Now is the time for teachers to get creative

The wise man Solomon tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Little did we know that in a split second it would be the time for online teaching and learning. Should we throw up our arms in despair? No, now is the time for creativity and bonding outside the classroom with our students and parents – because that is what is going to make the difference.

This situation requires everyone to make a sacrifice. Port Maria Primary School is blessed with parents who are committed and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that teaching and learning continue.

As a teacher, I have come to the realisation that even though having classes online might seem convenient, it can be a great challenge for students of low socio-economic background who have limited or no internet access. This means they have to find the resources to get a data plan, borrow credit from one of the two mobile networks or unfortunately be left behind.

Some students are learning better online

My usual classroom methods are drama, poetry and music. These methodologies help me to interact with my students in a very meaningful and practical way. It was disheartening to be deprived of these face-to-face interactions, but being the creative person that I am I ask my students to create their own poems, songs and other items, have these recorded and submitted to me online.

Photograph of Teacher Viviene Gauntlett of Port Maria Primary School in St Ann. Port Maria is participating in the pilot of the School Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) framework, which is supported by UNICEF.
ContributedTeacher Viviene Gauntlett of Port Maria Primary School in St Mary. The institution is participating in the pilot of the School Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) framework, which is supported by UNICEF.

I am loving the interactions with my students online because I am getting to know each of them in a very personal way outside of the classroom setting. These students are very creative and talented and it would appear as if their creativity was being stifled in the regular classroom setting. I have also learnt that these students are technologically advanced and would even do better academically if more technology was used in the regular classroom setting.

I am also getting to know their moms and dads too – gaining a better understanding of their parenting styles. I am now in a better position to see the correlation between parental involvement and students’ outcome.

Building closer relationships with their parents

Fortunately, at the beginning of the school year I had started a WhatsApp group with all 31 of my students and their parents. With them being online in this way I have been engaging my students since school was closed, including Saturdays and Sundays. This has now been expanded.

Even during the Easter Break on the request of some parents I was still engaging some students. I am even teaching some of the parents so that they can help their children at home! For parents who still have to work, I accommodate them in the evenings using tools like Zoom.

For students, I voice or video record lessons and send them worksheets and charts. They then send me back videos of themselves and pictures of their work and I provide instant feedback to them.

Accommodating those without internet access

For students without internet access I cater to them by sending them the lessons ahead of time. I then make arrangements for their books to be collected, marked and returned in the shortest possible time.

I have never wanted to do anything else besides teaching and I don’t see myself changing careers any time soon. I am also using this time to get myself acquainted with the different software and applications that can enhance my teaching skills and make the classes more exciting and interactive.

I have the best set of students and parents and we will continue to make it work. They know that I am there for them any time of the day.

What is UNICEF doing?

This post is part of a series looking at how COVID-19 is impacting children and families and also people who are addressing their challenges. Post your #COVID19diaries on social media and tag @unicefjamaica to be featured!

For more information about our response to COVID-19 assisting government and non-governmental organisations protect the rights of children, and to access resources for parents, visit our webpage dedicated to this emergency:

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  1. well done I commend the hard work you put in we need more of this I am an early childhood teacher

  2. Teachers are always creative. They always try different methods of reaching their students at their level. I think teachers will get the work done no matter the challenges that may arise.