Let’s admit it! It was a tough year! We had to face and cope with multiple things. At first, we had to deal with the Internet and learning about different applications that would help us deliver quality online lessons. Then, we enjoyed our summer. After that, we started face to face lessons and then, after a month, a stricter lockdown arrived. We had to stay in our houses, we were not allowed to go anywhere, we were not allowed to meet our friends and the list went on forever. And now, we, again, ‘enjoy’ our summer in Greece.
Text by TANYA LIVARDA, BA/ MA in TESOL, CELTA), EFL teacher, Oral Examiner
It’s been almost a year and some months after the first lockdown. And, again, we survived (?). Literally speaking. Yes! We survived! We are healthy and we are still alive! But are we emotionally and psychologically alive? Do we long for the things that a human being is programmed to do or are we afraid or nervous about meeting our friends, family and live a ‘normal’ life? What about our students? They are human beings as well and they have perceived this experience in a different way.
Many of our students have experienced and are still experiencing panic attacks, stress, emotional burnout, fear of death, fear of being ill. They might have experienced the death or illness of a family member. However, all of them are in need of support; of any kind of support, but mostly psychological support in order to catch up with life as well as academically.
So, a new academic year is about to start. Will we teach online, hybrid or face to face lessons? Who knows? But what we know is that we should do something different this year. We should consider that we are going to start a new academic year which brings the positive and mostly the negative footprints of the previous one. How to (re)start? What to talk about? How to communicate?
How to (re)start?
Connect your curriculum with the community/ current trends. In other words, if you have to deal with illnesses (not necessarily Covid) or health in the curriculum, it might be a good idea to call a nurse or a doctor to talk about the most well-known illnesses and how the medical community has managed to cure them or not. In this way, students will be engaged and motivated and they will link their knowledge to the outside world and most importantly, they will respect and listen to the professionals.
Get to know your students even more. Build better relationships. Keep in mind that we are all coming back to school more stressed, more frightened and more nervous than we normally do. Therefore, it might be proved useful if we let our students express their feelings, even the negative ones.
Build routines in order to create a safe and stress-free environment.
Create a ‘survival’ kit or a ‘survival’ corner. Depending on the level and age of your learners, you can include in this kit something to colour or create, a ball to squeeze, a board game, problem solving tasks, graded readers. You can also prepare a video playlist for them to watch or give them some useful websites. In this way, when your learners feel stressed or afraid or nervous they know that they can go to that corner or use this kit in order to calm themselves down.
What to talk about?
Anything. Take your students’ interests and create a lesson. Surprise them! Organise book clubs, film clubs, anime clubs. Talk about history, science, music, drama. Create conferences and workshops in which your students present their own work. If possible and whenever possible, talk about the impact that Covid has had in different countries and in their own countries. However, please be quite sensitive regarding this issue because some children might have lost one of their relatives because of this, so think twice before you deal with Covid.
How to communicate/ build rapport?
Effective communication is difficult as it always takes two to tango
- Build supportive relationships using a lot of encouragement and empathy. Role-play games, create a kindness wall, practicing mindfulness.
- Include more teamwork and pair work activities.
- Actively listen to your learners’ thoughts, ideas and needs. Listen to them in order to learn from them. ‘Listen’ to their body language. Use your smile or other facial expressions in order to show them that you actually listen to them. Ask specific questions. Demonstrate concern.
- Positive feedback by reflecting. Reflect on what your learners have told you and ask questions by paraphrasing, ask questions to clarify meaning or summarizing the main points.
I think it’s time to equip our students with all the necessary skills in order for them to cope on a social and emotional level. I think it’s high time we followed a more humanistic approach and address our students’ true needs and emotions. The show must go on! What we need to do is to stay calm, positive and emotionally full. It’s difficult, I can tell, but life goes on and we’ll keep on trying till the end. •