Teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic

18 May 2020

2020 has brought drastic changes to the education system not only in Kyrgyzstan, but in schools all over the world

Teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic Teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Told from the perspective of Gulnara Abdieva, English teacher and Professional Development Trainer at Aga Khan School in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

2020 has brought drastic changes to the education system not only in Kyrgyzstan, but in schools all over the world. Our (physical) school closed on March 16, 2020, as soon as our country began to take quarantine and lockdown precautions. It is safe to say that the lives of most teachers and students have changed radically since then.

The Ministry of Education and Science in Kyrgyzstan announced that learning in the fourth quarter of our academic year would be online and remote. They began filming and showing lessons on national television right away, but we teachers also needed to play our part. We were fortunate to receive some training on Google Classroom and Zoom but have relied on and learnt from each other, sharing our methods, successes, and frustrations.

The first time I signed up to teach an online English lesson, I thought it would be straightforward. I figured I would just teach the same content the same way I always did, the only difference would be that the students were at home; I simply would not be able to see them. However, I discovered very quickly that it would not be as easy as I had hoped. I realized that I needed to recreate my teaching content to make the lessons even more engaging and interesting for my students. I must say that it was initially challenging for myself and my colleagues as well as for our students. We teachers needed to figure out how to create online classes, but we also had to teach our students the process of Google Classroom so they could access their tasks and submit their assignments on time. Initially, many of our students were unwilling to study online, but that has changed.

There is a saying by Mayo Angelou, American poet and activist: “Nothing will work unless you do”.  It’s true, after six weeks the challenges are becoming fewer and my colleagues and I are getting used to teaching online and remotely. In fact, distance learning has helped me to acquire new IT skills and new strategies for teaching. I can now run classroom lessons using Zoom, Google, TeamLink, and Cisco Webex; I can create interactive tests; and I can use programs like Bandicam and Free Cam to record my presentations.

I recently asked my students for their thoughts about the new methods of learning. Aruuke in 11 C wisely stated, “As you know, all situations have their own minuses and pluses.” Kamila in 10 C likes Google distance learning because “we can complete tasks and study in the convenient time for us.” Bermet in 10 C had two thoughts: she likes that distance learning allows her to “watch video tutorials several times, re-read correspondence with a teacher, and skip already known topics,” but noted that “the minus is that we must independently master the educational process, and this requires developed willpower, responsibility and self-control.”

Aside from my teaching duties, I am also providing practical support, training and feedback to my colleagues within my subject departments (English and Social Studies) and encourage them to participate in online teaching webinars.

So what’s being a teacher at AKS, Osh like now? We have found that online teaching compliments classroom teaching. Believe it not, some days I find online classes a really interesting and comfortable method of teaching! I am grateful that this lockdown has encouraged us to enhance our IT teaching skills and find new ways to communicate with students and parents. We must not give up on remote learning; the era of technology runs towards us at high speed bringing opportunities every day. Therefore, we must continue to learn and demonstrate new skills and hope that our students are inspired to do the same.

By Gulnara Abdieva and Gazalla Hirji