It’s no secret that education systems here and abroad took a heavy beating from the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we often hear of students’ and parents’ struggles with online learning, teachers have their fair share of challenges as well.
From preparation of lesson plans to conducting the classes and the handing out of assignments, teachers have to make sure that the quality of learning remains even with the absence of face-to-face interactions.
Like the students and the parents, teachers would probably say that “the struggle is real.”
A different preparation
One of these teachers is former TV reporter and anchor Julius Segovia, who teaches various communications subjects, specifically TV Production, Journalism Principles, Visual Journalism, Multimedia Performance, and News Production in four different universities.
Before the pandemic, he prepared his lessons a few days or weeks before they are actually delivered to his students. This time around, his lead time had to be longer.
“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, agrees that she had to pass hurdles upon hurdles to be able to conduct her classes, not only to keep things in order, but also to ensure learning among 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.
Meanwhile, R-Jay Cayton, a teacher in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) mode of education, finds pre-work more complicated than before.
“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 online show host, Julius is used to talking in front of the camera. And while he doesn’t expect the camera to talk back to him, he knows that his messages get across because people react to what he says on those platforms. That’s not necessarily the case for online classes.
Like any other teacher, Julius is used to interacting with students face-to-face. And even if he is facing the camera, this time for classes, he may not be getting the same feedback from his students.
“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 obstacles in conducting blended learning sessions, or a mix of online and onsite classes, as directed by the Commission on Higher Education.
“[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 set to begin on October 5, which also happens to be World Teachers’ Day. But even before this, Melanie already conducted a dry-run of her online class, particularly for her Grade 10 students in order to identify issues that have to be addressed.
Like probably many teachers, Melanie describes this “impersonal” method of learning as quite challenging
“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.
The teachers themselves are saying that having good internet connectivity is a major issue 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.
Aside from fluctuating internet connection, R-Jay is also bothered by the unnecessary background noises he hears, as these are distractions to both him and his students.
Shift in evaluating students’ learning
It’s common for teachers to give out seatworks and quizzes inside the classroom. Since there’s practically no classroom to speak of this school year, teachers had to make adjustments on how to ensure that their students have indeed learned or would learn 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 its gains 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 FB 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 an entire class attentive has always been a challenge for teachers, especially in the basic education levels, but the “new normal” gave it a whole new dimension.
Like Julius’s students, not all of Melanie’s turn on their cameras; still, teachers find ways to manage their class’ behavior.
“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 staying silent when they are talkative.
Hopes for the “new normal” of education
In the end, the teachers hope that all things with online classes and blended learning 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 still hopes that the pandemic and the sudden change in the conduct classes won’t hamper adults from continued learning.
“[I hope my students would] value themselves more, so they can dream bigger for themselves [because education promotes equity].”
BDO Network Bank’s commitment to education, teachers
The work of our teachers in shaping the minds of the nation is in itself a sacrifice and an act of love because it requires time, attention, and patience. These have doubled, maybe even tripled or more this pandemic.
Clearly, teachers have been finding ways to continue students’ learning process, refusing to give up on their calling.
BDO is one with them in steadily serving the community through these tough times.
As its commitment to continued education amid the pandemic, its rural banking arm—BDO Network Bank—supported the health and safety campaign of the Department of Education for teachers and learners alike, donating P1 million worth of rubbing alcohol and washable face masks that will benefit 1,105 public schools, under the Brigada Eskwela program.
On the other hand, under the Balik Eskwela campaign, BDO Network Bank employees were encouraged to donate school items (school shoes, bags and school supplies) for DepEd teachers and students. In addition, as part of this program, P420,000 worth of ICT equipment (laptops, desktops, and scanners) were turned over to DepEd through the rural bank’s partnership with BDO Foundation and SM Foundation..
In addition, BDO Network Bank provided school materials to further help teachers and students, donating P1.4 million worth of bond papers under the Adopt-a-School program.
Like the country’s dedicated teachers, BDO looks forward to getting through the pandemic, so that learning experiences may eventually safely resume beyond people’s homes and inside real classrooms.