I have seen a number of parents complain, whine and mostly demean the work teachers are doing online.
As a teacher, I feel that there are facts that these parents are either not alive to or pretend to forget.
I know their problem is not that you don’t think online lessons work but you want to pay less, way less than the discount you have been offered already. How do I know, you might ask?
I know these parents are clueless on what to do with their children and since amusement parks are closed and restaurants too, they need something to occupy their stranger children because there is only so much Netflix a child can watch.
So to be clear, they are not fighting virtual learning but the cost.
Internet connectivity is a basic necessity especially for households where the children go to schools with an international curriculum. So the cost factor here is a lie.
Onto the point about supervision: this could pass an excuse for lower primary school students but not for the older ones. The reason a parent would struggle to supervise their child online is because they have not been raising the child.
There is a difference between a disciplined child and a disciplined student. What you are struggling with is an undisciplined child and that’s on you not the teacher. They listen to us all the time, unless you influence them to do otherwise.
EVER ASKED HOW WE ARE DOING?
I wish parents were selfless enough to even ask how these teachers are doing.
The teachers that rescue your children from depression that you know nothing about, that decide to ‘parent’ your child because what else can you do after seeking parental intervention and it’s not coming?
These same teachers go out of their way to plan these lessons including online platforms that are child friendly.
Remember, no teacher went to school to teach virtually but we all have to adjust but now, you want these teachers to avail themselves for free so that you can save your money- how very selfless.
The only thing missing is the physical interaction that we also miss but your children are otherwise doing great in class and more innovative than you will ever know.
I would not want to mention the chronic headaches we have now developed because we are on screen all day, teaching, marking and planning the lessons for the following day.
Have you considered how much of above and beyond teachers do without even caring who the parents are (I’m talking to big shot parents)? Brookhouse parents who sued the school were already told off by the chairman (the rich were schooled by the real rich). For me it did not need to get there.
What is the place of negotiation? Think about it, Covid-19 is going to be over and you are going to expect this same teacher to bend over backwards to bridge gaps for your child.
How humanly possible is this especially after we have seen the things you have discussed in your WhatsApp groups (yes we have seen those chats). Are we still expected to smile back when we see you and act like you are not just doing that because you need a favour? I mean we are not expecting a romantic relationships, we are always cordial and we know what you think of us, but seeing it, confirming it, hearing it and expecting normal is not normal.
Covid-19 has really revealed a lot of things and one of those is that yes, teaching is a calling but only the teacher is called, the parents out here have a skewed view of what we do.
Teachers can attest to how many times in our 99th of crisis meetings have raised names of students who are not okay.
Some finish the class and ask a student to hold on to that zoom call because they can see this child is not okay and if one word can boost them through the day then our jobs as teachers will be more enriching. I wish you knew that we have already taken pay cuts but still teach with the same if not more intensity.
The head teachers phones are not like call centre switch boards, our numbers are now shared with parents for troubleshooting and this means receiving calls of ‘Madam I forgot my password’… Mwalimu how do I advice my child, they’re going nuts indoors…please talk to them to put their phone down… please tell them they can’t go out…”
Finally, these teachers have children too that need to be on the virtual learning but sacrifice time with them so yours can learn and so they can get paid. So no, I don’t wake up to give your child a raw deal, I already did that to mine. No you are not doing me a favour, we are partners and finally we are all going through tough times. And no, your problem is not more important than mine.
Salma Otieno is a concerned teacher