What can we learn from corona-virus situation? #1 – Teaching in stressful situations

The impact of the pandemic on the education systems across the globe is immense for numerous reasons. On one hand, most countries in the world have closed down schools and moved to some type of online learning which will surely impact the quality of learning but at the same time impacts the home lives of teachers, students and their parents.

We @NEPC hope to contribute to the discussion with this thematic series that brings different perspectives on the current situation by some of the NEPC experts. We asked them a few questions that will help us in shedding a light on this unexpected situation and that will help us in drawing some reflections from it.

Our first questions were addressed to Mario Bajkuša, Forum for Freedom in Education programs director and president of NEPC Governing Board, Croatia.

What consequences a stressful situation like this can bring for teaching staff, students and parents?

Each emergency is different and has its own rules of conduct and management. The situation of the global pandemic required our educational systems to adapt quickly while protecting the health of students and teachers.

For teachers, the main source of stress was a collision of personal and professional duty. On the one hand, they had an obligation to carry on with their teachings and work while on the other hand taking care of their families. Transition to distance learning and online tools together with the decision allowing teachers to work from home lowered this stress factor. However, it remains on the top of the list of a stressful situation because working and teaching from home opened a variety of other factors which requires huge family support. Another key factor is the transition to distant learning itself. The transition required quick and appropriate adaptation to the new situation, the rethinking of the teaching process in its totality, development of the new teaching methods and materials and managing a load of information.

A huge range of interventions from different experts was required to respond to the students’ needs with the clear aim of explaining the situation to them in an appropriate way taking care of their age and encouraging all the positive feelings and way of conduct which can contribute to lowering the risk of getting the disease or spreading it as well as to improving their mental health. As teachers, the students had to transition to the new situation of staying at home, distance learning and refraining of social contact which is so important for their development. Each of these factors has further implications ranging from the availability of needed equipment and technologies to the availability of necessary care.

Parents are in the same situation as teachers in the sense of managing professional and personal spaces. Balancing between these two can be a significant stress source which can be emphasised with other factors like financial situation, fear of losing the job, and similar.

How to speak to students about emergencies like these?

A few educational systems are completely ready to address emergencies on all levels. However, one of the first aims of education is to protect the health and well being of teachers and students. While teachers should have appropriate support from the relevant agencies, teachers are those who have a responsibility towards students in a sense of informing them about the situation. In doing so, teachers should be following some of these principles:

  • In informing themselves and preparing for the class, a teacher should use only trustworthy sources of information. The Internet is full of different information, so excellent skills in managing and filtering information are needed.
  • Huge care should be taken in developing course materials and selecting teaching methods with the accent on age-appropriate methods and materials.
  • A teacher should be self-confident while teaching and discussing the particular topic thus preventing transmission of fear or panic to students. Cooperation with other colleagues might be of huge help in covering the topic.
  • Each emergency is a lively example of the need for cooperation and interdisciplinarity. In developing teaching and learning materials cooperation with colleagues of a different profile is highly encouraged and needed.
  • Special attention should be placed to address any fake news, alternative facts or any other information which could lead to stigmatisation or hate towards a particular person or specific social group.

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