Teaching experiences in pandemic: Limits and possibilities
By Ronnie V. Nabus
The pandemic has been a threshold of limitations and possibilities in communications, business, economy, science, government, and education. Things have been rough and smooth as to how and when the pandemic has to be ended to move back to the basic daily lives. However, to what extent does it take an education industry to become bold enough in pushing for learning continuity? How have educators been tested to adapt to the new education normal and its dramatic changes and adversities?
Abhimanyu Saxena, the co-founder of InterviewBit and Scaler Academy, believed that there is indeed a change of role for educators around the globe – with learning shifting from the public spaces (the classrooms) to a more personal area (the online). As the demand for more personalized learning and online courses arises, educators are required to learn and upskill more than their students to deal with the new demand for future-proof courses. As teaching and learning become more personalized, educators need to create, on a case-by-case basis, innovative teaching methodologies to meet the needs of the learner. From planning a personalized curriculum for classes to becoming a content developer to mentoring students on real-world projects to ensure that they are job-proof and capable of keeping abreast of new technologies and skills, today’s educators have a lot to say. From being facilitators of learning, educators have also been innovators (Saxena, 2020).
In our country, the Philippines, public school teachers have been working hard to reproduce printed modules and distribute them to learners from varied environmental circumstances, despite movement restrictions. Teachers and education specialists have been acknowledging the challenges along with the ways: high printing costs, motivating other teachers to meet the deadlines in module developments, and convincing parents to serve as para-teachers for the learners. Learner-related experiences such as the inability for independent learning as illiterate parents find it challenging to teach the concepts and restricted visits for primary graders to conduct reading remediation and assistance are also enormous challenges for the educators (Luczon, 2020). Teachers in remote areas had also struggled in producing modules as no budget was given by the Department of Education; thus, solicitations were pervasive on social media (Casilao, 2020).
Private schools’ operation, in the long run, has been affected by the sudden decline of student enrollees. The economy has gone down, and unemployment has gone up, forcing families to move their private school students to public schools as they can’t afford to sustain the unchanged tuition and miscellaneous fees. Aside from low enrollment turnout, the schools were unable to meet the requirements of learning management systems for the conduct of distance learning this year, totaling 865 private schools to close their operations – only 47% of 2019’s 4.4 million enrollees have registered for classes in 2020 (Magsambol, 2020). Such closures are an essential part of the story of how the pandemic has affected private schools. But the tale isn’t entirely one of weakness. Other schools have used their autonomy, flexibility, and strong family and community relationships to deliver robust distance learning (Squire, 2020).
However, to what extent does it take an education industry to become bold enough in pushing for learning continuity? For Erika Kristina Mortola, Grade 6 teacher at Vicente N. Chaves Memorial Central School in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental, an educator must know how to adjust to the changes and that despite the many uncertainties, a teacher must turn them into opportunities that will help in continue achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is quality education (Luczon, 2020). This was reflected on the mission of school principal Lucia Lamanero as she launched a teaching volunteer program in Concepcion, Iloilo, after a survey showed that some children were left with their grandparents at home as their parents headed off to work. Other teachers like Leonarda Lumot from Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya do home visits or read stories to their students online or through phone calls. Meriam Puegan, a 25-year-old teacher from San Gabriel, a COVID-free municipality in La Union, believed that the in-person tutorial brought education back to the community (Serapio & Aguilar, 2020). Senior High School teacher Leo Improgo-Tan III of the Manolo Fortich National High School sees the humanizing experiences of the new normal mode of learning – some parents are eager to help teachers continue education and now understand how demanding and stressful a teacher’s job can be, especially that some parents find it difficult to control or assist their children in learning the modules (Luczon, 2020).
Instructional dilemmas of public school Science teachers, however, maintain the sense of being hardworking and dedicated in the practice of the profession, key partnered with optimism, by making the most of what they can. But they acknowledge that the new modalities of teaching and learning are the shared responsibilities among the stakeholders of the school community (Lansangan & Gonzales, 2020). While strengthening educational planning and health measures in schools guarantees an opportunity to continue learning while preventing the spread of the virus (Toquero, 2020 as cited in Navarosa & Fernando, 2020), it does not only value continuous learning and, hence, pressures the government to take appropriate action to make education possible. Besides, prioritizing literacy is a future-proofing move to ensure that the world adeptly deals with a future virus outbreak (Navarosa & Fernando, 2020).
Life may not return to “normal” after the long period of lockdowns and quarantines. Doubts are up whether a 50-seater classroom is allowed to occupy fully. However, the new normal is an opportunity to reach a wider audience and teach differently beyond a physical classroom. Besides, the changing role of educators provides more emerging trends in the education sector, and it’s for the educators to discover what suits the community and the learners.
By reflecting on the recent teaching experiences, still, educators are exerting too much effort to compensate for the pressure of the production of practical learning experiences for students and universal access to quality education. Educators believe that a more practical and skill-oriented curriculum amidst the pandemic is still a key for high-quality and challenges-ready citizens for the society.