My learning during pandemic

                Parista Rai

During this COVID – 19 pandemic, we all have been facing adverse in all the sectors including education. Our dynamic students with creative minds could not remain untouched from this awful situation. But as a teacher I always thought and tried my best to make them feel not panicked by initiating remote teaching class. As I was a novice teacher to teach my students virtually, it took me long time to gain self-confidence to use online teaching tools which are available and have been using by many teachers. When I began to teach my students virtually, I did not have to follow the course that we have been adopting. So, I was thinking of an idea to teach reading texts to my learners in different ways. The reason, I myself was not happy with my teaching method as I used to tell my students to read paragraphs turn by turn. Later, I started explaining what was already given there. In fact, I was applying the traditional teaching techniques but I was not feeling comfortable with them. So, I thought of a different idea to make my learners productive in my class. I always wanted their involvement and active participation. In fact, I was not satisfied with the teaching technique that I was adopting. I thought for many days as I was in dilemma having many ideas that whether to or not to initiate. Finally, I was determined to transform one of my regular classes to totally student centered class.

As per my plan, I circulated my opinion to them and they also were willing to accept the challenge. As we all agreed upon the plan, I started to assign them different reading materials. Each day, a student had to present on the topic that s/he got and rest of the students had to come up with at least three questions to ask after their friend’s presentation. To raise questions, everyone had to go through the reading material and prepare questions as per their wish. At the end of the class, they all had to share our personal experiences among all the class members. Students’ presentation in the class transformed my class into a productive class as I always dreamt about.

In my first class, one of my students was so brilliant that was beyond my expectation. He came with some slides putting some pictures which were related to the given story that enriched his work. It was good indeed! The performance of my ninth grader was wonderful. At that moment, I recalled Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. In line with this saying, I attempted to enhance their learning experience by assigning them do presentations. They were involved in the given task and class was engaging indeed. The next classes also went well. In fact, the students who raised questions were really excited to ask the presenter and have discussion. Observing the class, I felt that I had to initiate the same step on the same day.

The initiation was one of my best decisions I had ever made. From this experience I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual helps to cope with the fear of not being able to present themselves among their friends and teachers. Similarly, it made me think that reading comprehension texts which are given in the course book can be taught differently in the active involvement of our learners. It made me realize that I as a teacher have to reflect, rethink, and renew my existing teaching ideas to add flavor in teaching and learning activities and to innovate  my own teaching techniques and students’ involvement.

The next thing is that we as teachers can collect authentic reading materials from authentic sources to use in our class that provides learners an opportunity to taste different genres. As I have experienced, when we go through the reading text for our regular courses, our learners tell us that they have already gone through them. It always struck in my mind and felt that students were not interested to go through the same text except to solve the exercises which are given based on the text. But, when I approached to my learners closely, it made them curious, responsible and creative. I always found my learners as curious readers. I thought why not to bring other different reading materials which make them inquisitive reader and help them to envision their creativity. For this, I tried to select some of the reading materials from the resourceful site to offer my learners new experience and to motivate them to be involved in different reading activities.

Apart from aforementioned techniques, I was able to enhance my teaching skill grabbing a numbers of other opportunities during this situation. I was able to put my thought into practice which became fruitful for me and my learners. A year ago I would feel worried about conducting reading classes although I had new ideas to replace the commonly used technique. I did not have self-confidence to practice new technique, but this situation made me learn about myself and my learners. It was not just a hard time for me, instead it offered me various opportunities to reflect on my own work and relearn the several concepts about teaching and learning. I also got chance to explore that teaching reading can be taught in multiple ways to add the new flavor in teaching and learning process.

During this period, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was entirely a learning period for me. My normal class was replaced by different related videos and pictures which were meaningful to teach my learners certain expressions and words in English. I could use the audio visual aids to my class virtually which were not possible for me in the physical class even though I was aware of the implication of those teaching aids. Using audio visual materials during regular intervals assists learners to provide clear understanding on the related topics. If I had to take physical classes, I would be unable to use all those resources to make my class more engaging, interesting and communicative.

Similarly, I invited my colleague to observe my virtual classes and provide feedback on them which made me reflect on my lessons from other’s point of view and improve further. At the same time, I got an opportunity to observe my fellow teacher’s lesson which broadened my perspectives on teaching and learning in the virtual classroom. Conducting peer observation was to some extent difficult to manage in physical class because of busy schedule of teachers. But when we started our class virtually, this idea came into my mind again and ultimately I was successful. It was really good experience of being observed by my colleagues and receiving feedback and having long discussion after the class. In fact, peer observation helps to address some issues in my class.

Through virtual mode, I took some free online courses which updated my professional skills. These course offered many innovative ideas from the teachers from home and abroad. Having discussion with the people from different countries is one of the best experiences that I have ever had during attending online courses and they offered me new insights in my area of interests. During the situation, I engaged myself attending webinars and workshops which helped me to develop professionally.

To conclude, this global pandemic situation has been a boon for many teachers like me to update professional knowledge and skill. It has really been a new experience of learning new ways, new strategies and ideas in my profession as an English teacher.

Author’s bio:

Mrs. Parista Rai graduated from Kathmandu University in 2016.  Her first attempt to write a reflection was published in this magazine in 2014. She currently works as a full time secondary level English teacher at Holy Garden English Secondary School in Bhaktapur. She is a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). She likes attending teacher workshops, training, reading and writing.