It’s been half an academic year since schools have reopened. And Gosh, WHAT A RUSH. Who knew that two years of online schooling would soften us?
With schools determined to reopen and get back on the academic track, we parents really had an uphill task, given that not a lot of services were fully functional. And if both parents are working then the challenge is just compounded.
The bigger challenge, however, was for the child. Unlike adults, they cannot pick up from where they left off. Waking up early, getting back into the habit of eating a healthy breakfast, getting ready for school, the heavy backpacks, cold lunches, and then, interaction with kids, masks and sanitisers and classwork, a whole lot of it with regular exams.
As a parent, it would seem unfair that our little darlings have to suddenly go through too much, too fast. We instinctively want to protect our child and do our best to make this transition as smooth as possible.
But let me tell you, after half a year of offline school, the transition from online to offline school has been anything but smooth, seamless or of those nice, comfortable things.
We somehow managed, with parent WhatsApp groups, instructions from school, stress-induced sleep deprivation and a whole lot of patience. We survived.
In these six-odd months, I happened to meet a retired school teacher, Mrs. Nalini Das, with more than thirty-five years of experience, the kind of teacher who makes you feel at ease and makes you want to listen to her. The kind who inspires young minds.
In our subsequent conversations, I happened to tell her about my struggles of keeping pace with offline school, managing my child’s schedule and also being there for her in the limited time I get. I thought that she may not be able to help me out because the times when she worked were very different from the present-day situation.
I couldn’t be more naïve.
Here they are – The 10 lessons on how to cope with school life from an experienced school teacher
1. Getting Schooled in the Fundamentals
Sure, times are different from how things were 10 years ago. But the basics remain the same. There is a child, there is a parent, there is a school and teachers, and tons of distractions. This entire picture needs to be seen with the child at the very centre, and not ourselves.
Children today need guidance, attention and a mentor to help them learn the skills that will prepare them for life and also make them good human beings. This is something that will never change. As parents and teachers, we must also be their friends, someone they can talk to with ease and with trust.
Our children are always watching us, learning from us. So as teachers and parents, we must set the right example. We don’t have to be perfect all the time. We too make mistakes, so teach them, and show them that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn and grow from them.
I found this very interesting and wanted to talk more on this topic to help me become a better parent.
2. The Trial Window
The first month is what’s to come in the year. Treat it like a trial period and the rest of the year as the full version. This is when teachers set the pace for the lessons, activities and homework. This period is also when enthusiasms run high and everyone is super excited to get things started.
Adjust your schedules at home to match the pace at school. A simple way to do this is setting a routine like a sleep schedule for both yourself and your child, keeping things ready and organised the previous night itself and so on.
You must be diligent in matching the pace at school once you have got a hang of it. To do this, ensure that your routine is simple and something that even a child can do.
I might have been late for this lesson, but then thinking back I can see where I could have improved. But there will always be school reopenings after a long break of vacations.
3. Get Organised to Feel Better
Being organised helps you remain productive, save time and sets an example for your child as well. Remember our children are always watching and learning from us.
When we respect our schedules and time in general, they too begin to value them. They learn that time is a precious resource that once spent can never be gained back again.
Build a timetable with your child for little chores, study, play and sleep. When you collaborate with your child, taking their input they feel involved and are more likely to follow it.
4. Positive Discipline
Use plenty of positive reinforcements like verbal praises, a loving ruffle of the hair or a hug when they do or say something good. Constantly nagging or yelling at the child for misbehaviours will only antagonize them and not really teach them a lesson. In fact, the child will act out because they learn from your frustration and anger.
Instead, look for positive behaviours, no matter how tiny, and praise them. This will set into motion a reward system that will motivate the child to repeat positive behaviours.
What could be better than a child that feels loved while building character and developing self-esteem?
Remember to encourage kids to do their best and correct them with love and patience.
Sometimes things go crazy and not as per plan. You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
Breathe! Take a moment for yourself. Repeat as many times as required to calm yourself.
It’s OK if things don’t go as per plan. We can always adjust plans to adapt to changing situations. Always remember, your schedule or plan is not more important than your child.
6. Let Go of Last Year
Many parents compare the current academic year to the previous one. Let go of the last year, good or bad it’s over. The only thing that you would be wasting here is time.
Teachers are also guilty of this at times when they declare that something should have been taught or understood in the previous year.
If your child is not clear on a concept, or worse forgotten their lesson, there is no harm in revisiting the subject and brushing up.
As the child grows, so does their perception. This applies to studies as well. When they relearn something, they learn from a new perspective.
7. Communication is Key
You must build trust with your child. It is a two-way street. When you trust the child, they too will trust you. Communication is key, not only in managing school but also in building healthy relationships.
Talk about what happened at school. Encourage your child to do most of the talking. Speak with positive strokes and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. This is a rare opportunity to relive our childhoods in a small way.
Also, homework. Encourage them to do their homework on their own and teach them to self-check. Many kids are in a hurry to complete and move on to the next task (or an interesting distraction). Teach them to self-check so the habit of silly mistakes can be ironed out in these formative years.
8. Trust Your Instincts
As parents, we tend to unlock a set of instincts when it comes to our children. This can be a heightened sense of danger, a keen sense of smell or just that gut feeling that doesn’t go away. This is our inner guidance system that we should listen to because our gut never lies.
A parent’s mindfulness and alertness can make a huge difference when it comes to children. This comes in especially handy in case of bullying, inability to adjust to a new environment or puberty.
Listen to what the child has to say. Don’t probe, suggest or scold whatsoever. Just ask questions that will encourage them to talk within a safe environment.
9. Please Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
We live in a super competitive world. If anything, parents are guilty of making things into a competition when kids just want to have fun. Even relaxed parents can cave into the pressure of wanting their kids to shine.
The competition will only lead to aggression and the child not having fun or learning the right lessons. Instead, inspire and motivate them to the task at hand – a competition, volunteering for school activities, or even becoming the next monitor.
If there is a group project to be done, don’t do it for them. Let the kids get together, learn to collaborate, listen to one another and figure out their own way.
Children should want to learn and want to participate. Coercing or forcing them into school activities defeats the entire purpose of learning.
10. Always Keep Building the Child’s Self-esteem
Children must have self-confidence. Simply praising kids all the time for all the things they do will not help. Allow your child to take healthy risks so they can figure out solutions to problems themselves. Once they do this they will feel an enormous sense of achievement, building their character.
Allowing children to decide for themselves, and take the lead in certain things will help them understand and take responsibility better. That’s what most teachers do in school as well. They make monitors or assign simple tasks so the child can feel involved, and responsible and have a sense of pride in accomplishing something.
If your child fails at something, teach them that it’s ok. Talk to them about what they could have done differently and make it clear that you are proud of them regardless of success or failure.
Allow Children to be Children
Children must have time to run and play. They have spent enough time on devices and have way too much screen time anyway.
Give your children regular breaks but encourage them to look out the window at something far away. Let them ride their cycles or play with friends. You can even enrol them in a sports class to help them with physical activities.
Allow them their imagination. Listen to their fanciful tales. Let them express their creativity through art. And let them interact and play with other children.
Remember childhood comes just once and school, although a big part of it, is not the only part of it.
Never Too Old to Learn
These were the lessons I learnt from Mrs. Das. And I only wish that I had a teacher like her in my school days. Her insights as a teacher have really helped me understand so much about my own relationship with my child.
The way she explains or speaks takes me back to my school days when my teacher would share a valuable life lesson with the class.
I have tried to capture the valuable lessons Mrs. Das shared with me in this blog so I can go back to it; also so it may help other parents as well.
To her, I can say, ‘Thank You, Miss’.