Teachers and Students in the Pandemic

The current context came as a package for schools in the country with an extensive reflection process, with the monitoring of the action plans developed by the school managements together with the colleagues from the teacher`s room starting with March 2020. The teachers stayed with the students, going through the subjects with some difficulties of not knowing the computer work, at first, and then, after webinars and online teaching courses, which document the efforts of our colleagues in schools, things began to move more briskly and finally the school activities resumed their course in safety and online knowledge parameters. What has the reality of the last few months been like for the teachers or the teams they led?

Since March, the life of teachers has taken a derailing route. They have more or less learned to adapt so that they survive online, turning the abnormal into normal. All teaching activities, including extracurricular ones, have begun to take place on platforms such as Google Meet or Zoom. The topics addressed were multiple: from the presentation of language and communication problems or the theoretical/practical part in Physics, to the benefits of using the computer and its usage for didactic purposes. The presentation of the themes had an interactive, attractive, playful and intuitive character, which benefited the students, who loved computer games anyway.

Teachers continued to bring children closer to the magic of online educational activities, to the feeling that teachers care about students, about students` parents and everyone next to them.

With many emotions, fears and anxieties, teachers started each week of school. None of this has nullified their quality of being human and has not prevented them from continuing the school tradition of conducting school activities and extracurricular activities.

Remote learning has revealed not only that many children cannot practice it because they do not have a computer or other equipment, but also because new technologies make it difficult for many teachers. Children are the best at using technologies, they do not have this reserve in front of the new, while the mature people are somehow more complex, they are afraid to press on a key. What  if they delete, what if they don`t do it correctly. Here is where some inhibition somehow arises.

The virtual lessons, although less appreciated by students, teachers and parents, showed how much those in education still have to learn in a period dominated by information technologies. It is also up to the responsibility of each teacher to look for solutions to keep up with the requirements of the time. You can’t know until you learn! Teachers still need to deepen their knowledge in this field, either centrally or at the institution or staff level. As teachers, we can’t go back and stay at the level we were at.

Stress and insufficient time to organize lessons were the biggest difficulties complained of by teachers regarding distance teaching in the pandemic.

There have been situations when children have not been present at online lessons. The most cited reason was the lack of a device from which students could connect to the internet. Schools eventually received tablets from the ministry so that they could include all children in online education.

During the second semester of the school year 2020-2021, the Romanian Ministry of Education has implemented the pilot program „School after school”, a program complementary to the compulsory school program, within which teachers carried out activities of recovery of the subjects and support for children in the first years of school,  for those who are about to enter new school cycles and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Things have evolved considerably in attitudes towards online school, both from the perspective of teachers and students. One thing has remained constant – the different ability of students with good or less good results in teaching to adapt to school technology.

The content taught was also adjusted, the teachers summed up the syllabus so that in the classroom they presented only the absolutely necessary elements, especially since they noticed among the children a gradual decrease in the degree of concentration in classes with the entry into the hybrid system or the red scenario.

More than before the pandemic, teachers talk to parents after classes are over. They respond to parents` questions and requests, tell them about the daily lessons and they encourage each other.

Today, as a teacher, it has become mandatory to have minimal skills to deal with the G Suite for Education applications, to hold a synchronous meeting on Meet or Zoom, to organize the activity in a predictable, structured online space. You don’t have to constantly test dozens of applications, but organize a coherent pedagogical process using some useful and good ones for students to get acquainted with. Teachers noticed that they collaborated more and learned accelerated from each other and with the help of online teacher communities.

Among the positive aspects that teachers have noticed we can mention the integration of technology into learning, the possibility of experimenting with more teaching methods, fewer conflict situations between children and even more responsibility on their part. In turn, the teachers had to learn from the students, who very quickly caught the usage of all kind of platforms and applications.

The online school also normalized the virtual sessions with guests from several fields, which captivated the students and helped them to question more deeply what they are learning. In preparatory and primary classes, the graphic tablet was the tool through which teachers managed to keep the „lady’s writing” in front of each child at the end of the day.

But none of this replaces the need for authentic connection, that „to be together” in a social, living environment, where the physical presence of those around us is uninterrupted by the jamming of a virtual connection.

Hybrid teaching (with an online group and a physical one at the same time) has come with the most challenges. Teachers have hardly managed to keep the children’s attention at home, and the unforeseen technical problems in the classroom, due to non-performing equipment or the Internet, have been time and energy consuming. This scenario involved a continuous adaptation and was full of unpredictability.

Students’ attention, interest and concentration in classes have decreased, especially among middle school and high school students. The challenge is even greater in the preparatory classes where students constantly need the support of parents who, in turn, have concerns, cannot always be present or have other duties.

There are situations in which, in the absence of support from the family and an adequate learning space, students end up treating the class with unseriousness. Teachers cannot compensate for these shortcomings, no matter how motivated and prepared they may be. Not being supervised at home, some students do not enter online classes at the right time, sometimes they play, turning off their cameras. They don’t have a properly arranged space of their own to learn.

Teachers mentioned a series of measures asking for support from both the authorities and parents. The most handy proposal is the open communication, understanding and transparency with which we should all approach this extremely challenging process. Now, more than ever, we need support and the establishment of a functional level of trust.

Empathy is what has helped teachers move forward. Although it was a challenge due to the pandemic, colleagues and children with faces covered by masks, hybrid scenario, disorientation, the fact that they found support and inspiration from people online mattered a lot to how they chose to carry out their mission.

Online learning led teachers to acquire digital skills that they did not have and to develop those they had, it taught them to make their work easier in the sense of accessing an impressive number of digital resources, they met people from all over the country and beyond, they received help from colleagues through social networks, They received help from the groups set up after completing the online education courses.

To meet new needs, to increase the efficiency of teaching online, to continue to show that we can adapt, that we are the best, let’s use all the resources we have at hand! Don’t stop until we are proud! Let’s remain role models for our students!

Bibliography

1. Common Order no. 5.487/1.494/2020 for the approval of the measures for the organization of the activity within the educational units / institutions in safe epidemiological conditions for the prevention of diseases with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, published on 04th September 2020

2. Order no. 3.235/93/2021 for the approval of the measures for the organization of the activity within the educational units / institutions in safe epidemiological conditions for the prevention of diseases with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, published in the Official Monitor no. 122 of 5 th February 2021

3. Methodological Norms of February 19th, 2021 for the application of the National Pilot Program of the „School after school” type, for students up to and including the 8th grade, approved by Order no. 3,300 of February 19th, 2021, published in the Official Monitor of Romania, Part I, no. 186 of February 24th, 2021.

4. * * * Școala online: Elemente pentru inovarea educației. Editura Universității din București, 2020. Online: https://unibuc.ro/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Scoala_Online_Raport_aprilie_2020.pdf

 

prof. Luminița Melania Dîngă

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/luminita.dinga

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