-Bhupinder Gogia, Principal, Sat Paul Mittal School, Ludhiana
“Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like” – Rita Pierson
As we begin meeting the students in the new academic session, it is vitally important to connect and communicate. Connection determines the quality of the relationship. When kids feel that their teacher cares for them and wants them to succeed, they work harder, pay better attention, and persist through challenges. In case of the opposite, the students shut down, are unwilling to try, give up easily, and do only the bare minimum. It was true even with the regular classes but now in times of online teaching learning, the student teacher connection has become even sketchier and directly affecting the motivation and performance of the school children all over the world. Slowing down and focusing on connecting with the students at the beginning of the new school year is sure to pay rich dividends later and set classroom up for success.
History is being written with significant speed and we are faced with choices and decisions that will define the futures of our children. The need of the hour is to focus on improving mental health literacy among stakeholders in the education system and investing in building emotional connect and resilience among our students and teachers alike.
We, at Sat Paul Mittal designed a Student- Teacher Connect Programme to provide emotional succour to our students, who had not met their teachers and peers, in person, for over a year and were restricted within their homes. The programme was centered on team building and it was challenging to conduct it virtually as it involved group based ice-breaking activities. Thankfully, Microsoft Teams recently introduced a highly relevant update – Breakout rooms. This update catered to fill the void in the evolving interactive online education. Breakout rooms, an excellent feature of Microsoft Teams, helped us replicate the offline setting of physical groups on a virtual platform. The groups facilitated knowledge sharing and enhanced communication amongst small groups.
The Student – Teacher Connect Programme stretched over the next three days wherein the students connected with their class teacher and subject teachers as well while having fun with their peers. The teachers used various ICT tools such as Microsoft Forms, Whiteboard, Padlet, Breakout rooms etc. to engage students in real time. Students were encouraged to speak and express themselves through various creative activities. For instance, Class 12 designed a poster around a catchphrase they had come up with in a breakout room activity. Working with their peers in group even if it’s online charged they them up and came up with some fascinating results. Class 10 students were asked a set of questions that they could answer either through texting on a Padlet or by drawing pictures on the White board or voice their answers using a flip grid. This activity also made the teachers realise that when students are given a choice to voice their reply, there is not only more engagement in learning, but also the question becomes more than just “What”.
For younger students, simple activities such as making masks or drawing emojis about their feelings while sitting with their peers and teacher while talking proved to be exhilarating. They took time, but slowly and surely, opened up about how they felt. This helped the teacher to create a bond of trust with the student and know him/her in a much better way. For the even more younger ones, games such as Home Scavenger Hunt proved to be a great option to make kids open up and talk about their favourite things and feeling. It was a delight to see them getting their pets, books and toys to the online class and express about these. They took pride in talking about the new skills they had acquired ( making a sandwich, kneading the dough, making lemonade, making a salad and so on..) during the lockdown.
“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who would never give up on them, who understands the power of connection”, says Rita Pierson and we, at Sat Paul Mittal School, resonate her sentiment. The joy of watching a student opening up, hesitant at first, more confident eventually is priceless. Winning the confidence of a child is perhaps the most rewarding experience for a teacher which can come only when we invest time and energy in designing teacher-student connect programs that are in tandem with the changing times. After all, most of us went into education hoping to change the lives of our students for good, and a connection is the way we do that.