– Sukanya Nandy and Dipta Joshi
World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year with the overall objective of raising awareness about mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. As per the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), the World Mental Health Day theme in 2020 is Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.
The past few months have been a challenge for everyone in terms of mental health. When it comes to educators, adapting to newer methods of teaching along with maintaining work-life balance has been the main challenge. Some schools have stepped up to keep a tab on their teachers’ mental health – Fountainhead School, Surat is one of them. The school’s teacher trainer and wellbeing counselling leader Mariyam Baxamusa says, “We have been having recreation programmes, online games, etc. Every manager calls up their colleague and holds one-to-one interaction to check on their well-being and mental health. That was done from the first week of the lockdown itself. We used to follow up every week and now since August we have been following up every month. Once in a month we also have appreciation circles, Antakshari and other games. We have a well being counselling department where teachers have conversation with the counselors regarding their challenges.
Besides, apart from the school students, the teachers also need to deal with their own children. While they are conducting online classes, their kids are also attending some online class simultaneously. There would be problems with internet connectivity or some other issue, hence they were not able to give proper attention to their child. This was a major concern for us. So, we told them, you could turn off your online class for a moment and solve your child regarding his/her problem and get back. But do so calmly by talking to the child and never hit them.”
Sukanya Banerjee has been teaching grades 8-10 history and geography for the past 28 years. Having served as a teacher in five schools before her retirement, the 66-year-old is now associated with coaching classes for school children. After the lockdown, she too, like other educators, has had to teach her students online. Being forced to upskill herself technologically without any prior experience has been both challenging and stressful for her.
“I have always used the board and chalk method of teaching with no use for the computer at all. Having to learn the ropes of online teaching at my age has been very stressful and there were so many times when I was almost in tears feeling helpless. Using different gadgets effectively has been a daunting task. Though my students have been more than accommodating and patient with me, I am unable to have the kind of interaction we used to have in the classroom. It remains a constant source of worry for me as a teacher since I don’t want to fail my students.
The good thing is that the situation has forced me to learn something new that I would not have learnt otherwise, I am still not at ease 100 percent. I might act bold and efficient, but each day is a challenge for me,” she says.
“It took a toll on both our mental and physical health,” says Deepa Avashia, school leader, The Riverside School, who conducted online classes during the lockdown. “Their was an initial euphoria of learning the new method of teaching, a lot of pressure, and learning curve was very high because we learnt new things from each other. But apart from that, on the personal front, managing the work-life balance has been a challenge since there were no support staff at home, plus managing the family and maintaining the online work has been difficult,” she adds. Avashia explains that the screen time too took a toll on the teachers as “they were required to understand the software to work on, apart from teaching online at the same time.”
“To keep a check, we would start an online meeting in a fun way like with some congenial games and then get into serious business. We have started physically meeting up each other once a week, which is also making a positive impact on the well-being. We also perform exercises and do yoga together, online, as staying physically fit also positively affects the mental health. Plus, during weekends, since most of us are women, we interact with each other and sometimes provide tips to each other like how to facial or hair massage,” says Avashia.
Feby Savio, a junior college professor (class 12), Smt. M.M.K College of Commerce and Economics, Bandra- Mumbai has been working from home taking online classes. She says, “For me, adapting to taking online classes has not been easy. Initially it was very stressful especially since I am dealing with 16-17 year old students who are difficult to control outside of the classroom environment. While I was learning the technicalities of using gadgets, I faced some trouble from my students who would mute me, but I learnt to get around such issues in time. As teachers, we do worry about parents observing us and judging us while we are taking online classes.
Other issues that contributed to both mental and physical stress is my children being at home with their own classes going on during weekdays. The lockdown has been a difficult time for working women. We have been trying to manage, not balance, but manage our homes and our work without the usual support system of household helps, day-care etc.”
“The most difficult part was to learn the teaching mode and understand the features of different mobile applications on which we were supposed to take the online class, and the second challenging prospect was talking to a phone and giving the same expressions and movements as if kids are in front of us. We became more conscious about our dressing and methods of teaching as every time we felt the parents are going to judge us,” says Maheshwariba Saravaiya, Teacher, Amarjyoti Saraswati International School Preprimary Section.
Deepa Kanakiya, Teacher, Silver Bells Public School says, “the teaching learning process left us feeling stressful and to completely shift our schedules and academic plans, match the students expectations, take classes online, and be conscious and making the learning happen” has been a challenge but the teachers “have tried to overcome the issues faced.”