How teachers in NSW Schools are coping during COVID -19

Sydney’s Lock Down Diary ”“ 2

By Rekha Rajvanshi

Coronavirus outbreak in Australia and around the world has impacted everyone’s work, personal and social life. Social distancing measures are still in place and everyone is suffering irrespective of their age. It has greatly impacted our education system. Students as well as parents are finding it hard to cope with the change as schools stay half shut, teachers are busy preparing online teaching learning material and delivering it through zoom or google classroom.

I work as a learning and support teacher at two public schools. One of my schools had COVID positive cases and staff was advised to self-isolate for two weeks. Schools have had to quickly prepare themselves for delivering education online. It is daunting to deliver online lessons for the teachers and students both as students face many challenges. Sitting alone in their homes is not motivational, they can’t focus for long, technology fails many a times and some subjects can’t be taught through google classroom e.g. literacy concepts like phonics and digraphs need interactive sessions, also practical subjects like Science, Applied Sciences and Technology, Visual Arts can’t be taught efficiently through online lessons.

I’ve discussed teaching strategies during coronavirus with three teachers in our community to understand how they are managing online teaching at their schools.

Ms. Preeti Gupta is an English teacher at a prestigious Private High School, this is what she shared with us:

As an English Advanced HSC teacher for two classes, the news of the pandemic outbreak was enough to make me hyperventilate! Online Learning Platforms meant that I, who did not even have a Google Classroom, had to upskill from a ‘zero to a hero’ in a matter of weeks. It is a ‘Brave new world’ as the bard penned in his play ”˜The Tempest’. There are challenges like trying to put everything that was planned for a 55 minute lesson in writing, lack of class ”˜vibe’, crazy long hours. However, the positives are quite encouraging. Students are more focussed as they realise this is it and they will not have opportunities of tutorials with the teacher during lunch and after school to seek clarifications. In three decades of teaching, I have never had such a rapid rate of submission of written tasks. Two days in a row I was hit with 50 emails within a couple of hours of setting the work and asking for feedback. I had to ask them how had they managed to finish these tasks so fast and the chorus response on Google Meet class was “We have no co-curricular commitments!” They are even reading more, which is fantastic as it preps them for Module C. Learning for students: stop whinging, need to be adept and humble. Life is a many splendoured thing, embrace it!

Ms Jyotsana Jyoti teaches at a well-known NSW Government High School. Here is how she is delivering lessons to her students:  

Online teaching has understandably been   a learning curve both for teachers and students, more steep for some than others. While lots of teachers like me had been using platforms like Google classroom and lesson recording programs like screen casto matic in their regular classrooms, going completely online brought new challenges.

Responding to streaming comments, providing instant feedback, keeping students focused during Zoom lessons and chasing absentees takes much more time online as compared to face to face interactions in the classroom.

The teachers were spending a lot more time planning, organising lessons and digitising resources. The change has been time consuming but nevertheless useful as we know that students are not missing out on learning.

Mr Mrityunjay Kumar Singh is a main stream teacher, who also runs a community language school. Here is how he is imparting language teaching:

South Asian Australian Association runs Hindi School Kogarah and Indian School Parramatta where we teach Hindi, music dance and other cultural classes. During this period of Wuhan Chinese Virus pandemic, we have started running Online Face-to-Face classes using Zoom App. Though our students are missing face to face classroom at our school premises, we are able to teach Hindi. And students and parents are quite satisfied with what we are able to achieve. One of the brighter side of things, this has shown us what can be achieved through the available technology and many students who were unable to come to Hindi Classes earlier are able to join the Online Classes. Even when the pandemic is over, we are thinking of continuing to run another branch of Online Classes.

It is hard work to do things outside the box as it requires a lot of time in learning new skills and preparing suitable resources. It is hard as most of us who are managing online classes are not expecting any remuneration for this work and have our own jobs and family business to attend to. We are satisfied in the fact that it is helping our community.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklain advised parents to keep children at home last term, but also announced that no child would be turned away from a public school. And a handful of students kept turning up to the schools.

The Premier has shone some light on the state government’s plan for Term 2. According to her students across the state aren’t due back in classrooms – virtual or otherwise – until April 27. She also said “From week 3 we will have increasing face-to-face contact for students.”

Teachers and community is hoping that the things will get better soon and we will be able to resume normal teaching learning schedule like before.

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