THE passion for education has spurred many dedicated teachers to reach out to their students since the movement control order (MCO) started on March 18.
It is now almost two months since schools closed, with most students attending classes from home.
Dedicated teachers have been keeping themselves and their students occupied with lessons that do not require them to meet in person.
They are very much on board with virtual learning and are constantly thinking of ways to make e-learning interesting.
In conjunction with Teachers Day, StarMetro spoke to four teachers on how they get their students to stay focused during the virtual lessons.
Nethia Samondeswari Vasuthevan, 45, said the MCO had encouraged her to think out of the box in planning her lessons for students.
She has been teaching Year One pupils for over 17 years and chooses to make a difference by teaching weaker pupils.
An English Language and Art teacher at SK Jalan U3, Subang Perdana, she combines crafts and colours in her lessons.
As she is unable to run online classes — due to the fact that most of her pupils come from low- to medium-income families and do not own laptops — Nethia has roped in the parents.
“I shoot videos with step-by-step instructions and share them on my social media page as well as in the parents’ WhatsApp group.
“To my surprise, the parents followed. Their children have created some fantastic work using things they can find at home, ” she said.
Nethia said the children made food crafts and wrote short essays. They also created short videos where they spoke about their pets.
“It feels good to see parents assisting their children although most of them are not highly educated, ” she said.
Occasionally she rewards her pupils by sending toys to the winners.
Keeping in touch with her students is Dr Teh Pei Ling’s way.
The 42-year-old teaches English to Form Three and Form Four students at SMK Taman Desaminium in Seri Kembangan.
She has two groups of students — those who can attend her e-learning class (about 40% of them) and the rest who are unable to follow her live lessons.
Students in the second group do not have laptops or other compatible devices at home, so Teh communicates with them through WhatsApp video calls.
“Most of them are staying in low-cost flats and have their own challenges. I work on methods that suit their convenience, ” she said.
She normally rewards her students with virtual foodstuff such as chocolates.
“Recently I awarded a student a burger for doing well. I sent it through an e-service and she was thrilled, ” she added.
Teh related an incident of one student who failed to follow her virtual class one night.
“He contacted me to say his mother had confiscated his handphone. So I gave him a one-to-one lesson on what he missed out, ” said Teh, a mother of two.
Teacher Fazlily Ramli, 46, from SMK (P) Raja Zarina, Port Klang said the MCO made her understand the background of her students’ families. This enabled her to empathise with them and teach them accordingly.
“Because we are working with some students from poor families, we now understand their living conditions and limitations.
“I reduce the amount of homework and conduct lessons using online tools, ” said the English language teacher.
“Some teachers, including me, don’t have our textbooks as they were left in school.
“We source for lessons online and keep ourselves connected to other teachers, even those from different states, to ensure there is variety, ” said Fazlily.
During the MCO, she has more time to focus on teaching and preparing lessons as there are no other activities to worry about.
To keep students engaged online, she rewards them with emojis, gifts and cute pictures, much to their delight.
However, most importantly, teachers must empathise and be flexible during learning-from-home sessions, she said.
“Some students rely on their parents’ smartphone while others may not have a data plan to attend classes. We tell them that they can slowly catch up, ” she said.
English teacher P. Deebamalar, 38, who started working at SMK Pulau Ketam in January, said her upper secondary students were eager to learn from home during the MCO.
“All I had to do was find one student on Facebook and within minutes, that student located 24 classmates who were then added to a WhatsApp group.
“I gave them their Google Classroom identification and we started our lessons, ” she said.
The students were mostly children of fishermen, she added.
“People often have this misconception that these students may be less inclined to study hard, ” she said, adding that they were dedicated and hardworking.
Most of them follow their parents to work or have jobs after school.
“They have smartphones and laptops, so teaching them during MCO is not difficult, ” said Deebamalar, adding that online classes ended before 5pm.
“I teach them poems and make them repeat the words. I discuss answers to the work that I give so that they learn as much as they can within the one-hour session.
“The MCO has taught us that paperless learning is possible. I hope to continue with this teaching method because students prefer it too, ” she said.