English teacher Shiraz Msaddak is certainly happy to be back at school after months of online teaching at home, with two children of her own.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced schools and universities in the United Arab Emirates – and around the world – to switch their programs online and to organize very strict socially-distanced classrooms. For teachers who are as well parents of schoolchildren, the challenge was double.
“It was impossible to teach from home while having kids studying,” explains Msaddak, a 38-year-old Tunisian teacher at the New Academy School in Dubai. “Since I live in an apartment, it was not possible to create a calm environment for teaching.”
“Kids had sometimes difficulties joining their classes,” she says during a Zoom interview. “They kept making noise or asking for food,” she said. On top of that, sometimes the internet connection was weak “since three devices are connected at the same time.”
Ayman Saleh, 47, faced the same difficulties. The head of the Arabic department at the New Academy School in Dubai, he is the father of three children who were attending their online classas on whichever device was accessible at the time.
“I enjoy working as a teacher more than anything else,” Saleh said via Zoom. However, when courses became online, teaching became challenging. “My wife and I both work in the educational field and my kids were studying all at the same time, and the bedrooms, the living room and even the corridors became study places,” he said.
Saleh’s family life was turned upside down even more by the Covid-19 pandemic. “I was the first to get the virus,” he said. After a while, the entire family got infected. “The symptoms hit me harder than everybody else,” he said.
Both teachers said that some schools did not take into consideration the fact that some teachers are parents themselves, with kids studying at home. But some schools did allow teachers with schoolchildren to adapt their schedule, according to the vice-principal of the Dubai National School, Malak Hussain.
Saleh and Msaddak hope everything soon returns to normal. Saleh believes that “online education is not an advancement but rather a change.” While the online program was a new experience, as teachers, they believe in the power of mask-free, face-to-face education. According to Msaddak, “face to face teaching is more effective since the teacher has full control of the class and can draw the attention of all the students.” As such, both Msaddak and Saleh are happy to be back on campus despite being socially-distant. This way, “no student is left behind,” said Msaddak.