Bye-bye 2020, Hello 2021!!!

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा.

“2020 was supposed to be my year, I was supposed to accomplish a lot of things but 2020 taught me to appreciate all the things I have,” we recently read this somewhere. Isn’t this what we are thinking at this point? 2020 taught us that we are facing the same storm but we are all in different boats, fighting the same virus and dealing with rather difficult and different situations. Situations we never thought we might have to encounter. 

This year everyone has had their shares of challenges be it students, teachers, caregivers, or employees and each one of them has had their unique ways of resolving them. At Apni Shala, we experienced our own battles and struggled with the new Normal. We were resolving them in the best way we could in the process uncovered that knowing and understanding Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has helped us cope with all these challenges in a much resilient way.  

In this article, we share our stories with the current situation and how our faith in SEL deepened, which led us to strengthen it even more through different media and sources. 

“What currently keeps me up at night is the thought that too many students are living in neglect. The fact that our students and their families don’t have access to basic needs.”

As facilitators of the School SEL Programme, we build Social Emotional Learning (SEL) spaces. In the classroom, we used to interact with the students, have discussions on different topics such as Conflict, Responsibility, and Teamwork, conduct experiential activities, and use different modalities such as role-plays, small group discussions, videos, and arts for them to fully express themselves. When lockdown happened, everything suddenly stopped. Our students’ parents were stuck at home. When their earnings stopped and the situation became difficult, one of the Apni Shala team members shared an idea of supporting our caregivers with information on different ration distributors and other support schemes, while we did that we also engaged with the caregivers through phone-based emotional support. While doing these calls we figured and witnessed that unknowing caregivers are using different SEL competencies which they were not even aware of like Self-Management in terms of managing stressful situations at home and how they were rather able to devise different ways for their well-being.

The present situation can be viewed as a wake-up call for all of us to re-imagine how our education systems should support psychosocial well-being.

During the lockdown, all of us faced situations that we weren’t prepared for. My family and I had to face a similar situation when we lost a close family member due to Covid-19. We had never thought that we might have to witness this and as a family didn’t know how to process the grief. One of the biggest challenges was that due to the lockdown we were unable to meet people or share our feelings. We weren’t able to physically interact or even meet our immediate family. We had some sort of understanding to process this due to the learning we have about SEL. I was able to cope with my emotions, thoughts, and feelings. This incident made us wonder how our school students might deal with such drastic emotional upheavals. Our education system doesn’t create opportunities for students to share and talk about their feelings or their emotions which is of utmost importance given the times we are in. Opening up the floor for such discussions can help students become emotionally resilient and display empathy. 

“During the pandemic, teachers have shown resilience since they rapidly adapted to the new ways of the virtual world and immediately shifted their classrooms from physical to online.”

For many years teachers were used to taking their lessons in the classroom with students. Due to the lockdown, teachers were compelled to begin their classes online. Learning a new skill in a short period, being able to connect with all the students, and maintain the quality of education are big challenges for teachers. In spite of all challenges, teachers gave their 100% to learn different skills. Teachers started their day early by sending reminders on WhatsApp to all caregivers for them to be able to get their children ready for classes and ended their day by suggesting different solutions to particular challenges faced by students academically or with the virtual classroom techniques. 

“Teachers’ involvement is critical because they have a window into how students apply social and emotional learning skills in real-world situations.” 

At Apni Shala, we engage with our school teachers through campaigns to spread awareness about mental health and for them to develop a vocabulary around Social-Emotional Learning. We believe that teachers spend maximum time with students and they understand them so much better, know their strengths and limitations. In such times, we realized that it was necessary for us to capacitate our teachers in order for them to be able to deal with the crisis that is faced by our students. We had sessions with our teachers on self-care, mental health, and how they could extend emotional support to the families in need. During one of the sessions, we asked the teachers, “are students able to be at home as they were with their siblings and caregivers all the time?” The teacher responded, “one of the students told me every time she is angry she remembers what she had learned in the Apni Shala class about how to control her anger and she drinks cold water or just sits in silence when she is angry.” Such instances make us believe that SEL helps the child regulate their emotions and also be aware of them at the same time. 

“It is essential for schools and leadership to make SEL to be taught to children and an intentional professional development for SEL to be imparted to teachers.” 

As an organization working on preventive and promotive mental health, we believe that Social Emotional Learning is one of the biggest ways in which this can be achieved. We have witnessed teachers share their stories of how they have found it difficult to adjust to the change and they wonder how difficult it would have been for their students, there have been conversations as be began online schools sessions where our teachers and HMs have asked us to not just take sessions with the 6th and 5th graders but with all the grades in school. The pandemic has in a way helped everyone to see the importance of SEL in their lives and what kind of a difference it can bring about. We believe that Social Emotional Learning is a tool that will benefit everyone in the long run and will be even more useful if it is started at a young age. 

While we reflect on these experiences from 2020, we are reminded of several Wellbeing Jugaads (ways of doing) to deal with different situations in different ways. As the Apni Shala team – be it our colleagues, students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders, we have been exploring these jugaads to respond to this crisis with all the compassion and resilience. As we enter a new calendar year, we share with some of the things that have worked for us:

1) Track your achievement with a journal. Include a few things you were able to accomplish each day. Narrative Practises talk about how one can celebrate small things and not only big achievements for example it can be as small as if you were able to take an online session without any interruption is an achievement in it

2) Work on your strengths. Do something you’re good at to build self-confidence, then tackle a tougher task. As we use this for ourselves, we as teachers can do the same for our students, since we know their strengths, we can work towards them, and help students break down the tasks so that can instill confidence in them.

3) Go off the grid. Leave your phones for a day and disconnect from constant emails, alerts, and other interruptions. Spend time doing something fun with someone or just spend time with yourself. This is something all of us need to do with all the negativity that surrounds us. It is important for us to center ourselves and ground our thoughts. 

4) Has something been bothering you? Let it all out…on paper. Writing about upsetting experiences can help vent out what you are feeling. You might always not need someone in front of you to express what you feel, you can use paints, crayons, and a canvas to put across your thoughts and feelings. 

5) Practice forgiveness – in such times, everyone is going through their own battles and struggles, when you are compassionate, and forgiving it opens spaces of empathy and builds stronger relations. It is said that people who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives. 

6) “What appears to be calamities are often the sources of fortune.” – Disraeli. By this, we mean that it is important for us to have a positive attitude towards things and situations, while we are in a situation that we have no control we might discover a talent we never thought we had or brush the hidden skills we had lost as we weren’t able to find time for ourselves. So find your silver lining.

7) Send a thank-you note – express gratitude to all those who have supported you, been there for you, let your loved ones know why you appreciate them. When we express gratitude or receive gratitude our brain is filled with Dopamine which makes us happy

8) Get enough sleep – Good sleep is essential for us to function well. When you don’t sleep enough, your sleep-deprived brain tends to recall fewer positive memories and a higher number of negative memories. Hence, when there is a difficult situation or a stressful decision that needs to be taken elders usually say “Sleep on it.” 

With this, we invite you to join us in welcoming 2021 with a lot of hope, love, care, and compassion, and consider:

> How can all of us be a mental health ambassador for our children and communities?

>How are we now going to create possibilities for our children to learn, grow, and thrive in an ever-changing world? 

About the authors: 

Krutika Khare, as Programme Lead with Apni Shala, facilitates Social Emotional Learning with students, educators, and parents in a variety of settings. She manages the Government School Partnerships and leads the design of SEL in the ecosystems with the programmes team. Krutika holds a Bachelors in Psychology and an Advanced Diploma in Counseling. 

Mayuri Golambde, Senior Programme Manager, leads the operations for School SEL Programmes. She also heads the partnerships with MGCM and supports the government liasoning for SEL at various levels. Mayuri is a Gandhi Fellow and holds a Bachelor of Arts. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work.

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