For many of us, the onset of COVID-19 has meant that life changed overnight. On a personal level, just before the lockdown in the UK, my maternity leave was drawing to a close and although I was looking forward to my return since the third term is pretty busy in the academic world, I also dreaded the prospect of leaving my _eight_ months old baby. So my initial feeling was that of relief - I could stay home with my new baby for a bit longer.
But then, I soon realised that I also needed to home school my older children, two of them in a primary school and one in secondary. This would be done alongside my own work where I needed to provide online learning resources for my own students _at the university._ It was unchartered territory and I felt like Alice going through the rabbit hole.
I had to get up to speed with a lot of Ed-Tech resources. The main task was to differentiate between the predatory resources that were out to cash in by trapping one through their initial 3 months free usage, from those genuinely offering much needed services.
Then there were the emails about illness and bereavement. Students who needed time and space to prepare for essays and projects found that they were struggling to cope; their situations were very fluid. Issues such as housing, employment and mental health changed and challenged them constantly. And I had to respond to this by offering virtual pastoral care. I found that my commitment to their well-being increased two-fold. I wanted and needed to be there for them at their most vulnerable.
Again while grappling with that almost overnight, I found that my kids’ teachers had adapted to this new ‘displaced’ way of learning and were offering us parents a much needed support system. We suddenly had a routine where learning and teaching did not need to be discontinued. Daily lessons, videos, audios and all sorts are uploaded by the teachers, and the kids have adapted to this new way of learning.
Parallel to that, I started finding that my old ways of teaching were growing more distant. My departmental meetings were now covering our whole agenda in one seating. With time to think, I began wondering whether all the bureaucracy that we had before was really necessary. My family dynamics and routine have changed; my work dynamics and routine have also changed and I fundamentally believe that this new change needs to be embraced. It is an opportunity that we must hold on to for post Covid-19 education.
As a parent, I want to be much more involved in my children’s education. And as a lecturer I want to continue to be available to my students, wherever they may be, should they want to be ‘in class’. Whether in China, California or at an urgent errand somewhere - a blended type of teaching that embraces both our old ways of teaching and what we have now should be available for students and should not be hindered by physical location.
Over the course of these few weeks I have come to ask myself - what is the motive for education - what is it’s raison d’être? And that needs to be answered by all educators; which in today’s world also includes the parents who are home schooling right now, those who are not home schooling but are rather looking at the mental wellness of their children, the dedicated teachers to whom this profession is actually a calling, the head teachers and officials overseeing the administration and running of schools - virtual and physical - as well as those with a stake in education systems. These are the people who must come together and decide what is the purpose of education. The only certainty that I can see is that; whatever that conversation leads to, whatever will be decided, education needs to be more inclusive as it has ever been!
By Dr Ida Hadjivayanis
By Empower Limited on 09 Feb 2021
By Empower Limited on 09 Feb 2021