World Teachers’ Day is celebrated annually on October 5th. On this day, each of us is being reminded of the wonders that teachers made in impacting our lives. For 2020, teachers’ day becomes even more special, as teachers have shown resilience during these pandemic times. The theme for 2020, “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future,” perfectly portrays our appreciation for teachers’ extraordinary struggles amid the Covid-19 pandemic, throughout the world. Sinarmas World Academy (SWA) students refused to let the pandemic overshadow this special day, and arranged tokens of appreciation through a video compilation, and a sweet hamper of personalized notebooks, clutches, masks and personalized thank you letters for all of their teachers.
Since the sudden spike of the Covid-19 cases, lives around the world are affected, and with no exception, so is education. At its peak, nearly the entire world was closing schools, and the usual face-to-face learning in-class, suddenly turned to screen-to-screen online learning that impacted 1.5 billion students and 63 million teachers, worldwide.
In the transition to online learning, teachers around the world are being faced with never-before challenges that require them to adapt, adjust, and implement, in no time at all. Teachers’ leadership, creativity, strategic thinking, and endurance were challenged, as they had to rapidly modify their curriculum and adapt lesson plans for online platforms. To make these adjustments, which have little pedagogical guidelines or references, is difficult, to say the least. To create a new learning atmosphere that ensures that every student is accommodated and properly engaged is a huge responsibility to bear for all teachers around the world. UNESCO, through its overview of World Teachers’ Day, 2020, acknowledges that “without much guidance or pedagogical support from education authorities, the frontline workers of the education sector are showing great capacity and flexibility to adapt to an ever-evolving situation, in order to keep children and youth learning”.
SWA teachers also faced similar struggles, as the school is one of the earliest schools in Indonesia to implement online learning in response to Covid-19. Rubeliza Sicorsicon, a preschool teacher at SWA, admitted that even though she understood and supported the decision to implement online learning to avoid any Covid-19 outbreaks in school, still found the situation challenging, especially for her young learners. “These young learners are at their golden period of learning. They have vivid imaginations and a high curiosity, which makes them easily bored. Converting to online platforms is not as easy as it sounds. I did as much research as I could to get ideas and references on how to conduct online classes for preschoolers.” Rubeliza continued to explain about the careful preparations made prior to the online classes. “Teachers must be more active, more energetic, more expressive, and certainly more creative in doing online activities for children. The use of various materials, such as puppets and costumes is one of the strategies to make learning interesting over the screen. Students can capture the teacher’s energy over the screen, and when the teacher is not enthusiastic or engaging, they will lose interest, and we lose the opportunity to teach. We teachers must continue to inspire, innovate and evaluate, so that these young learners can continue to develop their potential and learn effectively even at a distance,” added Rubeliza. Without doubt, technology has played a huge role in enabling online learning, but the key to success in online learning will always be held by the teachers.
The efforts of the teachers are not in vain, and are being appreciated by both the students and parents. Dwi Haryani, one of SWA’s elementary school parents, admitted that adopting online learning was the best response to Covid-19, but came at such a fast pace that it gave her anxiety. However, with solid support from the school community, she grew more confident in online learning. She acknowledges and appreciates the absolute effort of the teachers in creating a pleasant learning atmosphere, made even more obvious to her daughter, who is still in elementary school. “They manage to adapt the lesson plans and their methods of delivery, making online learning fun and exciting. My daughter really enjoys her online learning and that is what matters most. The teachers are attentive to each student, and they are cooperative, understanding and patient, but at the same time disciplined and purposeful. They are truly extraordinary.”
“For me, teachers are extraordinary figures as they continue to teach, while they adapt to this pandemic. Teachers are people who understand the world, and are still willing to understand us [students]. My teachers have pushed me to be the best version of myself, without overwhelming me. Even more during this pandemic, I really feel how understanding my teachers are,” said Keke, one of the highschool students at SWA. “Today, I really want to thank all of my teachers, who never fail to greet us every morning with smiles. Please know that even through screens, we can feel your positivity and your energy, and that is what keeps us motivated throughout the day. Without you, we wouldn’t have come this far.” added Keke.
It is immeasurable how much teachers have contributed to the advancement of children’s education in the world, even more during this pandemic. Without their resilience and effort, education around the world would have suffered even more during the pandemic. “They [teachers around the world] are truly extraordinary,” Dwi added. To all the teachers out there, thank you for leading education forward through any given situation and condition, and in turn, shaping and reimagining a better future. Teachers, Happy World Teachers Day!