Standing Between Two Stools

Scenario 1: I wake up at 6, wash the sleep away, and off I go to meet my colleagues, then my students. “Good morning everyone”, I utter calmly as I see them coming in. When the bell rings, I dismiss my students to their break and prepare myself for mine.

Scenario 2: I wake up, change my top, keep my pants, open my laptop. “Good morning Students!”, I say as the kids are shouting in the background. When the bell rings, I go get the door.

            The switch from scenario one to scenario two might seem simple on paper, but for a person who has experienced both ends of the spectrum, the shift is anything but. Overnight, teachers seem to have lost their classrooms, but many have alternatively gained much in terms of innovation.

            “Teacher” – upon hearing this word, some shudder, others smile. 

Each one of us has probably drawn a persona in their mind of what a teacher is or looks like, one which heavily relies on the way we’ve been schooled. However, amid the pandemic, teachers have found themselves standing between two stools wherein the demands of their jobs have changed in such a way that may, or may not, fit their character or routine. “Become a teacher”, they said, “it’s good for family life,” they said. Those who chose to pursue a career in teaching only because they claim it convenient for family life, find it hard to keep up with the current demands of teaching.

In fact, the profile of the teacher has for long been diverting from the traditional character, who seems to be running in circles, teaching from the book and shunning out world trends from the class, to a brand-new profile, one which we may safely term: well-rounded. In fact, teachers are becoming one of the most up-to-date people, keeping in pace with world trends as they incorporate them into the classroom and maintain a learning environment that is as close to reality as possible.  “But has this shift been positive or negative?”, one may wonder.

            If we think of online teaching versus on-campus school, the scale will most certainly tip in favor of the latter. However, this comparison misses out on a most elemental fact: online learning didn’t arise as an alternative to school as it was not an option in the first place. It rather came as an alternative to not learning at all as we the world goes on lockdown. So, instead of reflecting on our preference between the two, it would be truer to ask which is better: learning online or staying in quarantine with no learning whatsoever taking place?

            This experience of ours in education is proving that while the world may be taking a pause, little seems to be getting in the way of education. In this context, I recall the notion of the survival of fittest and I truly inquire: in our times, isn’t it the survival of the most adaptive? As teachers, we’re standing between two stools: the traditional and modern.  We’re stuck between two schools: the physical and the virtual.

With a push from Covid-19, I see the profession standing in liminality tipping further towards modernity and virtuality. While education will always be evasive, I do wish for it to find stability in what best fits the needs of our world.

Hanine Damaj: I started my teaching journey at a young age through community service and professional work. As an English language and literature graduate, the deeper I dive into this field, the more I love it, and I am happy to be taking my first steps into the world of IB with Al-Hayat International School. In this place, I am Grade 5 English homeroom teacher. I am an English Language and Literature graduate from Lebanese University.

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