Finally holding classes face-to-face after more than two years was like a breath of fresh air. It was the break that people in our university – students, teaching and non-teaching personnel, and school administrators – so badly needed after months of being segregated because of Covid-19.
But with the pandemic slowly waning, the campus has gradually gone back to life. The members of the academic community could be seen again walking to and fro inside buildings and pathways. The queues are back in the university’s bakehouse, cafeteria, and coffee shops. The gym is filled with people, young and old, working out. The basketball and tennis courts are once again noisy.
But there’s no better sign of life and reclaimed semblance of normalcy on the campus than in the classrooms where classes are being held. I had mixed emotions after reading the notice that the university is abandoning online classes and teachers are expected to meet the students for face-to-face classes.
I have no problem with either online or offline education because no matter how teachers deliver learning, virtually or inside the classroom, they perform the same pedagogical functions – they prepare a lesson plan, set objectives, motivate students, discuss the lessons, give assignments and seatwork, and evaluate learning. So, with the marching orders given – conduct classes face-to-face – I got ready for it.
The truth is I heaved a sigh of relief when the university decided to go back to offline classes. Why? After 5 semesters of online teaching, I discovered that virtual classes are more difficult to handle. I figured out why – I did my online classes synchronously. Things could have been easier for me had I chosen the asynchronous method where all I needed to do is prepare a video presentation and ask the students to watch it. No offense meant to anybody, but I don’t consider that teaching. I don’t feel like performing my pedagogical functions when all I do is prepare videos of my lessons. I feel like shortchanging my students. With the synchronous method, classes are run in real time and the students are attending together from different locations. This version of online teaching gives the students a chance to participate in the discussions and to ask questions if they want and need to. Teachers could guide them when performing graded activities. There is actual real-time interaction between the students and their teachers, something that cannot be done when teachers teach by just uploading videos. Not actually interacting with the students, even only through online platforms is not giving them enough guidance in the learning process. It is risky to rely on the assumption that students are responsible enough to watch the videos and perform the required activities by themselves.
As I said earlier, I had mixed emotions when our university made it mandatory for English teachers to conduct classes offline. I was excited and at the same time wondering how would it be to conduct face-to-face classes once again. Admittedly, I was a little bit tentative for I have already gotten used to doing online teaching. But as soon as I stood in front of my students and started talking, everything went seemingly autopilot. I was in familiar territory. The teacher in me went to work without missing a beat. Before I knew it, my first class for the Fall Semester of 2022 was completed.
So, it’s face-to-face classes again. Both I and my students are back in the “real classroom.” I expected the usual things. There might be some classroom management issues – students using their cellphones and other gadgets, one or two of them sleeping while I am teaching, or what-have-you. These things I address during the first day of class. I would tell them that I am dealing with young adults, not kids, who know what they should and shouldn’t do. Most of the time, it works. I never stopped teaching just to call the attention of the students using their cell phones or to arouse the students who fell asleep. Rarely those happened anyway.
There are times a student might come late and I need to decide whether to just excuse them or strictly implement the attendance policies of the university. If it’s only one absence, I strike it off the record especially if the student’s explanation as to why they came late I deem acceptable. I am almost certain also that a number of them would ask me to change their grades for one reason or another… something that unfortunately I would never do. I give my students the grades they deserve. I check and double-check their scores before I encode them into the university’s portal.
It really felt great seeing the students again in the classroom. But while we may have reverted back to face-to-face mode of delivering education, I wouldn’t say that I went back to the traditional way of delivering my pedagogical functions. If there is one great thing the pandemic taught me it is optimizing the use of computer and information technology in everything that I do as a teacher. Even before the pandemic, I relied heavily on computer-aided instruction. I used PPT for my lectures and instead of using chalk or board marker when needing to write something in addition to what I have on my presentation, I would use a blank slide.
I have gone completely paperless for the assessment and evaluation of my students’ performance. I am using the Google form for all my tests, quizzes, assignments, and graded exercises. It is through the university’s portal that I send my students link to those Google forms. They take them using their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. The Google form has features that could be used to prevent and discourage students from sharing answers.
Even the submission of course requirements (projects, homework, etc.) should be done virtually as well. I created an electronic portfolio for each student using the Google Drive folder where they can drag and drop (upload) whatever they need to submit. I also created a common class folder (through Google Drive) where I upload lectures, reviewers, and other documents and files related to the course).
Except for the “paperless” assessment and evaluation of students’ performance, all of the foregoing are things I have been doing before the pandemic. I just figured that as a 21st century teacher teaching 21st century skills, knowledge, and values to 21st century students, it is my obligation to embrace computer and information technology so I could be more efficient in the performance of my duties and obligations as a teacher.