Cygnus Centre of Excellence

A lesson learnt
Connection is the key to student engagement

Are you there?… Can you hear me?….Please respond…….

No I’m not invoking spirits from the other world. I’m just trying to get connected with my students on online classes.

After using chalk and board for nearly a decade it was quite challenging to take up virtual classes – specially for someone whose technical skills are not that well developed. To make the matter worse I gallantly took up a new job. The school was new to me and I was the class-teacher of children I had never met. Yet I had the heart to embark on this new venture.

I did not know what to expect… how difficult it would be.. I only knew that I have to get connected with my students and prepare them for the board exams.

My literature classes had always been quite exciting as I took the young minds on the wings of poesy through Venice – Belmont – wild Tempest or simply through the Darkling plain or around host of golden daffodils. But now in 2020 the question loomed large – will I be able to do the same?

Connection is the key to student engagement. I realized that I was facing as much problem as the children and the parents were. Children were missing face- to -face interaction not only with their teachers but also their peers. Some even lacked the technological skills. Some were quite uncomfortable to unmute and switch on the camera. Parents were apprehensive about the future of their kids.  But syllabus had to be covered… examinations had to be taken…projects to be done…..the show must go on.

…and so it went with all flare and flamboyance.

Learning was no longer confined within the four walls of a classroom in literal terms. There was a veritable paradigm shift. In place of board there was screen sharing. Information, resources were everywhere. At least here we won over that ‘small virus’. We didn’t surrender. We rather took up the game, supported each other, brought positivity, while future still lay uncertain before us. While minimizing the limitations of not being able to meet in classrooms, we tried to maximize the benefits. With the whole Google world at hand we had no dearth of relevant images, videos. Various informative links were shared with the children. This was definitely much better than carrying teaching aids to class. Now activities took them far beyond their books. Online learning made them more creative.

Whether online or offline, my method remained the same – interacting with children, building rapport, holding their attention, encouraging, listening and questioning. I desperately tried to recreate the usual interactive class. As a literature teacher my prime mission was to help students explore the richness of literary texts. I provided them with links of some good books, short videos on the background of relevant texts. This made the chapters they found difficult, easy to comprehend.

In the classroom environment the teacher can see who are putting the effort and who are lagging behind. Face to face interaction allows better understanding. Individual copies are taken up and scrutinized. But with the whole world turning topsy- turvy ,we could no longer think of this. “But what though the field be lost.. all is not lost; the unconquerable will…”. Various Digital Applications came up to our rescue. Google questionnaires could be uploaded that replaced the short Unit and Class tests. Assessments were done easily. Projects for the senior classes also changed its pattern. Instead of hard copies, children started making slides and giving Power Point Presentations – something that seemed to be much more interesting and creative thereby sharpening their computer skills .

We made the best of the worst situation. The year of Covid pandemic reminded us what Heraclitus believed – “The only constant in life is change” . We still remain petrified – expecting the unexpected.  There was hardly any New Year resolution for 2021 as we still don’t know what future holds for us. But we have become a part of the new revolution of web –based education; making our working hours flexible, replacing hard copies of answer sheets with PDFs and so on. After all this is the new way of the old world.

Paramita Gunin
Paramita Gunin
English teacher at St. Augustine’s  Day School, Kolkata | [email protected]

Paramita Gunin has been working for last 20 yrs. as a senior English teacher at first  in Union Chapel School and now in St. Augustine’s  Day School. She has been a supervisor, assisting examiner and chief examiner for ICSE examinations 2006.  She teaches  ICSE, ISC and IGCSE students.

She has organised Inter-School and Intra-School Activities like creative writing and choral speech competitions. She has been Judging elocutions, debates and extempore competitions in various schools. She is the co-ordinator of Interact and Social Services. She has worked with ARGABHAWA – an organisation to help the needy.

She is the Emcee for all school events. She also  helps in organising craft exhibitions and has assisted in setting up women empowerment and basic literacy project in school. She received IIHM Teacher’s Award .

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