How COVID-19 Changed the Teacher’s Role

Education underwent a significant change as schools were shut down, and remote learning became the new norm.

  • The learning experience has expanded outside of the classroom.

  • Teachers had to radically change the way they traditionally taught.

  • We still need to seek more solutions on how technology can be more effectively applied in education.

From kindergarten days to university lectures, teaching has been primarily done and focused in the physical classroom for the last couple of centuries. The traditional routine of conducting lessons, assigning homework and giving out exams, with results expected in return has become a familiar experience for students and teachers alike.

While there have been plenty of attempts to incorporate more technology into the classroom over the last few years, none could have ever compared to the unprecedented change that the education system went through due to COVID-19.

Home-based learning in Brunei began after the end of the first term holidays on March 30, when schools were kept closed in the wake of the increase in COVID-19 cases then, and for many, this was definitely a first. Technology was a key factor in carrying out home-based education, but transitioning from a familiar, traditional setting to a distanced, new form of teaching while coping with a pandemic definitely didn’t come without a few hurdles.

Beyond the Classroom

Teaching through a screen takes away the ability for a teacher to physically command the collective attention of their classroom — the screen separates the teacher from their students in a way that emphasises the distance and the new environment for everyone involved.

Some were understandably hesitant to suddenly shift into an unfamiliar routine, but it was starting to be clear that teachers, students and parents were discovering that learning should not be restricted as merely a classroom experience.

Over the course of several months, the pandemic became one of the driving forces in redefining the way education was conveyed globally, and teachers began to see how their role had evolved as they learned to accustom themselves to a new way of teaching.

Adapting to New Circumstances

It’s a given that routines help to give us more discipline over our activities, as they dictate what we need to do on a regular basis.

However, with the absence of one with schools being closed down, students and teachers had to convert a space in their home into a classroom or a work space. The daily schedule many of us have become accustomed to had become irrelevant, and we were faced with the challenge of forming new habits to adapt to the new situation. This definitely had an effect on most, and some teachers reported the increase in absentees over the weeks, with students becoming disinterested in online classes and the lack of active social interaction with their peers.

Nevertheless, the new circumstances also gave an opportunity for educators to work collaboratively with one another, coming up with new ways to keep students engaged despite the distance. Kindergarten teachers became content creators, producing videos à la Dora the Explorer, combining learning with entertainment. On the other hand, teachers from the older grades used other educational platforms such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams to keep track of their students’ progress.

No One-Fits-All Solution

It was made clear from the beginning that the younger ages needed a lot more to catch their attention when remote learning became mandatory across the nation. As mentioned earlier, kindergarten and lower primary teachers had to create lessons that were fun and interactive, while still able to be delivered through a screen.

Aside from edutainment content and Zoom call classes, home packets were also given to students who did not have reliable Internet access, or devices to get the online resources. With teachers constantly having to figure out creative, new ways of teaching traditional lessons, there was an obvious need to look deeper into how technology can still be more effectively applied in education.

Do we still need physical schools?

The short answer is yes.

As schools began to open up due to the de-escalation measures by the government, both students and teachers shared how relieved they felt to be in an environment where they could physically interact with one another. However, there’s an understanding that this situation may change any time, and we will need to take a better look at the future of education.

Students today will grow to work in digital-forward careers, and they need rich learning experiences that will equip them with the skills necessary to succeed.

And at the end of the day, it will be the teachers that must provide said experiences; it is no longer enough to return to the traditional way of teaching in the classroom. With how we have opened the doors to the use of online resources to equip learning, perhaps it’s time to see how we can incorporate more of those while still ensuring that the student’s intellectual, emotional and social wellbeing are looked after too.