School Zone: Adjusting Learning in the New Normal

by Helmy Sa'at

As we reflect on the global situation for the past two years, we cannot help but be hyper-aware that certain facets of our lives are never going to be the same. One area is education. According to data by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than a billion children are at risk of falling behind academically.

To be an exception to the data is next to impossible since we cannot avoid reality; as such, how do we turn the tide to break free from fulfilling the many prophecies reflected in statistics?

In other words, how do we, as adults, expect the young generation to continue to be excited about school and learning and still perform through their academic career, no matter which stage they are in? Every aspect of our lives have been drastically disrupted by the pandemic in many ways, shapes and forms. And, pandemic fatigue is not a trivial issue either as it affects everyone.

At this phase, life is more than just about accumulating impressive grades. As we approach 2022 with remote learning and teaching still an integral part of the global education landscape, school life has inevitably morphed to more than just preparing new shoes, school bags or even school uniforms. We need to have this conversation: How do we, adults in the family and community, help our children adjust to learning in the new normal?

Talk, Talk And Talk Again

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Have a conversation and keep it going. Talking is a way to check on one’s emotional bandwidth, a reflection of mental wellness. It is also an opportunity to emphasise basic steps, such as eating healthy and getting sufficient sleep in children’s daily lives. Impress upon the young minds that though on certain days, they could very well start school without having to leave their bedrooms, there is still a need to follow a routine which helps to recapture some sort of normalcy while instilling discipline.

On an emotional level, there is no shame or embarrassment to voice out vulnerabilities, especially on tough days. As much as we adults need to be reminded that we need to practise kindness with ourselves, we have a duty to not stigmatise such practice to take root from a very young age. Our children need to know that it is safe to express their feelings freely without judgment. More importantly, as a human being, their feelings and lived experiences are valid and never trivial. Nurturing offline relationships, that starts with oneself and those around them, is just as important.

The Web Is Not Our Foe

With the increased frequency of remote learning, online connectivity could very well be a double edged sword, especially when it is being navigated by young minds who are still learning of the risks and need to protect themselves online. Albeit it might be very convenient to access infinite resources ranging from digital books to videos touching on any topic of interest and joining a virtual forum to discuss an issue, we should never discount the fact that online engagement comes with its own unique set of risks. An instance would be online bullying which could have tremendous emotional impact as the perpetrators or online bullies are hiding behind virtual personas which makes real punishments and facing consequences harder to be implemented and realised.

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Although the World Wide Web is a challenging frontier, we have the power to utilise online tools and resources readily available at our disposal to teach our kids about digital literacy and online safety. This is where opportunities arise in teaching basic hard skills such as password complexity to safekeep online assets encompassing emails to social media accounts.

As adults, we could always adjust the privacy settings of our devices before handing them over to children. However, it is a priority to empower our own children when navigating the web by instilling a sense of responsibility and building trust. Another instance would be to just click off immediately if they happen to be redirected to a website which is suspicious or inappropriate. Alternatively, enforce a schedule whereby they have to log off all the devices, especially on weekends, as time should be allocated for quality family interactions.

Devour Worlds Through Books

As much as we are tethered to our laptops these days, it is alright to disconnect and disengage when it is time to do so. There should not be accompanying feelings of guilt or pressure to stay connected 24/7. Also, with travelling and vacations being recalibrated due to the pandemic and the ongoing evolving strain of Covid, reading books is the next best thing. No doubt, books are windows to the world. A form of escapism and a way to nurture imagination. There is no need to deal with unpredictable and costly risks when it comes to reading.

Besides being away from the screen, it could be an avenue to introduce and reinforce certain values which are near and dear to our hearts, such as discovering more about one’s religious faith and history.

We are still living in, and would probably experience in the next three to five years, unprecedented times. As we adjust to embrace and learn to live in the new normal where constant vigilance is needed to deal with unpredictabilities that could surface at the drop of a hat, we are still in control when it comes to empowering our children in their learning adventures.

What are your concerns as parents when it comes to your children’s education which is in a constant state of flux? Share them with us in the comments section below or on our social media platforms; in addition to any useful tips to cope with aforementioned changes.