Connecting Classrooms – Rooms with a View

The post COVID new normal has laid bare a confusing world in which standing together to show unanimity of response and purpose must now be reinvented with the new social distancing norms in place. Now that we have accepted the new normal we must be on the path of recovery with resilience and of course technology by our side.

However, it is crucial more than ever before for us teachers to retain the personal touch, stay connected, generate awareness and response to the issues that are surfacing using our creativity and intellect but not forgetting the teacher’s heart.

And this is what brings me to my topic: rooms with a view: connecting with the affective domain-i.e. the emotional connect that we must retain now come what may.

The question is how?

The answer for me lies in the two E’s: Engage and Enjoy with less teacher talk and space for reflection.

What do students look forward to most in their online time with teachers? The answer isconversation. They miss the human touch, the personal connect the most and this must be emphasised to build skills and competencies.

It is the affective domain that makes them competent, builds the right attitude and emotional balance that is so important for social integration. A brilliant student with anger management issues will find social interaction and collaboration difficult unless we have nurtured these abilities when he/she was young.

So, give them self-learning opportunities and freedom of choice. Make learning conceptual with many options for collaboration and presentation of their work independently. For school students since their attention span is often less than a goldfish, use ice breakers. For instance: using Frank Sinatra’s my way to teach, Robert Frost’s road not taken and then start a deeper conversation reflecting on choices or a virtual visit to the museum at Cairo while teaching ozymandias and to speak of how time is the only constant and everything else fragile and ephemeral will generate free responses.

Cognitive domain or content will happen along the way...what is more important for all of us to know that this virtual class of ours now is also an escape for us from the mundane and sometimes even the violent reality. It gives us purpose and helps us retain our identity, our creativity, be it a teacher or learner, it is a much needed release for us all if we allow it to be. It is not easy: managing screen time, planning lessons, submitting assignments online and us correcting them online as well.

Plan a routine that has breaks for relief from screen time and integrate co-curriculars, P.E and library activities. Make Blooms Taxonomy real, let them create resources, podcasts, games, audio plays, video journals as many are already doing but let us help them identify the objective and map outcomes with our learning designsas reverse mentors: flip the class for collaboration and creation of resources.

Connecting with films, art, music, theatre and sports will help findengaging metaphors to make them aware of social issues and contexts at their level. There is so much that needs fixing-questions of race, domestic violence, class conflicts, economic meltdown are all rearing their ugly heads and some of us teachers,learners, parents and students must be facing them too, caught into it locked in at home. Let them create resources like The girl in the pink frock a film by Anurupa Roy using puppetry to make their peers aware about the migrant labourers walking back home to connect and share their stories.

Start conversations, give them points such as these to ponder upon and reflect on long after the class is concluded. But always look for solutions for despondency is not the answer. Talk and listen about things that matter, not just the text, keep it sequential and contextual. Above all make your classes safe zones for trust and sharing to blossom.

Share your bad day stories with them for there will be days when you will miss dressing up for work and meeting colleagues for gossip and adda. They do too. So tell them they are not alone. You too have bad days and its ok to take it easy.

Summing up: Reach out to those who are not finding that escape route locked in their homes. Use technology as a tool for generating awareness, resilience and response. Ask them to create and share resources, flip the class, reverse roles.

Let senior students use Instagram and other cool ways to connect and create awareness. The need of the hour is to become mentors –inspire and connect using technology.

Rewrite rule books, add kindness, offer choices and create change makers who will someday heal the world.

Image source-freepik

Anjana Saha

Mrs. Anjana Saha

Principal, Mahadevi Birla World Academy, Kolkata