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Commitment beyond the old classroom

The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the education system, creating a new environment for learners, parents, and teachers alike. The normal school setup—face-to-face interactions with students and gatherings with fellow teachers—is something we can’t have at the moment.

Since 2006, I’ve been exclusively teaching in a face-to-face learning setup at the Angono National High School, where I teach English Language and Literature subjects. In my 14 years of teaching, this is the first time I will be facing a different kind of school year. Learners and teachers will now have time and distance between them, while classrooms are fully migrating to virtual and remote learning spaces to uphold the safety of students, teachers, and communities.

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Naturally, I am concerned about the challenges for the upcoming school year. Teachers like me have so much to learn in order to prepare for this school year. Knowing this, my colleagues and I remain committed to helping one another and to going above and beyond to make sure we are all ready.

Educators must be open to being learners as well. This means having to “unlearn to learn,” meaning unlearning old methodologies to make way for new ones that will prepare us for education’s new normal. This is why we are proactive in attending the Department of Education’s (DepEd) virtual trainings and upskilling programs.

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The DepEd’s webinars enable us to learn strategies, techniques, methodologies, and approaches for online and modular teaching. They also hone our technological skills, encourage physical wellness, and provide emotional and mental health support.

Examples of these are the DepEd EdTech Unit Webinar Series, the Stronger From Home Online Workout Series, and the A New Beginning: Call to Personal Leadership Psychosocial and Heightened Mental Consciousness webinar. Programs like these help us grow holistically and empower us to have the necessary tools and skills for school year 2020-2021.

With a sound mind and body, I am nervous yet excited to build the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and doers.

My fellow teachers and I are doing our best to finalize our preparations so that learners have as easy a transition as possible. Our learning plans for the first semester are complete, and so are the printed modules that will be distributed to students two weeks before classes start. The lists of students per section, as well as their schedules, are also ready.

As I continue my preparations for this school year, I draw inspiration from the perseverance and commitment of the DepEd and Education Secretary Leonor Briones. They are doing everything they can to ensure that education continues in these unprecedented times, while also prioritizing the health and safety of learners, parents, and teachers.

The new normal in education lessens the personal contact with the learners, but not the learning itself. I am looking forward to this school year because it will be a worthwhile experience that I will keep with me for the rest of my career.

I might not see my students through the usual Monday to Friday schedules, but it excites me that I get to read their output and reflections, as if reading a love letter. Like a message in a bottle, or in this situation a message in a module, what narrative is in store for me on my email, messenger, or Google Classroom? I am excited to find out.

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If there’s anything I would like to say to my students, it’s this: Dear students, be healthy and safe always. You are my No. 1 priority. To our parents, please always be there for your child. You are one of our strongest partners. Parental involvement is vital in education, especially as we go through this pandemic. I always pray for your safety. Let’s do this together.

To my fellow teachers, take care of your health, mentally, physically, and emotionally. This will be one of our finest hours, our defining moment. We are the frontliners of education. Never get tired of learning about how to adapt and adjust for our learners. We can and will see this very important mission through.

Despite the distance between me and my students, I am committed to making sure that my compassion, patience, and eagerness will reach them. With that, I believe there is hope in the success of learning in the time of crisis. I look forward to seeing parents, teachers, schools, and the DepEd working together for the benefit of the future generation. In times of difficulty, solidarity, passion, and bayanihan will always triumph.

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Alain F. Razalan is a master teacher in Angono National High School. He holds a master’s degree in literature and a doctorate in philosophy, majoring in educational management.

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TAGS: distance learning, education, online classes, student, SY 2020-2021, Teacher
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