By Aditi Misra, Jan 11, 2022 15:00
To say that the past 22 months have been tough would be an understatement. We've been in a situation that we had never encountered before. Perhaps, the most vulnerable have been children and young adults. There's no doubt that the kind of change children have had to go through has been unprecedented and has not been talked about as much as it should.
The most obvious change for the children was that they were not able to go to school and I think whether they realised it then or not, they do realise now that school was perhaps the happiest time of the day. They travelled in a bus, chatted with their friends, sang, met their teachers, studied, danced, played and then went home nicely, tired but happy with the way the day had gone. All this changed when classes went online! There was no getting ready (as such) for school. Sure, they got to do uniforms but there were no meeting friends face to face or that joyous bus ride. The music, dance, physical education, art, theatre, everything was happening but in the same room, that they were studying. As educators, we all realised how difficult this is for them.
The lockdown has changed the way children see the world. There's no harm in accepting that most children are now emotionally a little more vulnerable than they were before. The 3-year-old who would have started school in 2020 in pre nursery and made friends has not entered school yet. He or she has only virtual friends. How do you support this as adults, as a community? What can you do to help these children? I think it's time for all of us to put our heads together and find ways to help children.
One thing that helped in my school is not to let the school calendar get affected. If it's a function, a talent show, an inter-house or intra-class event, we just went ahead with it, and the children did not have learning gaps. Studying 24/7 would have made their lives boring and static. This has helped a lot of children as it was the nearest thing to normal that they could do.
A second thing that worked was creating small support groups in the evening as that is the time children used to go out to play. Children were not allowed to go out and play so it was important that some activities should replace the TV. So, we created small groups of 8-10 children like a circle time where they could talk, sing, play a game (perhaps a word game or a quiz) with the teacher as a facilitator. I think that was beautiful because if a child was quiet, peers would urge him/her to engage.
A third thing that we tried and that worked was involving the Peer Educators in talking to the children who were vulnerable. Peer Educators is a group of students who talk to the entire school and create awareness about various things. It could be about cyber bullying, or about learning to say no, positive self-image or just about anything. Peer educators started interacting with their juniors, talking about things that would make them feel a little better. So, the mantra was to emphasise that we have to be grateful for what we have! Things we take for granted should be recognised as blessings. This conversation somehow helped the children who were feeling vulnerable, sad or on the brink of getting depressed.
The last thing is when nothing else works, we get a counsellor to talk to children in a group, alone or in pairs. So, the acceptance of a situation is very important. And I think, the counsellors and teachers did a great job across the globe.
Yes, we are going through ‘unusual’ times but we are in it together. It's not happening to just a few people and there is nothing much we can do about it. The best thing is to accept and decide to face it head-on with positivity and resilience.
Aditi Misra is the Director and Principal of DPS, Sec. 45, Gurugram. Views expressed are personal.