Millions of teachers around the world are answering the biggest question of their lives — how to continue teaching amidst the COVID lockdown.
India is home to one of the largest school system in the world with 28% of Indian students falling in the age group of <14 years. That’s a staggering 364 million children in school. Even with a lofty pupil-to-teacher ratio of 32:1, India is host to roughly 11 million teachers.
Today, all these teachers have to continue teaching but there is one big problem. Schools are shut. They do not have a blackboard at home. They can neither go out and buy a board nor order one online right now. Not all teachers are keen to learn at new technologies in a short span and they may not have high-end laptops at home. But they do have smartphones and chalk pieces! Is that enough? We tried to figure with Zoho Classes — a new mobile app to help schools & colleges continue the academic session, by teaching students online.
The following story is a personal experience of working closely with a school and its teachers; and how it changed me and my team.
DAY 1 — TRYING OUT ZOHO CLASSES APP
Teachers of Vidya Mandir Estancia—a CBSE school in Chennai–were introduced to Zoho Classes, a mobile app that helps them send assignments to their students. In a 2-day training course organized by Zoho, they had sent 400+ updates ranging from kindergarten kids assignment to 12th Psychology tests. It got the teachers excited, as it helped them attach contextual images and videos to their tests and assignments—something the regular classroom experience did not offer. Submitted assignments are automatically converted into a PDF that the teachers can download, view, and evaluate.
DAY 2 — LIVE STREAMING: ACADEMIC YEAR 2021 KICK START
On April 2, the principal had officially kick started the academic year 2021 via a live streaming session. Maheshwari Natarajan is a towering personality who has been running the school as the principal for several years. Retiring this May, after 30 years of teaching, she might not get the chance to address her beloved children in person again. For her, Zoho Classes live streaming was a godsend. Steering the school amidst such a monumental moment and enabling the entire staff for online teaching within days, would be the most perfect way to sign off her career in her own style. For cricket fans in India, it’s like hitting a triple century in your last match.
DAY 3 — CREATING VIDEO COURSES
The next day the principal designate (current Vice Principal) Sankari Mam, took the mantle and encouraged the teachers to prepare video courses. She took the lead with a 30-min physics teaching and uploaded it as a course. The teachers started creating video courses and in just one day they produced more than 50+ video courses using whatever they could manage at home. Some created makeshift black boards with chart papers, some used paper and pen, some got help from their kids. They put their hearts out and tried every single thing they could do. Most importantly it was a Sunday and the courses were getting uploaded way beyond mid-night. The last one came in at around 2.30 am on Monday morning.
Day 27 — BEFORE CLOSING FOR HOLIDAYS
Today, Vidya Mandir Estancia has successfully onboarded 30 classes, 81 teachers, 850+ students and teachers have sent more than 1600 updates to students, distributed 150+ courses and received more than 700 assignments – digitally. The responses from parents and PTA association have been very positive as kids enjoyed seeing their favourite teachers on a mobile app. The efforts of these teachers are commendable. The 12th standard psychology teacher was far away in Shillong, but her courses reached the students on time. One of the teachers uploaded a video that had animations on par with any online course, courtesy her son. Complex subjects such as accountancy were handled with whiteboards and markers. Hi-definition, professionally shot course video from Kavitha mam of 8th standard took the quality to next level, courtesy iPhone 11. But the best of all tools came from Baskar Sir – a wooden wardrobe! When Baskar Sir was asked to create a video he called up the Vice Principal and explained the situation at home. The only writable tool at home was a large, brown wardrobe. Once he got the go ahead, he never looked back. He created the course on Halo Alkanes and uploaded it on the app. Kudos, Bhaskar Sir.
THESE TEACHERS ARE MY INSPIRATION TO WALK THE COVID DARKNESS
COVID brought in a lot of uncertainties, fear and mental trauma. We all need a ray of light to lead us through this darkness. I think I found my light from these teachers. These bi-focal lens wearing, retirement aged teachers are my heroes. Irrespective of whatever be your profession, this story should inspire you to stop looking at the negatives and just do your duty sincerely. It changed me and the entire Zoho Classes team. We clapped for health workers. Likewise, I think we should also thank our selfless teachers at this moment. Sharing a video we made to mark our respect to all teachers. 🙏🏼.