Home > Leadership and Management > Understanding the pandemic challenges to the teaching fraternity

Understanding the pandemic challenges to the teaching fraternity

By G. Balasubramanian

Nearly after one year and more of the schools and other educational institutions being shut down, the teachers all across the spectrum of the educational ladder have been put into some unforeseen challenges. These challenges have certainly impacted their professionalism, their self-esteem, their confidence profile and their relationship management. Though a large number of teachers, both in the government and the private sector rose up to the occasion and responded to varying degrees to meet the call of their institutional dynamics, a number of challenges experienced by them in the course of their performance have not been adequately projected. While in many situations, the stakeholders have launched open criticism about their performances both through WhatsApp groups also through social media, they have not adequately lauded the responses given by them to meet the contemporary requirements.

Some of the challenges met by the teaching community are the following:

1. Change of classroom environment

The change of the classroom environment did impact the psychological and the professional behavioural systems of this community. The pressure to make immediate changes without adequate preparation, without adequate resources for implementation, without a clear standard operating procedure admissible to all in the workstations did impact their style and the modes of delivery. The system suffered due to absence of vision, absence of listed norms for performance, clarity in change dynamics. The need to re-engineer their work brought paradigm shifts in the taxonomy, philosophical and psychological designs pertaining to pedagogy. The online classrooms needed different models of interventional strategies to deal with multiple styles of learning among the learners.

2. Coping with newer pedagogical delivery models

The classroom pedagogy in the classical models was well articulated, practiced and time-tested. Moving away to an entirely different eco-system required newer pedagogical designs to deal both with the individual learners and group of learners. The collaborative opportunities for learning in a team, peer learning and interactive learning opportunities became minimal or in a number of cases were not feasible. Teachers had to exercise their intellect to compensate such losses, make interventional pedagogical exercises to neutralize these losses. They had to integrate all types of strategies – behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, connectivism, to ensure reach of information to the learners for meaningful learning The lesson plan models they were using for years had to be set aside, to reach out to the learners in the context of newer strategies.

3. Preparing online content development

The content designs for online classrooms needed an entirely different framework as compared to a regular classroom. The designs required not only focus, accuracy, authenticity, credibility, connectivity, clarity and communicability, but were to be gravitating, provoking thinking, enabling analysis and facilitating further learning and research. The content had to be designed with feeds that encompass the learning needs of the head, heart and the hand. The content designs had to cater to the learners of different learning styles. They should not lead to questionable facts that might distort or mislead the truth of the concepts. Preparing such content required a lot of time, energy, competency, understanding and articulation in writing and concept development skills. Teachers who were neither trained, nor had any previous experience in these fields, had to meet these requirements in a short time. In many cases, they faced challenges both from the learners and their parents. Lack of uniformity in schools in development of such models was another challenge and the school system did not adequately respond to put in place standard operating procedures in content designs in a short time.

4. Challenges in performance of work from home

Teachers had to deliver their work from their own homes. In many cases, teachers with inadequate domestic resources found it difficult to have work stations for the delivery of their content. Apart from the resource constraints at homes, they also faced resource constraints in terms of technology – absence of laptops, lack of Wi-Fi, technology support for making visual and auditory inputs to presentations and the like. With a number of people at home, interventions to professional delivery systems were of great concern. Their psychological comfort was quite low with possibilities of intervention by the members of the family or neighbours; or in terms of avoidable noises from the environment. Thus, there was inadequate focus in effective professional deliveries and unfortunately, they could not explain some of them even to the institutions for the possible impact on their self-esteem.

5. Establishing relationship management with children

With all the extra efforts one would put to give their best in a competitive and compelling environment, even some best teachers found the relationship management with children was indeed a problem. In many cases, children felt at ease at home and hence their focus, their attention, their engagement was low. With parental support at home, they were not adequately responsive, responsible and accountable to their teachers as they would have been in a closed classroom atmosphere. Absence of personal appearance impacted the emotional engagement with the learners and hence teachers found it difficult to motivate the learners adequately or to impress on them to become effective self-learners. The personal bonding between the teachers and the learners witnessed a new low.

6. Challenges in collaboration and coordination

In a school environment, more specifically, in a classroom environment, the possibility of engaging groups of learners to a learning task, enabling environment to active peer learning, facilitating collaboration for co-construction of knowledge, opportunities for competitive learning existed. In a remotely controlled online classroom, such opportunities either vanished or became inconsiderate or minimal. Several of the co-scholastic activities which triggered collaborative learning, healthy emotional engagement between peers leading to social intelligence, expansion of learning opportunities to an enlarged learning universe in regular classrooms vanished, putting more stress on teacher engagement with alternate processes. Some of these engagements and activities did not find favour with the parents as they had different domestic and professional priorities

7. Absence of standard models facilitating diverse pedagogy

Contextualizing content, pedagogy and assessment to learning situations through technology is not a linear exercise. It calls for integrated thinking and a lot of time for development. However, with a lot of EdTech companies aggressively marketing their own models of content and pedagogy purporting to facilitate schools and teachers, ‘packed food’ and ‘fast food’ models opened new markets. In many cases such technologies were found to be lacking in authentic pedagogy, as they fulfilled only the needs of information processing on a flow chart and focused more on data provision, data assimilation, date management and feedback. Further, teachers found that a large number of them had a straight-jacket approach with which they had to struggle to meet the multiple needs of learning.

8. Financial challenges due to cut in salary/ delayed payments

In many schools, teachers were suffering from low self-esteem and neglect, due to cut in salaries or even non-payment of salaries for a few months. This impacted their efficiency, effectivity, passion and motivation for meaningful engagement. In certain Government schools, their engagement to non-academic jobs made them face challenges which they were either unwilling or unprepared. This had both direct and indirect impact on their professional profile.

9. Performance audit by multiple stakeholders

The performance of the teachers went on public audit in a large number of cases, with parents and other stake holders due to transparent classrooms. The inadequacies of such classrooms were not adequately appreciated by the stakeholders who did not realize that many of them were functioning under compelling circumstances to fulfil their obligations. Many teachers were found to be facing a lot of stress of multiple dimensions in their work. The ‘opinion tsunami’ that engulfed the teaching fraternity on ‘how to prepare content’ ‘how to teach’ ‘how to communicate’ and the like, from a host of people who had least knowledge of such professional environments had to be received with patience, understanding and humility.

10. Uncertainty about their future and security in profession

The element of uncertainty about this profession was not any different from other professions. The future of schools in the post-covid scenario, the challenges of meeting the new norms, the possibilities of their being devalued anytime on simple complaints, fear of loss of revenue or job were but a few invisible challenges they were experiencing in their psyche. The emergence of new technologies, with aggressive corporates to usher in newer technologies as when they develop to make quick revenues, the possible impact of emerging technologies like AI. VR and AR have kept them with their fingers crossed about their ability to survive in the profession for the future. There is an increased sense of insecurity in the profession even among the seniors who had braved the weather.

Teaching is becoming increasingly a challenging job. What kind of learning environment would be in the future, is anybody’s guess? As architects of the younger generation of a nation, they need better appreciation, better understanding and better support, though there is no denial to the fact that the teachers need to evolve continuously and remain current and competent to the future of education.