ERUDITION AT VPMS PUNE IN THE TIMES OF COVID-19
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
Ever since the Government announced the pan India lockdown and schools were shut as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the Corona virus pandemic (Covid 19), the management of VPMS, Pune began mulling over plans to implement online classes for the students of classes 9, 10 and 12. The new academic year for these classes begins in April. In order to ensure that the academic progress of students continues unhindered, systematic online classes began from 9th April. Each class is of forty minutes duration with a ten minute break between classes, to enable the next subject teacher to set up and get ready for the class. There are two sessions from 9 am to 10.30 am followed by a short recess and another session. Post lunch there are two more sessions, making a total of five sessions per day. The school day ends at 2.30 pm corresponding to their regular school timings.
A unique feature of the Time Table is the inclusion of one session of Yoga for stimulation. Students have been constrained to stay indoors and their natural exuberance and effervescence has taken a huge hit. The practice of Yoga in such circumstances will prove immensely salubrious for them, helping to invigorate and revitalise them. It is imperative that both their bodies and minds remain agile and they are receptive to the knowledge being imparted to them.
The parents have been extremely appreciative of the initiative and planning done by the school administration. They have supported the concept wholeheartedly and have extended their unstinted cooperation. Mr Vivek Tuljapurkar, a parent writing to the Principal said, “It is obvious that in spite of the lockdown, you and your team have been working very hard to start the next academic year via electronic classrooms! I compliment all of you for a fantastic job. Considering the time available and various constraints, what you have achieved is nothing short of spectacular.”
The teachers were enthusiastic to learn and experiment with technology and surpassed themselves in their efforts to prepare content quickly, in order to effectively transact in the virtual classrooms. Despite apprehensions regarding technical glitches and students’ responses, the teachers worked relentlessly and managed to execute and implement the plan admirably. The constant backing and encouragement from the Principal, Ms. Mrinalini helped to bolster the confidence of the staff members as they undertook this massive exercise of commencing live streaming of classes with more than 400 students. Her unwavering confidence and abiding faith in the team she leads is instrumental in the success of the plan.
The students on their part were excited and eager to begin with classes as it brought a sense of normality in these strange times. It gave them reassurance that things would return to normal soon. As they are currently enrolled in the crucial board classes, they have been eagerly anticipating the resumption of classes and are no longer anxious about syllabus completion. They have been giving their valuable inputs not only to teachers but to their peers. The genuine collaboration and exemplary assistance they are rendering to each other is undeniably commendable. Their eager willingness to complete assignments and their readiness to comply with the instructions given by teachers has proved to be a welcome revelation. According to Avani Garg, a class 12 Science student, “I think overall it was a different experience. Other than a few technical glitches, we grasped what was taught in the lessons quite well. I’m glad we are able to utilise this time in lockdown constructively.” Another class 12 Science student, Nandini Trivedi said, “The lectures are great and I was impressed to see that the teachers have put in so much effort so that we don’t waste our time. They have made awesome presentations and videos, while staying calm despite a few technical glitches. It was really nice to help them test this new technology. In short I did utilise my extended vacations finally.”
Throughout these trying, stressful times, debates have been raging over the pros and cons of online classes. Psychiatrists, educationists, politicians et al jumped on the bandwagon and vociferously either extolled their benefits or denigrated their value. Vikhe Patil Memorial School Pune as always quietly took the initiative and began their online classes in a very systematic and efficient manner using the efficacious Microsoft Teams platform. The teachers very quickly became proficient in the use of this medium and created unique and creative content which proved to be conducive in keeping students constructively engaged whilst safeguarding their academic progress. Evaluation and assessment too were effectively conducted online in a streamlined manner using the MCQ mode of questioning. Here is a brief overview of the online classes that were conducted from April 2020 till date.
For the pre primary section, the class teachers interacted with the students and conducted some online activities for the children like singing nursery rhymes and songs with them. This helped the tiny tots to connect with their teachers and also ensured they kept in touch with the basics of their formative learning. The online classes comprised of 30 minutes sessions with 8 students twice a week and a gap of 30 minutes was maintained between sessions.
Lower Primary and Upper Primary
Students of classes I to III enjoyed their online classes through a variety of skill based worksheets such as drawing clothes worn in different seasons, sense organs, solving crosswords, Mystery Box and Mental Math activities. Marathi was taught using barakhadi with hand movements and effective use of baalgeet. Interesting and unique activities such as using Oreo biscuits to depict the phases of the moon, making fruit salad, collection of different fabrics and encouraging students to grow their own plants were appreciated by students and parents alike. To ensure that the children stayed physically fit, they practised various yogasanas. Finally to establish social interaction and to prevent them from feeling isolated or depressed, teachers encouraged students to share their hobbies and interests, had rousing sessions with singing and playing the keyboard and they also animatedly discussed about their favourite super heroes. Students of classes 4 and 5 had 1 period per week of online classes and drawing and PE periods every alternate week from 18th of May 2020.
Students of classes VI to VIII savoured a plethora of engaging activities across subjects such as writing a biography on their favourite sports personality, writing a creative piece on their personal experience during the lockdown, diary entry or dialogue writing on new birds in their locality, slogan writing Anubhav katha, , Anuchched lekhan, whilst also improving their knowledge about pandemic diseases through representation of data of people who have been infected and successfully recovered from Covid-19 and drawing inferences. Case studies on natural disasters were also taken up. They also combined creativity with improving scientific knowledge and created an interactive blog/e-content on the biology of the Corona virus, past epidemics in India and measures taken to overcome them, informal letter writing regarding precautions to be taken during the pandemic.
For classes IX and X as per the directives of the CBSE, Art Integration activity, subject enrichment activities, home laboratory activities, integrated project, diagram labelling worksheets and Portfolio activities such as - book reviews were taken up. Numerous worksheets were solved to constantly revise the syllabus taught, Flashcardz MCQ tests were conducted. All the evaluation work was successfully done online.
Senior Secondary School
For class XII students, speaking and listening skills assessment for English was comprehensively conducted in an efficient manner. Each student spoke on a current topic of his/her choice for a few minutes such as media and networking, health and fitness, natural resources, business world, ethics and values, the elderly, urbanization, adolescence, inventors and inventions, sports and sportsmanship, careers, art and aesthetics . This was followed by questions being asked by the teacher to assess their Language- accuracy, and range, Fluency- cohesion, coherence, hesitation, dealing with difficulties, speed of delivery, and Pronunciation- including intonation & stress. For the Listening assessment, a quiz was formulated using Microsoft Forms and the students were assessed and feedback was given promptly on the same day itself. In addition, worksheets across all subjects were given and evaluated systematically. Laboratory experiments were conducted through simulation, videos and animations. Crosswords, quizzes and interactions made their learning animated and fun.
Putting all the disparaging comments of the sceptics to rest once and for all, the management of VPMS Pune once again took the lead in beginning with online classes and proved that their expertise in taking informed decisions at the right time is second to none. All the stakeholders, from the parents to the teachers and students have benefitted immensely from the classes and the syllabus and learning process is being conducted smoothly in a streamlined manner.