When we started believing that we could achieve just about anything, a minute microorganism creeps into our lives to unsettle everything, and gives us a new perspective.
WhatsApp for young children was considered sacrilegious, Instagram profane. Each school had its own policy discouraging overuse of cellphones/ electronic gadgets/ social media inside and outside of the school campus. However, within a month, our mental viewing has changed and we are advocating all this and more!
Schools across the world are conducting online classes and we are in a rat race to outdo the other. Principals and administrators receive at least 20 to 30 new invites every day for online classes/ webinars/ seminars.
After conducting online classes for over a month, we have learned a thing or two about online teaching-learning and have been trying to address certain concerns and constraints with regard to:
- Too much screen time for students
- Non-availability of gadgets as each person needs a separate device. If both parents are working, and you have two children at home, it is becoming difficult to provide a dedicated device to each member of the family.
- Intermittent Internet connectivity. Although 90 per cent of students get to study and learn, 10 per cent are left behind as they live in areas where connectivity is poor.
- In the absence of domestic help, parents are unable to give too much time. Moreover, the opportunity for the children to help adults in household chores is lost.
- Children can’t go out because of the lockdown, so they play online games in their free time, increasing their screen time.
- Students of Classes I to VIII are young and need their parents for technical support. However, parents are not always able to give them time because of their own professional work/commitments, leaving students to access sites that are not age-appropriate.
- For the students, the fun of learning with friends, away from the observant eyes of the parents is lost.
While trying to navigate this difficult situation, I feel that this is a great opportunity for us to build on children’s language and numeracy skills.
Let’s give them online work, to be done offline. As exercise books are not available, teachers should be willing to accept work on A4 size sheets, on sheets from old exercise books, provided the work is submitted in the child’s own handwriting and within the time frame given for submission.
Furthermore, spending time with parents, watching them work, earn, strategise, will greatly help them to hone their skills, and imbibe family values. I’m sure that guardians and educators feel a sense of relief when it comes to ‘Good Touch, Bad Touch’ learning in schools. Children will learn to touch and hug only their family members and only those people the family trusts. Parents will also start appreciating the responsibilities of teachers and the school. I am hopeful that our relationship with our parent community, which is already wonderful, will become better.
This pandemic has also done what our syllabus books couldn’t do — prepared us for crisis management. It is very likely that this situation will continue and we’ll have to reinvent different ways to run the school, possibly a hybrid model, where the school could run partly for face-to-face interaction and partly for virtual classes. We have no answers as of now but we’ll have to devise new methods to get the students and teachers back to school. It’s really not about syllabus completion, it’s more about their social skills; their holistic approach to learning. Added to all this, transition in the family demography has seen a lack of compatibility among young children as most families have at best, a single child, leaving no scope for children to interact with their peer group. Schools, as a social system, provide this opportunity, lending a humane side to all of us.
We miss our school, the travel to our workplace, the sight of happy, smiling children getting off the bus, running to their classes, disturbing the teachers, and making excuses to visit the washroom/ infirmary/ playfield after every class. We miss their innocent pranks, their warm wishes, and their mischiefs. More than ever before, we now know how precious they are to us. I think we’ll become more understanding of them, post corona. We hope to see all our students and teachers, back to school, lively, safe, and sound. Hopefully, they will continue to remember to compliment each other, to share their food/ stationery with their friends, will not be addicted to social media or video games, their human touch intact.
Seema Sapru is the principal of The Heritage School