Never before have we seen a lockdown of such scale and magnitude, at least in our lifetime. It is our only way to fight the virus and prevent its spread, at least for as long as we don’t develop a vaccine for it. Until then, we have to find ways to carry on our work from the confines of our homes. Technology provides us with the means to do that in a very successful manner.
The teaching profession has no doubt, been at the forefront in adapting to this change. We have seen so many innovative means followed by the teacher to reach out to the student. Be it the video lectures, video links online classes, tests and assignment submissions, the teaching fraternity hasn’t shied away from its responsibilities. This wouldn’t have been possible if the students wouldn’t have participated in this exercise. You indeed, cannot clap with one hand. We have to appreciate our students for their active participation. Moreover, teaching online classes have given students an opportunity to justify their usage of phones and social media to their family. This puts them in a position they never were but were always aspiring to be in, and that probably drives them to take up online activities with more zeal and vigour as compared to their offline regular classes.
There is no doubt, a digital divide across the students of our region which has become more than evident, during this lockdown. Almost all students from lower classes don’t have access to phones. All those belonging to the higher level don’t have access to the internet connection in their homes. I believe it is our duty as the guardians of the future of our nation, to acknowledge this fact and accept that there is nothing they can do about it. Regardless to say, they can easily be brought at par with the rest of the students with a little bit of extra effort by the faculty as and when the institute reopens. But, this realization by the student that their teacher is aware of their situation and has taken it into account can go a long way in providing them with the required confidence and mindset to overcome the anxiety and stress caused due to this extraordinary crisis.
Sadly, there are few from among the higher classes who have not participated till now despite having the means and the internet reception at their homes to do so. They are not to be left out at any costs. As such, we as faculty, have to make an extra effort to include them either by contacting their parents and guardians or by any other means possible.
Further, it is our duty to enlighten our students about the ongoing crisis with facts and verified information over and above the subject matter. We have to educate them on ways to avoid and prevent the spread of the virus, keep reminding them every now and then. We are the ones continuously in touch with most of them, if not all. We must motivate them to further spread it in their family and locality. Most importantly, we have to act as a filter that prevents the disinformation and fake news from creeping into their lives and polluting their minds at this crucial hour. For that, we ourselves have to be well-informed beyond the scope of our subject. This can tremendously help to flatten the curve of transmission of coronavirus in our nation and thus, around the world.
A clichéd statement yet very wise in these extraordinary times-“An empty mind is a devils workshop”. We have to find ways to give students a purpose to achieve every two to three days, if not every day. It can be through some assignment, online tests; self-study topics of their interest so on and so forth. Innovation is the key. This will give them a sense of achievement which is important now, more than ever. A statement of acknowledgement for their hard work by the faculty can also help boost their confidence and keep them away from the perils of an idle mind.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste”. This event has indeed, given us an opportunity and the push required to find ways to improve the overall standard of our teaching fraternity and learn to connect in a better, effective and efficient manner with our students. Remember, winning over this virus is not an option here, it is a must. This, I believe, is our contribution to achieving it.
Writes: Nawneet Chettri. He is a lecturer in CCCT, Chisopani, South Sikkim