Towards the end of 2019, on a cozy winter morning, when I was waking up my son for school, he was reluctant to leave the warm blanket and said in a irritated tone “I wish school shuts down, then I wouldn’t have to go to school”. The Universe heard him and made someone eat a bat. Schools literally shut down for an entire academic year. Online classes replaced traditional classroom.
I had always fantasized about ‘home schooling’. To me home schooling is that Utopia which would enable my child with the ‘perfect’ education. The same utopia people have about ‘perfect marriages’, however, soon after marriage you realize ‘love’ or ‘arranged’ your husband is going to keep wet towel on the bed. Your dream shatter and you think ‘should have married the guy Mom chose for me, maybe that one would have been perfect‘. Same thing happened to me regarding online classes.
The first couple of months of the academic year went busy adjusting the microphone and camera of Zoom. Most teachers are not techno savvy, some of them are quite old to learn a new technology, even parents and students had to understand the entire thing. I remember getting frantic calls from fellow moms asking about how to sign up. Younger children were not even willing to sit in front of the computer for long.
Shortage of Devices
Most families also struggled with finding a device. As most parents were also working from home, there were no spare laptops or desktops for the kids. Many parents were giving their phones to the kids but when important calls came, either the call or the class had to wait. It was worse for those parents who had more than one kid. In my home, my son started using my laptop, so I had to reschedule my work, therefore most of the days, I ended up working late. My mobile also fell and broke down couple of days after the lockdown started. Amazon was not considering mobile phones as essential service, therefore for one month, I was without phone and laptop. Thankfully, there was not much work pressure at that time so could manage. I am sure many parents have similar stories.
Too Many Apps to Follow
In my son’s class, the entire learning process is spread among four apps. The classes take place in zoom, notes and other information came through Whatsapp, projects and exams are conducted through Google classroom and attendance and notices are managed through School aid. Imagine the ordeal of jumping through four apps to learn one lesson. And my God!!At any given time the whatsapp group has 250 messages. Most of them are useless like ‘thank you’, ‘welcome’, ‘has the class started?’, ‘I have poor network’, ‘Please take me in the class’, playing peekaboo with all these messages are the class notes. Finding it is no less than a treasure hunt, unless you are hooked to the whatsapp group 24/7.
Then came the grand exam, trust me if I tell you that the experience was such that I am confused whether I should call it tragic or hilarious. Following are few incidents that happened during the exams.
Incident 1: The teacher is screaming at the top of her voice to keep the video on, however, most kids have switched off their video. The moment they got the question sheet the video went off. (I am not concluding that they were copying
Incident 2: Parent of kids checking the answer sheets before submission. If the child has missed any answer, any silly mistake, everything is getting checked by parents before submission.
Incident 3: The child forgot to mute the microphone and the entire class could hear the parent saying “This time, I am not going to write the answers for you”
Incident 4: Maths exam and the kids are copying the questions and posting on a maths problem solving website and getting the correct answers. Teacher is helplessly watching.
Incident 5: One of my friends who gives home tuitions to students said that she was getting whatsapp messages from parents asking her to give the answers to the questions. The students were giving online exams and parents were doing this.
I Bow before the Helicopter Parents
Online classes are also the resurrection of the helicopter parents. There are parents who have started sitting for the classes with their kids. They make sure to stay away from the screen but like prompters of theatre they often become accidentally visible or audible. They are parallel studying, taking notes, learning, writing answers and what not. Schools should start charging for two students instead of one. Well, I would one day love to write an entire post on these creatures. Do remind me!
I always had very little regard for the Indian education system, however, after this online classes started I wouldn’t hesitate to call the whole thing a Farce or as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say “Hokum“.