When parents sit in classroom

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Online classes for students is bringing to the fore new problems and unforeseen challenges. It appears that parents are putting teachers under immense pressure, even bullying them. This is unfortunate. Online teaching has been put in place to deal with a crisis situation on account of Covid-19. To contain the spread of the coronavirus, governments have shut down schools. Schools have taken to online teaching as children will not be able to go to school for at least a few months. Teaching online is not a skill that many of our teachers have. They have received no training for it and have had to pick up skills in recent weeks, on the job. Many students are scrambling — much like their professors — to adapt to this virtual learning environment we have been abruptly tossed into. For some, this may be an easy, or perhaps even welcome, transition. That is dependent on several factors. The first factor, which cannot be understated, is the home-life of students who have transitioned back to their familial residences. Many students have chaotic homes, filled with family members who have also been forced to work or attend school remotely.  Many teachers are reportedly finding teaching online impersonal and challenging as they are unable to gauge how students are reacting to them. Teachers are able to better gauge them during in-person classes. That is not possible currently in technology-mediated teaching and learning at a distance. On top of that, knowing that parents are now present in the virtual classroom and are watching, monitoring and evaluating them must be a disconcerting experience to many teachers and is likely to be negatively impacting their teaching skills.

However, while the medium of teaching is different and poses new challenges, online classes have allowed parents to catch a glimpse of what and how their children are being taught. And several parents are shocked by what they have seen. In some cases, children are being taught by people with scant knowledge of the subject matter or who are low on teaching skills. Understandably, parents would be upset if they found teachers with poor pronunciation and spelling abilities teaching their children how to read and write. After all, they are paying exorbitant fees to schools for their children’s education. Over the years, many schools have lowered teacher recruitment standards, preferring to prioritise costs, and that may be getting exposed in some cases.

Several teachers have quit their jobs as they are fed up of the excessive scrutiny and criticism they are being subjected to by “overly watchful” parents. This does not augur well for schools, teachers or for students. Schools may need to take responsibility and perhaps open up a dialogue between themselves, teachers and parents. Perhaps parents must show some patience as the transition occurs, back off a bit and allow teachers some space. While challenges are to be expected during a period of transition to online teaching and learning, underlying problems have been festering for a long time. Schools must proactively address them. Parental concern is understandable, and schools must welcome constructive criticism.

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