Teacher, by definition, is someone who helps students acquire knowledge, competence, or virtue. In reality, the role of a teacher does not stop at just imparting knowledge. A teacher takes on various roles. As second parent of the child and therefore in charge of the safety and the holistic well-being of the child. As a nurse, he/she must take care of a child who suddenly feels unwell and must administer first aid when necessary. As an artist, he/she must prepare visuals or presentations that would hopefully help the children learn better. As a performer, he/she would have to use songs and/or movements not just to entertain the children but moreso to help them remember the lesson easily As a counselor, he/she tries to help children cope with different emotions as they go through life experiences. A teacher also tries to be a role model as he/she ensures that children learn or develop good values. A teacher takes on so many other roles, all of which are intended to ensure that each child learns not just academic lessons but important life lessons as well. The job of the teacher does not stop when he/she leaves the classroom. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make the classroom experience of children a good one. They must plan and prepare lessons, create presentations or visuals, prepare worksheets or assessments, etc. They must also check and grade papers and provide assistance to those who need it. These tasks are usually accomplished even beyond school hours.
For the Philippines, 2020 has been an especially challenging year. We have been struck with natural calamities such as volcanic eruptions and typhoons. We also have an ongoing pandemic which required us to be in quarantine. Being in quarantine and experiencing a pandemic is unprecedented for us. Nobody saw it coming and certainly, nobody was ready for it. The experience can be likened to a “Thanos snap”; suddenly, the world changed-all lives changed forever. This pandemic has changed the way we go about our daily lives. It has changed our perspectives, our goals, and our priorities. It has also greatly affected education. At the onset of the pandemic, classes were suspended and the academic calendar was disrupted. As this is unprecedented, schools struggled to find ways to still give children a chance to finish the school year despite being in quarantine. Schools switched to online learning. This means, teachers had to quickly learn and master the use of gadgets and technology to be able to provide a good learning experience for children who are in their homes. Teachers had to acquire a gadget and a stable internet connection. They had to recreate a classroom set-up in their homes. Almost instantaneously, they had to become masters of the different video-conferencing apps and the different software programs available to still provide interactive learning experiences.
Now that a new schoolyear has opened and schools have transitioned fully to an online learning delivery system, teachers are expected to deliver a learning experience with some semblance to how it used to be, albeit online. The difficulty is, teachers have not had a chance to let these overwhelming changes sink in. It feels like being at the frontlines, trying to accomplish a gargantuan task, unprepared. Not all teachers are tech-savvy and having to master so many things in such a short span of time is not easy. On top of doing online classes, teachers also have to create modules and exercises. These are just some of the daunting tasks that teachers are faced with. Teachers must also find ways to divide their time so that they can fulfill their obligations at home while also getting their tasks as a teacher done. They are already feeling the fatigue and the stress of having to cope with such a difficult undertaking. On top of these, some parents have become more demanding and more critical. There are those who resort to using harsh words, teacher-shaming, and verbal harassment. This, of course, adds to the enormous stress the teachers are already feeling.
There are a lot of expectations from teachers, there is a huge pressure for them to be able to deliver quality learning experiences for children. The pressure not only comes from the parents and the school administrators but also from teachers themselves. Teachers have this ingrained attitude of wanting to provide the best for the children under their care. They would often push themselves to give their best at all times. As teachers are also still “newbies” at this online learning, mistakes are bound to happen. This can be very frustrating for teachers who only wish to provide excellent quality learning experiences to their pupils. The feel of a virtual classroom is also very different from that of a physical classroom set-up. There is less interaction and it is more difficult to build meaningful connections with the children. Teachers really miss getting to interact with the children on a more personal level. It is heartbreaking to be confined to just seeing them on the screens for such a limited amount of time each day.
Initially, it was thought that online teaching would be much easier because one would just have to sit in front of a computer or laptop. The reality is, online teaching is laborious and challenging. Teachers are experiencing anxiety, fatigue, depression, and burnout. There are those who have been greatly affected by the harsh criticisms that they end up second-guessing themselves and are now riddled with self-doubt. Teachers feel alienated because not everyone can understand their plight. The restrictions of the quarantine also mean that they are not able to meet up with friends or colleagues to destress. Destressing is also difficult especially when there is little or no time left for such. Despite all these feelings and challenges, teachers still make it to class everyday. You see them smiling and interacting cheerfully with the children. You see them doing their best to make sure that children understand the lessons. They find ways to make the class fun and engaging despite the many limitations of doing it virtually. They have become technical troubleshooters just to be sure that they can still have continue the class despite technical difficulties, Teachers continue to rise above challenges in the hopes that their efforts will all be worth it in the end.
Teachers everywhere are struggling. Most suffer in silence. Some are on the verge of having a breakdown. Some have thought about resigning or have thought of taking a leave. It is important that the public is made aware of the teachers’ plight. Teachers are not robots who are immune to feelings and fatigue. Let’s not forget that teachers, just like everyone else, are also coping with and struggling to adapt to the abrupt changes brought about by this pandemic. Now, more than ever, teachers need support. They need the cooperation of parents. They need understanding and compassion. It has been said that one cannot pour from an empty cup. Teachers will not be able to deliver what is expected of them if they are already broken inside. Indeed, a teacher’s plight during a pandemic is not something to be taken lightly.
Article contributed by Gailwyn So.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and thoughts of the author are not intended to offend anyone and do not reflect the views, opinions, and thoughts of any institutions she may be affiliated with.