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A teacher’s notebook

In 1995, the Internet made its entry into the public domain for the first time in India. As any other college student, I was smitten by the new unexplored virtual world. Gradually, I spent hours exploring this new world. My odyssey started with my first exposure to e-mail, and during this journey my ship passed through other areas also such as online entertainment, messaging services, creating a personal website and so on.

Since then, I have come a long way, the excitement which was there at the commencement of the journey has worn away and left me dismayed and disgruntled after it entered the pandemic world.

The old time has gone, I am no longer a student now, but a teacher who has the responsibility on her shoulder of shaping the future course of the next generation with utmost care and sensitivity. In 2019, one of the chapters that I was teaching to my students in ninth grade was a science fiction based on a distant future where children did not have to go to school and they were taught by mechanical teachers at their home. This story by Isaac Asimov used to work as a catalyst to initiate discussions in the classroom. During the debate on the topic, virtual school vs normal, the students would argue on various points: whether such schools would benefit the students more or they lacked the regular energy of the present schools. Little did I realise then that the normal world would be snatched away from us one day. The year passed away with the regular hustle and bustle of a normal school with the endless talks between the students and teachers in the classrooms and corridors on different topics. Among all the noises which penetrated my ears was also the noise of a new virus, hovering over us like dark ominous clouds ready to transform the world into a nightmarish one. But I along with my fellow teachers did not think that it would reach our country fast.

It was the last day of the Class 10 board exam and immediately after two days, the news of the complete lockdown took away the ground beneath our feet. Thus, began the nightmare and we all got transported into the uncharted territories of Asimov’s story The fun they had, with the physical classroom replaced with the virtual one. I found myself staring at my laptop giving long monologues in front of inanimate students. Neither the action of rubbing my eyes harder nor shaking myself with disbelief brought any change in the situation.

The dreary online school world began with virtual classes starting at 8 a.m. Way past my college energy, my ageing grey cells endeavoured hard to understand the features of the online platforms. The everyday race for churning out online presentations to teach students efficiently kept me on my toes all the time. With no textbooks to teach from, it became difficult to concentrate on screen for both students and teachers. It was frustrating to ask children to read in online classes or to give their views. The sluggish connectivity created a wide chasm between students and teachers, making things abominable for each of us. There was no point in cribbing or rebuking children for not opening their cameras. Everything seemed to be futile. The classes which I took in person were full of anecdotes from my life or the social milieu or drawn from history or science. But the limited time or network issues in online classes robbed me of the joy of having long thoughtful discussions with students on different topics. Now the sole aim was to finish the syllabus somehow. Besides this, we were writing online teachers diary, making online question papers, and interacting with parents on virtual meetings. To top it all, the school got the wonderful opportunity to keep the teachers engaged by sending them WhatsApp messages at odd hours.

The above journey was the harshest experience for me as a teacher during the complete lockdown in our country. Everyone was in a state of shock except teachers who had little time to ponder on the pandemic.

swatjyot@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 4:46:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-teachers-notebook/article33150823.ece

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