Teaching during Pandemic times

It’s 9 am in the morning. All of us are preparing for my son’s online classes on a war footing – checking if the internet connection is on, the phone fully charged, received invites on multiple apps that we have on our phone – WhatsApp/Zoom/Google Meet/Gmail/GCR (as my son calls it, not a technical term, but an abbreviated form for Google Class Room, just to show his “swag”). You see, unless the invite comes on any of these apps (a mini play of the fastest finger first !!!), the ritual of online classes cannot begin. Oh!! I forgot, it also gets shared on WhatsApp groups, “2C-Parents group” or “2C-Online Classes” or “2C-Friends” or “Zoom-2C”, and at least 2-3 messages pop up that the link has not been received. I understand that every WhatsApp group has a purpose and it is a birth right and duty of parents to be present in all these groups so that they may not miss out on any important updates. The WhatsApp application is designed to be simple, but our life turns complex with these multiple groups.

The ritual of the online class starts with the teacher calling out “Para 2, Page number 10 of English Text book” when we suddenly realise that it is in fact an English class today and have to apply all our just-in-time management skills. We rush to source the workbook and open the right page, just to realise that the teacher has been wrong so we interrupt, just to be rebuked by the teacher, that it is the “text book” and not a “work book”. Another round of expedition to hunt for the “text book” follows and by that time a third of the allotted time for the class is over. (On a side note, I must admit that I am a 40+ year old CA who still does not understand why does one require a separate text book and workbook) We then leave the poor kid alone so that he can win the war of studying through online mode.

After about 15 mins or so, I enter the room, to check on my 7-year old’s attentive skills and what do I see? He was indeed paying attention, totally immersed, lying on the bed concentrating on the ceiling fan’s rotary movement. “What are you doing?!”, I yell at the top of my voice, to which I receive a goat-like innocent look, with a feeble voice saying “I am studying only…?.” Before he could complete his sentence, I shovel down his ears the difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’, the umpteenth time. On another hand, the poor teacher keeps burping out through her mouth, struggling herself with devices, books, a board, a pen and of course, asking for a response from the very student she had muted, trying to elicit a response from a student who has himself muted his mouth, but pretends that his mike is muted.

The rigmarole continues for another 30 odd mins and the most relieved person after the 45 mins odd class is the Parent.  Not because the classes are over, but because now they can catch up on their non-critical, useless, forwarded, WhatsApp messages that they have received in last 45 minutes. By then the clock ticks 10am, for another round of readiness for the next war ..err… classes begins.

Of course, in the melee a doting mother would quietly pass a bowl of Chocos with milk and ask the kid to gulp it as soon as possible after switching off the video. The disciplined father would shout, why can’t the kid get up early and complete his chores. Now one can witness two battles – one between the parents themselves and another student and his studies. The teacher’s elephant like ears listen to the arguments between parents and pleads that the students mute themselves.

It has been tough for the parents (complexity goes up in geometric progression if you have joint family with multiple kids), teachers, kids, school administrator and for all the app developing companies cashing out thinking that this will be new normal.

Let’s salute them, particularly the 50-year-old teacher, who is trying to adapt in this changed environment, evolving like the way Mr. Darwin had explained in the theory of evolution.

But I wish & pray that the new normal reverts to old one – why? So that the bonding of the teacher & student flourish, the bonding between friends at a tender age flourish, and above all the bonding of learning & understanding of the student flourish.

I hope the students do not miss out on small joys of copying & scoring marks.

I hope the never-ending chatter & buzz of the school returns.

I hope the auto/van drivers get their assured monthly income and continue to sort out the fights between the kids while driving.

I hope we never use the words “offline/online” classes and just use the word “classes” alone.

I hope that the school ecosystem can “rise like a phoenix” out of this catastrophe called covid.

Till then, amongst the struggles let’s pretend to learn multi-tasking like the processing devices around us.

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