Have you tried teaching a three-year-old child at home? I have a 3.5 year old grandson who was going to pre-KG until the lockdown happened. He would have been in LKG if not for the continued shutdown of schools.
While online learning material is available, either recorded or live, it has not been easy to get a 3.5 year old to keep up his focus and attention for too long.
So, I embarked on an effort to start teaching him about some fundamental concepts which I thought would be interesting to him. I probably was overzealous, as I started by trying to explain to him with a globe in my hand. I thought I would be able to impress upon him the enormity of the earth, point at the location we live in, the relative distances, etc. I assumed that since he is fairly well travelled for his age, he would be able to comprehend some fundamental aspects of the earth.
I realised how difficult it was to hold his attention span for a long time, and I quickly realised that I was floundering and not articulating at the cognitive levels of a 3+ year old child. I am not a teacher, and I particularly have no experience in teaching school children.
Slowly, it started to sink in on the challenges of articulating and communication with a young child. And then I started to think about the teachers in schools who work with young children, and my mind started to appreciate the challenges and the skills that the teachers who engage with young children have.
With lockdowns and social distancing norms being in place, the kids don’t get to meet and interact with children of the same age, and that is detrimental to their development of social skills unless they have siblings, and may be a joint family with many children in the same age bracket.
The culture of nuclear families, and the single child syndrome, does not help either. They don’t learn to share, and also don’t learn to lose. And as they get older they have to face the challenges that life can throw at them when they least expect it. The seeding of thoughts and early beginnings of such a belief system probably starts around the age of 4 yrs? I don’t know. Most parents will not know enough. We have to prepare them for a long haul and the new normal.
Parent education is a definite requirement, and they have to learn how to participate and moderate their children’s learning and assessments. Parent education and engagement will also have to happen online. I wonder how many schools are doing it!
I am a big advocate of online learning and assessments, and have spent more than twenty years building an EdTech business. I understand how it works for higher age groups. While during the peak of the COVID crisis it has been entirely online, everybody expects that the new normal will be an appropriate blend of EdTech and the traditional face-to-face teaching-learning processes. The stakeholders will have to discover the right blend, as it has to align with the age group, education environment, socio-economic factors, infrastructure, the opinion makers and thought leaders in this space, and of course the key stakeholders: educators, parents and students.
The teachers no doubt will have assistants, but the care for the personal hygiene of these young children, their wellness, being sensitive to their family backgrounds, and being answerable to their parents, are never easy. It requires special people to make this happen. Working from home, and trying to kind of do homeschooling for my grandchild, I realised how homeschooling could work: the positives of it, and the challenges.
Most importantly, the teachers would have to exercise extraordinary patience, friendliness, trust, and responsibility. I am bewildered at how they manage it, and how they are trained to do it. Obviously they are bound to be driven by passion, and love for children.
My respect for them increased multifold, and I now know I have a lot to learn from them.