‘Super si Ma’am at Sir!’: As the pandemic reshapes education, teachers use their ‘super powers’ to ensure that learning will continue

Published August 31, 2021, 1:02 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Teachers are considered as heroes of education amidst the pandemic

When the Department of Education (DepEd) announced that “education will continue” even amidst a pandemic, teachers knew that they have a very crucial role to play in ensuring that learning will not stop.

True enough, when the DepEd came up with the Basic Education – Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) as a response to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the education sector, teachers became “education frontliners.”

Education frontliners

Guada Fabio, 40, teaches Indigenous People (IP) learners.

“My teaching styles include localizing and simplifying our lessons to make it more understandable to our IP learners,” she said.

A Teacher 1 at the Tagaytay Integrated School in Alabel, Sarangani Province, Fabio has been teaching Math for Grades 7, 8, and 9, and Kindergarten pupils for the past two years.

For Fabio, she makes it a point to ensure that she caters to the needs of the learners she teaches. While she prioritizes simplicity when it comes to teaching, she also makes sure that “we don’t compromise the quality in delivering the essential competencies” especially under the distance learning set-up.

In School Year (SY) 2020-2021, DepEd implemented for the first time the delivery of learning using alternative modalities.

Since schools were shut down in March 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19, the conduct of face-to-face classes was already out of the equation when the SY 2020-2021 opened on Oct. 5.

For the first time, millions of children have to attend their classes at home through multiple learning delivery modalities.

Some learned their lessons through printed or offline modules. Those who have gadgets and internet connectivity attend online classes.

Students who have television at home learned their lessons by watching educational videos through DepEd TV. In far-flung areas where internet connectivity is not possible due to poor signal, students listened to their daily lessons over the radio.

For each learning delivery modality comes varying degrees of challenges and adjustments especially for the teachers.

For Hilda Bugay, 48, among the major adjustments under the new learning set-up was the environment.

“It was a major adjustment especially in the first two months of distance learning set-up,” Bugay, a Master Teacher II in Cupang Elementary School, Bataan, said.

She has been teaching Edukasyon Sa Pagpapakatao and Mathematics for 25 years. Instead of teaching inside the classroom, she had to teach while at home for the first time. “Its very difficult to separate the home and the school because of work from home arrangement,” she shared.

Bugay is using online learning to teach the lessons to her students. “While you are teaching you are thinking of your house like grocery and house chores,” she said.

Luckily, her husband, Rodelio – who is also a teacher – helps her during the transition. “We are in different distance learning modalities, he is in modular and I’m online,” she said. “If I am teaching online, he is the one who does the necessary things in the house while our children are also online,” she added.

Teachers Hilda and Rodelio Bugay

While the transition is difficult, Bugay expressed optimism that things will be better in the future. “Patience and understanding are the keys to cope with the changes in this new normal,” she said as she hopes for a “better normal” in education this year.

Adjusting to challenges brought by the ‘new normal’

For Rollie Meniano, 50, the distance learning is very challenging because teachers have to deal with so many changes brought by the new set-up in teaching and learning.

As a Head Teacher III at the Jagna Elementary School in Negros Oriental for 16 years, Meniano shared not only his struggles in the new learning set-up but also of his fellow teachers.

“It is somewhat difficult to deal with learners whom we haven’t seen,” Meniano shared.

DepEd said that the most preferred learning modality of both parents and students last school year is the printed module. In this set-up, Self Learning Modules (SLMs) are printed and distributed to students who do not have access to online classes.

Parents fetch the SLMs and bring these at home for the students to answer. Without the guidance from their teachers, students in this set-up find learning their lessons quite challenging especially if there is no able adult who can teach him or her at home.

Similarly, it is also a challenge for teachers since some students choose not to submit the SLMs left unanswered.

“The use of alternative delivery mode is the course to take,” Meniano said. “I have to accept and adjust what this new normal has brought about,” he added.

Teachers Alfan and Guada Fabio

For Alfan Fabio, 39, the absence of face-to-face classes is the most challenging part under the distance learning set-up.

“The absence of face to face teaching was a major adjustment for us since we’ve been doing modular modality and don’t have direct interaction with our learners where assessment is not as reliable as having the conventional one,” Fabio said.

Fabio is a Teacher 2 at the Tagaytay Integrated School in Alabel, Sarangani Province. He teaches Math, Agriculture, Earth and Life Science and Practical Research 1 for four years now.

Despite this challenge, Fabio said that teachers try to make the best of what they have. “Different strategies are being introduced and implemented by the department to ensure that learning will still be delivered to the learners,” he added.

‘Unsung’ heroes

With all the sacrifices of teachers, they are – without a doubt – the heroes of education amid the pandemic.

However, some teachers feel that their efforts are not being reciprocated – especially by the government.

Kris Navales, a Grade 4 Science teacher at Gen. Roxas Elementary School in Quezon City, lamented that teachers have been working for 13 months straight since they started rendering services in June 2020.

“Since then, we have been undergoing and attending a lot of training for distance learning,” Navales, who is also the President of Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA).

Navales said that teachers have been looking forward to their “real vacation” after going through a lot of adjustments last school year. “Before, we had a two-month vacation in the months of April and May before the opening of a new school year,” he said.

However, with the school calendar changed, classes started in October instead of June. “Supposedly, we should be taking our vacation now (August and September) but we are not getting any rest because the new school year will be opening next month,” he explained.

As announced by DepEd, President Duterte approved Sept. 13 as the school opening for public schools in SY 2021-2022. Enhanced “blended learning” – or a combination of two or more learning delivery modalities – will still be implemented this school year in the absence of face-to-face classes.

Navales shared that since last school year, teachers were not getting any rest since they have to respond to the queries and concerns of both parents and students.

“We prepare the learning materials, monitor our students regularly and respond to the questions of our students or their parents through Messenger, text messages or calls,” he shared. There are also times where the teachers do “home visitations” for their students.

While there are no face-to-face classes, Navales said that the workload of teachers became heavier under the distance learning set-up. “If it were for us, we will choose face-to-face classes so we can respond to the needs of the students,” he said.

Under the distance learning set-up, Navales shared teachers are forced to make ends meet when it comes to shortages in resources.

“Some of us had to resort to soliciting bond papers and printers due to lack of printed SLMs and limited resources like gadgets and laptops,” he added.

Despite this, Navales said that teachers continue to find ways to address the challenges brought by the new learning set-up.

“We’re willing to do all these things for our students but we hope that the government and the DepEd will be able to see and recognize our sacrifices and efforts by providing us with the support that we need,” he said.