From April to May 2020, forumZFD’s Davao project team talked to teachers to find out how they were holding up working from home. “Teaching is harder now than ever,” they answered. In July 2020, their stories of grit, resilience, and transformation were put together and a Facebook page was then created where the teachers could read and react to each other’s stories. “I’m not alone,” they each realized.
Later that month, the teachers met each other for the first time in an online meeting. “The pandemic did not change us; it revealed us!” everyone felt. They shared that the pandemic drew out what they had built up inside. Either irritation, anger, anxiety, and powerlessness. Or patience, acceptance, pragmatism, and steadfastness.
There are teachers who, before the pandemic, had been wishing for a break to be with their families. But now that they are stuck at home 24/7 and can’t go out anytime, they want to go back to school. There are also teachers who like working from home because they do not have to shower and do not have to travel anymore. But for all of them, they stressed the difficulty that comes with not knowing when and how (and if) the crisis will end.
Teaching Is Harder Now
“We’ve turned into virtual assistants,” one teacher joked. “Our days,” he explained, “are filled with making modules and activity sheets and PowerPoint presentations and checking our emails and responding to our students queries till past midnight.” Some teachers have managed to start businesses on the side, turning gardening and farming interests or hobbies into money-making sidelines.
But most teachers are struggling to make ends meet because enrollment has slumped and classes are not full. They admit it’s not easy to keep their equanimity, remain level headed and not panic. Many are careful though to not only blame and complain about their schools because they understand that these are crazy unpredictable times for all schools. So, they air their disappointments and frustrations matter-of-factly instead of with resentment and anger.
Teachers seem to be extra careful not to express these strong negative emotions in print. In finalizing Teaching Under Lockdown Stories (TULS), parts had to be rewritten several times not because the information was inaccurate, but because teachers feel they can't appear too critical of their schools and their administrators. Sometimes, revisions were scrapped entirely for the same reason. How then are the negative experiences and sentiments of teachers captured in TULS without putting teachers and their schools on the spot? - By describing unflattering true accounts in detail in the TULS' Analysis and Epilogue.
The Challenge Of Schools
The TULS process has clearly shown that schools are not only unprepared but at times also unfair, unjust, very competitive, and not very warm and nurturing. How can education be reimagined and become truly innovative during the pandemic if structural and cultural violence in schools is prevalent? The power structures are so pervasive: they encourage subordination and blind obedience rather than real experimentation and freedom of expression.
There is also another equally important concern: are school curricula during this pandemic still relevant to the changing needs of the times? How much have schools deliberated what new content to introduce - not just how it’s going to be taught online?
It is hoped that the pandemic is going to be the push that schools need to reassess and overhaul outdated curricula. Because if schools don’t, they may not be able to keep up with the myriad of other opportunities for students to learn, listen, speak, and collaborate with others from across the world in online seminars and virtual meetups all offering fantastic opportunities for growth and development. It will be challenging to keep a dynamic learning environment that maintains excellence and dynamism, not mediocrity and stagnation.
By continuing to journey with the teachers and also engaging key actors in education institutions in a more intentional way, forumZFD hopes that the crisis can be used as an opportunity to change policies, structures, and attitudes to contribute more to a genuine culture of peace.
Read Teaching Under Lockdown Stories here.