Teachers, please don’t teach

Impact of Covid-19 on education

Online class in progress (Pic: Anu Agrawal)

2020 has been full of uncertainty. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have had us struggling to adjust to changes like never before. First it was days, then weeks, then months. Now we are not even sure.

There’s a meme doing the rounds on social media these days, about the most widely asked questions right now.

Received on Whatsapp

Those of us who are working from home and attending virtual meetings will be quite familiar with the last two questions. In fact, so will our children, who have been having virtual school for the last several weeks.

Every weekday, we ensure that our children are glued to the computers or mobile phones for their 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m classes. Classes/lectures are of 30-45 minutes, with most of the time going in the teacher requesting the children to pay attention or stop talking or switch on the video or some such instruction. It’s just like a normal school day, except that it isn’t normal. It’s exhausting for the teacher, for the students and for the parents too.

(Pic: Anu Agrawal)

For the children who are accustomed to attending tuition classes, the day’s ordeal is not over even after school hours. At least 2-3 hours are spent in coaching classes that are also being held online. These supplementary classes are not just for clearing doubts and understanding concepts. They’re to achieve near perfection that will ensure the golden 95% marks, without which they (and their parents) think that they will not succeed in life.

We send our children to school not only to study, but also to learn what we call social skills – how to mix with others, make friends, communicate, adjust and share. Teaching a chapter from the text book can be done online, but how will children share their tiffins or sit in the library with their best buddies or run in the corridors or kick footballs, virtually? These are the things that make children wake up in the morning to go to school/college. They help children cope with academics and keep them happy.

As a parent and a teacher, I can see the stress building up in children. Stress can have a positive impact when it helps to avoid danger or meet a deadline. The stress brought on by studies, the stress to achieve in these trying circumstances, is causing frustration and anger and a lot of unpleasantness. Teachers are stressed too. We are striving for normalcy, but at what cost?

Many parents are not keen to send their children back to school for the rest of the year – not until the virus goes away or a vaccine comes out. Realistically thinking, children will not be going back to school for the year academic year of 2020-21. So this stress is going to continue for many more months. Possibly longer.

A full year of happiness is taken away from our children’s lives. Can we not empathise with them and take the stress of marks away?

We have before us the opportunity to shift from the marks rat-race to pragmatic thinking. This is the right time to change our attitude towards education. This is the right time to help our children realise their potential, and not just in academics. Towards this I’d think it appropriate to declare this year a ‘zero year’, meaning teaching and learning will happen to the extent possible, but there will not be grading or exams or promotion to the next class. Instead of academics, focus can be turned to life basics.

Nature has warned us through this virus that we need to return to basics. Basic skills are what our children need to survive. Let them be taught skills that they can learn without stress. Now the question is which skills? What all can be done in a closed environment?

Schools can do activities around critical thinking. They can have debates, elocution, writing, painting, dancing, photography, film making. They can do small modules on marketing, finance and communication. They can hold quizzes. They can get children to collaborate for some of these. They can encourage the children to complete certain household tasks – such as cooking, washing vessels, ironing, stitching. There are many ways of engaging with the children in a way that they look forward to their school day, albeit at home.

Some parents are worried about the children losing one or two years of their academic lives. The curriculum can be adjusted so that this need not be the case. Even otherwise, as all of us know from our own lives that a couple of years makes no difference in the long run. In countries like Singapore and Thailand, boys have to mandatorily get army training after school, for two years. They do not consider these as lost years.

All this while, I’ve had in mind, children from families that have the infrastructure that supports virtual learning – computers/ smartphones, internet connectivity, electricity. There are thousands of children who do not have access to these. For them there is the mental trauma of feeling left behind. A zero year will also benefit students for whom there is no alternative to classroom learning.  

These are extraordinary times that will go down in history. Let us not be in a hurry to return to school.

About Anu Agrawal 1 Article
Anu Agrawal is a Chartered Accountant, with over 20 years of experience in the field of consultancy, teaching and career counselling. She runs her own teaching institute in Mumbai.

99 Comments

  1. Well thought out timely advice to parents and students not to take stress or strains for just education at the moment. Now the priority is good health with proper social grooming of our children

    • Agree to these insights. Academic education is not what we need at the moment. Basic life skills and understanding of the situation and environment around us is more important.

  2. Very true and apt in the current scenario…all of us need to change with the changing circumstances and adapt… that’s the only way forward…wonderful article, Anu…

  3. Beautifully explained the need of present teaching environment and also covered all the aspects of life in the article for parents, teacher’s and students.

  4. Absolutely agree.It should be declared ‘0’ Year Academically in order to ease out the pressure of rat run and make
    them stress free.

  5. The past 15 or more years spent in improving the literacy in India gone to a complete waste, the problems of child abuse, child marriage, mental health issues given no thought at all. Just the voice of a small percentage of economically comfortable city residents,decisions cannot be based on narrow considerations

  6. Very well said.Why not utilize this time for doing things which we have never been able to do with kids.Engaging children with some family bonding games ,relaxing talks& fun learning activities instead of being glued to screens.Let this be a memorable time for them.

  7. Good thought. But it should come from the Top, the HRD, The atate education departments, CBSE …all must be ready to accept this and ask schools to implement it. Schools do what the Government of the state and county says it to do.

  8. Good thought. But it should come from the Top, the HRD, The state education departments, CBSE …all must be ready to accept this and ask schools to implement it. Schools do what the Government of the state and county asks it to do.

    • Very correctly said.its good time to teach values to this generation. The importance of joint families is known now as children are getting time to sit with their grandparents and chat with them in turn they are getting to know about their extended family members.

  9. Nice article. But no one understands the stress n pain that the teachers are going through. To take an online lecture means before that so many hours they have to sit to prepare ppts. All unaided teachers too don’t have all equipments that are required for online perfect teaching. And moreover several unaided teachers are going without salary since the month of April or May. Still no salary. Aren’t the teachers human beings, don’t they need money to survive, don’t they have a family.. Every teacher cannot turnout to sell vegetables or fish or idli sambar.. Very pathetic conditions of unaided teachers in a huge democratic country lik India..

    • I agree completely…..how r the teachers suppose to run their families and carry out their responsibilities.
      The government is not waiving of anything…talk abt the electricity bill, the rent or the EMI’s and so many other basic things.
      I am a teacher and self dependent…what am I suppose to do as we are anyways getting 50% of the said salary.
      Is it going to be zero now???
      Who is going to be responsible for our situations because clearly the government is not going to be.

  10. Yup correct. This is gonna go down as the biggest hoax scamdemic by which v r deceived. Don’t give into the fear mongering by the WHO, bill Gates, China, etc

  11. Very correct words madam but who will understand all forcing everything on the children but not understanding the mental condition of the child

  12. Well summarised. Both as a teacher and a parent, I see this daily struggle.The school is also struggling to give its best and meet demands of parents.

  13. Wonderful thoughts and solution. We agree this. It’s really a crucial period through which are children are going through.

  14. I strongly support the writers understanding of the psychology of the students and what the children should focus on rather than just an academic year
    Well written article.
    Kudos.
    Let’s help our kids live not just exist.

  15. Yes , I feel that’s right I mean if it’s online teaching at present especially for school going children it must be difficult for both the teachers & students especially for the teacher to grab the attention & students to pay attention. Instead this year teach if it’s online too because due to the pandemic there’s no other option but this year provide knowledge not grades , teach different skills alongwith the other teaching material. Because I feel taking exams is going to be a very challenging task for both the teachers & the students I mean online exams. It shouldn’t be that teachers & students are teaching & learning just for the sake of doing it. The main purpose should be that students understand whatever is being taught. And I personally feel that students should be trained as such that atleast they can carry out their tasks let it be daily or whatsoever efficiently & also about their careers there should be counselling for it so that the student goes in the right direction. Because further you never know how things will be. The foundation , the base is really very important. And school is where I feel these things can be taught because that’s the early stage of life. And it should be the combined efforts of everyone.

    Thank you .

  16. I second that!
    Life is not about academics of curriculum alone…
    Being a mother of a teenager,I still need to hone my skills…so for these musketeers it is a great time for bonding and acknowledging the daily rigmaroles in running our errands…
    My lockdown has been amazing.. for my child is available to us …
    Just a perspective as I experienced..

  17. Absolutely Correct!! I am a mother of two as well as running a school. Realising the stress on kids, my both kids are doing home schooling. I am completely without NCERT guidelines. I know my kids and know what exactly they require for development. My husband and I are completely into 360° development of the child without stress and force.

  18. Absolutely right. Makes sense…the present education system has delineated individuals from not only nature and environment but society as well, most of us ‘the so called educated’ are just after material comforts and run after everything that is foreign. High time… let’s heed the call.. let’s get back to our roots…let’s be human.

  19. The Covid 19 pandemic has forced the mankind to stop their age-old routine life. Many has encountered terrible loss; many fighting with the disease; many saviours helping these fighters; but majority people are locked down at home. When human kind is given a chance for themselves then why not enjoy every bit of it without cribbing? It’s high time to change the mental routine and enjoy by immersing into self introspection- the very root which our ancestors or roots we’re keen at attributing. This should be applicable for every age groups including students, professionals, home makers, elderly and so on. Our country’s root – where munis and rishis sharpened their mental ability to that potent extent – but we couldn’t think of it due to our busy schedule. Now is the time to reach that mental stability and create havoc for this universe. Let’s not again join the rat race, please. Enough! Let’s not put our children again to that box of knowledge where their wings will get trimmed. Let’s feel the freedom of our mind and explore the universe at a cosmic speed though being enclosed geographically inside our home. Let every child experience this pandemic in a different vibrant way and let them spread the new pandemic situation of eternal love which will become a pandemonium and will become impossible to eradicate this infectious loveful situation.Human race, please for God’s sake, stop showcasing and producing acquired knowledge and species tailored from the so called factories of moulded and grooved specification. We human beings are once again happy to become humane.Love.

  20. Infact this is the best time to upgrade the skillsets of each and every individual. We haven’t given much importance to the basics, they can be tuned and prioritised according to individual caliber.

  21. Totally disagree on point of non promotion of sessions.We must say that we need to reduce exam stress but cant discontinuw with academics.What matters how we implement the tests.I think its stupid to conduct subjective tests but yes,we can conduct objective ones.To face a situation also teaches patience,and ability to cope with positivity.So nothing wrong in being online, provided with reduced screentime and yes,reduced syllabus.

  22. Well written, relatable!
    Calls for reflection from parents, teachers and educational institutions.

  23. Absolutely right…..
    I agree…plus the parents which are poor and they dont have money to buy internet or mobile… ….what they will do😟….plz think of all nd take a wise …happy and healthy decision….🙏👍

  24. I am a teacher but I totally agree that now is the time for our children to understand themselves, especially the teenager’s where they miss talking to their parents ,I mean even a simple conversation can do wonders I a child’s life and they need it. Nature has given us the opportunity to bond with our family . This year nature has given time to our children to be as children and not as young adults.

  25. Absolutely right! These times are a golden opportunity for children to be engaged creatively and bond with family. Instead of online class for marks we need to nurture the creativity and provide a platform for activities

  26. Accurate ! But I don’t think this world of orthodox , grade minded people would ever get this..

  27. I feel connected to evey word of the article as I am mother of two and a teacher too. Somewhere I am running a race to reach to perfection in my career but at the cost of love and care for my kiddos.This article has made me ponder over lots of things.Hope for positive change in me and around me😊

  28. Please share this article with as many as people you can so that it can reach everyone. This must be implemented. Students are literally dying in confusion and those who don’t have access to mobile phones are crying. These days students can’t understand whether they should cry for the Corona virus or the mobile phones.

  29. Very well penned. Children will be more than happy to do all those things mentioned. If ‘zero year’ is called, as you said it will benefit the under privileged too. Only the ‘haves’ are benefiting out this virtual classes. What about the ‘have nots’? I really feel sorry for the children, day in day out they sit in front of the screen. With all the technical glitches, power cuts, wifi issues they try their best to cope with the new way of teaching. They’ve the pressure to excel no matter what. Stress is building up in them and they’re not able to express.

  30. Finally someone cares.
    Thank you for caring for students.

    Empathy is welcome.
    Let us however not take away years of benchmarking systems in a knee jerk reaction to a change of 8 to 10 months.

    Let us alter syllabus and grading criteria.

    I believe in the resilience of the younger ones and they are doing a brilliant job.
    Let’s aim for smart changes than radical ones. Because normalizing after radical changes will take muc longer to remedy.

    Teacher. Empath.

  31. Very well explained.But we can just talk n write on this.Nothing is going to b implemented.All want to earn.If school will not take online classes than how can they earn.They don’t think that so many years non stop they had earned huge amount than why not do charity this year.Take online session free than see how many kids turned up for online classes.N if u teach as suggested extra curricular activities than kids will happily join in

  32. Yes ,This year should be considered as zero academic year but learning never stops so some important theme can be given like “Year of introspection 2020 ” .Govt should stop these online classes so that those who cab not take online classes should not feel left out.

  33. Your words are AWESOME you wrote the truly things , totally appreciable…. I’m a student of class 12th(PCM) and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read this amazing article…

  34. Schools are holding online classes go justify hefty fee they charging from parents.They are least concerned about the health, safety and well being of students.Private school are behaving as educational shops, not resisting from fleecing the parents in this difficult situation.

  35. Yes I agree with you. This is a terrible time which will go n we should not impose the burden to our children, it will give them lot of stress n poor health. This year should be a zero year..

  36. Totally agree, as a teacher,
    One year of learning life skills , values, would make a difference in the children.

  37. I found that someone has given words to my idea. Why are private schools conducting classes and the govt is issuing time duration while govt schools are not conducting classes

  38. Parents association and teachers need to be united to tell state govt to declare this zero academic year.
    Unless count goes to zero my child isn’t going to school.
    State govt seems unanswerable, they cannot even provide free food grains to the needy how are we suppose to believe their capabilities.

  39. A very good insight….and this is what we need !! a zero year…this year is really frustrating for all of us especially those who have boards like me. I think we should raise our voice regarding the idea of this year to be announced as a zero year …. because this is not the way we want to learn . I wish I had time to learn all those activities that I always wanted to do but cannot because of my studies…

  40. Learning and teaching should go hand in hand. It’s a good time where parents can inculcate moral values through spiritual practices in the evening .For a teacher who is bread earner,I know it’s a tough time but at the same time she/he ,who adapt these changes that had taken place in the teaching techniques will be able to enjoy her teaching profession in any kind of situations.

  41. Fact of today’s situation to be accepted with due concern by parents, government and institutions.

  42. Totally made sense to me. Life skills can be focused on is a good idea. But alas schools are so stuck in rat race that PTMs and unit tests have begun tooo.

  43. The words are true.but,neither the parents nor the schools leave their mundane lives. Parents,working from home,want the kids tobe just occupied so that they can carry their livelihood.Schools have to retain the professionals and pay them.So, the net impact is CHILDREN. May the good old days come back soon.

  44. Its v difficult to get back to education once the touch is lost for a long time. So it’s better to continue online classes focusing on both academics n fun sessions. Exams also need to be conducted online. Education need not be stopped for all just because a small percentage cannot afford to take online classes. There was a time when only 20% to 40% of indians were educated. There was a time when girls were not even sent to school. But now its even worse if 100% of the population are made to sit without education by declaring it a zero year. V silly suggestion. Survival of the fittest…those who can learn let them carry on the rest will catch up later. No need to pull back the entire population just because a few are unable to study.

  45. Very well written article. The most important thing in present situation is to keep our children mentally and physically fit. Loss of 1 academic year is not a big thing. You have suggested very good alternatives wher we can focus upon during this period..

  46. Very well written article. The most important thing in present situation is to keep our children mentally and physically fit. Loss of 1 academic year is not a big thing. You have suggested very good alternatives where
    we can focus upon during this period..

  47. No doubt it’s a complete meaningful article. Even if we go with the idea of zero academic year, will all the schools support this decision? Because after that parents won’t pay the school fees and for schools it will become a trade of loss which they never want and thus it will become a national issue for both. As even today matter of paying fees is on a peak. So thing is to follow a intermediate path which will prove to be better solution for all .

  48. Well researched and analysis of the trauma the teachers are facing having chosen this profession. Demanding and never ending expectations of the society from teachers.

  49. I like d article as a parent as well as a teacher, I think the writer has summarized d problem very logically .

  50. Absolutely right… Even I’m hoping for the same thing to happen, not because I don’t like study but because I want to increase my scope of life basics and extracurricular activities.

  51. I am so pleased reading your article Ma’am ,this year cannot be treated as a normal academic year,so we could enrich children with those activities which will bring joy to them.We got to move forward taking into consideration that children come from different economic strata so have to face various challenges
    Your article is just right in the present situation

  52. Agree that we are teaching students to run the rat race rather than teach important life skills to lead a complete balanced life once they are sent out of their comfort zone called school. We have to reiterate that only marks will not determine the quality of a student. I don’t trust the mass correction of Board papers and rank a child based on that.

  53. I agree the concept of zero year. But the ministry is planning for physical opening of schools. They are forcing the teachers to conduct assessment,complete syllabus,counsel students to get more participation,forcing teachers to report to school and take online classes,even the teachers trapped in lock down areas are forced to report on duty in another state,encouraging face to face meetings. Well will they realise that we are prey to an invisible microbe?

  54. Good article for students and schools . Give such inspirational article to teachers also who wouldn’t be paid for one year then in such case.

  55. An eye opening article for Education officers and Ministers. A year lost can be recovered but a health loss / mental trauma of Students and parents may be far from recovery. Indian home typically have absence of individual private space and good network connection. It is hard time for student to manage home and school affairs together

  56. So practical and understanding article .
    This year we can rather focus on other curriculum but studies especially the 10th and 12th students who are suffering mentally … And emotionally

  57. Well articulated and agree with the idea of shift from grades to skill upgrading instead. We can make a change if we shift the focus from marks to remarks about ability to adapt, adopt and think critically. Zero year would benefit all

  58. As a student of class 11 I totally agree with you , we students have just escaped from the trauma of boards and now these things are makung our lifes worse , I am suffering a lot its not just me but many more too , I am getting headaches and I cant sleep properly , I cant pay attention in the online classes much teachers cant understand if we are understanding or not they keep on giving lectures and we keep o getting tensed , especially I have to give entrance exams after a year , and 11 is the base this thing makes it worse , my eye sight is weakening too , now How come I would control my stress idk , my parents are ready to drop a year if school physically reopen but if it virtually goes on then I might really fall in depression and there are maybe millions of students like me , Political leaders are thinking of present GDP but Guys can you please think for a second that how you are worsening the future of the country , already Indian Education system is lacking behind and ofc now more students would try to go to foreign countries when they will not be able to pass Indian entrance exams , so this is what all the elders want from us ? Why are we here then ?!

  59. I feel that since we already have a new education policy and children , anyway are missing at least six months of regular schooling, why not shift the academic year from June to January? This is the best time to do so. Exams will be in relatively cooler months and vacations can be during the hot summer. It will benefit everybody

  60. It is a beautiful article , thought provoking but A zero year for study willbe equal to Noor zero salary for teaching/non teaching staff .Do we hv preparedness for this.I am a parent and an HR professional,we need a thought based Balanced approach.
    Your thoughts are mine too but I want my child to learn new concepts and interact.

  61. You are right madam. Schools and colleges are doing online teaching. But millions of rural children are missing. Even in small towns. It is necessary to come out of corona first then actual teaching learning should take place

  62. Why teacher’s are side lined, they too have a family to look after. Their pain and struggle shouldn’t go in vain. There are teachers of different age groups, they try their best to stand upto this new teaching system and do their best. It should go hand in hand, good support from parents helps in child’s progress, will be educated and passed to the next class than why to feel this as a zero year for the students.

Comments are closed.