To mark International Women’s Day, two Qatari teachers at QF share their experiences of working from home
International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, is an opportunity to acknowledge the exceptional role that women have had to play since the start of the pandemic, and the increasing responsibilities they have had to carry – balancing careers, families, and childcare.
COVID-19 created a multitude of new social norms, including home schooling. But what about the women who are both mothers and teachers? When schools shifted entirely to the digital sphere, the lives of teachers were turned upside down as they had to find a balance between their roles as mothers and their roles as educators.
Al Anoud Al-Henzab is a teacher at Qatar Academy Sidra (QAS) – part of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education. At the start of the pandemic, Al-Henzab faced tremendous pressure as a mother of three young children – one in kindergarten, one in first grade, and one in second grade – who were not able to look after themselves on their own.
It was difficult to get the children used to sitting in front of screens, taking lessons online, and listening to the teacher without being distracted
“I had to be by their side all the time, to help them join the online lessons,” she said. “And, at the same time, I had to take care of my own students and communicate with them constantly. It was difficult to get the children used to sitting in front of screens, taking lessons online, and listening to the teacher without being distracted,” she says.
“At the same time, I had to support parents as well and reply to their questions throughout the day. Online learning was new to them, too. It was difficult and demanding, and required more effort than before the pandemic.”
Al-Henzab believes that education is more than just a transfer of information, it requires communication and interaction between the teacher and the student, and includes the physical environment a school provides.
“What I found particularly stressful was making sure my students were benefiting from the online classes as much as they would from the physical classes. So I had to constantly look for new and innovative learning approaches,” she says.
“As we adapted to the new situation, and the students began to get used to the changes, I was able to coordinate my tasks and become more organized. Now, with blended education, we are coping much better.
My children began to look after themselves. I noticed that they became more organized, and found it easier to adapt to the online lessons
“And my children began to look after themselves. I noticed that they became more organized, and found it easier to adapt to the online lessons.”
Despite all the challenges that Al-Henzab faced – like other teachers and mothers – she says that this experience has proved to the whole world what women are capable of doing.
"A woman has a very noble role in life, and no matter how great the responsibility, we offer everything we have with love, sacrifice, and devotion,” she said.
Najla Al-Shafi, a teacher of Arabic language and Islamic studies at QAS, says the biggest challenge for her was creating a stimulating educational environment online that helped her students learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. She also struggled with absenteeism, with students missing virtual lessons.
Teaching is a huge responsibility that requires patience, sincerity, and endless giving, and requires us to continue developing ourselves
Shifting the learning process online was not easy, but Al-Shafi explains that QAS was able to transition quickly and efficiently due to its use of technology prior to COVID-19.
"We developed the skills of our students before the pandemic, which enabled them to use remote learning techniques in easy and accessible ways,” she explained.
"All of my children are enrolled at QF schools, and they enjoy the same features, which made it easier for me to manage my responsibilities. But I had to continue to monitor their performance and engagement in lessons.”
For Al-Shafi, there was a positive side to the experience, which the world will talk about for years and generations to come.
“Teaching is a huge responsibility that requires patience, sincerity, and endless giving, and requires us to continue developing ourselves so that we are able adapt to changes and help our students to adjust accordingly,” she said.
“This experience has enabled the students to assume responsibility for their education.”