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How to support emotionally vulnerable students after a tough year

By Dr. Ameeta Mulla Wattal,

When schools open in full strength, emphasis should be on nourishing mental health and well-being.

We have to consider a child in the context of a four-dimensional learner: length, breadth, depth and consciousness, writes Dr. Ameeta Mulla Wattal.

This pandemic has laid bare a lot of our weaknesses and deep-seated problems. The impact has been felt greatly by children, who not only face health risks but disruption and marginalization, as they have not been vaccinated.   

When schools open in full strength, the most important emphasis should be to nourish mental health and wellbeing, two states that affect the emotional compass of a child. 

The adversarial and emotional quotients have become a very important part in understanding a child’s psyche. The movement from mindset to skillset to heart-set follows a very natural path in the new classroom.  

Social and emotional learning will help children cope and prevent arousal symptoms and strong negative emotions. We are living in a time when the most important learning in the classroom should be to create mindfulness, empathy, meaning and engagement, in order to connect with the larger world. 

The rationality of a child is deeply influenced by emotions. Neuro scientists believe that the heart talks to the brain twice as much as the brain talks to the heart, which reiterates that learning is an emotional experience. A child often likes a subject because of the teacher and does well in it.  If a teacher does not have a connect, the child loses interest and aptitude. 

The best moments in life are active and not passive, demonstrative rather than receptive. Children are most creative, productive and happy when they are immersed in an activity of choice.  You can call it a state of flow.   

The last two years of online learning have been of external imposition. As educators, we have to create a state of flow, which will help in an optimal experience, to redefine the idea of learning as an internal concept. Flow helps in creating a sense of calm and happiness which will enhance learning. 

When children see their school as a safe place of joy, where their identity is recognized and they are made visible, and are allowed personal creativity and flexibility their learning will get enhanced.   

Teachers need to connect with children emotionally in order to ensure a sense of normalcy, develop their curiosity and confidence, help them move from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. 

When children come back to school, the emotional compass will have to be developed to cope with discipline and managing behaviour. Students will be able to develop tools to commit to the language of learning in a positive way.   

Teachers must grow heart-sets, which will help in building relationships, one of the greatest skills of the 21st century. This emits the skills of conflict resolution, problem-solving, decision-making, communication, collaboration, empathy and compassion. 

We have to consider a child in the context of a four-dimensional learner: Length, breadth, depth and consciousness.  The teacher has to nourish the metacognition within a child who is thinking about thinking, knowing about knowing, becoming aware of his or her own awareness. This will help in student advocacy. 

If the heart-set is nurtured, then children will verbalize their emotions and develop confidence. They will also speak about their problems rather than reacting out to them. A child’s knowledge is not merely head-knowledge but is embodied in activities and way of looking at the world. The new classroom will be a space of sensitivity, creativity and understanding with a human technology.    

Dr. Ameeta Mulla Wattal is the Chairperson and Executive Director of Education, Innovations and Training of DLF Foundation Schools & Scholarship Programmes. Views expressed are personal.