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Digital classes: The challenges I faced as a working parent

Without any warning or prior preparation, digital classes replaced physical classrooms overnight in 2020. Childhood is all about candies, swing sets, and peals of laughter travelling across the classroom. For years, we were used to following a routine, sticking to it day after day even if it was tiring. When it comes to education, parents and kids end up falling into a schedule as it works for all parties involved. What I didn’t realise is that one day we would wake up and face a reality that upended all these carefully constructed routines.

A disruption in normalcy

Recently, I woke up with a start and was shocked to see that I had overslept. By now, the kids should have been bathed and my older son in his school uniform, ready in time for his school bus. I was wondering why the alarm didn’t go off as usual, and then reality came crashing down on me.

The alarm didn’t go off, because I had not set it in the first place. There was no need for it, as I did not have to wake up early in the morning to pack lunch, and get my son ready for school. With that realisation, my heart sank as I remembered the one word that I dreaded and hated the most: pandemic.

When the news of a pandemic first broke out, little did I realise how it’s going to affect our daily lives. My son’s school, much like most others in the country, was ordered to shut down without any clarity about when it can resume in-person classes. Due to the need for social distancing, my kids were suddenly confined within four walls with little-to-no physical contact with anyone outside the home. This impacted both their learning and development drastically. We were also struggling to cope with the safety measures and guidelines set in place by the government.

With the world turned upside down, my then four-year-old son and his classmates had to turn up for digital classes so that schools could continue engaging students.

Digital classes to the rescue

Digital classes were not just new but mostly unheard of in our country at the school level. Though some parents and students that I knew were used to e-learning or digital classes for additional coaching, I never thought of it as an option for mainstream school education for my children.

When the new academic year began in 2020, schools scrambled to train their teachers to conduct digital classes using remote working apps. But the learning also had to extend into the homes of children: for me, as well, as earlier I could completely rely on my son’s school for daycare during the weekdays. But now, I struggled between focusing on my own job and managing my son’s digital classes, ensuring that he did his homework and was ready for any assessment that might be coming up.

Children too did not have it easy. There were no more blackboards, friendly chitchats, and lunchboxes. Instead, my son had to learn to sit in front of gadgets for extended periods of time and focus on learning. The basic essence of school was entirely changed right from its roots and we collectively struggled to cope with the new normal.

My toddler, on the other hand, had had no experience of the world outside. Unlike his older brother, he had never been to a playschool and had not known what it feels like to be around kids his own age. If it were normal times, he would have been at playschool currently, but our home is his world now and he knows little beyond these walls.

Taking all this into consideration, I as their mother was feeling overwhelmed and becoming very anxious with the whole situation, wringing my hands over my children’s future. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I could see a nervous breakdown coming in the near future.

My challenges with digital classes

As a parent of a kindergartner, digital classes have not been a very easy or smooth experience. The expectation that a five-year-old should be able to sit through a 40-minute session was not only unrealistic but highly impractical as well. As days went by, the stress on both of us increased as he resisted the digital classes more and more. Though the school and the teachers tried to make it as fun as possible for these tiny tots, this mode of learning was proving to be quite taxing for kids as well as many working parents such as myself. 

When my son’s school started exploring a combination of online lessons and recorded sessions, things became a little better. With time and innovation, I hope to see the education community evolve to address many of the challenges we continue to face at home.

Hope for a better future

A year-and-a-half later, we are still nowhere close to the end of the pandemic. If anything, this pandemic has taught us that some things are way beyond our control and we just need to accept the changes. But change is inevitable. It may at first be difficult to adapt to, but eventually, people get used to it.

As the days rolled into months, I have learned to manage my time better with the help of a few smart gadgets and apps, and children too are now used to the new normal.

I am grateful that despite every obstacle that this pandemic has thrown, schools continue to run on a remote model without shutting down and parents of small children like me are able to oversee their learning during digital classes. . Even when schools reopen, we will still have some form of hybrid learning. It is heartening to see education as a sector evolve and become resilient in the face of change. No matter what, our children’s learning should never be compromised. To that end, digital classes have done wonders for my child and for millions of others around the world.

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About the author

Shalini Nair

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