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More Working Hours, Lack of Privacy and Tech Ghost: How Teachers Coped with the ‘New Normal’ of Virtual Teaching

More Working Hours, Lack of Privacy and Tech Ghost: How Teachers Coped with the ‘New Normal’ of Virtual Teaching

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More Working Hours, Lack of Privacy and Tech Ghost: How Teachers Coped with the ‘New Normal’ of Virtual Teaching

As the medical experts rushed to contain the widespread of the deadly coronavirus, teachers all over the world started thinking of ways by which they could support children.

Since March 2020, schools have lost the multi-seating classrooms where children could sit with their friends, face a blackboard and listen to the teacher. School time now is synonymous to children sitting in their own home in front of a digital screen and listening to their teachers and friends in a virtual classroom.

While several researchers have studied the effect virtual classrooms have had on children, teachers too have lost their normalcy.

When the Indian government announced a nationwide lockdown in the country and asked schools to conduct virtual classes, several teachers “found the very idea ridiculous as it was beyond imagination at that time to even think along those lines. Especially the teachers, who had all their lives taught in a conventional manner, using chalk and duster,” expressed Rinku Pandey, who teaches English to senior classes in Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Kanpur, India.

Majority of the schools shifted to virtual classrooms through the most popular app, Zoom. However, it was a slippery slope for teachers who were still trying to learn the new technology and still keep a brave front in front of the equally perplexed students. “For the initial few days, it was like groping in the darkness, trying to figure out the way, taking help from whichever direction it came. However, gradually, in due course of time we adapted ourselves to the new mode, which has now become the new normal for us. So, in our school it was a very rapid, fast-paced transition,” Pandey reminisced.

As time passed, teachers and students started getting used to the new normal of teaching. However, one big concern that the teachers pointed out was lack of privacy and security.

Within a few days of the shift to virtual classrooms, the technologically advanced children started posting videos and audio recordings of their successful pranks played on teachers during virtual classes.

“There was this once class in the second month of online teaching when several students started changing their names to offensive slangs. AT that time, no matter how much I tried to keep a calm face, other students could see the panic on my face, which, as a teacher, I am not very proud of but couldn’t help,” said Khushboo Jain, who teaches high school children in Uttar Pradesh.

“All of us across the globe have faced such challenges, the nature and frequency of such instances may have varied,” Pandey added in agreement. “Initially, when we had just switched to the virtual mode, we were still in the process of learning and getting adept. The security features in the app were still unexplored.”

When teachers started reporting such cases, school authorities stepped in “called for a few emergency meetings, briefing the teachers about the security features and finally, pretty soon this issue was resolved,” Pandey claimed.

However, Khushboo Jain says such problems still exist as the technologically advanced students keep finding new ways of creating trouble.

Not just this, the security of teachers as well as some students has also been jeopardised. “A father of one of my students once called me at 10 pm. I did not have his number saved, so I picked up. He started telling me that his daughter has not been talking to him, which is worrying him. Shockingly, he then led the conversation to my likes and dislikes and started telling me things he likes about me. I had to excuse myself and block the person on WhatsApp,” Khushboo Jain recalls. “I reported the incident to school authorities and we were provided with another official number to deal with parents in the school hours. That helped me and other teachers who had suffered the same.”

Some teachers have also burnt the pressure of not having fixed working hours anymore. From putting in extra hours in making Powerpoint presentations to spending extra time with students who find it hard to cope up with the new normal, teachers have lost count of the number of extra hours they have been working.

However, like a true guru, these teachers have kept their calm and selflessly dedicated their time to students. “I feel that there are no defined working hours for teachers but I feel that this is the need of the hour. Children need us more than ever, so we need to go beyond the call of duty and be available to them as much as possible,” Rinku Pandey said.

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