During my interaction with some school Principals and teachers, I understood that the students returning to their classrooms after their lengthy battle with the covid environment show a change in basic assumptions in their personal and social behaviour. In some cases, the students appear withdrawn from the external world, live in their shells, exhibit lack of interest in social interactions, lack enthusiasm in participating in team activities and the like. A few others reported marked restlessness among children, a sense of aggression and violence in behaviour. Some others are intolerant, impatient and do not exhibit respect and decorum in the classrooms.
Newspaper have also carried stories of physical assault and verbal threats to the teachers in the classrooms from children who were earlier quiet. All these call for adequate, focused and meaningful responses from schools while working with children. Educating the students on the mental health and psychological well-being supported by life skills appears necessary.
At the same time, teachers who would be engaging with such students in classrooms need to have some basic skills to face and manage these challenges. Here are a few takeaways for teachers to consider
1. Carry positive mindset to your classrooms
The reopening of the schools after a long time after prolonged online engagements has ushered in a sense of uncertainty, newness, curiosity and doubt about the future happenings. The students would therefore be attending with a mindset which may not be conducive to effective learning. A few of them might be attending after domestic calamities, challenges that were outcome of the pandemic, financial upsets and uncomfortable domestic environments. It is therefore necessary for the teachers to facilitate them to get back to their normalcy. This could be achieved only when the teachers enter the classroom with a ’positive mindset’ that beams the rays of joy, happiness, comfort and confidence. The words and actions of the teachers should help in building the confidence profile of the learners.
2. Be Relaxed
As teachers might find several students with ‘learning gaps and others with lack of focus, attention and interest in this emerging scenario, teachers might tend to become highly academically sensitive and focused, least understanding that the emotional and psychological preparation of the learners is vital to academic growth. Therefore, a teacher feeling stressed to start and finish the syllabus would do more damage to the situation. They need to feel relaxed and help the learners to destress themselves when they come to terms with the realities of the learning content and context. Over speeding in curriculum delivery must be certainly avoided.
3. Establish healthy relationships
The focus for the first few weeks needs to be in establishing a happy, healthy and comfortable relationship with the learners. Informal discussions, conversations, health talks, social issues related to the covid, and the power of resilience need to be held in the classrooms. Creating this basic comfort level will help the teachers to engage with each learner individually with a positive mindset It may be a clever idea to invite parents also periodically and engage with them on the developmental plan and profile of the learners. Helping the learners to develop the right attitude, focus and concentration through simple exercises and games might restore their confidence in their own abilities. Celebrate even the small achievements of the learners to boost their self-confidence and enhance their profil
4. Change your classrooms to a theater
It is said that engagement and experience are the best teachers. Playfulness, role-play, action, expression and kinesthetic communication enhances the quality of learning through emotional engagement. It would be a great idea to convert the classroom into a theater giving the learners opportunities for songs, music, dance, play and histrionics. They help not only in learning, but in ensuring creativity and innovation. It opens the vistas of thinking and fertilize ideas for experimentation, whether they are successful or not. It offers a sense of fulfilment to every learner and liberates them from the negativities in which they had survived earlier. As such teachers with a bent of mind for creativity will seek every opportunity for such pedagogical interventions.
5. Be liberal with your lesson plans.
Lesson plans are like route maps for the pedagogue to reach a destination. At no point they forbid a teacher from showing to the learners the beauty and truth linked to the concepts so that their minds can ‘wonder’ and ‘wander.’ Teachers who go by the letter of the plans often miss the spirit or the soul of the entire spectrum of the learning opportunities. Teachers need to learn to be flexible and liberal with their lesson plans so that they do not either curtail the joy of learning or lose the opportunities for showing the delight of learning. They should learn to navigate through the lesson plan rather than breathe and spell every letter of the lesson plan as a code of conduct.
6. Humor in the classroom is the best medicine for several learning challenges
A classroom is not a military parade. Discipline in the classroom does not necessarily call for silence for the entire course of the classroom engagement. Teachers need to find opportunities for humor and laughter in the class, however taking care no personal depreciation of any individual, no assault on individual or system that might provoke a negative perception is made. In the current circumstances, with depressed moods for several months, the children have lost a lot of happy moments, times of mirth and joy, opportunities for collective action and play. A sense of humor in the classroom will indeed help them to normalize their hormone’s balance. A teacher with a sense of humor wins the hearts of the learners and prompts them to self-learning.
7. Accept the children as they are
Any pre-conceived expectation, judgment or demand from the children returning to schools after a long interruption will be a mistake, may be disastrous. Teachers should be able to accept them as they are with their strengths, limitations as well as idiosyncrasies. They would take a couple of months to return to their normal learning behaviour and settle in their learning curve. Any effort to force a mythical learning curve on everyone would not only affect the individual learner, but the entire peer group. Accepting them as they are, is not a compromise. It is just an acknowledgement of truth in the current educational eco-system. The learners alone cannot be held responsible for their failures, inadequacies or incompetence at the present juncture.
8. Let the Butterflies fly
The classical story of a person trying to facilitate the insect in the cocoon trying to break the shell, by opening the shell, thereby impairing the wings of the butterfly to fly is a story to recall. It is important to let the metamorphosis to happen. The learners have witnessed, experienced and undergone several challenges both individually and collectively with their families. Some of them have made them strong and rugged. Some of them have impacted their self-confidence and competency profile. Nevertheless, they should be left to make their own efforts to face the challenges and come out of the cocoon and fly like a butterfly. Any effort of the school to deprive them of these experiences may have a long-lasting effect in their psyche and career. Teachers need to be gentle, compassionate, outreaching and supportive to see these learners maximize their competencies and learning experiences so that they can fly high with courage, confidence and conviction.