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The return back to school: Learning and growing in the new normal

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Mr. Rohan Parikh

As the schools in India are reopening, the children should accept the change and adapt to the new ways of learning, said Mr. Rohan Parikh, Managing Director of The Green Acres Academy – Schools by The Acres Foundation to Elets News Network (ENN).

The sight of children in their uniforms, with bags on their shoulders and trooping into the school, has been a rare sight over the last couple of years. While children were forced to stay home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they gradually accepted a new way of schooling – online learning. However, with the restrictions slowly easing out and things limping back to normal, schools too are looking at reopening their gates and welcoming back their students.

However, there is a larger imperative in question. How do schools make the transition smooth for their students after reopening? Let’s explore how children can feel more at ease and safe upon their return to school.

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1. Be open to in-depth conversations

Coming back to school after a long hiatus can prove to be a major change in a child’s life. Many children may have receded into their comfort zones and shells, and may not find it easy to speak to people all over again. At such times, one can take small steps into making students feel comfortable and more aware. Teachers need to motivate students to speak up and share their emotions. Conversing openly encourages students to express themselves better and gives them the reassurance that they’re safe.

2. Organise orientation programs for students

A new beginning calls for newer measures. Orientation programs for kids can be a great way to break the ice and make students feel more at ease while they’re at school. Through this program, students can get to know more about their daily learning schedule once again, meet and greet teachers, explore extracurricular activities, which gives them a better sense of belonging and adventure at school.

3. Set small, achievable goals

Change is a good thing when it’s balanced and calculated. But sudden change can often lead to anxiety. Switching from the world of online learning to a ‘back-to-school’ kind of set-up is not easy for a child. Hence, if students feel nervous about jumping back into school life, teachers can set micro goals and help them by navigating their classroom, reconnecting with old friends, making them more comfortable at their desks, etc.

4. Prioritise mental health for children

Lockdown has made everyone more anxious and stressed – especially children. This sudden shift in lifestyle has given rise to numerous mental health issues in children. At such times, instead of emphasising a child’s learning gaps, teachers need to focus more on a student’s growth over the past two years. With more openness about understanding a student’s mental state, teachers can appreciate their grit and resilience in cruising through this challenging year.

5. Be present for students and participate with them

In the initial days of the school reopening, students might feel that they’ve fallen behind on their curriculum. Spending the whole year in front of the computer can make them feel highly non-competitive. Thus, students need to be kept engaged through various activities and other learning initiatives. An excellent attendance record and active participation can be the key to bridging the prevalent learning gaps and strengthening the bonds.

6. Request for help if the going gets tough

Managing students is not an easy feat; add the pandemic, and it’s a different ball game altogether. Kids are still trying to make headway in a post-pandemic world and are highly dependent on their teachers to guide them. Hence, teachers need to take the reins and help students come to terms with these new changes. However, things can get overwhelming for a teacher as well. At such times, calling for additional help can assist them in becoming better at managing the students during these tough times.

Time can heal anything, so all we have to do is give things some time. Schools need to realise that students seek to experience a sense of normalcy when they return to school. By acknowledging the way they feel and giving them the space to come to terms with their feelings, schools can become an integral part of the students’ emotional journey. So, when students return to school, they’re more accepting of change and adjust to this new way of learning.

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