Published: 09th March 2022
It’s amazing how teachers became unabashed learners, say city principals at #ThinkEdu2022
Four leading educationists in the city reflect on the different kinds of learning teachers, students, parents and administrators alike, had in the pandemic
We see teachers as problem-solvers and who better than them to teach us to spot the silver lining in adversity? Speaking at the ThinkEdu Conclave panel event titled ‘Smart Learning: The Digital Edge’, Minoo Aggarwal, Principal, DAV Public School, remarked on the positive outcome of the pandemic for those in education, “The way we have all adapted to technology and new tools has given a big push to the education system. The gains of the last two years are equivalent to what we would have needed 10 years for,” she said.
Other educationists on the panel shared how teachers learnt to become learners with digital, tech-based learning becoming the norm post the March 2020 lockdown. Shoba Raman, Principal, Vidya Mandir said, “It was heartening to see teachers sitting down with their students asking them for help with using digital tools, clearing doubts, and becoming students themselves.”
The educators discussed at length about the mental health toll the new way of learning took on teachers alongside being home and balancing more than they could. Prabha Dixit, Principal, Akshar Arbol International School, said, “Teachers tell me they are at school now from 7 to 4 and need to incorporate home needs, parents, in-laws, and their own kids’ schedules.” She also highlighted that to keep teachers from switching careers, more understanding needed to be given to them. Minoo shared that the management holds weekly tea parties for teachers to unwind and alleviate stress as they, she said, were the real heroes, not the administrators. School counsellors had their hands full with all the mental health needs, said Prabha. “We facilitated sessions with parents and teachers and counsellors to let everyone have a space to hear each other out and share frustrations. We also curated counseling sessions for the parents of children from different age groups where we shared behavioural changes that were observed.”
The teachers spoke of concerning gaps in learning and threw light on cognitive skills needing re-training. Shoba shared that the syllabus may need to be cut down to help students get back to the level they were at in the beginning of the pandemic. Minoo shared, “Writing skills took a big beating. Kids have not been able to put together sentences, so we are giving extra writing practice. Time management skills have become poor and increased nervousness has set in.” She said that they tell the students that they are being given exams now not to assess them but to help the teachers understand what each student needs special help with. They agreed that even if school-based learning didn’t happen as well as they hoped for, school children learnt empathy from watching the events around the world from deaths to vaccines and loss of livelihoods.
It wasn’t all academics, enough time was given for play too, revealed the school administrators. Sheela Rajendra, Dean, Director and Correspondent, PSBB Group of Schools, explained that they made sure to sneak in extra-curricular activities within the confines of 40-minute-long online classes, “Our schools celebrated every festival across all classes. During our virtual sessions too we gave them a few minutes to chat, emotionally connect with other students, and to calm themselves.”
Explaining how a digital edge will help educators faced with the present predicament of the old vs new as each student is at a different level now, Prabha said, “Tech is a good enabler of pedagogical practice. We have tablets and phones — that is hardware. Focus is on how we can integrate tech and not make the mistake of putting the horse before the cart.”
Sharing their collective happiness about classrooms being filled with the sounds of learning and laughter after the hiatus, the educators said that despite the challenges, everyone was happy to return to school. “We thought the kids would express reservation and reluctance but they have settled down so well. That was definitely a wonderful surprise,” she exclaimed. The panelists said that easing the children back into a routine was their primary focus. “We give them staggered timings to help them relax and form a routine again. When there are situations where they tell us, "I have a cold, I want to go home", now that they have been used to being home longer, we ensure we learn to strike a balance,” she signed off.
ThinkEdu 2022 is the grand tenth edition of what has consistently been India's biggest education conclave for a decade now. March 8 and 9 will see some stalwarts of India's academic, economic and political ecosystems bring ideas, ideologies and reflections on the past, present and future of India's education system. The sessions will be viewed by a live audience, in addition to the 2,750 registered users on the Conclave's digital space. Over the last nine years, the Conclave has seen some true stalwart thinkers such as former Presidents, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr Pranab Mukherjee, MPs Jairam Ramesh, Smriti Irani, former CM of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, NITI Aayog's CEO Amitabh Kant and spiritual guide Sadhguru.