Teachers' Day 2020: Mumbai educators explain why they strive to teach amid COVID-19 adversity
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Renowned physicist Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

The novel coronavirus outbreak, that put the entire country on a hold, had a major chunk of its impact on the education sector.

From postponing exams, pending graduation, prepping for the new academic year, to admissions overseas; the virus saw educational institutions face mightier wrath than Voldemort at Hogwarts.

Teachers across the world used innovative methods to make sure their students weren’t deprived of knowledge. They took upon this as a challenge and used online tools as their portal to make even better entrance than the Avengers in Endgame.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grapple us with surging cases, educationists speak to The Free Press Journal on Teachers’ Day, and share their take on functioning amid the “new normal”.

Clearly, it was easier said than done. Conducting lectures online opened a Pandora’s box. Dr Medha Tapiawala, an economics professor at University of Mumbai for the last thirty years, says that COVID-19 taught lessons about new normal in all spheres of life.

She says that in the initial days, everyone waited for remedial measures, but soon ran out of patience and decided to sign up for delivering classes online.

Dr Tapiawala adds, “I found this suitable for time being, where I can call students by their names, visible on screens, share website & you tube links and have open discussions. In fact, I found students are freer to approach me for their questions. On the lighter note, the question most asked in last 5 months was- 'Am I audible??' and the most likely answer is 'Poor Net connection '.”

She maintains that there are limitations to online work, affordability and availability of devices. But online teaching is the way out to fight the stand-stillness and give message that 'whatsoever happens life goes on'.

“The real teaching happens, where students don't only learn academics, but also are exposed to group behaviour, team building, acquaintance with social /public norms, personality development etc.” adds Dr Tapiawala.

On the other hand, Lekha Nayar, a prime school teacher by profession said the she was hesitant at first given how teaching online is merging your personal space with students, where you will be monitored by parents as well.

She says, “Online teaching is a novel experience for me. Initially I was a bit apprehensive as I realised, I would be observed by the family members of my students but soon I became comfortable. All the same I miss the closeness and the eye contacts of my children and feel as though I am talking to a blank wall. I hope that the situation will change soon and that things will return to normalcy.”

With that being said, the possibilities of teaching online were limitless. Teachers could now experiment and use a plethora of tools as an aide to teach. Prof. Saurabh Deshpande, Deviprasad Goenka Management College Of Media Studies says, “The situation has inspired us to resort to unprecedented & innovate methods of delivering academic content to students. This is a learning experience for everyone, including teachers. We are aware that a digital divide currently exists, but we must collectively find inclusive ways to bridge it, and ensure that no student is left out due to lack of access to technology".

The work from home model didn’t come easy. With pay cuts, loss in admissions, the responsibilities to stay afloat were more than ever. Dr Mangesh Karandikar, Director, MET Institute of Mass media, says, “Educationists have been dealing with the pandemic and lockdown with more work than ever. As days turned to months everyone realised that this was not going away. All teachers had to revise their method of teaching, and initially though it added a little stressed, by now everyone has been able to cope up with the 'new normal' in education. My faculty members are working extremely hard to enable optimum teaching and learning, ensuring that the syllabus is covered in time, and also effectively delivered.”

“I don't think there has been much job switching, because all institutes were in the same boat. In many institutes, salaries have been revised, and people are paid anywhere between 10 to 40% less, citing loss in admissions, absence from work, etc. All teachers are actually working more, because instead of traveling, they are spending more time on their subjects. There are thus, both, positives and negatives for educationists,” he added.

With that being said, our teachers continue to give us a ray of hope, even though it might seem like the world is about to end. As Professor McGonagall once said, "We teachers are rather good at magic, you know.”

On that note, Happy Teachers’ Day!

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Free Press Journal