Opening schools, and the challenges ahead

Once schools open, it will take at least a month to bring the derailed teaching-learning process back on track.
Opening schools, and the challenges ahead
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Not only the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but beyond as well, want an end to a  year long closure of the schools, colleges, and universities. The pandemic situation put certain challenges to teachers and the school administrators now; creating awareness and caring about the fatal disease among students, prioritizing well-being, and sanitization in schools, and maintaining social distance. A year is not a small period, it must have changed the mindset of students and made them sluggish. It would be a new experience and a big challenge for educators to cope up with. Teachers have to adopt a unique approach to develop and maintain curiosity among students. It will take at least more than a month to bring the derailed teaching-learning process back on track.

Though there were many innovative steps taken by the government to keep the spirit of learning alive still it was not enough to compensate the deficiency caused by the closing of the schools. The initiative of community classes and provision of online classes are quite appreciable but the bad impact of no schooling is visible in learners as all students. Teachers will be required to bridge this gap with patience and care.

The addiction to mobile phones has badly affected the learners' learning culture. Due to the pandemic, students were exposed to many new things like zoom classes, google classroom, WhatsApp, conference calls and video classes, etc. These digital formats were aimed to facilitate the teaching-learning process and keep students in touch with the pedagogy. Students took some time to get adopted to unfamiliar technology and informal learning. Meanwhile, students got the opportunity to entertain themselves on YouTube like channels which was the chief cause of distraction. Lack of in-person interaction also ruined the sense of accountability and hardworking. Students were free to attend or not attend the classes. The technological drawbacks reversed the motivation thereby making the attempts a near failure.

Now, as soon as schools will commence, functioning normally, the first challenge would be to create a safe school environment where the chances of getting an infection are minimum. All the staff members need to be vigilant for symptoms and staying in touch with local authorities and hospitals for taking the necessary steps in case anyone in the school starts to feel sick. An effective communication mechanism should be built between school and community.

On the first day or first week of the schooling, no formal teaching should take place; rather the first week should be devoted to acclimatize students with the new techniques they are expected to follow, and also mental preparation. Efforts should be made towards awareness generation, practicing safety, exercise and mock drills, etc. A sense of confidence should be infused among students. Children should be asked to focus on dos and don'ts.

Interesting activities like drawing, painting, and writing should be encouraged. Discussion about myths, social stigma, and fear among students should be held in a decent atmosphere.

One year has passed. The memories of the classroom transaction have evaporated. Students have become addicted to family care, galli cricket, watching movies, and having meals with parents, etc. It has changed the psychology of children. They may not be able to attend the classes with the same enthusiasm they were used to. They might feel disappointed in the school premises.

Maybe children come with mobiles or other electronic gadgets secretly. Don't punish them or scold them rather adopt apt techniques to motivate them and change their thinking. There would be more naughtiness and delinquency. Students may not come upon the teacher's expectations. So educators, be wise enough while dealing with such naughty children. The rust of carelessness may hamper proper comprehension.

Similarly, there might be other issues like poor learning and concentration. Maybe they are not able to concentrate properly and cooperate. Maybe they have acquired some bad and unusual habits. Just guide them with love and care. The freedom they enjoyed has made them truants and careless. As children love freedom and playing so they enjoyed the vacations up to the hilt. The only thing they would enjoy on the first day of school is the company of classmates, not the classroom captivity. Let them enjoy and play.

New schooling will be different as it would mark a new era with tough challenges.

Malik Manzoor  is teacher.

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