IntroductionGiven the fact that the schools can be reasonably expected to open only in the first week of August 2020, in most States of India, the teachers in each of these schools will face multiple challenges. Be it a CBSE school or a State Board school or any other Board, the challenges will be more or less the same. The magnitude of the challenges may be slightly different. However, it is also the task of the Managements of the schools to assist the teachers to get things in order and resume their normal lives. This process will take at least two full years.
In the main, the challenges are a) Enabling the slow learners to do the catching up b) Counseling students for deviant behavior c) Making innovations in teaching d) Removing anxieties of the Std X and XII students and parents and e) Enabling career counseling services on a much larger scale.
Enabling the slow learners to do the catching upIn a few States, there are reports of some online classes being conducted for the Government school children. However, there are problems aplenty here too. For one, the internet connections are nowhere near perfect in most of the places, particularly the semi-urban and the rural areas. The students are themselves at different levels of intelligence. There are students from farmer families. The children in standard nine or above may be first-generation learners and may not even have internet facilities at home.
In Tamil Nadu, the demand is to teach online through the television. This feasibility is being studied. Even in areas where the online classes have been conducted, there are reports that the students are not able to follow the lessons as effectively as what they would have done in face-to-face interaction in a classroom situation. This might or would possibly be the same problem throughout India and the teachers in all schools, including the CBSE schools, might have to conduct special sessions or handhold the slow learners to enable them to catch up with the others.
This is a challenging task and the management of any school should facilitate this process and not harsh with either the students or the teacher. However, even within a particular type of school, such as the CBSE schools, in say Tamil Nadu, the experiences of teachers across schools can be a feasible solution. The best schools in Chennai, such as Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary and the SBOA Matriculation Higher Secondary School can act as mentors. Deeper South, the likes of RS Krishnan Higher Secondary Schoolt at Tiruchirapalli can play a big role. It is just that these schools are rated among the best. The CBSE and the Tami Nadu should consider organizing weekend sharing sessions between teachers in this regard. Though each teacher's experience and context will be different, the common template in terms of learning is likely to emerge for such experiences.
Counseling students for deviant behaviorThere have been disturbing reports of love affairs happening in schools right from the VIIth standard. This is the fallout of whatever the students get to see in movies and in the television serials. The media influence and the negative influence of social media are two important issues that cannot be wished away. Every parent or teacher has to learn to live with such influences.
It is also common to see children being distracted in other ways. Due to social pressures, the theatres might become operational once again. Students will throw caution to the winds and interact with friends in ways that might actually spread the infection. The teachers have a big task on hands. Student and faculty counselors from the social work department of colleges that offer the MSW degree course in Tamil Nadu, and throughout India do offer free counseling services. The students who do the Medical and Psychiatric Work as a specialization, have counseling as a major specialization and will be willing to render their services for free. For example, the Loyola College and the Madras Christian College at Chennai and so does Madurai Institute of Social Sciences at Madurai. In Indore, the Indore School of Social Work offers such services. In fact, these colleges will be able to guide schools as to the availability of such counselors in different parts of the country.
Making innovations in teachingThough innovations are normal at any point in time, the need for that is now more pronounced than ever before. Group discussions and role-plays can form a far better method of teaching in social science classes. In the science classes, the students can be asked to make use of the internet and in areas where the internet connection is not good, the students should be encouraged to move to the nearest towns ( provided they are in the safe zones as of now) and do some homework through the internet centers. Such facilities come at a very nominal cost and the students will be supportive of any such initiative. This is all the more so since the extended period of compulsory holidays will make school students very lazy. There are rather disturbing reports of students being wedded to YouTube videos for hours at a stretch. This is a pan India problem. Teachers now need to be more innovative in whatever ways they deem fit. The involvement of the parents to bring about the innovations is also key to the learning process.
Removing anxieties of the Std X and XII students and parentsIf the teacher tries to open up a discussion with any parent on the alternate courses available for any bright student, he or she will face the toughest trouble. A good friend of mine, whose husband is also a good teacher, had to apologize to the parent a couple of years ago, for even suggesting that the student could even aim to get admission to a course like B.Tech ( Bioinformatics) in a casual conversation. The parent pounced on the teacher questioning her understanding of the capabilities of the student, then in standard X. The parents were so much sold on the idea that their daughter would only do the MBBS course and that she would clear the NNET examination with flying colors. The issue became a serious one and the principal had to intervene.
Such instances are not rare. Such parents who have mindsets that are fixed would need special attention now. The scenario in 2021 could be even tougher in the NEET examination. The teacher and the school environment should be in a position to offer the best possible counseling to enable the student and the parent to chase such dreams together. The anxieties of parents are likely to be even more pronounced than the students and the senior teachers have a special role to play in this process of removing such anxieties. The competition for the IIT-JEE entrance examination will become tougher as well.
Enabling career counseling services on a much larger scaleOpening up minds on a much larger scale is now more important. When people start understanding the new realities, the buy-in becomes far better. The need for career counseling is now more important than ever before.
it is encouraging to note that the local press in so many areas is active and does promote career fairs in the big cities. This has happened in Tamil Nadu. It is quite likely that such efforts have happened up in other cities as well. The students need to be told about all the particular courses.
Careers in different fields need to be told to the students. For example, today there are courses in capital markets at the post-graduate level. There are courses in investment management and portfolio management. There are courses in psychometric counseling. There are courses in interior design and digital marketing. And even sound engineering. Each of these courses has a good job-orientation and can be taken up by those who are interested.
ConclusionBased on some real-world observations and learning from experiences of teachers in present times and the likely scenarios in the near future, some of the challenges for school teachers, in the post-COVID phase has been discussed in some detail in the aforesaid paragraphs. However, there are chances that the scenarios may also change for the better if the virus is better controlled in the months to come.
Another point which is also a very important point is to see that the students will be following all the norms that are stipulated to avoid problems with Coronavirus. A teacher has to see that all the students are following the social distancing and they are taking all the precautions.
In a class, all the students will not be at the same understanding level. Some may catch the point very fast but some may take time. All such people should be grouped and special attention is to be given for their training by appointing a special caretaker. A teacher who is normally teaching may not be able to do that.