The Rigours of Online Learning: Teachers Need to be Worshipped

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CAN someone please explain why teachers are not paid more and worshipped more than professional athletes, entertainers and politicians?

After one week of online schooling, I will no longer refer to my children’s teachers as Miss or Aunty. Nope from now on they will be called Almighty Goddesses of Patience and Wisdom!

One week in and there have been meltdowns, threats, lots of tears and an attempted pencil stabbing.

Schooling a five-year-old has by far been one of the most mentally and emotionally exhausting things I have ever done. I am currently debating as to whether I should create a tiny straight jacket that can be affixed to a desk chair to keep this ball of rainbow and unicorn-fuelled energy in her seat.

To be fair online schooling has not been easy for my daughter either. She misses the person to person interaction (apparently I don’t count as a person), she has a hard time concentrating on a screen for more than ten minutes at a time and is still grappling with this new system of schooling at home – a place once so freely separate from her academic life.

I worry about the effects the Covid-19 pandemic will have on my children both academically and socially. However I understand that worry is a luxury.

Despite my grumblings about online home schooling, I realise how fortunate my daughter and by extension myself are. Her schooling is able to continue because we have internet, a computer and she goes to a school that was able to invest in an online learning system.

For the majority of students in Trinidad and Tobago online schooling is not an option.

When schools were closed in March, the Ministry of Education assured us students would not be left to suffer. They patted themselves on the back a couple of times and created an online learning platform.

Give jack, his jacket this was perhaps the most First World initiative the MOE has taken in a long time, but unfortunately, despite the good intentions, online learning is simply not feasible for the majority of students.

The reality is many students do not have internet at home or devices. Many rely on smart phones with data plans and as we know data can be sketchy at the best of times…I’m looking at you bmobile.

Not all students or their parents have data plans or phones that can support the technical load of the online learning platform.  Furthermore, a tiny phone screen is not necessarily conducive for learning.

Parents, especially those in homes where jobs have been lost, are not in the position to invest in new devices or subscribe to an internet service. With the stay at home order, students cannot leave home to use free wifi provided in some places.

Let us not forget there are also many students who have absolutely no access to any smart device, tablet or laptop.

Even in a situation where a family has the devices and systems to use online learning, younger students need supervision. So what is going to happen to them when their parents are called back to work?

While there is a system for learning, it is simply not feasible for every student to be a part of.

As such these students are in for rough time when and if school reopens. Yes, the third term will be repeated, but after being out of a routine for such an extended period students will struggle, especially those who were already struggling before.

Perhaps the most neglected group is students with disabilities. Schools for children and teens with disabilities have long been neglected and are often starved for funding. Correct me if I am wrong, but to date I have not heard a peep from the ministry as to whether anything is being done to help these students.

I’ll be honest with you, worrying about your child’s schooling during this pandemic is a privilege. Many parents wish they could be worried about their child’s education, but are simply overcome with panic and fear as to how they are going to feed them or keep a roof over their heads.

Truthfully not much can be done. The closure of schools from day 1 was the most responsible thing the Government could have done to prevent the rapid spread of Covid 19.

Children, especially those in the 3-8 year old age brackets are nasty creatures.

You have to remind most of them to wash their hands, use soap when washing their hands, wipe their butts, don’t put things in their mouths and it goes on and on.

All it would take is one little asymptomatic gremlin to sneeze on a desk or a shared pencil and the entire student population, their families, their neighbors, everyone they come into contact with are coughing up their lungs.

So to those few parents moaning about no new cases, time to reopen schools, think long and hard about the reality of having to explain to little Mary that she killed granny. Harsh but facts.

The most we can hope for is that when schools are reopened the Gods and Goddesses of Patience and Care are extra understanding, and ensure no child is shamed for not being able to participate in school during closure.

To those of you who have an extra tablet, laptop or smart phone lying around, please looking into donating it. There are many organizations and community groups trying to source them for students who really need them.

Remember if there is one thing we can learn from this is kindness and that TEACHERS DESERVE TO BE MILLIONARES AND BE TREATED LIKE HEROES!


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