PHOTO ESSAY: ‘Parent na, teacher pa’ — Online-class educator learning patience in new normal

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2020 07:57 PM | Updated as of Oct 10 2020 09:23 AM

At 38 years old, Lanie Clemente has had her share of challenges from when she was growing up and up until she had her own family.

Growing up in Maasin, Southern Leyte, Clemente, 6 years old at the time, needed to learn how to plant and harvest crops to put food on her family’s table. At the same time, she also had to learn to raise livestock alongside her siblings. The livestock that they raised and later sold was their ticket to higher education.

Now, as a public school teacher at Rafael Palma Elementary School in Manila, Clemente has had to continue educating herself to adapt to the new normal in the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Department of Education switched to distance learning because of the pandemic, Clemente had to recalibrate teaching methods she has been accustomed to in her 12 years in the profession.

Clemente used to handle 5 sections, with an average of 40 students a class, before the pandemic. Now there are fewer students enrolled, about 20 to 30, but the new distance learning scheme being implemented has presented its own challenges. 

Coupled with these are the adjustments she must make juggling time between her job and her own children and nephews who are also attending online classes this year.

On Friday, 3 days before the opening of school year 2020 on October 5, Monday, teacher Lanie Clemente and her co-teachers are busy figuring out the new distance learning scheme. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

As an answer to the challenge of the pandemic, the Department of Education is resorting to distance learning for public schools nationwide. For this purpose, the local government of Manila distributed 296,000 SIM cards and 136,950 computer tablets for students, while 11,000 laptops were allotted to public school teachers. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Internet connection has been problematic for teachers and students. “Medyo the struggle is real. Hindi ako nahihirapan when it comes to the presentation ng lessons kasi meron na akong lesson bank. My problem is the internet connection,” Clemente says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Upon learning it was impossible to hold classes with unstable connection at home, Clemente brings all her gadgets to a co-teacher’s house with a more stable connection. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“Lesser interaction, kasi hindi sila lahat nakakausap mo. And then iyong environment. Kasi maraming distractions, unlike kapag nasa loob sila ng classrooms wherein you set your own norms. Unlike dito, once na pumasok ka na ng about 40 students sa screen, iisa-isahin mo iyong pag-mute. Ang hirap. Hahanapin mo siya,” Clemente says about the limitations of the new method. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“Ang una kong naramdaman, kaya ko ba? Kasi hindi naman ako tech savvy. Ang alam ko basic. Marunong akong mag-Powerpoint, Microsoft Word. Ang pinaka problem ko lang is iyong paglalagay ng animation,” says Clemente, who remains optimistic. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

To complement the new distance learning method, teachers were tasked to distribute gadgets and class modules to parents at Rafael Palma Elementary School a week before classes open. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Teachers are in charge of verifying student enrollment, making sure they only give out one tablet per household, regardless of how many students are in a household. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Faculty members have had difficulty distributing hundreds of learning modules containing names of students, made more difficult when parents do not maintain a copy of their children's school records. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

It is not only the lack of equipment or the technical challenges that have daunted parents, it is also adapting to the modern distance learning scheme when educators themselves have limited training on their own. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente’s classes are mostly scheduled in the afternoon, but her typical day begins several hours before classes start. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Besides being a teacher, Clemente is also a mother of 3, 17-year-old Larenz, 9-year-old Frank, and 4-year-old Shawn. Ninth-grader Larenz and fourth-grader Frank werealso scheduled for their first day of classes on October 5. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

On the first day of classes on October 5, Clemente minds her two children in their own online classes, and 4 nephews. As the educator in the family, she has been given the responsibility to help kids in their family with their studies. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The Manila city government can only provide a limited number of gadgets and SIM cards per household, regardless of how many students are in a given house. In Clemente’s case, five kids from her household received one SIM card each, but only received a single computer tablet. Her family does have a desktop computer, a few mobile phones for the kids, and the laptop and pocket WiFi she received as a teacher. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

For the past 2 to 3 weeks, Clemente has been answering inquiries from students’ parents regarding distance learning. This has left her with 3 hours of sleep every night, she says, going to bed at 3 a.m. and having to wake up at 6 a.m. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“With the help of my panganay, si Larenz. Once na nauna siya sa akin, siya na talaga nagluluto. Tapos iyong mother ko, kapag di ko na kaya sa tanghali, siya na ang nagluluto,” Clemente says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente applies baby powder on her son, Frank, a few minutes before the fourth-grader’s class starts. With all the tasks she has to accomplish in a day, she relies on much-needed help from her family. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

After setting up all the lights and gadgets for the day’s classes both for her and the kids, Clemente then starts to prepare for her Science 5 class for their first meeting on October 5. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente must divide her attention between dealing with her students’ and her children’s chat groups flooded with announcements and other numerous problems. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente acknowledges that her eldest son has been having depressive episodes lately after he was forced to transfer to another school. The lockdowns have resulted in job losses that have affected the family's income, forcing them to adjust financially. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente gives her toddler son tasks to accomplish to keep him busy while 3 classes are conducted simultaneously virtually. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

During online classes, Lanie maintains her composure in front of the computer despite all the distractions around her. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente uses the prepaid pocket WiFi provided by the LGU, while her sons use a personal WiFi Clemente is subscribed to. Despite being provided with gadgets by the LGU, she and her family still have to buy other items they need for class. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Rain pours on the first day of online classes, further affecting internet connection. “Hindi talaga kaya nu’ng pocket WiFi. Hindi s’ya uubra kapag session na ng klase. Kailangan ko magpakabit talaga ng WiFi. Kahit iyong laptop na bigay ni Yorme, hindi kayang magsabay-sabay na bukas ang apps. Nagha-hang lagi. Nauubos ang oras ko,” Clemente says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

During her 30-minute class, Clemente says she was disconnected from her online classroom twice. She says she was left with 2 minutes with the students when she was finally back online. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

After two online classes held within an hour, Clemente proceeds to assist one of the elder teachers in her school who lives in the same barangay. Emma Nanette Gumban, 55, is a special education teacher. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Clemente volunteers to assist teachers having difficulty in adjusting to the technology. Gumban incorporates the use of traditional methods in teaching, such as the blackboard, while Clemente makes sure she can connect online with her students. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“Dati nu’ng mga wala pang ganito, ang bilis bilis kong gumawa. Pati iyong mga reports namin, ang bilis. Pagdating na dito, wala na ako. Iba na. Kung puwede nga lang ako mag-retire, magre-retire na ako at hindi na ako akma dito,” Gumban says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Despite struggling with online technology, Gumban chooses to continue teaching. “Magpapatuloy ka kahit gaano kahirap ang work mo, basta love mo. Kasi kapag sinasabi mo, ‘Ginagawa ko ito para kay Jesus’, happy ka gumawa,” Gumban says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

At the end of the day, Clemente reflects on the challenge in the new normal. “Ito iyong passion ko. Ito iyong gusto ko. Ito iyong sinumpaan ko, kaya itutuloy ko siya. Ang challenge kasi nandu’n talaga iyan. Nasasayo iyan kung paano mo siya tatanggapin. Para sa’kin tatanggapin ko siya in a positive way para at least may learning pa rin ako. So find something positive du’n sa pinakamahirap na bagay.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News