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Conquering online teaching

As we teachers and students are now in the thick of school year 2021-2022, I can say that I have fully embraced online teaching. I can’t help but feel victorious and accomplished whenever I recall how distressed I was during the first summer of the pandemic last year, when my co-teachers and I underwent a virtual training workshop that taught us how to use an online academic platform so we could teach our students amid the lockdown.

During the first few weeks of that seminar, I felt like an outcast, as I could not pick up most of what the tech team was explaining to us. As a 53-year-old teacher, I felt so behind and incapacitated. The more I saw my younger colleagues becoming increasingly equipped and tech-savvy day by day, the more I felt discouraged and insecure. As the weeks of training went by, my urge to quit teaching or to take a year off kept growing. I was thinking that I could just return (hopefully) when face–to-face classes would be allowed again.

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But God indeed has His own way of conveying a message to anyone who needs it. During one weekday Mass that I attended at that time, I was challenged by my parish priest’s homily.

Rev. Fr. Noel C. Nuguid of the Shrine of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (Bagac, Bataan) talked about Artificial Intelligence or AI. He said that we must cope with rapid technological advancements accordingly lest machines completely replace us humans in the future. Pondering on this and fearing the idea that the human person might become outdated because of his/her incapacity to perform computer-related tasks and functions, I decided to accept the challenge. I told myself that I am far better than a computer or a machine and can never be replaced by them.

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Hence, I kept at bay that lingering thought to call it quits, and stuck through the remainder of the seminar. With a more determined attitude, I started to learn things little by little, diminishing not just my initial anxiety and defeatism but also my urge to take a (one-year?) leave. And with whatever I learned from that seminar, I faced school year 2020-2021 head-on.

Looking back on that period now, I am glad that I persisted, because in all honesty, there are aspects of online teaching/learning that I find beneficial and particularly enjoyable. One is that we teachers, using software like PowerPoint, Jamboard, Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google sites, etc., can present our lessons more creatively and colorfully, which stimulates the students better, especially the younger kids, resulting in a higher absorption of the topics being discussed. I must admit that when I prepare my lessons for the next day, my creative streak kicks in as I design each slide with an eye-catching and appropriate image or background that complements the topic.

However, though I like working from home because I get to be with my family, it cannot be denied that the demands of online teaching are more overwhelming and time-consuming. I have to stay up past midnight often to prepare my lessons and slide presentations.

Then again, these things should be done, and so I still find joy in doing them.

I also like the fact that the students’ exposure to online teaching platforms (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) empowers them as they become very adept users of such technology in these highly digital times. Seeing them deliver their reports or share their digital presentations with much creativity fills my heart. We just have to guide them in using the platforms conscientiously, lest they allow their youthful mischief to get the better of them especially during class hours.

Like everyone else, I look forward to seeing my co-teachers and students again in the flesh. But as we have invested so much of ourselves (individually and collectively) into mastering the different facets of online learning, I hope we do not set our newfound tech expertise and knowledge aside. Let us still regularly integrate the use of the latest technology into the teaching-learning process, even as we enjoy again each other’s physical company when we return to face-to-face classes—whenever that will be.

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Ma. Alma Tolentino Labampa, a wife and mother of two, works from home in Bagac, Bataan. She is a Religion, Values Education, and Ethics teacher at the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS)-Quezon City.

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