Welcome to the new academic year, 2021-22. A brand new year, full of excitement, motivation, hope and joy.
When the world as a whole was put into unprecedented times with the pandemic last year, we, as humanity, rose to the occasion. Every individual, family, organization, school, university and country did their best at every level to adapt quickly and stay afloat. The saying “the show has to go on” had not assumed a deeper and all-encompassing meaning ever before.
Even as medical practitioners and other frontline workers scrambled to save lives risking their own, medical research organizations got on a war-footing to develop vaccines, and governments tried to balance healthcare and economy by implementing total and partial lockdowns, there was a second outbreak. One step forward, two steps back! Schools, colleges and businesses had to be shut down again.
The decision to open schools is a complex one, often rendering policymakers, school administrators, parents, and teachers in circuitous debates about lost opportunities and managed risks. Children’s health as well as that of the community are paramount to the discussion, along with the long-term consequences on their wellbeing and learning losses, and the exacerbation of inequalities that hurt the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Context specific decisions pose a challenge to seamless administration and monitoring.
As the debate and efforts roll forward, it should be noted that the return of students to physical classrooms this year on a global scale remains an exception than a norm, as over one billion students all over the world are still impacted by school closures and may not see their classrooms for some time. This could have detrimental impact on students’ learning, and accumulation of human capital across countries.
One unique aspect of this year’s restrictions is the sense of deja vu – the ‘oh no, not again’ feeling that comes with experiencing something dreadful second time around. It could easily be a negative – the familiar dread, the lowered tolerance, the feeling of an indefinite cycle – but let us spin the wheel the other way.
This time, it is more familiar. We have done it before, we can do it again- faster, better and happier.
‘We should absolutely sweat the small stuff’, says a leading psychologist, ‘because the big stuff lies well beyond our grasp’. He makes a reference to a coaching tool called the ‘Circle of Control’. The participants are asked to draw a circle and fill it with all the things they can control, before writing the ones they can’t, around the edges. Two things become evident from this exercise. First, that there is still quite a lot under our control; second, we should not worry about what we cannot control. For example, what the government will do next or a spike in cases are not in our control, but prioritizing what physical activity we plan for the day or what we want to have for lunch is well within ours.
We, at Hari Shree, feel excited and motivated to begin this year on a note of positivity – more prepared, adaptable and in control. We call upon the student, teacher and parent communities to join hands and make it a celebration- a celebration of Positivity, Potential, Planning, Power and Progress – our five Ps, all of these culminating in effective learning. At the core, let us change the basic idea, take time in our hands and decide on creative ways to use it, make learning our focus, rate ourselves on cohesion and collaboration and use the day’s data to plan the next. At a higher level, let us accept uncertainty and disappointments, focus on what we can control, establish self-regulated routines, communicate often and openly, seek support – whenever needed and celebrate joyful learning.