On 3 April 2020, the Ministry of Education announced that Singapore schools will shift to full home-based learning (HBL) from 8 April to 4 May 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While most parents welcomed this move, there were some that lament this measure. Among the top complaints were how they were unable to cope with working from home and teaching their children at the same time.
However, let’s not forget the teachers who are there to facilitate this HBL and guide the children so that their education continues.
Here’s an interview with an MOE teacher, who decided to share with us a day in her life under this circuit breaker.
Due to confidentiality issues, we will refer to this teacher as Miss F.
What is your job scope in school?
I’m teaching humanities subjects at a secondary school, with classes ranging from Secondary 1 to 4. These are some of my roles – form teacher; CCA teacher; subject coordinator and committee duties.
What are your thoughts about the HBL?
We’ve had two days of home-based learning our school every year since the SARS period. This is to prepare for possible school closures like what happened then in 2003. But truthfully, we were really not mentally prepared when we heard about the HBL. My first reaction was “OH NO!”, when the ministry announced one day of HBL.
Still, the school closure was needed. Although there were few cases of positive patients who are school-going age, the travelling to school and back do possess a certain level of risk for the kids. Also, as more parents are asking to keep their children at home, the attendance rate will fall eventually.
With regards to teaching, I would say most teachers still prefer teaching in school than online. But this is not something we can decide based on our personal preferences, this is something the situation calls for and we have trained for this.
How do you prepare for the full HBL?
The school and teachers had to scramble to ensure we can transit as seamlessly as possible. I’ll share with you guys a few:
At school level, we have to first ensure that everyone at home has a device for them to go online. Imagine families with four school-going children and one laptop set-up, how can we better support them? Also, children on the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) receives pocket money for meals in school – so for this group of students, how can we ensure their stomachs are full without going to school?
At subject level, teachers had to conduct meetings with teachers and level coordinators to come up with a common schedule. We also had to prepare and print out all the learning matters to be shared with the students. And training had to be provided for all students for them to understand how to use the tools and websites for this HBL.
You have 2 young children. How do you plan your day?
I have two kids aged 8 (primary school) and 4 (pre-school). On a typical HBL weekday, I have to wake up at 7am. As HBL starts at 8am, I have to prepare breakfast for my primary-schooler before that. My pre-schooler will wake up around 8am to 9am, where she will then go around disturbing and trying to get anyone to pay attention to her. So whoever is free will tend to her. I will also try to shower her during the recess break.
After HBL lessons at 2pm, the 8 year old will shower and rest while I try to catch up on the HBL with my 4 year old. There are times where I will have to video call with her teacher.
With all the chores and learning at home, I go to sleep only around midnight as I have to prepare for next day lessons and chase students for due assignments.
Your day sounds packed! What are some of the frustrations you faced?
I share the same frustration with all work-from-home (and stay from home) mummies! I’m the teacher, canteen auntie, IT support, discipline mistress and more, all in one day.
My husband has been very supportive. He realised I don’t have time for household chores and cooking so he has taken over these two areas. We partner to make sure things go smoothly – he will step up when I am having live recording or lessons; I will also step in when he is having video conferencing. However, if both of us are on live activities, all hell breaks loose for my 4 year old.
Other than family, the steep learning curve is to troubleshoot IT issues for the kids on the Learning Management System. I have to learn new things everyday, and learn to multi-task.
Have you received complaints from parents?
I’ve been very fortunate. The parents I’ve been working with are very understanding. I just hope that they don’t find me annoying when I keep texting them feedback from teachers, checking in on their kids health (especially those who reported unwell or higher than usual temperature) or chasing after their kids for absenteeism, poor work submitted or work not submitted, sometimes at very odd hours.
As a teacher, do you think you fare better working from home while conducting HBL?
Definitely a big NO, especially if you have a young kid at home who is not independent.
Are there anything you wish the public to know?
For parents, please bear with us (the teachers) as we are also on a trial-and-error phase to find the best way to teach your kids online. We have the same goals as you – to help them succeed. We are your partners.
Many of us also have school-going children. We, too, face the challenges of a multi-faceted role as well. We have the same frustrations as you.
Lastly, I really appreciate all the support and understanding given to me so far.
As Covid-19 ravages the world at an unprecedented level, let us stop thinking about ourselves and focus on helping one another instead. As a parent, I too feel the frustration and mental-drain of working from home and caring for two children. But when we overcome this crisis and the veil lifts, I hope we gain positive lessons which we can share with the next generation.
We thank Miss F for sharing her thoughts with us. This sharing session is conducted online and no physical contact is made. #socialdistancing