'This new way of life': Teachers share how kids have adapted to Covid-19 learning

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"Having to separate them was a big adjustment."
"Having to separate them was a big adjustment."
  • The Covid-19 pandemic is harming the health, social and material well-being of children worldwide
  • Children are missing out on socialisation, which is an important part of your child's development
  • Children seem to be adjusting well to Covid-19 as protocols become second-nature 

Young children are growing up in a world where they have to wear masks to school and sanitise constantly - does this scare them? No, say these teachers.

'This new way of life is all that they know now'

"Children have adjusted well to all the new Covid-19 routines and are really very resilient. They were nervous and quite emotional in the beginning but… this has all now become part of their lives," says Tracey Sutton, a 41-year-old kindergarten teacher from Cape Town.

Small children thrive on social engagement and being able to play with each other, so having to separate them was a big adjustment, says Tracey. It's now a part of their routine. 

"Parents were also an important part of this by reassuring the children and helping them understand why we had to do this," says Tracey.

When it came to wearing masks at school, sometimes the kids needed a little help, but it has become second nature to them noways, says 26-year-old Andrea Meyer. 

"It was difficult in the beginning when it was all still new and we had to wear masks during the school day.  I had to remind the children every so often, but the children adapted well and there are not many issues regarding this," says the Grade Three teacher. "We still make it a weekly conversation about the importance of wearing masks and sanitising, just to emphasise that it not only protects them, but others around them as well."

Ann McLean, 33, who teaches Grade Two, says that kids are more adaptable and empathetic than we think. 

"They understand the impact that Covid has had on their daily lives. Some family members have lost jobs and had to move back in with grandparents and the children can feel and see it," she says.

"I don't think that some of them remember coming to school without a mask on. My group of learners only had one term (3 months) in Grade One as a full class before the pandemic. This new way of life is all that they know now."

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'This was very difficult'

"At the beginning of the pandemic when the country went into lockdown, we did classes over Zoom and sent home themed creative art packs and booklets. This was very difficult with younger children as it can be hard to keep them engaged over a computer screen. I found it challenging as I have been a teacher since 2003 and adapting to online teaching was a completely different concept," says Tracey.

For Andrea, there were so many things on her mind. 

"Thinking about how something like a pandemic may affect the children one thinks about their academic/social/emotional progress, the curriculum that needs to be taught, the weaker academic child who cannot afford to miss teaching time and the admin that all still needs to be completed, add a pandemic to that mix, panic and stress become the main emotion," says Andrea. 

Ann says that 'teacher burnout' is a real thing she's experienced during this pandemic. 

"Before the pandemic, my main worries were educating my class and making sure that I ticked all the boxes at the end of the year. Now, we have been given more admin work to complete to deal with Covid-19 and isolation, etc. Each day there is something new added to our plates and we are supposed to just do it, and this without an increase in over two years. The struggle is real, and I fear that some talented teachers are going to move overseas or look for other avenues of work just so that they can afford the basic things of life," she says. 

A part of the curriculum

Tracey, who has a class of four- and five-year-olds, says there was complaining initially about having to wash their hands constantly, but it's now a part of their curriculum and kids are used to it now.

There were lots of stories about the virus and how to keep germs away, as well as songs on how to wash hands and keep safe. 

"My class, being the older class caught onto this quite quickly and often remind each other now about being safe and keeping our distance," says Tracey. 

Andrea says: "We have done activities and booklets where it is all explained and where they have the chance to express how they are feeling. This then helps me with knowing what needs to be reinforced or how to handle a child that may be feeling unsure about Covid and keeping safe."

Andrea makes sure that they are constantly having discussions as a class about how to protect everyone. Kids most often ask questions when they learn that someone they know has Covid-19. 

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Parents need to help their kids not be scared

Andrea says she has seen instances where kids are scared of the virus because of things they hear from their parents, but they don't know how to express it. She's also seen where parents are rather laid back about their approach to Covid-19 and so their children are too. 

"I think it is important that children are made aware of the situation and are kept up-to-date/spoken to about it every now and then - to reinforce the idea that Covid is here, and although we want everybody to be as safe as possible, there are instances where it may be scary (like losing a family/friend) but not making them fearful about enjoying their childhood," she says. 

Ann had to deal with a lot of anxious parents when it came to Covid-19 protocols at school. 

"They wanted to check everything and constantly sent me messages saying that they were anxious because they had elderly family members at home and members with comorbidities etc. The children of these moms were also very anxious and it took a while for them to feel comfortable in the classroom again," says Ann.

It seems that young kids aren't as scared of the pandemic as we think they are, as long as the adults in their lives are constantly communicating about Covid-19 and what they need to do to keep themselves and their friends safe. 


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