Headline, September 16 2020/ ''' PROFESSOR ONLINE PROFOUND '''



AND JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS ON TOP OF MY TEACHING GAME in March, the coronavirus came to Pakistan and suddenly there was no classroom, no campus, no roll call.

My cluttered desk at home became my new campus, my classroom, the staff room and sometimes the campus cafeteria, too. Tiny circles with students initials appeared on my laptop's screen.

They stayed on mute because if everybody switched on their cameras or mics, the system might crash. When students did unmute, I could hear a mom calling from another room or a vegetable seller hawking from the streets. There was always a bird chirping outside my window.

After the class moved online, my roll became a roster of absences. Some students completely disappeared without giving any reason, I tried to find out why. Some had gone back to their hometowns and were lost because of bad Internet connections and no electricity. Some of their parents' livelihoods also were lost, and the students got busy helping out.

A very bright student wrote to me asking for an extension on an assignment because her father was suffering from Covid-19 and in critical condition. Then came another message for another extension" Her father had passed away.

The students who did turn up taught me about online learning : ''Press that button, Sir ; scroll down, Professor; please unmute yourself'' - finally that old cliche came true, and I was learning something in every class.

The stories they wrote were increasingly about confinement, fantasies of escape. Some dug deep into their pasts and came up with tales of spectacular assassinations or little adventures about wanting to attend protests, about being assaulted at crowded holy places.

I reasoned with myself  that the heart of my class was reading and writing, and that moving that online should make no difference. Surely, by teaching online you saved on the commute time; you saved on all those random gossip sessions and the administrative chores.

But the spontaneous drama of a live class - when a discussion about a piece of writing suddenly make us confront our deepest prejudices, about what our families have taught us - was gone. Online somehow we were more guarded; as if we were being watched. I had to be reminded to press the record button on the screen.

From our Online classes I also realized this : What's the point of going to university if you can't get away from your parents, from your siblings? 

You go to a university to choose a family of your own, to try something new, away from the watchful eyes, and when you fail, you try something else until you arrive at that magical moment when you realize, ''Yes, I can do this. I can do better than the others, Maybe I can do it for life. Maybe this is my calling.'' 

Does that possibility exist in Microsoft Teams or Zooms classes? Can a new life begin when you are housebound and confined with your siblings and parents, who probably are suffering economically?

As in real-life class, online some students did better than the others. It made me happy to find out that one student got a scholarship to a good university, but I also kept asking myself about the others. I had doubts.

Education, I started to think, was a process of exclusion. There are a few students who get their Internet connections right, know how to fill out all the applications forms, are sharp at writing personal statements. But what about all the others?

Should the world really be run by the kids who have reliable Internet access? I saw pictures of students in remote areas trekking up mountains with laptops, hoping to catch an Internet signal so they could attend their classes. 

How were they going to compete with someone sitting in their own bedroom with their own electricity generator? Sometimes I felt, I, too, was wielding a mulberry branch, thrashing at the unknown.

Today, as I prepare for another semester online, I'm acutely aware that education is a privilege. In my case, that privilege involves attending my six-year-old's online classes: A parent has to be with every child, so as of last month I have been attending Class 1, starting my education all over again..

My son's teachers seem to know what they are doing. They make sure to address everyone by name. They are very, very patient. They realize that some people might have a slow Internet connection. Maybe some students are distracted, maybe they need to go the loo. Maybe there's a competitive parent in the room giving them useless prompts.

I am in awe of my son's teachers and their enthusiasm. Some have had their pay cut because of the pandemic.

One day, my son's teachers announced that she'd be gone for a minute, to go from our virtual classroom to another. As soon she left, there was a pandemonium : Everyone raised hell, shouted each other's names, remembered old feuds.

Sometimes teachers should leave the kids alone. Students, locked up at home, sometimes need to let go and scream.

My teaching semester starts next week, and I hope I'll be able to use some of the lessons from my son's class.

The World Students Society thanks author Mohammed Hanif.

With respectful dedication to the Grandparents, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011:

''' Teachers & Triumphs '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!