Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown unlocks Virtual Manzil

Lockdown unlocks Virtual Manzil

“I have always read in the books that change is the only constant, and that humans should be ready to adapt to this change.
Recently in Manzil we experienced this when we accepted the challenge the Corona crisis presented to us and took steps towards a new online learning space”. Manzil’s maths and science coordinator Himanshu captures the resourcefulness and commitment of the team as they adapt to the huge and unexpected changes that coronavirus has presented us with.

Manzil’s first task was to educate the teachers and students about how to stay safe. As concerns about the virus grew, all arts and academic classes for the 250 Manzil students were suspended. Soon after, in line with the government’s ‘stay at home’ request, Manzil’s core-team members started to work from home online.

How our Teachers and Core handled the change

Vandana, our core team member and an English teacher shares: “Facilitating an online class is a completely different kind of learning. At first when we agreed to experiment, I had my doubts, but I mustered the courage to reach out to parents and enrol the students into the virtual learning process. Today, after a couple of weeks, I’m so thrilled to see the students participating with such enthusiasm towards their learning. It is so heartening to see them not only show up regularly but on time for all the classes. It fills me with positivity”.

Divya, a volunteer teacher for our English class says: “In this difficult time, it is even more important to stay connected as a community, to be updated and informed about the national and global situation, and to discuss and understand more and avoid and call out fake news received through social media. We have also taken this opportunity to share about our fears, insecurities, and basic questions about COVID 19. We have shared soft copies of books like Animal Farm, Hind Swaraj, The Little Prince to keep our discussions open.”

Neha shares: “I can see how even in this time of crisis; we are able to keep our values at the center of everything we do. Keeping the spirit of constant learning and growth as our primary purpose and keeping the connection and sense of community alive. This, I have experienced not only as a core team member, teacher in the English class but also as a student in the Theatre class”

Vikas, our core team member feels grateful towards Ravi bhaiya for introducing this innovation and keeping the community connected.“He first focused on doing so with core team members by initiating two daily check-ins on Zoom. He would be present every day motivating and encouraging us and asking us about our families. In just a few days, all of us as a team started to feel secure and safe and ready to serve our students.”Team-lead Pushpa noticed immediate enthusiasm from Manzil students, who were becoming restless at home and wanted to use their valuable time for learning.

Challenges and learnings associated with the online space

While teachers are taking novice steps in going virtual, they are also faced with numerous change management issues. They miss experiencing each other in Manzil’s physical space and as a facilitator, it becomes difficult to gauge the experience of the students over a phone /zoom call or on WhatsApp. Another significant issue is the unstable internet connection in many households across the city.

Rahul our teacher from art and imagination says “It was an interesting experience to have an art-based session through a virtual medium. It was the first time for me as a facilitator. The need for physical spaces, viewing artworks and their processes from a close distance matters a lot and we are trying to find ways to make this happen in a virtual classroom.”

Like true Manzilians, the teachers are trying to work their way around the various challenges.For example, Himanshu sometimes finds it difficult to tell if his students understand without eye contact and facial expressions but rather than becoming disheartened, he has put energy into developing new tricks - recognizing whether students have understood the lesson by their language or tone, and becoming sensitive to the level of confidence in their voices.
In totality, they are happy about learning new tricks that they are deploying to understand their students - like asking students to answer queries for their peers, giving them puzzles and games to solve, introducing new tools that help the students organize their work easily. They love that the students are becoming more constructive with this new classroom approach and attending classes with zest and dedication! The positive responses from students are helping teachers progress and in finding new ways for students to learn. 

We empathize with all of our fellow human beings that are suffering and may not have the privilege to lead comfortable and safe lives as we are right now and are aware that we have limited control over the situation. However, in our capacity, we are committed to learning and growing together and creating a safe virtual space for all our students. We are so grateful to Zoom, Google Classroom, WhatsApp and other tools that help us stay connected and feel a sense of community in this difficult time.

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