HOW TO HELP STUDENTS COPE WITH THE PANDEMIC.

……………. a call for empathy

The adverse effect of Covid-19 may be far-reaching than we think, and we can only hope and pray that we get back to normal soon. Although, the lock-down has been eased in most countries and schools have resumed but the effect still lingers.

As a teacher, I can feel this almost every day in the classroom. Sometimes, students will even deny the existence of the pandemic because of the psychological effect of the several instructions that we enforce on them to ensure the prevention of Covid-19 spread.

Don’t touch anything……….

Adjust your facemask……..

You are moving too close………

Move your chair backward………

Sanitize your hands……..

Don’t give him your calculator …………………… etc.

These are a few of the instructions we now add to the usual ones such as;

Stop making noise……..

Face the board……..

You are disturbing my class……..

Submit your homework………

Stop distracting her ………. etc.

All these can be quite overwhelming on the part of the students and teachers alike.

One day, as I was dishing out my instructions, one of my students asked;

……why should I not move close to him?

and I told him it’s because of covid-19, he was quick to react,

Mr, there is no Corona.

I know the statement is not coming from the perspective of denying the reality of the existence of the virus among us, rather, they are coming from the pressure occasioned by the magnitude of the effect of corona on the psychological and social wellbeing of students.

These calls for empathy on the part of all stakeholders.

The experience that led me to write this happened when I was teaching static electricity and I had to go to the classroom with an electroscope to demonstrate the presence of charges on an object.

Usually, I will ask my students to use the instrument, so they not only know how it works but also how it feels. This makes them more engaged and takes more ownership of their learning.

However, this time, it is impossible to ask them to use the instrument because of the virus. We have to reduce the magnitude of contact to the minimum, so I had to use the instrument myself to show them how it works as a form of demonstration. The students were so curious that they wished they can touch and work with the electroscope, but I said no.

Again, they asked why, and I told them it is because of Covid-19. They had no choice because we are all in this together, but I can understand their frustration and I empathize with them. However, I felt the angst more when they tried all they could to see that they also use the instrument without success. They looked around them to see any object they can use to experiment, but all was not giving result like the one I brought, unfortunately, they can’t touch!

Seeing how curious they were, I felt like allowing them to touch the instrument to satisfy their curiosity, but then, I remembered we are all bounded by alien policies which we must abode by in order to live.

This is to renew my call once again to educators globally to empathize with their students. They need our empathy and psychosocial support more at this time than our policies, instructions, and classroom rules.

Also, teachers require empathy from school managers because this experience is new to us all and it is tearing us apart both psychologically and socially. We must all understand the situation and reduce the burden by not being too critical. Remember, we are all in this together.

I pray and hope we will get out of this soonest so our students can learn the way they deserve, through touching, feeling, social interaction, and collaboration.

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Abdulrafiu Arikewuyo

Abdulrafiu Arikewuyo is a teacher and a writer. On a mission to change the school model.