Onsite again? | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Onsite again?

The Department of Education (DepEd) expects that all public and private schools shall have transitioned to five days of in-person classes by Nov. 2, 2022, as stipulated in DepEd Order No. 34, s. 2022.

But since COVID-19 might not be completely gone by November, people can’t be faulted for being hesitant about going face-to-face fully. How safe will the world be by then, especially for students and teachers? Are the schools ready to return to this setup? How about our individual and collective investment as teachers and students in adapting to online education? Will all these be put to waste?

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The pros and cons of online teaching are aplenty. I would like to cite a few based on my experiences, observations, and musings as a teacher and administrator, plus conversations with colleagues these past two school years.

Staying at home lessens our risk of getting infected with the virus. We also save a lot of time and energy (mainly in commuting) by working from home. No need to wake up too early and get stressed by the perennial traffic. We simply turn on the computer and save fare money, the cost of gas, and related expenses. In using different apps and teaching platforms on the computer, we teachers are challenged and inspired to present our lessons more creatively. The online setup also gives teachers more time to check the students’ quizzes, reports, and assignments.

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On the flip side, one particular drawback of online teaching/learning is that students and teachers have to look at the computer screen for long hours, which can be emotionally and mentally draining, especially for those who are not so tech-savvy. In his 2021 study on online learning and mental health during the pandemic, physician Rowalt Alibudbud stated: “The negative mental health consequences of online learning among students can include increased anxiety and absenteeism.” Sadly, we’ve heard stories of students experiencing mental and emotional breakdowns due to their inability to cope with the technical demands of online education.

This past school year, I observed the different online classes from preschool to senior high school at the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) in Quezon City. One of the struggles that teachers encountered was sustaining the students’ attention. From time to time, they had to remind the students to turn their cameras on to make sure they remained attentive. To address this properly, the teachers had extended one-on-one virtual consultations with the students and parents. I salute their effort, patience, and dedication to the kids. But really, students can be more effectively guided and monitored in the face-to-face setup.

In addition, poor internet connectivity and Wi-Fi signals impede effective learning, which can add to the students’ anxiety. Lastly, online classes do not provide them the chance to socialize in person with their peers, an integral part of each child’s social and emotional development.

Going back to 100 percent face-to-face classes will be a big (re)adjustment for schools, students, and teachers. But with the DepEd order, we have no choice but to abide and readjust. I admit, though, that I’m of two minds about this. While I do yearn to see my students and colleagues again and hold school activities the way we did before the pandemic, I must say that I have quite smoothly incorporated working mostly from home (and at school a few days a week) into my routine. I also think of how much teachers and students have been trained and equipped these past two years to use technology as their main tool for teaching and learning. Imagine all those technical training and workshops we teachers underwent to be at par with learning trends worldwide!

As it is, I just remind myself that change is part of life and that it can bring challenges that require us to adapt and adjust. It’s counterproductive to be inflexible and resist it. Instead, let’s be well-rounded, adaptive, and productive individuals who welcome the learnings that come with any experience.

As educators, let us do our best to provide our students with an interactive, pleasant, child-centered, productive, and well-facilitated learning environment to prepare them to become responsible adults. Let us embrace change.

Loreliza V. Catuiran finished her master’s degree in education, major in educational management, at the Philippine Women’s University. She was appointed last school year as the acting principal at PWU-JASMS QC and is now its high school academic coordinator.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Department of Education, in-person classes
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