The current social setting makes some students stressed and nervous about what their fate is going to be. Will education change significantly for these students? There are many unanswered questions at the moment. Teachers of English or any other subjects must meet culturally and socially diverse students and the anxiety they are facing and how that anxiety affects student learning. How as educators you can help alleviate some of the fear and anxiety that your students face? Regardless of our political affiliations or our stances on issues facing the world today, as educators it is our responsibility to ensure that the students feel safe in the classroom.While we may not be able to immediately change outside social and political factors, there are several steps we can take in our own classrooms to ensure that classroom is safe, caring and nurturing to them as human beings. First of all, as students are asking questions about what is currently happening in the society, we should be honest about the facts we know. It is important to be as objective as possible and share the facts we are aware of when students ask question about what is currently happening around them and in the world. Tell them this has not been created immediately. This is the result of many years negligence towards honesty and moral education. They need not be frustrated, rather they are the generation who can bring about changes in the society after receiving moral education which will help them identify between right and wrong things. Tell them whatever they learn, developing fellow feeling and trying to do good to human beings must be given topmost priority to establish a peaceful society.
Utilise current events as a source for reading and writing. Students can read articles about what is going on, analyse the opinions and evidence for arguments being presented, and use those to build opinion or argument writing pieces. It is always important to remember that even though students may feel anxious, in our classrooms, we can provide a space that is safe for them to take risks, a space that is loving and respectful, a place that has a predictable routine that focuses on learning and helping students to be the best they can be. Create such an environment where they feel that classroom is the most suitable place to learn the wrongs and rights of the society and also this is the place where they can share and express their opinion freely. As a teacher you should ensure that their free opinions are not criticized by the classmates. These will help them develop their fluency, ability to speak, art of speaking, how to respect the opinions of others, time management and how to address something in a special situation.
Sometimes just having someone hear us is helpful when we are nervous, anxious or have had negative experiences. While we may not always have the same concerns, level of anxiety or fears as our students, having a trusted person like a teacher, school counselor or administrator listen to concerns and experiences can be a powerful way to help students feel acknowledged and safe. May be that a student is mentally affected by some untoward incidents which he/she cannot express to anybody and things are causing pain in his/her heart and bosom. He/she just needs to share it with others to get relief. If as a teacher you can identify that kind of student in the class and ensure him/her that you are the person with whom she/he can share the feeling safely, it will give him/her a special kind of healing influence .
Change is uncomfortable, and when changes occur in law or policy, it can create division based on what people believe is right or wrong. By sharing the concerns, fears, anxieties and experiences of your students, you may be able to add a personal touch to real issues that are affecting the community. This is not to say that it is your job to change people’s beliefs, ideas or ways of thinking. Changes are inevitable in our lives, and sometimes changes are challenging. When changes are difficult for our students, as educators we may be able to support our students and make their lives just a little bit easier, a little bit better.
It’s important to balance students’ questions and concerns about the violence that’s happening in the country and around the world with a sense of hope and the feeling that they have the ability to change the world for the better – in small or big ways. In an increasingly interconnected world, educators play a key role in broadening a student’s horizons from his or her own backyard to the world community. It is not unlikely that the same class will accommodate the students from a financially very rich family and the source of that riches is absolutely illegal such as bribe or cheating people and from a family of purely honest income. It is also very common that many students come to class by their own cars whereas many come on foot, some by rickshaw. Naturally, a divisive situation develops there which as a teacher you cannot change. But you cannot afford to give extra importance to those who come by car and whose guardians are very powerful. It will seriously affect the mental situation of other students. When you teach those powerful or rich students privately, it becomes awfully difficult for you to show neutral treatment. Still you have the scope to show neutral behaviour. You must show it for the sake of your profession and individual respect, as you are the guardian of all sorts of students. You must know how to balance your behaviour in this situation keeping in mind that teaching only academic subjects is not the only duty of a teacher of these days.
(The writer works as an education specialist in BRAC Education who worked formerly in Cadet Colleges and Rajuk College)