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A journey back to normal from the new normal

Time and Tide wait for none. It is we who have to adapt to the changes to keep up to the fast evolving world. 24 months down the lane, the world was hit by the most unexpected. Education and specially schools were never perceived as a “work from home “domain. However the wave made us all float in the new normal, where within no time we accepted that change is the only constant.

Covid seems to be the new teacher in life for all of us. Where in it brought many fears and anxieties, it also brought great learning. 

Schools and teachers quickly adapted to the new norm of digital teaching, the curriculum was altered. Writing was shifted to typing, chart papers got shifted to PowerPoint slides, physical classrooms got moved to break out rooms.

But now, the good news is that the schools are all reopening. After a closure of almost 2 years, the parents, the students and teachers are all relieved to be back in the physical school. However this still is a debate that is it “safe” to send students to school. 

Young children upto the age of 7-8 years seem to have forgotten how the real school actually looks like. The younger kids up to 4 years have never seen a formal school. The digital school was nowhere capable to give children a feel of how a “school” looks like.  

When we now reopen, there are a few challenges which we might face. The school and the staff has to be prepared for the challenges that are a gift of the new normal. 

  • School as a social set up teaches many social skills like sharing, caring, turn taking and listening to others. Children seem to have forgotten these social behaviours. 
  • Staying at home has brought the students into the comfort zone. They do not have a regular routine to be followed. It might be hard for a few to follow a 6 hour routine immediately. Eating and sleeping patterns of all kids has definitely changed. There is no routine or time table which they follow.
  • Covid almost finished the social interaction and play of children. Being confined to 4 walls of the house was the only option available. This led to anxieties and fears of even interacting with new set of people. Children may not very easily accept a significant other like a friend or a teacher in their life.
  • Many children may be facing anxiety due to bereavement of a loved one. Covid has engulfed the loved ones of many families. Losing a family member is very painful. A young child who lost his parents may still be recovering from the loss. Covid also increased divorce rates in India; children coming from broken families have their own build up anxieties and trust issues in social settings.
  • Even in the same grade, children may be at different levels of learning. Many children might have missed their classes due to lack technological device or power issues or not having access to remote classes. There could be a few developmental delays in children like speech delays as well.

The schools in the post covid era have to be prepared for all of these challenges. How do we create a support system for the child where school is no longer a synonym with anxiety and fear? The school first of all has to follow all the covid protocols so that safety is first ensured. Schools have to encourage opportunities for students to interact, play and participate in a social interaction. 

Teachers and school personnel should examine how kids are performing before imparting new academic topics to them. Children may have trouble concentrating at first or want additional time to get back into the learning process. Allow children to take pauses, walk about, and reconnect with their friends and classmates by providing opportunities for them to do so. The teachers will have to make differentiated lesson plan for varied levels of learners in the class to encourage differentiated learning.

A lot of time should be invested in counseling children and help them build social and emotional skills. To reconnect and sustain a sense of community and fellowship, it is critical to assist kids develop perseverance and support one another

The need of the hour will be a patient and calm support system in terms of supportive staff and mental health practitioners for all the schools.

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