TEACHING DESPITE A PANDEMIC

NOTE: This is a non-verbatim transcript of my insights during an equity-based conversation on learning during & post-covid with my co-fellows from Teach for All network.

These were my insights to the following questions from the panel discussion:

  1. The pandemic has really pushed us to examine the purpose of schooling and what we need to prioritize when we think about enabling our students to navigate the present and the future. What are some of the needs you are seeing experienced by your students during this time?   

Answer: I was reminded by an independent report written by my good friend Jim and other global educators to the UNESCO about Thinking about Pedagogy in an Unfolding Pandemic: they wrote about MASLOW before BLOOM. This should be the norm on how we go about our learning continuity program; our government, our institutions, our schools, should look into the needs of everyone fist: the physiological needs of students and families affected by the pandemic, health and safety of everyone, job securities, and socio-emotional being & mental health. From there, we proceed to decide what are the necessary learning continuity programs should take place. The needs assessments also clearly indicate the need for equal access to technology and connectivity,  prioritizing education budget,  and the readiness of the students, parents, and teachers.

2. As a result of the pandemic, educators everywhere have needed to innovate and adapt to a ‘new normal’. How are you seeing that happen in your context or doing so in your own work, particularly in terms of leveraging technology for learning? 

Answer: Educators and school leaders are able to design their learning continuity programs in such a way that it would suit the context of the students and the resources of the community.  When we opt for online and online distance learning, we use technology to establish and maintain the learning environment.  Teachers are also using technology to reduce the loneliness and anxiety brought by this pandemic by designing learning programs and use tech tools that enable feedback and interaction. More concrete examples: Some LGU’s are handing out tablets to teachers and students. Different learning modalities such as broadcast-enabled learning through televisions and radios for far-flung areas, and learning packages for remote learning are being rolled out. One thing to note is that how teachers are also finding their own ways to leverage technology. For example, they are using Facebook messenger for interaction and communication, in fact Philippines is world leader in social media usage.

Different institutions and individuals are finding ways to be creative and resourceful, and so it is a collective effort and partnership between stakeholders to make learning successful.

3. What are some things that continue to be true for your practice of teaching and what are some that have changed as you and your students grapple with this new reality?

Answer: There is a divide, a digital divide and access to quality education even before the pandemic, and so this difficult time just widens it more. And so what remains true is that we should plan long term goals in mitigating these equity issues so we can close the gap because we don’t want our students to be left behind. As for me, it is a personal process, to be able to sustain your personal values as teachers on how you practice your teaching in a different context or learning modality. We have to understand that we are navigating through uncharted waters, we are in a storm which is the pandemic. Some of us maybe are in a yacht, some are on sturdy boats, some are on rafts, some are even clinging tightly on their logs, and some may even be just swimming around. We should work together and understand others where they are coming from.

4. As educators, what gives you hope right now and what is your vision for the education system in your contexts in light of this new learning?

Answer: I truly believe that teachers and schools should continue to have that growth mindset and grit especially in these trying times. My vision is that teachers are embracing the fact that their roles as educators are changed by the pandemic. This is a litmus test for everyone. Will we rise to the occasion and take on the challenge?  A lot of veteran and new teachers are learning apps and tech tools,  attending multiple webinars, adapting contextualized layering in their curriculum designs by creating online and offline resources to be used in their respective learning continuity programs.                       

At the end of the day, as my organization, Teach for the Philippines always say, “Education is everybody’s business” and it rings true, especially the government and the very institutions that uphold our societies in place.

Virtual bumps and high-fives to our fellows in Teach for All Network: Rachel, Archana, and Sreyleap for a fun and meaningful conversation!

I am very grateful for Teach for the Philippines, , Teach for All, Xavier School, and LearnTechAsia Conference for giving me the opportunity to be part of this equity-based conversation on learning during these trying times. June 18, 2020, I was able to share and use the lens brought about my experiences and context teaching in the public school and now in a private institution being an edtech coach and literacy advocate.

It was so nice to hear that we are not alone, that what’s happening particularly in Southeast Asia and some areas around the world resonates with our context here in the Philippines. The inequity such as digital divide and prioritization of needs are prevalent, and this pandemic widens that gap even more. But this also allows our teachers and school leaders rising up to the occasion, becoming not just educators, but navigators and frontliners of learning.

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