Teaching Through the Pandemic

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

2020 has been tough. Let’s just admit that. Did you ever think that we will be in this predicament back in New Year’s Day when we were planning for our holidays for June? Yes, there goes our ‘by the beach’ vacation plans for the whole year! The closest beach we can go to now is the zoom background. In just a matter of weeks since the inception of the Covid19 virus, countries all around the world began to shut their borders down and billions of people locked in their homes. I don’t think anyone was fully prepared to experience a histrionic shift in their lifestyles, especially in the way they socialise and work. So how has this pandemic changed the way I teach? How did I make it through these challenging times where I have to redefine learning in a virtual space? Re-creating my classroom and teach in a 13-inch space? Why 13-inch? Well, that’s how big my laptop is. So right at the end of the March term break, the therapists in DAS were bombed with the most feared news that we were going to embark on online classes until further notice. Now, there’s a saying. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I think that’s how most of us bulldozed through this pandemic. When the situation gets difficult, our strong will work harder to overcome the challenge. As therapists, our encounters are sure a lot different from a lot of other professions. Intervention occurs through face to face interaction with daily lesson plans in hand. But because of the circuit breaker restrictions, face to face classes are prohibited. But you know what, we have never stopped teaching. Learning has to continue so that the young minds stay nourished especially for our students with dyslexia. And our lesson plans had to evolve instantaneously for online learning while we slowly promote ourselves to become tech gurus, on top of our therapist portfolio. Amidst all pandemonium and haste to get everything online for new normalcy to take place, I learnt a few great lessons as an educator. Let me share them with you.

Lesson 1: All students matter

During online teaching, one of the most important requirements is to have a basic device that allows you to go online. One would assume that in this day and age, no child would be at a disadvantaged since everyone seems to be on Tik-Tok or Instagram. Well, I was wrong. Through the online classes, I discovered students who do not have Wi-Fi or even a computer at home. And it was through this ordeal that I witnessed how someone’s generosity brings joy to others. My student was given a laptop and sim card with data by DAS’s kind donors and this has helped in her online learning so much. Students became more motivated and took more accountability in their work as we provide them with the essential tools.

The frantic rush of sourcing out the friendliest learning platform which can accommodate both students and teachers’ needs needed a lot of time and understanding from all stakeholders. Even when we have been using Google Meet for quite some time now (meetings and class trials), we have never really taught full time using an online platform. The need to have everything digitalised swarmed every minute of our ‘work from home’ order. The biggest challenge was to make our maths lessons as interactive as possible so that we are able to hold fast to our teaching approaches as close as we can. What I have humbly discovered is that there’s always something new to learn for EVERYONE. From using Google Meet to Classkick platforms, everyone got on board. As we helped the parents and students to navigate through this sudden technology invasion, we inevitably forged greater understanding and bond together. From the ‘What’s the password again?’ to the ‘Where’s the link?’ we facilitated one another’s limitations with patience and empathy. After all, we are in this together. Thank you, parents, for trusting us to ensure continuous intervention in these trying times.

Lesson 3: Learning is limitless

There have been so many grunts on remote teaching and learning but coming to the end of the year now, we are able to look back and reflect on how powerful online learning has been. The realisation that learning is limitlessly echoed the nation’s vision of lifelong learning and 21st-century savvy. I have seen students blossoming through online classes because they find their voice in technology and parents getting themselves more involved in their children’s learning because they had to. While face to face interaction is still ideal for intervention like ours, online learning provides the convenience and flexibility of being able to enrol in different programmes at once. Just like wearing the masks that we have become accustomed to, we also have embraced the new way of giving and receiving knowledge. After all, being safe, healthy and socially responsible are most important in these current circumstances. So when our voices are drowned out by the mute button or a lapse in the Wi-Fi connection, we widened our eyes and hearts to fill in the gaps of learning. We hope to become stronger and more knowledgeable after this. Some may argue, that can only happen if we are able to come out alive from this quandary. We will and we shall transform into individuals with greater strength and creativity. And with that impetus, we braved the last semester of returning to physical classes with greater appreciation and thoughtfulness of another new norm. Let me take your temperature. Have you checked in yet?

Written by: Siti Aishah Shukri, Senior Educational Therapist