Long March Home…

As I stepped out for putting the clothes on the clothesline, I passed a casual look at the deserted Sohna Road. In a fraction of a second, something caught my attention from my multi-storeyed condominium – stream of small and insignificant beings walking. Marching in unison, with nothing or a bundle of essentials sitting atop their head. Small petite bodies, they looked like a colony of ants, marching for the home-run.  And along with them are smaller bobbing bodies. The string seemed to be endless. I wondered in this lockdown, what on earth were they doing out on the road; when even birds are horror- stuck at the dead silence of the urban spaces they fluttered in.

Just then, a Whatapp message, explained the ‘long march’; as I would like to call it. They were the migrant, daily wage workers who in these parlous times had been abandoned by their helpless employers.  And those smaller bobbing bodies are their famished children, flapping their hawai slippers against the volcano erupted roads of Gurgaon. Uncertainty, ambiguous, and up-for grabs, they have nowhere to look for hope; other than their homes and hearth, back in their hamlets. Sooner than I thought, it was already being flashed across various news channels; pictures of crowded bus terminals, sobbing families and much more. Braving the pandemic, humanity rose above all and many Samaritans pitched kiosks of food and water for the people parading back home.

So, fearless and ferocious, they brave the lockdown and flag off the long walk to be with their loved ones. What can console them more than the calm faces of their parents, harmless chortle of their children and the confident assurance of their life partners? I heard from my help, that her friend walked for 3 days to reach to his village. Although he is quarantined, but the respite is that he is home.  

It is time to thank our stars, that we are all home safe and secure. That we didn’t have to travel so many miles; just to have the comfort and safety of home. It may not be easy, being anchored at home, especially when most of us urban people are always up and about.   In our own houses, we have no ‘me corner’. In our own spaces, we can’t take peaceful ‘work calls’.  In our own reigns we don’t know where did the maid keep the ‘essential stuff’. In our own family rooms, we do not know ‘how and what to talk with our families’. In our own nest we have ‘more gadgets than the chicks in the family’. In our private precincts, our eye sockets may have popped out due to excessive screen time. But yet we are TOGETHER.

This brings me to the smallest unit; our homes and our families. Trying times are the bonding times. We feel comforted, reassured, and relieved when in times of distress we see our loved ones safe and secure – in Corona times both physical and virtual assurances comfort us.

Un till then roads are calm. Malls are sleeping. Markets are silent. Clubs are still. Schools are lull. But. The homes and hearths are buzzing with laughter, chatter and occasional silence. The balconies are the new DJ console and dance floor. Sometimes they even double up as bars. And all the dust laden board games can breathe some fresh air. Husbands are cooking in the kitchen. Wives are mopping the floor. Children are making the bed (for everyone). There is a satisfying calm in the house but there is stifled noise in this silence.

My daughter says we are caged like Rapunzel. Corona is the evil witch. My son says it is like we are living a Hollywood Sci-fi. Corona is the Green Goblin. Both the analogies are providing virtual entertainment to me. Lest, not to forget the mythological angle by the PM. Lockdown is as sacrosanct as the lakshaman rekha, in the Ramayana.

In the meantime, animals are having a Raahgirir moment. Civet cat was spotted on the now silent roads of Mumbai; leopard like animal spotted in now lull Chandigarh. As far Gurgaon, for me and my man, we are already at the climax of this virtual entertainment – unsure; uncertain; ambivalent; precarious. Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost. 

2 weeks to the finale. Until then be safe and stay within the lakshaman rekha.

How do teachers respond to failures and achievements.

Teaching profession is akin to the ‘live-bar’ counter. Whatever happens, happens in the moment. There are no re-takes. 

Likewise, when a teacher conducts a session, children absorb the discourses through their eyes and ears. They remember and note the gestures, words, expressions and enthusiasm of the teacher.  

While the teacher is delivering the lecture, imagine if she falters; how will she erase the intangible learning moments from the child’s memory? How will she ensure that the calm and composure is steady in these difficult times.

This is exactly why the teacher is always judgemental about her performance. She critically views her achievements and failures.

Achievements –  For a teacher achievement can be in terms of her class performance, her ability to cater to SEN children, her classroom management skills, her professional performance, her inter-personal skills, and much more. But for a real teacher; sincere achievement is directly related to how well her class is learning. 

It may sound hilarious, but her first test of achievement is when during the session, the class is expatiating and noisy. Children are discussing the topic thread-bare and raising queries, doubts. Since most progressive teachers, blend theoretical and hands-on learnings together, she can observe the in-depth understanding of the students during this time too. Giving this kind of experience to the students is also an achievement.

Another testimony of achievement is when through assessments, she knows that her children have understood the lesson and they can comprehend the context in 360°. She shares a distinct pride in displaying and sharing the work of her children on the classroom board. 

Later, these achievements become success stories which are replicated in different sections of the grade. And sometimes are even repeated for the new batch.

Failure – This is a profound subject for teachers to write on the black board. Unfortunately, it is like a medicine which the teacher prescribes in moderation but fails to self-direct. 

They fear failing in the class, due to any of the following reasons –

-Because they are the ‘know it all adult’ in the class

-Because are over-burdened

-Because they are answerable to their conscientious

-Because they can’t balance the different needs of students in the class

-Because they are being monitored by the school, parent groups, peers, etc

Reasons can be plenty, but as a community what are teachers doing to cope up with failures?  

Large community of teachers doubt their abilities and start a downward spiral. Their morale dips and unfortunately this can be infectious. Teachers take less initiatives and shy away from responsibilities. 

Most progressive schools, encourage their teachers to look at failures (not for repeat offenders) as a ‘learning opportunity’; unless of course, the well-being of the student isn’t at stake. 

Teachers have to be a motivated group of professionals. Schools should look at tangible and intangible methods of letting the teachers know that teaching is a journey and not the destination. Success and failure are part of the journey. They should conduct regular motivational and self-assuring programs to encourage the teachers.

WFH in the time of Corona

It’s come to this! WFH for teachers.Who in the world of blood and bones had imagined that the schools would be shut and the teachers would go the virtual way. That stock of chalk for teaching would turn to cheese and those modules on experiential learning would turn into experimental endeavours. Classroom arrangements would be flipped to study room or dining tables at home. Cupboards at home would hold the anchor charts and the so far discouraged ‘screen time’ would come to the rescue of the teacher-student connect!World over corona pandemic has stopped more than 800 million children from going to school. Clubs, malls, markets, tuition, extra-curricular and activity classes have been called off. Social distancing of all kinds is strictly adhered to. A visit to the park is also looked with caution. They are all home. Waiting for that slayer of a micro-organism to disseminate. But until then what? What’s in store for the children? How will they continue with their learning?

Brave and innovative schools have begun to implement ‘virtual classrooms’. Their pioneering teaching staff has already got the virtual class rolling not just for the senior students but for the junior children too! In this new adventure; parents are anxious, children are excited and the teachers are eager. Anxious parents, is understandable. This is the time for new sessions, but they see children at home with an unstructured day plan. Children are excited because they are virtually hanging out with their teachers and parents are not raising eyebrows over excessive screen time. Teachers were away from their young learners. New dynamics have kindled some hope of interacting with the bubbly souls, albeit remotely.

In these trying times, parents are looking up to the teachers with hope as well as impatience. Parent community worries are genuine – how will the teacher teach my 4-year-old child, will she be able to build a human connect virtually, how a will she enable building bonds with the new classmates. Teaching is an immediate consumption service, and a few years back ‘work from home’ was an unthinkable. Selfless service of the teacher is consumed by small and feeble minds, so a personal and contextual connect is always important in teaching. Besides the medical fraternity, only educators come close to the ‘caregivers’ category. While Family is Hiding (WFH ),teachers are sitting pretty in front of the cameras and doing all the prep before they send those Google invitees and emails. Transporting their homes into mini classrooms, so that the learning process is uninterrupted. Recording book reading sessions, creating beautiful art and craft, giving short lectures on numeracy, EVS, English and tweaking the subject plans to adjust to the need of the time are some of the tools teachers are using to engage with the toddlers. Educators are extra prepared with worksheets, practice material and text sharing. True to a real teacher, even in this chaos, teachers are cognizant of student’s work accountability; followed by regular feedback and reflections. In this moment of crisis, teachers are the anchors for the students. Whilst their own children may be rolling in a bowl of porridge or bundled away in one corner of the house, lest they make sounds; teachers are gearing up to welcome the new batch of first time school goers wearing a big smile. San the mask. Put the headphones.