This article was submitted by Savita Sivakumar, a Teach For India Fellow. Savita handles Grade 2 at the CPS, Jones Road.
As teachers, we play a very important role in helping our students cope with the recent flooding in Chennai. In addition to covering up the lost time on academics, teachers are charged with recreating a learning environment in schools that have undergone as much stress from the weather as the rest of the city, transitioning students from a month and a half of leave back to a school mindset, and finally, helping them cope with any emotional stress caused by the natural disaster. While the entire community plays a role in helping the student get back into the school zone, the teacher, no doubt, plays a pivotal role filling in gaps wherever possible. Each task at hand is equally important and all are necessary to help our students return to the road of success in school.
First, we can cover academics. Given the shortened days, excess material, and less productive student, the task of completing portions by exams seems daunting. Teachers will approach this monumental task, the best way they know how. Learning games, independent study, repetition, and healthy breaks are great ways to get a class on the fast track to mastering portions. In addition to the traditional instruction of teacher explaining to students the lesson, effective games and modes of independent study should help students solidify this information immediately. Guessing games where students in teams work together to solve problems and tools like flash cards are fun ways to let material sink into students’ memories when moving through material quickly. At the end of the day when they are too restless to participate in traditional instruction, games and independent study can help students focus and get through the material. Repetition is important to make sure students remember the number of topics that have been covered. Of course, a healthy break from study helps students regain the focus they need to continue intense study. For every hour of study, a 15 minute break for a song or outdoor game will help students focus back in the classroom. All these tools can help move through all the necessary portions at this accelerated pace.
Next, teachers are responsible for re-creating a learning environment in schools and helping students
get back into the school mindset. Here, the best tools are to keep reminding students of school behavior, procedures, and traditions. Even though students have been out of school for while, they will pick procedures back up quickly, with these gentle reminders. Don’t let them shirk these procedures just because it’s been awhile, reinforce the proper structures so students get back into the school mindset, remembering the way to behave and how to treat situations in school. However, if they do forget, it’s important to guide them to the right answer and give them time to readjust. If it’s not right, do it again until it is.
Finally, teachers also serve as a stable resource for students to cope with any emotional loss from the events passed. Talking to students, asking them what happened, and creating an open environment to discuss loss can go a long way in helping a student cope as well as return to their productive self. Instead of ignoring the event, incorporate into lessons as well as giving time the first week to discuss what happened in each student’s home and community. Learning circles, one on one conversations, and small group discussions can help students find a place to discuss their problems with not only you, but with their peers as well.
The stress of covering academic material so fast, re-establishing school norms, and helping students through emotional loss can make this time after the floods a difficult time as a teacher in Chennai, especially since many of us are coping with hardship ourselves. However, it’s important to remember that we and our schools are likely one of the few stable structures left in the student’s life. Giving them back that infrastructure is one of the most important things we can do to help their lives return to normal. By using the tools above, we can help them and our entire school and community return and succeed after the floods.