- A total of 441 teachers from all over Malaysia joined the event and many reported it to be informative and enjoyable.
The ongoing pandemic has disrupted all aspects of life as we know it. For those in education, the intermittent closure of schools through various phases of the Movement Control Order and unequal access to online learning have exacerbated stress for students and teachers alike.
While much focus has been placed on the student experience, with discussions abound on how to assist students to cope with this different mode of learning. Much less attention has been paid to how teachers are coping in the new normal of online teaching and learning. Understandably many teachers are feeling burned out after months of pressure to get students through the syllabus, often with little attention paid to teachers’ own mental health.
Following our celebrations of Teachers' Day on 16th May, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) was inspired to tailor make a unique conference for teachers. The organising team wanted to directly address some of the concerns that we’ve been hearing this past year.
Our Positive Education online conference focused on the theme of ‘Resilient Online Teaching’ and sought to provide Malaysian teachers with the practical knowledge and tools to better cope with the stresses of online teaching. The 2-hour session featured talks on the science of resilience by HWUM’s Professor of Positive Psychology, Professor Deborah Hall, followed by a practical sharing session given by HWUM’s Effective Learning Manager, Ms Stella Marie Galimpin that was packed full of tips about coping with online teaching. Teachers had the option to destress by choosing to join a yoga session by Yoga Instructor Carrin Lee or learn the art of Zentangle by US-certified Zentangle Teacher Angeline Leong.
A total of 441 teachers from logged on for the session from Kedah to Johor Bahru, Kuantan to Labuan. Most of all, the organising team designed this as an interactive session and right from the start teachers engaged with the speakers and with one another by exchanging chat messages of support and advice and asking questions.
Through the conference, the HWUM aimed to promote the importance of mental health and positive education, which can empower teachers to be more satisfied at work and manage stress.
Shaarmila Jeyaraman, a teacher from an international school based in Kuching, Sarawak, said:
The programme helped me in addressing some of the issues I face as a teacher, where my resilience is tested on a daily basis through the different roles and responsibilities I have to my students, my colleagues and my family. The session gave me some good ideas which would be very useful for not just myself but to other teachers and students as well.
Harpeet Kaur, a teacher from a private university based in Ipoh, Perak, said: “This conference organised by Heriot-Watt University has definitely created a positive impact on my outlook towards teaching, both face-to-face and online. The panellists shared some amazing techniques and strategies on how to cope with online teaching, which will definitely be beneficial during these challenging times.”
Hafizah Nasir, a teacher from an international school based in Sibu, Sarawak, said: “I learned a lot of great ideas that can be applied during my online classes as well as my routine face-to-face classes later. I also value the supportive and positive feedback from the speakers; this encouragement goes a long way in assuring me of the role I play as an educator in a post-pandemic environment.”
Professor Deborah Hall, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s Professor of Positive Psychology and Head of Department of Psychology, said: “As an educator myself, I know only too well the challenges teachers face in conducting lessons online, often with students who are finding it difficult to stay motivated and may have computer or WiFi limitations. Sharing is indeed caring, and it was an honour to show my appreciation to all Malaysian teachers who work hard to educate our youths.”
This conference was second part of the University’s outreach programme for teachers in conjunction with Teachers’ Day. In May, the University paid tribute to 8,000 teachers in the Klang Valley by presenting them with gifts for daily use, as a mark of appreciation for the instrumental role of teachers and educators in moulding future generations with resilience and adaptability.