Teaching Through the Pandemic – a Vision for Thriving Discover how COVID-19 has revealed vulnerabilities and surfaced the educators’ adaptability
The corridor was bare. The classrooms were empty. No single soul in sight, only a sound of steady footsteps could be heard. While Irene was walking along the corridor, she silently blurted out, “It’s this time again.” It was all she managed to say before she stopped short, vexed into silence, perhaps by the sheer size of the challenge. In the pregnant pause that followed, undoubtedly, every teacher tracking the unspooling thread – about the dizzying, rapidly escalating viral crisis that continues to shut down schools across the country – recognized the chasm they were all facing again.
AVERT GENERATIONAL CATASTROPHE
Researchers Sara Kerr and Nate Schwartz explained in a new blog series Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic that teachers are facing the most complex challenges of their careers during this time, which include being asked to be social workers to families reeling from the effects of layoffs and illness, to be masters of distance learning and trauma-responsive educational practices, and to be experts to take on new responsibilities against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases and a hyper-polarized political debate over the return to school.
“It is a challenge that must be accepted upfront. Today’s teachers will have to embrace and master different roles including the ability to establish connection and interaction at a different level toward a rich learning environment. New adopters will have to face their learning curves,” shared San Carlos Integrated School (SCIS) Principal 1 Eva Bajade with The Augustinian.
This led to the realization that educators need to be armed with the best available science, data, and evidence, not only about the operational challenges of reopening that have dominated the news cycle but also about how to meet the increasingly complex social-emotional and academic needs of students and their families.
“In 2021, we must seize all opportunities to turn this situation around. We must step up our efforts to training teachers, bridging the digital divide, and rethinking curricula to equip learners with the skills and knowledge to flourish in our rapidly changing world,” said Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres in an interview with UN Web TV.
Meanwhile, schools in the Philippines began the school year 2021- 2022 on September 13, one of which was SCIS in Anilao that welcomed its students’ return to Balay Eskwelahan despite the challenging distance learning set-up as in-person classes remain banned due to the pandemic.
Public Schools District Supervisor Melanie Villalon even said that the opening was expected to run smoothly because it was not the first time that schools would be implementing distance learning.
“Education is free inclusive for all walks of life, despite the pandemic. Last year was more of a trial-and-error, how the learning delivery will happen. But this year, the teachers already anticipated and even improved in terms of preparations and innovations. In fact, we are expecting more enrollees by the end of September,” she said.
Moreover, Bajade acknowledged the challenges faced in 2019-2020 academic year in terms of learning resources and the ability of the teachers to have constant supervision of the students.
“I miss my students and the desire to see interactions with them faceto-face. More than that, there is a need to overcome communication barriers and to personally learn how to teach with the required technology fast enough to implement the lessons in their remote instruction so they could use it. To do so, we must meet the needs of those at risk of being left behind including children with disabilities and those living in conflict-affected areas,” shared Bajade.
BACK TO TRACK
In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the Futures of Education: Learning to become initiative with the aim of rethinking education and reimagining how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet.
“With the realization that the future is now—and that how we respond to COVID-19 and its several levels of disruption will have substantial short- and long-term consequences—we feel our endeavor has taken on a new urgency and importance. The said initiative incorporates extensive public and expert engagement and aims to catalyze a global debate on how education needs to be rethought in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and fragility,” said Chair of the International Commission on the Futures of Education Sahle-Work Zewde.
Zewde also mentioned that there is a need to strengthen public education, fortify common goods and expand a global solidarity that emphasizes the collective responsibility for the education of everyone everywhere, stating, “the Commission calls for the mobilization and participation of all in shaping the futures of education. These responses to the pandemic will be different from one place to another, from one context to another but they must be based on a humanistic vision of education and development and human rights frameworks.”
As the abrupt shift away from the classroom becomes unavoidable the second time around, many teachers believe that the interruption to learning will provide an opportunity for teachers to redefine what can work well in pandemic education.
“This requires reimagining pandemic education through the lens of love. If we don’t use this moment to reimagine education, we are missing an incredible opportunity, which will leave our children wondering why we didn’t work harder to leverage the moment to make their lives and schools better,” continued Bajade.
SCIS Teacher 1 Alyssa Chelsi Deloso further attested to Bajade’s statement adding that as a new school year begins, now is the time to step up as educators.
“We need to maximize collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the center of the recovery and the transformation towards more inclusive, safe, and sustainable societies. We need to embrace this new way of learning and uplift the experiences of our students,” shared Deloso.
It is truly the time to invest in better aligning education systems around the world to the reality of interconnectedness that the pandemic has forced upon these educators, and to use education to promote social justice, peace, diversity, human rights, and democratic principles.
As the sun lit a beaming light surrounding the dark spaces of the hollow milieu and brought a streak of illumination on Irene’s face, she realizes that what lies beyond the next days is yet to be unveiled, but she closes her eyes with boldness of thought and trust that this pandemic has shined a bright light on what steps forward educators need to take, chief among them addressing the education of the students
Published: April 25, 2022