‘My focus will be on easing my fears and those of my students and doing anything that assists our mental and physical health’ (Cohan, 2020).
Without doubt, teachers and school students have been through a lot from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and, as schools re-open, there is a growing feeling of uncertainties by all school stakeholders about the wellbeing of students and their teachers. Studies have shown that teachers’ and students’ wellbeing directly impact the school climate and students’ learning outcomes. Since this is the case, there is the need for teachers and students as major school actors to keep safe by looking after each other’s health and wellbeing as a precursor for successful curriculum implementation.
Not surprisingly, the awareness shared above aligns with teacher educators and pre-service teachers who find themselves in a new and challenging space with respect to envisaging, and preparing for, the likely prolonged changes to schooling that will determine what effective teaching is as a consequence of Covid-19. It is expected that teacher education programmes will be challenged with similar uncertainties as those being experienced by schools.
We share some principles for consideration in looking out for each other’s wellbeing regardless of being a teacher, a school student, a teacher educator or pre-service teacher.
1. Shared responsibility in ensuring the safety of the entire school or university community
We all need to be deliberate in upholding guidelines such as regular hand washing, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing of protective nose and mouth coverings. There is a shared responsibility across all stakeholders to not only care for themselves but also for others and to lead by example with respect to modeling what has been deemed the most effective practice of reducing the spread of Covid-19.
2. Heightened need for teachers and teacher educators to make a concerted effort to connect with their students or preservice teachers
While Covid-19 has identifiable symptoms, there is a multitude of Covid-19 related mental health issues (experienced by everyone, regardless of being diagnosed with Covid-19) that all stakeholders need to be conscious of and open to discussing where and when appropriate. Teachers and teacher educators need to ensure there is an opportunity to listen to student and preservice teacher realities of living through the pandemic, especially those from less privileged backgrounds who may be disadvantaged with respect to not only gaining access to school or university but also in working through remote means, with the latter relying on having access to broadband and a laptop / computer. Providing a safe space for sharing of concerns will allow teachers and teacher educators to provide and/or recommend necessary support.
3. An appreciation for adaptability and flexibility
Adjustments will have to be made in many areas including remote teaching and learning, modified or revised curricula, physical distancing, and new pedagogic and assessment techniques. A shared understanding between all stakeholders of the realities of education throughout the pandemic is important and leads to suggesting a strengthening of the teacher-student / teacher educator-preservice teacher communication. Some teachers / teacher educators may be struggling with their virtual teaching skillset while students / preservice teachers might be struggling to engage with online learning due to distractions and lack of motivation. We would hope that through open communication, stakeholders can provide the professional and emotional support needed to overcome their respective struggles.
The common thread across the three principles we share here is honesty and transparency between each of the stakeholders with respect to how we are dealing with, and processing, the realities of Covid-19. This can be modelled by teachers and teacher educators continuing to share their day to day and/or weekly intentions with students and preservice teachers as regards their own learning and experiences and how this is affecting their planning, preparation and teaching. This modeling support Cohan’s (2020) intentions that, in doing so, we are ‘trying to convey to students the importance of early and direct communication, our shared humanity, my [our] own sense of vulnerability, and the need for self-care’.
Cohan (2020) What do we need to teach now? https://insidehighered.com/advice/2020/03/20/beyond-focusing-educational-delivery-models-faculty-should-prioritize-essential
Samuel O. Babalola is a member of the Department of Arts and Social Sciences Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Samuel’s interests are in the areas of curriculum and instructional design, teaching and learning for sustainability, teacher education and out-of-class skills development in higher education for graduates’ employment placement. Contact: email@example.com
Ann MacPhail is a member of the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences and Assistant Dean Research in the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Ann’s interests are aligned to teacher education and specifically how to most effectively prepare pre-service teachers and the professional learning needs of teacher educators. Contact: Ann.MacPhail@ul.ie; ResearchGate: twitter: @AnnMacPhail1