As a teacher, ask your learners how they’re doing

The lockdown has certainly flipped many situations, scenarios and routines upside down. We’ve had to adjust to a life where we are confined to the walls of our homes. Dashing to the shops may spike anxiety levels, and the uncertainty of when all of this will end is still unknown to us all. We’ve heard speculations, but we’re not really sure.

The school I teach at has recently started their online teaching for the second term. It’s strange to be communicating and teaching via video, WhatsApp groups and Outlook Teams. I miss being able to interact in person with the students, to enjoy a conversation with them, and to share some knowledge with them each day.

One of the biggest challenges many students face is the lack of human-to-human interaction. The in-contact time with a teacher to ask for assistance and guidance, and spending time with their friends on the school field during their lunch breaks.

I take care of a whole grade of over 60 girls in the school. I have all of them on a WhatsApp group and pop them a message each morning just to say hello, share any relevant information and wish them happy birthday (if it’s any of their birthdays on the day). I’ve been trying to organise video chats with them, individually and in groups, so that I can see them and just make sure they are okay. On the odd occasion I’ll send a funny picture or a special quote. Some of them may be frustrated with the daily check-in, but all I want is for them to know that I care and I’m thinking about them.

After browsing Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook over the weekend looking for a ideas, I came across this great infographic that I sent to the students this morning. I asked them to private message me their answer just so I can get a gauge of how each of them are doing.

If you’re a teacher, I would highly suggest just checking in with your students to make sure they are okay and managing. It’s not about being soft, being pessimistic or anticipating the worst. Most of the students may say they’re doing just fine… but there are a few that just need someone to chat to and to know that someone cares about them.

Even in the silence of their physical absence and the classrooms that are now just standing empty, their lives are still important and who they are as individuals matter. We’re all struggling a little emotionally and mentally, but it’s a part of the lockdown and learning to cope as humans and people. We are not robots, we do have emotions. And we need to remember that during this time, we need to be more cognisant of their emotions and well-being too.

A lot of students are feeling overwhelmed, as they’re being sent the work and have been left to fend for themselves. That’s not the issue, the issue is them perhaps feeling anxious and edgy. A quick “how are you?” or “Are you managing?” will do the world of good in their lives. It may also help you, as a teacher, gauge if you’re providing too much work for them during their online schooling, or if it’s too little. And if they’re managing with the information you’re providing.

We’re all learning to manage and process the lockdown. We need to remember that the children (they’re still children, even if they’re teenagers), are only children and need some support during this time. When we return to school, in the physical buildings, we need to do so knowing that they’re all mentally sound and have managed through this pandemic.

Although we are also encouraging them to take ownership and responsibility, we can still do so with kindness, support and love along the way.

Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards — the things we live by and teach our children — are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.

Walt Disney

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