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Online learnings

After going through a half a school year of online learning, my two high school kids have come to the conclusion that it generally sucks.

My freshman (is it freshperson now?) daughter didn’t like it from the start as she is the type who prefers face-to-face classes. She has been asking about and praying for a vaccine that would allow life to “normalize” ever since school started but thanks to the gross incompetence of our government officials who had one job, it doesn’t look like enough Filipinos will be inoculated from Covid-19 by the time next the next school year starts to allow students back into actual classrooms.

When school-aged kids can’t even go out into public spaces yet, almost one year since this terrible ordeal began, it is difficult to imagine how face-to-face classes can ever be held anytime soon. I do not have the heart to tell my daughter everytime she asks my projection when school can return to normal that the shambolic handling of the pandemic by the Philippine government probably means school-aged kids will most likely spend one of the most socially-significant stages of their lives physically isolated from peers.

As for my son, who is currently a junior high school senior (does that even make sense?) he was ok with the online format of education. This is probably he has already gone through most of junior high school and is by now tired of dealing with the drama of high school.

But if there is one thing they agree on, both do not like how online classrooms and teachers have consistently failed to respect boundaries and deadlines.

According to them, ever since the physical classroom ceased to exist, they can get school work with crazy, unreasonable deadlines anytime of the day, be it a regular school day, weekend, day-off, or holiday. They have to be constantly glued to their devices/computers to watch out for surprise notifications from teachers regarding impending school work or midnight corrections to submitted projects that have to be resubmitted promptly.

My kids complained about these issues with online schooling at the start but they were more forgiving then, as the whole setup was new for everyone involved. But now, with two quarters already in the bag and no adjustments or improvements felt, they are no longer expecting any improvements and are just hunkering down for more of the same in the coming months.

When asked if their feedback was gathered during the early days of online school, they say yes but they feel like nothing was done about their input because nothing happened. Whatever they complained of then remains a problem today and from the rants I’ve been patiently listening to in the past few weeks, the situation probably worsened. They just got used to the new system and as all resilient Filipinos do, adapted. The point is kids learning to adapt because they had no choice doesn’t mean that the system improved.

I write because the other day my kid was ranting about a project submitted and assumed ok because the teacher gave no feedback. And then, more than a week after the submission that was way before the deadline, an email from the teacher sent past midnight tells the student that corrections are needed, along with a deadline for resubmission that felt less than reasonable and reciprocal considering the lag time between the first submission and ensuing feedback demanding corrections.

To be fair to the teacher I initially took their side, telling my kid that such is life. It throws curveballs and often comes with unreasonable requests from people in power. But the more the situation was explained, the more I realized that I didn’t have to deal with today’s hurdles that come with online schooling. First of all, back in my day, we had clear cut deadlines. Unlike online classes, my classes ended when we said “Thank you and goodbye” to our teachers. We didn’t see or contact them until we saw them again, in school, during school hours which were usually when the sun was above the horizon. Our teachers couldn’t raid our homes, call us up or group chats us about changing deadlines or additional homework. Heck, we didn’t even have cell phones and text messaging back then. If we got left behind in school, we had to use the telephone at the principal’s office to call the memorized landline number of our parents.

In the end, I just told my aggrieved and stressed kid to prepare an incident report: write down all the dates and times, gather receipts andprovide the necessary evidence to back up a complaint if ever one is filed. It’s going to be the student’s word against the teacher’s but if there is one thing my kids are going to learn from the mess that is online schooling, it will be how to defend themselves from the system, especially if it’s not being fair.

Online schooling was supposed to be a golden opportunity to reimagine the educational system in this country. There were no boundaries, everything was possible. It’s a shame that many schools, led by our DepEd, haven’t taken advantage and instead of making learning fun and accessible, have instead managed to make it more tedious and annoying.*

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