Students’ mental health in the new normal
A few months back, I had penned down my reflections on the war between our teachers and the COVID-19 infection. Even today, after 31 weeks, we are still learning to adapt every day and live with our invisible and unwelcome companion, that is, the virus.
Despite numerous discussions and protests, some states in our country decided to reopen schools by promising to follow sanitary guidelines. It made me wonder when will the cure to COVID-19 be available to masses. In the news, we regularly hear mixed reports regarding the development of a vaccine; however, there’s no critical information brought forth as yet.
Amidst the interim period, we wait for routine to be like the pre-COVID-19 era. The longing to get our old lives back makes me, and many of us, question if there’s going to a ‘normal’ ever again.
Regardless of it, the education sector is adapting. Recently, I read an article by UNESCO praising the efforts of educators around the world. It said, “Even though schools have closed but schooling hasn’t”. Rightly so, the old-school methodologies have taken a back seat, while online schooling got prominence. Currently, as video classes are restricted to just a few hours, assessments and homework are sent via PDFs. Similarly, skills and extra-curricular activities are now about having technological abilities and socialising through virtual platforms respectively.
This drastic shift meant that the evolving role of a teacher has changed. He/She has a more significant responsibility of keeping students immersed in their curriculum while sculpting their diverse and creative minds. This, in itself, is a challenge as classes span over 40 mins.
While stitching their curriculum according to the video classes, a teacher is expected to learn technological skills. It can be incredibly hard for teachers who haven’t had a brush with machinery. However, they still overcame this impediment and began teaching the young minds. Due to the pandemic, a newly shaped educator possess a broad skillset. He / She is everything from an accomplished analyst to a trustworthy guardian, at the same time.
Currently, with the reopening of schools, teachers will have to take into account the delicate psychological state of a child irrespective of his grade. The anxieties of children will vary as per age and family issues faced in the last seven months. A young child may be puzzled why his overly workaholic parents are suddenly at home, or why roads outside seem so empty. A student of the secondary level might be forced to rethink his/her future career choices. A collegiate might question the choice of course taken and the relevancy of his/her qualifications eventually.
Since not every student will be vocal about their predicaments, school counsellors have an extensive task of cajoling them. Given that not all schools have such counsellors handy, it could be a roadblock. Nonetheless, we can’t take the mental health of a child lightly.
Irrespective of the age or level of education in a child, he/she will need support. So, as an educator, I humbly appeal my fellow fraternity members. You have embraced change in methods of teaching, accepted new teaching platforms, and opened yourself to complete scrutiny by our society. Now, it is time to become a counsellor and an educator for whom your students will be grateful for decades. They will cherish you not for your subject knowledge but how you helped them ride the unexpected rollercoaster of 2020.
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