My feed was flooded with a bunch of posts claiming #Vision and #Clarity for 2020 when the year began, and in the most unexpected way, we got what we claimed.
When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, it didn’t really bring change — it actually brought clarity, transparency towards the many things we still haven’t changed in our world and the world within ourselves. Yet, this revelation also came the truth that there was much that we can still do as humans to be agents of change. The greater space there was for improvement, the bigger the hope that came for those who are burdened for a better world.
As teachers, we were not prepared for how greatly it would reveal just how far we are in the education industry. We transitioned into a world where “Zoom” became a brand, a verb, space, and tool. We adapted towards training through blended learning and webinars — and thank God for the many that were free so teacher training could be made more available and accessible to a wider range of both educators and learners.
Yet, it would be folly to deny the fact that the entire season definitely caused anxiety to parents, students, teachers, and to those who are all or both at the same time. Yet, just as we are “sold” to this noble profession, teachers make do: we work more, learn more to teach better, and become more to students who might need not just us being teachers but also filling in the spaces when they needed a friend, counselor, or second parent throughout the community quarantines. It was and still is a season to truly be reminded of why we choose to stay in this profession and why we stand by it.
“ As teachers, we were not prepared for how greatly it would reveal just how far we are in the education industry. We adapted towards training through blended learning and webinars. ”
As a part-time teacher, half of this year was spent mostly with even more work just to make ends meet. There were days when I barely had any time to rest — where there was no “coming home after work” — and what was then the fine line between passion and practical felt like spaces that were continents apart.
“ The sudden shift towards online learning highlighted the fact that schools can stand without facilities but that it could never exist without teachers. ”
It would be a lie to say that the question of shifting careers didn’t come to mind when the bills kept piling up and there was great uncertainty towards the school calendar and teaching loads — and ergo, salary. I had to take up another 8 to 5 job outside the teaching profession just to clear off some of the expenses — this being time apart from the day-to-day asynchronous trainings on learning platforms, and keeping myself in the loop towards my advocacy and eventual field of study, which is in bridging agriculture and education through the coffee industry.
Truly, it was a season that reminded me of the importance of the Humanities: that which draws a line between survival and living. It was a season that proved the power of the Humanities: that it is in interdisciplinarity where holistic learning is gained through understanding the world, respecting differences, and working together for a better future. It was a season of Great Depression, yes, but also it was also a season of honing A Greater Hope.
The sudden shift towards online learning highlighted the fact that schools can stand without facilities but that it could never exist without teachers. This brought in the controversial discussions on tuition refunds, miscellaneous fees, and tuition-salary discrepancy of just how much schools actually pay for facilities more than their teachers. As both student and teacher, I hold the tension of understanding the demands for lesser tuition but also of the needs to keep (as much) teachers hired for the next term, if not the assurance of the entire school year.
“ The best realization I’ve had during this season was that there was something a virtual classroom could do better: to bring the world into the class itself. ”
I also stand in awe at the majority who don’t have access to online education yet have gone through all sorts of travails and ingenuity to keep educating and to ensure student-learning amidst unfair conditions. This is truly still an area that should be further improved in the “next normal,” along with the most basic need of every local government unit: FREE internet access and/or rentals of computers per barangay so that students could use them for their online classes, especially if the threat of coronavirus still remains. It is no longer a season to merely romanticize children who only wish to keep going to school but have to go the extra mile to rent a PisoNet computer for enrollment.
Instead, it is the opportune time to be reminded that education is the right of every child and that our nation ought to ensure that its next leaders should have access to its basic rights. The hope for the next normal illuminates among the leaders who saw this opportunity and addressed it by ensuring that education would still be available — that children need not worry about more expenses because they were given access to their needs.
As for teachers, we have been used to seeing (and claiming) a brighter future. The best realization I’ve had during this season was that there was something a virtual classroom could do better: to bring the world into the class itself. I incorporated public (cyber) spaces for students to gain more insight — enabling them to interact with live, public audiences for peer discussions through social media engagement, which also teaches them to live out human principles of understanding points of disagreements, valuing cultural distinctions, and needing other disciplines to better understand the World and the Self. I learned that to maximize a digital classroom. I have to bring in the world to my classes and not simply talk about it — pulling reality even closer than any formal lecture could have done, ergo molding a generation that is more socially aware and sensitive to the needs of others. And while the Next Normal is still underway, I remind myself of this every day: The Hope for better days ahead is still better than a bleak outlook of a future unknown.
Portrait photo by @inkedcognito
Edited by Charmie Joy Pagulong