In 2022, stop worrying about reading, writing, math and help kids deal with their feelings

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In this pandemic, our children have grown up very quickly compared to any other generation. It turned the status quo upside down and laid bare many of our weaknesses and strengths as well as deeply rooted issues. With economic inequalities, migration, lack of basic health care for people and a series of school closings for children.

The first global crisis of this century brought about a complete upheaval of the world. Learning was strongly impacted during this period. How do we see, revise, reshape and implement this disruption in a post-pandemic situation, which will drag us into a future of uncertainties?

The learning we need will be completely different from the education we are currently receiving. The accelerating force of digitization will lead to a disruptive future.

New challenges and opportunities have arisen for educators, parents and students to view learning in a technological, social and emotional context.

In the midst of so many uncertainties, what is the future path we must take? Will our schools find the professional courage to change their practices in order to better support the personal development of the next generation of young people?

The landscape has moved away from the notion of a singular path towards a much more elastic understanding of how we will need to make a school more technologically emerging, inextricable and alive. Through this pandemic, we would have become different people, in an irreversible and unstoppable way.

Mindsets change in traumatic situations. This pandemic trauma has really affected the teaching community and the schools. They had to reset and rewire their teaching brains while doing a different kind of classroom learning.

We are in the middle of a recession and minimalism should be our mantra when opening schools. Expenses should only be incurred on three levels, namely hygiene, technology and communication.

Hygiene issues will have a direct impact on infrastructure at all levels, be it furniture, fixtures, all kinds of equipment, construction facilities and transport. All of these amenities are used by children and will need to be constantly disinfected. Most school expenses will be spent on conservation materials and labor. A scientific sanitation system will be put in place and will become an integral part of the school architecture.

The spaces will have to be seen differently; playrooms, laboratories, canteens, foyers, hallways, libraries, sports fields, activity rooms, toilets, stairs, halls, assembly areas – all places where children converge should be constantly cleaned in turn. Tables, doors, handles, desks and chairs will be disinfected continuously. The entire school calendar will have to be reworked where a large gathering of students, parents or visitors during sports days, annual days, book exhibitions, farewells, assemblies, parent-teacher meetings will have to be held in bubbles with a small number of participants.

When children come to school, their entry and dispersal areas will need to be sanitized and disinfected. Their temperature will be taken when entering and leaving school.

In a classroom, the distance between desks should be maintained. Children will play with a limited number of friends at a time. Special lessons, workshops will be conducted on hygiene and emotional health.

Activity rooms, sports halls, laboratories and other spaces will be used for teaching in order to distribute the children throughout the school.

Toys, books and other equipment in classrooms, libraries and playrooms will be constantly disinfected. Students will take turns entering and exiting the toilets, which will need to be cleaned and disinfected at all times.

Each school needs to create a comprehensive curriculum around socio-emotional learning so that we can help deconstruct the conflicts students faced during the lockdown so that they can identify areas of stress, detachment and confusion that may have become embedded in their living consciousness.

If we go back to the usual exams, tests and instructions, we will have children who will be confronted with an existential crisis which will manifest itself in behavioral disorders. Now and forever, we need to stop worrying about reading, writing and math, and help children cope with their feelings.

When the days are more uncertain than some, relying on resources of optimism, hope and care have proven to be key strategies that will propel leadership.

We need to change the way we think from response to recovery. Knowing that when we finally walk the hallways of our brick and mortar buildings, we need to be mindful and use the moment to transform the characteristics of our classroom. We need to shift our narratives into systematic thinking. Move on to abundant thought based on strength.

Learn in a new way

There is a much closer integration of classroom and online education under the umbrella term blended or hybrid learning. Class time will be reduced but not eliminated.

Various collaborative approaches to building knowledge and communities of practice are needed. Emphasis will be placed on enabling students to build knowledge through testimonials, discussion and sharing of thoughts, analysis of resources from multiple sources and feedback from teachers.

Students will share their experiences, discuss theory and challenges, and learn from each other. The teacher will no longer be responsible for imparting knowledge or even providing the resources for learning, but will retain an essential role as a guide, facilitator and assessor of learning.

There will be some instructions, contributions and reflections, which will accompany the formal lessons. The teaching will accompany the formal courses. Teaching will be much less so in this collaborative environment, especially if it is facilitated by technology.

Students will learn through a variety of delivery modes, face-to-face in a blended format and fully online, to facilitate the development of flexible skills. This will allow them to stay at home, with short and intense sessions when they go to school.

This methodology will also help keep the content up to date.

Emerging influence

We will need wisdom and collaboration, which are human-centered priorities. The structure in which the children will return will be changed.

In this same space will emerge a new culture of staff, students, family commitment, differentiated needs and capacities.

Dr Ameeta Mulla Wattal is president and executive director of education, innovation and training in schools and scholarship programs of the DLF Foundation. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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