The yin and yang of online teaching

By: Rheciel B. Belen - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 08,2022 - 08:00 AM

“Send link,” “Kindly unmute your mic,” “Please turn your cameras on,” “Are you with us?” and other such phrases have been a teacher’s oft-given instructions since the educational system shifted to online teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like breakfast, these utterances have kickstarted each school day for teachers and learners for almost two years now.

Our daily morning routine as teachers consists of settling ourselves in our “office space” at home an hour before our classes’ synchronous session, preparing our PowerPoint presentations, testing our laptops and Wi-Fi connection to make sure that everything flows smoothly, eating our breakfast as we wait for our students to click the online link to join the class, and checking if all the applications that we will be using are working. Then we face the battle of online teaching.

As a teacher for more than a decade now (first at a private Catholic school and a now at a public school), I can honestly testify that school year 2020-2021 has thus far been my most challenging and tedious professional experience. It took me a considerable time to cope with the work-from-home setup. Working in front of my computer for almost an entire day to meet deadlines, having consultations with students and parents to address all their concerns, and completing all the tasks each day to lessen the workload for the week made me feel like a robot that did its job without thinking that it was tired. I became so numb even as my mind was consumed with one thought, which was to never stop working until the deliverables were all finished.

Anxieties and frustrations also haunted me on countless nights, not knowing if my students were learning from me or just merely submitting all the requirements so that they could pass my subject. I got discouraged and started to fear that I was not effective enough to deliver the learning I should provide to them. It worsened one day when social media exploded with rants from parents and students about some error-stricken modules and incompetent teachers. As I read them, I just felt mortified at the idea that my own students might think that I belonged to that category. This insecurity and paranoia, plus the stress of the job, made me want to stop teaching altogether.

But after much reflection, I asked myself why I signed up for this job. Teaching has been my vocation and bread and butter for a long time, it made me who am I today, and it became the biggest aspect of my adult life. I carried on and decided to involve myself in different webinars and trainings so that I could be prepared and equipped with enough knowledge and skills related to multimedia and e-learning.

Besides the in-service training provided by our school and by the Department of Education, I took the initiative to discover different kinds of educational platforms and applications that might be helpful in the teaching-learning process during my synchronous and asynchronous sessions with my students. I learned how to use popular learning platforms, programs, and software like Quizizz, Mentimeter, Slido, Kahoot, etc. I painstakingly took the time to teach my students how to operate all these applications. I remember that when my students and I met through Google Meet for the first time, I had to send them all a YouTube video on how to use it because it was confusing to them. One by one, I demonstrated to them how to use this platform. It may have been repetitive, but in the end, I felt quite fulfilled to extend my time and effort to help each of them master it.

There is a meme circulating on social media that is popular among us teachers. It has an image of two astronauts on the moon with a caption above it that reads, “When you ask a teacher how virtual learning is going so far,” and text at the bottom that goes, “1 hour here is 7 years on earth.” It’s exaggeratedly funny, but we teachers get the humor.

Online teaching is not easy. Nevertheless, as the cliché goes, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The experience that we’ve had in this kind of modality is incomparable to the face-to-face setup. Being just tech-savvy is not enough. The passion and determination that we teachers have always had before all this must not wane. In fact, we should all the more keep them aflame to illuminate our students’ path to learning and success.

——————

Rheciel B. Belen is a high school Filipino teacher at Carlos L. Albert High School and is currently taking up her master’s in education (major in Filipino) at the National University. She is also a Tesda-certified visual graphic artist.

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