from the SARS and should have invested more in the medical field so that we could have averted this catastrophe. I apologise for being didactic but the present situation compelled me to be so. Whatever it may be, my experience with the online classes had taught me that A TEACHER CAN NOT BE SUPPLANTED WITH LIFELESS GADGETS. It gave me confidence that I am indeed useful and NEEDED to my students. Hitherto I used to admonish students when they made a noise but now I am waiting for the day when they would come to school and I will scream with them at the top of my lungs a whole day because the silence of the empty benches now is far more deafening. This is my experience which I would never want to relive and I want my students back. I want my students back, I just want my students back.