Back to School 2020
It has been quite a struggle to get into my profession, especially as a newcomer to Canada. I was supplying in different schools as an occasional teacher when the pandemic struck. The schools were closed indefinitely, and suddenly, there was no need for substitute teachers. I was jobless, but then so were the others. There was no choice but waiting it out for the situation to improve.
After six months of family time and finishing all my unfinished projects, I finally got an interview call. One part of me was thankful that I might be going back to work again, but the other was a little unsure of picking up the strings after a long hiatus. Along with that was the fear of being caught by Covid. Or the opposite.
Regardless, I started preparing for my Zoom interview in earnest. I must have said something right because I was offered the opportunity to teach grade 4 children online. My students would be ensconced in their homes, and I would teach out of a Cambridge, Ontario school classroom.
As soon as I put the phone down, I began a mad scramble to make myself ready for the virtual reality of remote learning. I watched YouTube tutorials on conducting a Google Meet and how to use my phone as a camera for sharing documents.
“My classroom is a well-appointed room, but it is silent–there are no sounds of happy kids.”
Despite these preparations, I was at a loss and anxious about the virtual school’s first day. I thought to myself, how will I teach? How will I build relationships? How will I enable a classroom community? These questions gave me sleepless nights.
But now the classes have started, and they are going well. Many things have changed, and some are still the same. I always smile and say hello to all the teachers I come across in the hallways. I don’t see their smiles reflected at me because of the ever-present masks. It’s the crinkling of the eyes that I have started to recognize. My classroom is a well-appointed room, but it is silent–there are no sounds of happy kids.
However, I have students excitedly waiting for their day to begin on the other side of my computer screen, while their parents and sometimes other family members join in too, taking a quiet peek at the screen. The ‘new’ has become normal, with the homes and classes merging organically.
My students are reading ebooks, learning about rocks and minerals by picking out real specimens from their backyards, visiting virtual museums and multiplying cookie recipe ingredients for math class. The real advantage is that you get to enjoy the cookie in the end! All of us are looking forward to our next Zoom party.
What has not changed is the part I can play as a teacher, in facilitating their learning, in giving them the confidence that we are all in this together, in giving them hope that this too shall pass, and in holding their virtual hand to say that come what may, I am there.
Gurpreet Nain moved to Canada from Chandigarh, India in 2012. She is a teacher by profession and loves working with children. When not at school, she enjoys reading, taking long walks and gardening.
PAINTING by Emily Honderich
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.