When Covid-19 hit, little did Titeeksha know that the teaching routines she had painstakingly established with her college students for the past two years would be disrupted overnight.
The months that followed the first lockdown announcement were an overwhelming period for everyone. Titeeksha recalls how most of her final-year college students were experiencing stress and anxiety about their health, looming examination dates, and an uncertain future. ‘The pandemic caused disruption not only to learning routines but also to my learners’ emotional state’, observes Titeeksha.
‘My students were required to meet for online lectures regularly. More than their lessons, however, they were interested to know how they could make sense of this unprecedented time in their lives.’ Titeeksha thus realised that the need of the hour was to be emotionally sensitive and culturally responsive to her students by paying attention to their emotions and behaviours.
She decided to use WhatsApp’s group feature to reach out to her students. ‘I felt it was more important than ever to create a safe space, even a digital one, for my students to share what they were going through’, adds Titeeksha.
She also encouraged her learners to create guidelines and norms for having safe and mindful conversations around their hopes, worries, and fears. ‘I began conducting simple think-pair-share activities. Students asked their partners questions like, How are you feeling today? or What are you most excited about today?’ Her efforts helped the students feel in control of their emotions and more focused and ready for learning in the classroom.
Inspired by her journey with her students, Titeeksha decided to explore further and enrolled in online courses that further skilled her in various aspects of Social and emotional learning (SEL).
Later in the year, when Titeeksha joined the British Council’s English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE) project as an Academic Coordinator, she could transfer her learnings and experience to the 23 EDGE clubs running throughout the country. ‘After ensuring British Council safeguarding procedures were in place, my manager and I trained and empowered the Peer Group Leaders to create a WhatsApp community for their adolescent club members. This ensured that all the participants in the project felt safe sharing their views, learnings, and successes and ultimately even encouraged peer learning’, recalls Titeeksha.
Looking forward, Titeeksha plans to use her lessons from the pandemic to establish socially and emotionally safe learning environments for all of her future training. ‘After all, learners will continue to define themselves and learn within the emotionally safe spaces that we create in the classrooms. The first step towards creating a healthy and safe learning environment begins with connecting with our learners,’ concludes Titeeksha.
What are your lessons from the pandemic? Please write to us at TeachEnglish.India@britishcouncil.org.