3 Teachers Share Lessons on Life, Love and Learning during COVID-19
By: Visakha, Diamond
Published On: September 05, 2021
Karl Menninger once said, “What the teacher is, is more important than what (s)he teaches.” After interviewing these 3 wonderful teachers on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, I realised the true depth of this statement.
Today on the 5th of September - the occasion of Teachers’ Day - we are in conversation with 3 teachers, Ms Fatema Saboowala, Mrs Farida Khozema Godhrawala, and Ms Khadija Patel. While diverse in terms of their ages, locations and experiences, they all have one thing in common - their passion for teaching. In a candid interview, they talk about the challenges faced with regards to online teaching, their coping strategies, the values and lessons they picked up in their profession, their raw and honest experiences in this career, and how crowdfunding can be useful to teachers around the world. “If I cannot impact the society physically, I can at least help monetarily”, says Fatema, as she speaks about the significance of crowdfunding platforms in the advancement of society. As the writer of this blog and their interviewer, not only was it a delight to be privy to such candour, but also an eye-opening moment to listen to them from a former student’s standpoint.
The Teachers: Introduction
Fatema has been a teacher for over 19 years and is currently teaching middle school children. Farida, on the other hand, has been teaching pre-primary children for 24 years, while Khadija recently started working as a special educator, primarily teaching visually impaired students across age groups.
The 3 teachers have their own share of challenges, methods of management, and distinctive approaches to teaching. However, in light of COVID 19, they shared one common predicament — the limitations that follow the absence of physical interactions with their students. There is an undeniable gap in rapport-building as well as attention holding that previously prevailed in offline teaching.
On being asked about this challenge of rapport-building that they faced with online teaching, Fatema went first,
“The sudden jump to technology was unprecedented as well as something that I was personally unacquainted with. From undergoing online training to understanding the functioning of virtual learning tools, to ensuring that my students on the other end of the screen are as present as me, this shift to online teaching has been no less than a trial and a continual process of learning, revising, implementing”.
Fatema Saboowala, St. Mary’s High School SSC, Mumbai, India
On the other hand, Farida, a teacher at the Garden Nursery and Pre-Primary School in Mumbai,
emphasizes on how the online mode even caused a decline in the number of students! This probably had a strong correlation to the extremely young ages of pre-primary children, who cannot navigate around a gadget-centric interaction as well as some of the older kids.“Suddenly, I find myself having to compete with their video games and cartoons to hold their attention!”, she chuckles.
Khadija, the youngest of the group, expresses how special needs' students require additional attention, counselling, the need for a comfortable and familiar environment and connection, all of which could not be fully fostered via online methods. Furthermore, since Khadija works with visually impaired students, it was initially challenging for her to get her students involved only through the use of audio cues. However, she managed to adapt as well as embrace the change for the good of her students.
Physical vs Virtual Learning
“From their first good morning itself, we can determine their frame of mind, about who is in the right frame and who requires extra focus today”, said Fatema, when asked what she misses the most about the classroom teaching experience. She expressed how the digital shift has helped her realise the importance and impact of physical proximities in teaching - to be able to look a child in the eye and navigate their attention span. Similarly, Farida also misses welcoming her young students into classrooms as they wish her a chirpy “good morning”. The participation in school activities, their energy, everything changes in the online mode. The only thing that probably hasn’t changed is their mischief. It is here that the writer in me, stumbles into thinking how similar a teacher talking about her student can sound to a parent talking about their child.
This thought process makes me ask a question that has perhaps been asked to them many times before - Which part of the whole teaching process gives them the most satisfaction? They say:
“More than the money, what I give back to the society matters”,
Khadija Patel, Al Noor Training Centre for Special Needs, United Arab Emirates
Similarly, Farida said,
“Watching my students play, giggle, and bloom, makes me the most happy”, highlighting how the smallest events provide the simplest joys.
Furthermore, Fatema expressed that there is no greater satisfaction than that which comes with every “Thank you” that their students utter after they have graduated carrying forward their teachers’ lessons and values. “With teaching, it was never the money for me, but always the inner calling”, she said. Afterall, when one spends the majority of their time with children in academic spaces, it becomes natural to instil that learning in oneself and make changes on a personal level.
When asked about how the teaching career has helped them evolve as individuals, the 3 teachers had some unique responses:
While Fatema mentioned the impact of words on a student and their long term effect and how she has trained herself to be conscious and kinder with the words she uses; Farida talked about how her career has helped her retain her childlike nature, cultivated curiosity in her, and has opened her mind to the innocence and purity of young minds; Khadija credits her career path for teaching her the worth of patience, teamwork, and the positive influence of effective communication on children.
It cannot be denied that teachers who work so closely with children do feel a sense of personal attachment to them. Khadija expressed that while it is difficult to do so, it is also extremely essential to separate the emotion from the profession.
Farida emphasised on the need for more sensitivity, care, and inclusion when dealing with children who may have experienced a loss in their family, who have a single parent, or who face loneliness during certain festivals due to familial circumstances.
By the same token, Fatema mentioned how as a teacher, she tries her best to be there for her students beyond academic syllabuses. She understands that school serves as a safe space for a lot of students, especially those who come from unstable or abusive households. She lays importance on the establishment of a safe zone for students, not by probing into their matters but by developing a promising rapport with them, where they may share their troubles and woes.
At this point, I really begin to wonder what the world would be like without compassionate and sincere teachers and educators like Fatema, Farida, and Khadija are the pillars of teaching.. My final question to them was if they had heard of educational crowdfunding and would like to share their opinions on the same. Here, Fatema says that she is “all in'' to contribute to the right causes through the right channels, and has, in fact, donated on ImpactGuru’s crowdfunding platform before.
Similarly, Khadija also expressed that if she ever were to work on a project that enhances her field of education and has the capacity to bring about real progress in her field, she would choose crowdfunding platforms to bring her vision to life. As a previous residential citizen of India, Khadija thinks it is convenient that fundraising platforms such as ImpactGuru accept donations and currencies from around the world.
Farida concludes the blog by agreeing with the advantages it brings such as raising a notable sum within a short span of time and says,
“I would definitely be open to appealing for funds if I know that my educational project can be beneficial to the people”.
If you want to study ahead, or have an idea that can advance your field, or want to make sure that educators like Fatema, Farida and Khadija continue doing what they love the most, then educational crowdfunding can be an option for you. This Teachers’ Day, you can make a difference by choosing crowdfunding on crowdfunding platforms such as ImpactGuru. Raise funds or support any chosen educational cause today.
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