by Reulene Jezreel S. Matalog
She has been a public school teacher for almost three decades now, but it is only during this time that Lilybeth Guernaldo has experienced major challenges in her career due to the new remote learning setup during the pandemic. She teaches English, Filipino, Science, Music, and Values Education to Grade 5 students at Nasugbu West Central School in Batangas.
For schools like Lilybeth’s, which is located in a rural coastal area with unstable Internet service and electricity, printed Self-Learning Modules (SLM) are the most feasible for their students. This is one of the remote learning modalities approved by the Department of Education (DepEd) for students who cannot afford gadgets and Internet service to be able to participate in online remote learning.
Face-to-face vs SLM
On a case-to-case basis, teachers use various communication channels, such as telephone, instant messaging, and online platforms are utilized to provide assistance and to establish communication with the learners and their parents. Teachers also conduct home visitations for learners needing remediation, if applicable. In addition to this, family members of the learners or other stakeholders in the community play a big role in serving as para-teachers. This type of modality requires the patience and perseverance of not just the teachers, but also of parents and even the community — the entire village — for students to be given quality education.
The current implementation of remote learning differs greatly from the learning done in the four corners of a classroom. According to Lilybeth, one of the most obvious changes is classroom management. For instance, giving instructions regarding class activities is much more difficult as you cannot be sure if the learner understands the directions written on the SLM, especially those in English.
In contrast to this, teachers can easily clarify the instructions in face-to-face classes. Even though students are in the comfort of their own homes and have their own learning facilitators, it is still different from being able to approach the teacher for assistance right away.
Lilybeth also added that there is a big disparity when it comes to learners’ performance. Because the modules are distributed to the students and are then submitted after a period of time, it is almost impossible to gauge if the learners are really the ones who finish their schoolwork.
“May pagkakataon nga ‘yung mga nareretrieve naming materials iba-iba yung sulat. Hindi ko alam kung bata ba ‘yun, ‘yung ate ba, o ‘yung nanay na ang nagsulat, ‘di ba?” she said.
To address this, teachers encourage their students to post some of their performance outputs on social media.
“For example, ‘yung folk dance. May mga steps na kailangan nilang ipakita kung tama nga, nakasunod sila sa instruction. Hindi maisusulat ‘yun. Kailangan maipakita talaga sa video,” she added.
However, this presents limitations because not everyone owns a gadget to record and post their outputs.
In face-to-face classes, students can exchange papers for checking, and recording of scores is also done right after. In this remote learning setup, teachers have to go through the activities one by one, and it takes a lot of time to be able to go through the piled-up work.
She also emphasized how tough it is to check copious amounts of schoolwork turned in by the pupils. Monitoring of attendance and class participation also vary between face-to-face and remote learning. For Lilybeth, face-to-face classes allow the teachers to focus directly on students who require extra guidance.
In spite of all of this, shehighlights the need to continue classes even in the midst of a pandemic to ensure that there is no gap in the education that every learner receives.
Students and teachers alike are affected by the availability of learning facilitators in the learners’ own homes. Lilybeth recognizes that not all parents are capable of guiding and teaching their children.
“Minsan kasi may mga magulang na parehong out from home eh, kasi parehong nagtatrabaho naiiwanan lang si bata. Ibig sabihin, kung ano na lang maisagot niya. Meron namang kasama ang magulang pero hindi naman nakapag-aral ‘yung magulang. Hindi niya nga raw alam kung paano gagawin ‘don,” she shared.
Despite trying to establish stable communication with parents, there are still instances wherein teachers cannot reach the contact information given to them, may it be through text messaging or online platforms.
In scheduled synchronous meetings, only an average of 16 to 17 parents attend out of 33 enrolled students in a class due to poor Internet connection. Some simple are incapable of attending synchronous meetings. There were times that Lilybeth had thought of conducting home visitations just to be able to check up on her students, but decided not to for her own safety.
“Siyempre nakakatakot, nakataya ‘yung ikaw, nakataya ‘yung sarili mo tapos uuwi ka sa sarili mong pamilya hindi mo alam kung carrier ka na ng virus. Eh dito naman sa Nasugbu, laging may mga active cases,” she said.
In Nasugbu West Central School, one of the projects being implemented is the provision of printers to every public school teacher. This also includes typewriting paper and other materials essential in printing out SLMs.
There are also programs that prioritize the health of the learners. Out of 3,400 students, 1,000 are beneficiaries of the school feeding program. Because of the pandemic, parents of the beneficiaries are encouraged to claim goods such as rice, fruits, vegetables, and milk at the school to help in the eating lifestyles of students. The beneficiaries selected for the feeding program are based on last school year’s reading of the children’s weights.
DepEd also conducts webinars that aim to help teachers adapt strategies for facilitating learning in the current setup. There are also webinars for parents on how to manage the facilitation of their children’s learning at home.
Personal Initiatives of Teachers and Parents
According to Lilybeth, she ensures that her students accomplish their tasks by taking time to organize and compile their records.
“Nilalagyan ko pa nga siya ng mga ear tags para ito sa Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, ganyan per subject. Mai-record ‘yung mga scores ng mga activities na kanilang sinasagutan para at least ‘pag may nakita akong ‘yung punto na left behind ‘yung bata, pagtawag ko sa magulang mayroon akong pruweba,” she said.
She added that it is important to show the parents how their children are performing in their graded assessments for effective monitoring of their learning progress. This is extra work that remote learning entails, but she has no choice, so as not to sacrifice the quality of education her students receives amid the trying times.
As for the parents, some voluntarily communicate with teachers to inquire about class instructions and their child’s performance. Some parents also do their part by hiring tutors to guide their children in their studies. However, not every household is capable of doing so because of time and financial constraints. Instead, few parents ask their other relatives that can be helpful in the learning process of their children at home. Different learners require different assistance in the pursuit of their basic education. Lilybeth reasoned that there are children who need more help than others.
“May bata na kaya, may pagkukusa, may sariling palo, ika nga. Pero may bata na hindi siya kikilos unless merong magpu-push sa kaniyang gawin niya ito,” she said. This stresses the roles of facilitators in learning amidst the pandemic.
Now that parents play an active role in the learning process of the students, they now experience firsthand the effort being extended by teachers.
“Siguro naririnig mo rin sa akin ‘yun, na ang klase ko kwarenta, forty, pero galing siya sa iba-ibang mga magulang, galing sa iba-ibang kapaligiran, pero kailangan mo siyang i-manage. Ngayon naranasan ng magulang na maging guro pero anak niya na nga ‘yun ‘di ba sinusukuan niya. Paano na lang kami? Siyempre ‘yun ang trabaho namin pero siguro in a way na-appreciate ng mga magulang kung papaano kumilos at papaano ‘yung effort ng guro para may matutunan ‘yung mga bata.”
Teachers like Lilybeth consciously reflect on the quality of their teaching to ensure that their students are empowered in spite of the multifaceted problems they are all facing.
But beyond being appreciated for their hard work, she and her fellow teachers are calling for more government support, such as higher wages and benefits, subsidies for their electricity and Internet bill and purchase of gadgets, and even vaccine prioritization. Education in the new normal is still uncertain in the Philippines. If remote learning will persist, then teachers will need all the support they can get — the support of the entire village — to be able to raise remote learning students, who are the students of the new normal.