It’s no secret that education systems here and abroad have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we sometimes hear about the difficulties of parents and students with online learning, teachers often have a fair share of challenges. Teachers must ensure that the quality of learning remains, even with the absence of face-to-face experiences, from the planning of lesson plans to the conducting of classes, and distributing of assignments.
The Paradigm Shift for Teachers’ Challenges in the New Normal
Like parents and students, teachers will likely say, “The struggle is real.”
A different preparation
One of these teachers is a former TV reporter and anchor Julius Segovia, who teaches various fields of communication, specifically TV Production, Journalism Values, Visual Journalism, Multimedia Performance, and News Production in four separate universities. Before the pandemic, he practiced his lessons a few days or weeks before they were finally given to his students. His lead time had to be longer this time around.
“You need to prepare and finish all the modules for the entire semester before the classes get started,” said Julius.
Another journalism teacher, Melanie Moreno, admits that she has had to face challenges to be able to perform her courses, not just to keep things in order, but also to ensure learning amongst her students.
“Preparing lessons during this pandemic is way more challenging than before since the concern is not just limited to making sure that the learning will be transferred to the learners, but also to making sure that this is actually delivered to them,” says Melanie, who teaches in a public high school in Cavite.
“The diversity of the learners in terms of academic performance and ability is now appended with their diverse socio-economic status and ability to sustain education amid the pandemic,” she adds.
In the meantime, R-Jay Cayton, a teacher in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) mode of education, finds pre-work more difficult than ever.
“The planning part is complex now since classes are online. My audio-visual materials, camera, and microphone need to be tested at least two days before my actual class. Before, it was a day before because I just needed to prepare my visual aids,” R-Jay, who teaches basic education-level English to mostly adult learners.
Challenging conduct of classes
As a TV reporter and an online show host, Julius is used to speaking in front of the camera. And while he doesn’t expect the camera to speak back to him, he knows that his messages are coming through because people are responding to what he says on those platforms. This is not generally the case for online courses.
Like every other instructor, Julius is used to communicating face-to-face with students. And even though he’s facing the camera, this time for lectures, he does not get the same input from his class.
“Students are not required to open their camera because it consumes bigger bandwidth. With this, I am not sure if I am really talking to my students or I am just doing my monologue during class discussions,” he explains.
Julius also points out some of the challenges to holding hybrid learning sessions, or a combination of on-line and on-site courses, as driven by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“[Students] will be given modules in lieu of virtual meetings. Meaning, you have students with different learning modalities. Medyo nakakalito ‘yun sa part ng teacher,” he says.
Classes for public schools are scheduled to begin on October 5th, which also happens to be World Teachers’ Day. But even before that, Melanie had already conducted a dry-run of her online class, particularly for her Grade 10 students, to recognize issues that need to be addressed. Like many teachers, Melanie describes this “impersonal” learning method as very difficult.
“It takes a lot of reflective thinking and assessment since you would need to develop a uniform concrete material addressing the needs of a diverse audience. I believe that [developers of Alternative Delivery Mode] learning materials should therefore be very adept with the craft,” she shares.
Teachers themselves claim that having strong internet access is a key problem in the delivery of their lessons.
“Not all families can actually afford the expenses [of securing a stable internet connection]. The internet stability in our country is [also] really challenging, aside from the fact that the teacher’s presence in the process of learning is actually compromised. [Limited] teacher presence affects the learning of the students according to studies,” Melanie says.
Besides the fluctuating internet connection, R-Jay is often distracted by the unwanted background noises he encounters, as these are distractions for both him and his students.
Shift in evaluating students’ learning
It’s normal for teachers to do seat works and quizzes inside the classroom. Since there is almost no classroom to talk about this school year, teachers had to make changes in how to ensure that their students either understood or learned from their lessons.
“I am lenient in terms of deadlines. I give ample time for the students to finish the required output, but we strictly follow protocols on late submissions. They get deductions if they submit late,” Julius says.
“If they get to submit a superb TV or radio material, then it means they’ve learned something from me,” he emphasizes further.
Melanie’s early preparations have had their benefits so far.
“Even before the opening of classes, [my learners and I] have been engaging in different online projects. We struggled at first. As time went by, we were able to establish an organized system, though, only using [Facebook] and Messenger, which are accessible even without internet data compared to other educational applications available nowadays which require internet access,” she shares.
Managing virtual classroom behavior
Keeping a whole class attentive has always been a challenge for teachers, particularly at the level of basic education, but the “new normal” has given it a whole new dimension.
Like Julius’ students, not all of Melanie’s cameras are switched on; teachers also find ways to control their class actions.
“I engage them in discussions. Sometimes, I do request them to open [their cameras], usually at the end of the meeting just to make sure that they are paying attention. Aside from that, their outputs reflect whether they have learned something or not,” Melanie says.
R-Jay, meanwhile, keeps his students in check by remaining quiet when they’re being talkative.
Hopes for the “new normal” of education
At the end of the day, teachers hope that something about online classes and blended learning will turn out to be beneficial to students.
“I hope students would realize that they should work hand in hand with their teachers for the pursuit of online classes. Ika nga, kailangang magtulungan para maisakatuparan ang lahat ng ito. Hindi biro ang blended learning approach sa mga bata. [In the] same way, challenge din ito para sa mga guro, especially sa mga hindi techie,” Julius says.
“With careful planning, honest, and realistic feedback for processing, I believe that education will still push through effectively. It just takes adaptability and synergy, as life should not end with the virus. It should rather open broader and more positive possibilities without compromising the precious lives of our teachers, students, and other stakeholders,” Melanie shares.
R-Jay’s students may be of age, but he also hopes that even a pandemic and a sudden shift in the actions of classrooms would not prevent adults from continuing to learn.
“[I hope my students would] value themselves more, so they can dream bigger for themselves [because education promotes equity].”
Salute and commitment
The role of our teachers in shaping the minds of the nation is, in itself, a sacrifice and an act of love, for it takes time, attention, and patience. They’ve doubled, maybe even tripled, or more than this pandemic.
Clearly, teachers have been seeking ways to continue the learning process of students, refusing to give up on their vocations.
BDO is one with them in the steady service of the community during these trying times.
As part of its contribution to continuing education in the midst of the pandemic, its rural banking arm—BDO Network Bank—sponsored the Department of Education’s health and safety initiatives for teachers and learners, donating ₱1 million worth of rubbing alcohol and washable face masks to 1,105 public schools under the Brigada Eskwela scheme.
On the other hand, as part of the Balik Eskwela program, employees of BDO Network Bank were encouraged to donate school products (school shoes, bags, and school supplies) to DepEd teachers and students. Also, as part of this scheme, ₱420,000 worth of ICT equipment (laptops, desktops, and scanners) was transferred to DepEd through a rural bank collaboration with the BDO Foundation and the SM Foundation.
The BDO Network Bank also provided school supplies to further support teachers and students by contributing P1.4 million worth of printing papers under the Adopt-a-School program.
Like the country’s committed teachers, BDO looks forward to getting through the pandemic so that learning activities can finally restart safely outside people’s homes and in actual classrooms.