Steps to prepare students for the post covid classrooms
Schools are now cautiously opening their doors for their students. Though, the teacher
and the taught are happy to be finally being able to be on the same side of the screen,
but, it would take time to get back to normalcy.
It’s been almost a year and a half since students have seen the inside of the four walls of the schools. It was convenient for the students initially as the schools went to their home in form of online classes. This concept of ‘online classes’ brought in a sea change in the teaching learning process.
Teachers who were used to have an eye contact and continuous interaction with students had to depend on the network strength to see all the students at once.Teachers had to switch through windows to see students. Students took network issues as an excuse to escape from uninteresting classes. In the name of uniforms, students only dressed up their upper half while the lower half remained casually dressed. Class time was reduced as most of the time went into getting the attention of students whose cameras were switched off.
Assessment parameters changed from hand written papers to click of buttons for young learners and short and brief answers for the older once. Most of the schools did not have the necessary apps to detect `cheaters,’ hence exams too became group discussion.
Now all that is slowly becoming history and schools are cautiously opening their doors for their students. It would take time to get back to normalcy. But the teacher and the taught are happy to be finally being able to be on the same side of the screen. It would take effort from both the teachers and students to go back to pre-March 2020 scenario.
Some of the steps which would be necessary to prepare students for PostCOVID learning can be:
A. Health and hygiene
COVID’s new variants are still lurking around and we cannot take safety measures for granted. The need to wear masks continuously, maintain physical distance and frequent sanitisation should be the mantra that all students learn by heart, if by now they haven’t. It is okay if they can’t hug their friends, isn’t it enough that they can see they up-close? COVID norms should be strictly followed and monitored by schools.
B.`Retouch’ social skills
`Online classes’ have made the students forget their social etiquettes. What with going off camera during classes, eating during classes, not appropriately (completely) dressed for classes, not brushing/bathing before classes…these things should and would become a thing of past. Students need to revisit their pre-pandemic days and relearn their manners and basic etiquettes.
A circular, brief talks and classroom discussions can take care of this. This would help students make the changes willingly.
Take care of the mental health of the students. Not everyone had had an easy one and half years. Almost everyone has gone through grief of one kind or other. Give students easy access to counsellors. Have group and individual sessions for students as well as the teachers.
Not all the changes had been negative or uncomfortable. Teaching–learning process had become interesting as teachers shed their lecture mode and adapted activity based and technological based teaching. Some steps to be taken by teachers. Some of the tips for teachers :
a) Reassure the students and parents that school is indeed a safe place and not a COVID hub.
b) Take care of the mental health of the students. Not everyone had had an easy one and half years. Almost everyone has gone through grief of one kind or other. Give students easy access to counsellors. Have group and individual sessions for students as well as the teachers.
c) Teachers may have to face lot of behavioural issues. Prepare yourself to deal with the situation;neither get flustered nor ruffle any feathers.
d) Re-introduce the students to the fresh air and physical activities. Keep the ground accessible to the students but ensure that they are not forming crowds. Playing with friends would help students happy.
e) If possible, try to have open classes, in lawns, corridors, open grounds to help good circulation of air.
f) Keep the lessons sweet and short, till students get adjusted to the new normal.
g) Use lots of `hands on learning ‘techniques to keep the students interested.
h) Avoid going back to lecture mode in their classes.
i) Continue using technology to have better classroom experience–use videos, recorded audios, PPTs, maybe a little parent interaction too. At the same time wean students off the screen as remote learning had increased their screen time drastically.
j) You can still fall back on technology to have group discussions-break out rooms, which will ensure social distancing and also will avoid wastage of time.
k) With technological support available in schools you can always have online guest lecturers/celebrities/social workers/ professionals to help students understand the current scenario and feel motivated to go on with a smile.
We can only anticipate the scenario and prepare ourselves for the post COVID classrooms. Despite all the preparations, we may come across situations that we have not anticipated. It is best to have a strong network of administrators, teachers, parents, medical health workers and the entire support group to face the situation bravely and calmly. We can only hope and pray for safe and better school environments. As for the rest, we shall cross the bridge when we come across it.
Sarada Damaraju (M.com; DECE;B.ed) is a multifaceted academician with a zeal and experience of teaching K12 for a rewarding 13 years and 4 years in publishing for schools. As an author, she has written a book Phonic Primer and edited a semester series Connect for the pre-primary section. Content development and training are the two fields where she is focusing her attention since last few years.