This new academic year is unlike anything we’ve seen before. For one, we have come into it without any sense of closure of the previous year, which had to abruptly be taken out of our classrooms and onto small screens. For another, we had to curtail many of our academic programmes, reduce syllabi, and make allowances for those who could not join online. In addition, many schools (and teachers) simply did not have the facilities or the level of comfort to use the online medium effectively.
A new academic year for most of us means a new group of students with whom we have to do the important work of relationship building. For ‘subject teachers’ who function across grade levels the situation may be a little better as they may have met the students already in the previous classes. For others, it is a daunting prospect to meet this new group for the first time from behind a screen. What are their individual quirks and characteristics? Are they shy or outspoken, focused or distracted? Do they need additional support or motivation or just ordinary prodding? It’s hard to know all of this without the rich immediacy of the physical classroom.
While online courses have now existed for years, their efficacy has been tested mostly among adult learners, groups who tend to be particularly motivated as they (generally) seek out these courses on their own. The situation with school education is quite different, and this global experiment that’s been forced upon us will give us a lot to think about and learn from – about how children learn (or not) at a distance, how we build relationships with different age groups in such a context…in fact, about the role of social and relational dynamics in learning.
It’s important that we take note of our practices – what works, what doesn’t, what frustrates, what gives joy – and share our experiences with our peers both within our schools and across the teaching community. It is from this shared experience and the knowledge (tentative as it may be) gained from it that can help us not only understand better how we manage the present, but also, perhaps, think through new models of engagement that could work in different contexts.
We at Teacher Plus have also been trying to figure out what it means to run a magazine in these times. How do we think about teaching and learning resources? What new issues are relevant and urgent? What do teachers need to keep themselves up to date and motivated? As you know, we have suspended the printed version of the magazine and for the moment are completely online. I am conflicted about giving up the paper version, but at this time we have no choice. We’d like to hear from our readers how all this is working out for them – and to let you know we will continue to be there for you, in whatever form we’re able!
In the meantime – take care, and stay safe!