Dublin, IRELAND – This pandemic hit everyone hard, each in their own way. Many have lost their jobs and even their loved ones.
Many other people have seen their jobs change dramatically, nurses and doctors have been put under tremendous pressure. We have begun to realize just how vital haulers, supermarket staff and cleaners are.
The requirements of some roles changed extraordinarily since the beginning of this pandemic. This certainly applies to teachers.
In mid-April, every schoolchild in the Republic of Ireland returned to in-person learning for the first time in 2021.
As part of the older cohort of students, I returned slightly earlier and so was a witness to both sides of the screen.
Just over a year ago, Microsoft Teams and Zoom were used predominantly as tools for business calls. But for much of 2020 and 2021, they became our classrooms.
I don’t think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird were ever meant to be taught through a computer.
Students were never meant to be taking notes off a PowerPoint in their own bedroom or apologizing to their teacher for not being able to answer her question because they were ‘on mute.’
I cannot possibly comprehend how hard it must be for a teacher to lecture into a screen, not knowing whether anyone is on the other side of it.
Imagine trying to teach advanced calculus and the only way you’re able to gauge whether it’s clicking with your students is by an emoji of an upward or downward pointing thumb in the chat box. (Imagine trying to teach calculus at all!)
That whole student teacher interaction, which is so vital to education, was missed. Just simple things, like a nod that you get something or a quick question at the end of class were gone.
Our modern world had been becoming more digital by the day before the pandemic, that is an undeniable fact. But if I’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it is that the school experience is far superior in the flesh.
When teachers all around the world first stepped into a classroom, I doubt many of them could ever see a point where they would sit alone in that classroom, chatting to a laptop. But that was what happened.
The pandemic forced teachers to completely change the way they conduct their classes.
They showed admirable versatility to totally adapt their classrooms and bring them online. It cannot have been an easy task and in many ways, it was a thankless one.
But they did it, and they did it willingly. I think we all owe teachers a great deal of gratitude for the way they have gone about their work over the last 12 months or so.
Hopefully Irish schools will not close again but I know if they do, teachers will be ready, willing and able to revert online once more.
I’d just like to say a big thank you to teachers all around the world and in particular to my own teachers, who have been exceptional throughout the covid-19 emergency.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh, as we say in Ireland, or thank you!
Daniel Cleary is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.