Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown changed the way schools function. The pandemic has brought the school and other educational institutions on the same pedestal. A school is no longer a safe haven where children make friends, vent, work in groups, play, and partake in other social activities that contribute to their overall growth and development under the supervision of non-parent adults. We only teach virtually. We are currently reduced to a screen often asking repeatedly, “Am I audible?”
Lacking face-to-face interactions, do we miss being in school? Do we finally appreciate the contributions teachers make towards a child’s development? Do we acknowledge the necessity of conventional examinations? Do you feel like sending your child to school? Above all, do you think school is the second home for your child?
Post Covid-19, when schools have gone online, students have not attended school for over eight months! The initial days were mayhem. We were uncertain about resuming. We did not know much about online teaching either. But as adaptable as we are, we soon conquered online teaching. Despite this, is everyone satisfied with the current mode of teaching, for which the students do not have to come to school?
Earlier, as a class teacher dealing with parents of 16 to 18-year-old students, the Parent-Teachers Meetings were quite overwhelming for me. There were endless questions and complaints. One pertinent parental grievance was: “Why this emphasis on 75% attendance? If he attends class all the time, it’s a lot of time wasted. He doesn’t get time to study after a tiring day at school.”
Recent online PTMs have reinstated my belief that attending school in person matters. The new question that I currently face from several parents is: “When will they return to school, Ma’am?” I do miss my students. I want to be in my classroom actively mentoring and interacting with them. I understand how they feel. I don’t have an iota of doubt that the students miss their school environment, their peers, teachers, but what makes me happy is that the parents also feel the same now!
I have been dealing with hundreds of adolescents every year. Their challenges, dilemmas, emotional upheavals, potentials, and insecurities are not unknown to me. Over the last 15 years, I have learned that teenagers need attention not only from parents but also from non-parent adults. They can be confused about whom to turn to.
They try to act independent and sometimes that makes them withdraw from family and beloved ones. If coupled with authoritarian parenting, they either retreat into a shell or become rebellious immediately or later in their lives. This endless confinement is also pushing some students into depression. Studies have revealed that children are becoming anxious over the cancellation of examinations, exchange programmes, and other academic events. They are exhibiting glaring signs of internet addiction, leading to increased access to objectionable content.
For children with mental health issues and other special needs, this situation has only exacerbated their problems. In the absence of peer group interactions and social engagements, they are now in constant conflict with their parents and with themselves. They are drifting away gradually, searching for an anchor. To face this is not easy for a parent as well.
Therefore, combined nurturing by parents, teachers, and other role models is indispensable to provide a holistic growth. Educators’ roles are shared in such parenting. Now that the parenting responsibility lies solely with the family, parenting has become too arduous. Moreover, household chores coupled with demands of professional life are leaving them too exhausted to take up the mantle of parenting.
Parents are realising that teachers do have a pivotal role to play in contributing to disciplining, caring for, and nurturing their child. Parents want their kids to return to school so that teachers can take over from where they would like to resign. Off-schooling has exposed parental inability to take care of their child single-handedly. All of a sudden there is no one to share the guilt with – the guilt of failing at parenting without external help.
I am hopeful that now a flustered parent, when called to discuss their child’s behaviour or low attendance will not take it personally, nor will they flounder for an excuse to justify their absence from school. Hopefully, parents will believe that it is imperative to amalgamate their efforts with ours in the best interest of everyone. And for that, there is no alternative of schooling – for schooling is lot more than class rooms and teaching hours.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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