Millions of students today are now in the first few weeks of their online classes, a massive shift in education made necessary by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about the health and safety of both students and teachers have prompted many school boards and government agencies to temporarily halt all forms of classroom instruction or campus-based activities.
To provide an alternative means of continuing school work, many academic institutions across all levels have adopted internet-based learning management systems or have opened accounts with Zoom or Google Classroom as the platform for a new normal in going to school. The sudden changes, no doubt, have caused apprehensions if not stress among students and teachers alike. For the educators, how can they cope with the set-up and remain effective despite the world of difference between online and on-site classroom teaching?
It’s Not Just A Job, It’s a Mentor-mentee Relationship
No doubt, the current situation has caused a lot of emotional stress on everyone including the academic community. Abrupt change is always unsettling and leaves a person feeling lost or unsure. Among students, the separation from their classmates is a big blow to their personal life since it affects their social connections and, for some in senior high school or college, even their romantic relationships.
Among teachers, being in front of their students in class is always a special time. Over the years, they have developed a deep bond inside the classroom that will last for a lifetime. Waking up one day not being able to go to school is depressing for many teachers who have dedicated most of their lives to this noble profession.
For teachers at the primary school and middle school, they perhaps miss giving out personalized rubber bracelets to their students before spring break. These tokens serve to motivate students to continue their academic pursuits despite academic difficulties or personal challenges. These symbolic bands also express the teaching staff’s recognition of each student’s individuality and potential for success in whatever field they choose in the future. Indeed, as truly dedicated educators, being part of the teaching profession is also a personal mission and a mentoring role that involves building sincere relationships with their mentees.
Teacher and Student Motivation
With disruptions in people’s social lives due to the pandemic, teachers have had to find new ways to motivate their students. While today’s generation of learners needs no help in navigating their way in the use of computers or internet-based applications, the physical separation from friends and the inertia caused by being forced to stay at home for months now has led to sagging morale and interest in their studies.
To make them more excited about online classes, many teachers have purposely lined up non-academic online activities such as group sharing about their pandemic experiences. This enables each student in the group to express their thoughts and feelings about the lockdown. They may even have had an illness or death in the family related to COVID-19. The sharing sessions serve as a form of therapy by allowing the learners to vent out pent-up feelings and fears.
Positive motivation is also used by teachers to create a feeling of enjoyment and fulfillment among students as they engage in learning activities online. These may involve praise and acknowledgment of good work or high academic ratings earned by a student. On some occasions, praise may be about doing well in extra-curricular activities like art or music projects done individually or as a group via online collaboration.
Among teachers, they also strive to motivate each other by reminding themselves of the importance of their profession. In some schools, they have informal faculty meetings online that enables them to share their experiences with the online classroom. The camaraderie formed among teachers help them to cope with stringent demands and expectations not only from students and parents but from fellow academicians, as well.
Embracing Technology as the Future of Education
One source of frustration especially for the older generation of teachers is the need to be updated with educational technology. The earlier generations of educators were taught and trained to master their subject matter and become good presenters and facilitators inside the classroom. For them, it was all about how they speak and handle discussions in class. Today, they need to be adept in software and hardware. Virtual schools have literally changed the education landscape.
As a way of coping, many schools have organized seminars and training sessions on the new learning management systems to be used by both teachers and students. Slowly but surely, the more senior educators are embracing technology as part of the new normal in teaching. They have learned to accept that technology will continue to shape how learners go to school and how teachers will perform their job. The next generation of educators, fortunately, grew up more tech-savvy which makes them more ready to infuse the innovations of technology with the tried and tested traditional methods of education.
Survival and Success as Online Educators
Indeed, the key to surviving unprecedented changes in the educational environment is still to go back to the fundamental reasons for the teaching profession: become a guide to the next generation, keeper of established knowledge and skills, and facilitate meaningful change among learners through various learning activities.
By applying motivational techniques during class, both teacher and student remember the “Why” of education and the benefits of persisting in going to online classes despite any and every obstacle. Finally, by accepting the role of technology, teachers are now better preparing students to face new challenges and make the best of opportunities in the future.