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Alba Iulia
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Digital ’20 – the new normal for students and teachers

The new normal for student learning during COVID-19 is an evolving challenge for Ms. Garcia, a Filipino-Australian Primary Teacher in Melbourne.

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By Charisse Garcia, Primary School Teacher at a mainstream school in Victoria

With Debussy’s Claire de Lune as my background music, I handed the grey lead pencil to my nine-year-old, ‘Slant down, slant down, across’, repeatedly. It was her fourth routine from her visual time table. I glanced at the clock and abruptly, took the chance of checking my school email, ‘Zoom meeting at 9:30 am’. I had to pause our handwriting session. But a pause seemed like an eternity for a child with additional needs. But I had to, in fact, this was our new normal— the ‘Covid normal’ as what Prime Minister Scomo just coined.

I am a full-time primary school teacher and a parent. As of writing, I have created twenty seven sets of lesson materials and six weekly planners. I attended online meetings and webinars, emailed parents and colleagues, made post-assessments and responded to students’ questions on Google classroom. I edited ‘cool’ videos for my mini-lessons and ticked submitted online submissions in my student tracker. Whilst actively engaging during my remote teaching, my role as a parent required me to bake cheese cupcakes, followed cutting patterns, jumped over hurdles and posted daily pictures and videos of our homeschool activities on a digital platform. As my husband comes home tired and frustrated from work, the usual conversation would be, ‘at least I have a job the others are struggling’.

9-year-old Phoebe completing a painting task while learning at home. | Photo credit: Charisse Garcia

Yes, there are other stories. There was a parent working for a large airline company, who sacrificed her career so her husband could continue working. Now just like thousands of parents, she succumed to the idea of printing school assignments for her Preppie before spending the day completing them. There was another story of a parent who found flexibility despite technical issues of online learning but would have waited longer if there was a choice to stay home. And there was a  story of a parent nurse; head of  her unit. She had no choice but to send her son to school everyday for onsite learning. We heard other stories from the other side of the world, for instance, Philippines. 109 million stories; it could be worse. We heard these stories. Stories of struggles and yet, of triumph.

Next week, most of us are going back to our new normal. As I transition back to face-to-face teaching I think about the lessons I learned thus far from remote teaching. Victorian teachers are armed with knowledge and flexibility to meet students where they are. Whilst the goal is to move the students forward , life as we know it changed forever. I understand that my role now serves more purpose. Students and parents might have found the intricacies of the digital world overwhelmingly difficult to navigate. But in the end, we found solutions; we communicated.

Students became better problem solvers and parents [somehow] digitallly literate.

And for us parents, resilience is needed more than ever. We are now faced with the uncertainties and insecurities brought up by this pandemic. The narrative will still change weeks or months from now.

As I sat down with my nine year old, with yet another classical music for peace of mind I think about tomorrow as another day. Another day, another story.

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