Staying focused virtually

Educator and students on coping with anxiety in the classroom in the pandemic

For a second consecutive school year, students and teachers are engaged in learning in front of a computer screen in some form or fashion. With many students and teachers interacting via an electronic device, a certain amount of anxiety is expected by students, parents, teachers and administrators. Joya Cash was one of many school administrators who noted how anxious teachers were during the advent of COVID-19 and the intimidation they felt because they were not tech-savvy to the resulting use of technology to accommodate learning on the virtual platform. This year, after intense technical training, Cash said teachers believe they are equipped for virtual learning.

“I am definitely certain that the teachers are equipped for virtual learning,” said Cash, vice principal at Stephen Dillett Primary School.

“Last year, we had to start off from scratch, but this year, from the technical side of things, we are equipped, starting off at an advantage.

“Last year, teachers were intimidated by the unknown. This year, it is not unknown anymore. Now that we have the technical side down, teachers are focusing on student engagement – you have to get the students excited. You have to get them to want to come to class and engage. This is what we are focusing on now, but we are ready.”

Many educators, she said, are now more confident in navigating the digital world of today.

But not only did educators face challenges, so did many students.

Gabrielle Wilson, 10, a fifth-grade student at Southside Academy, said at the start of virtual learning in 2020, her biggest concern was not having the teacher physically in front of her, to ask questions of, especially if she did not understand something. She acknowledges that even though she’s not in the actual classroom, she sometimes does not feel motivated to do school work, and has to force herself to get started.

At the same token, the honor roll student, who had a 3.80 grade point average (GPA) at the end of the last school year, said there is a plus side to virtual learning.

“I like that I am able to learn from the safety of home with less distractions while I am doing my assignments and I can work at my own pace.”

Her parents, Nadia and Stephen Johnson, were concerned that virtual learning would cause feelings of isolation that would affect their daughter’s ability to learn. They were also concerned about creating an academic environment at home that would make it easier for her to transition from her home atmosphere to a school mentality.

To reduce Gabrielle’s anxiety, Nadia said they worked to keep her feelings of isolation to a minimum.

“We keep an open dialogue with her about her feelings. We help her to stay in touch with her friends, virtually. We try to be present, patient and understanding, and be as helpful as possible,” said Nadia.

They also adhere to a schedule for school the same as if Gabrielle was preparing for in-person learning.

“We wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and then gather all the school materials we need to get started.”

Jayda Jack, 14, and her brother, Jayvin, 11, also have challenges they have learned to overcome.

Jayda Jack.

Jayda, a 10th-grade student at Anatol Rodgers, said her challenge is staying focused during class since students and teachers are not required to turn on their cameras, which makes her feel disengaged at times.

The 3.25 GPA student said she overcomes the hurdle by praying before class starts to help her concentrate. She takes notes during class and stays involved by participating in class activities. Sitting in a comfortable chair with suitable lighting and dressing in her school uniform, she said, helps to put her in the frame of mind that she is at school.

Jayvin’s challenges are in dealing with the power outages, device issues, unmuted microphones with excessive background noises and the effect the screen has on his eyes. With all of that going on, he said he tries to remedy it by focusing on the positive.

“I like using the computer, so online learning allows me to practice some skills like using shortcuts to do different things,” said the 3.00 student at Garvin Tynes Primary School.

Their parents, Theda and Alvin Jack, were anxious about the possible effects on their children as a result of long hours in front of a computer screen.

“The children eventually developed headaches which lasted hours and then days,” said their father.

The Jacks remedied the situation by taking their children who wear glasses for eye examinations to ensure they had the correct lenses and to rule out any ocular issues.

They encouraged their children to take breaks during class by looking away from the screen for short periods while still listening attentively. They also discouraged them from using their devices after class for recreational use and to engage in outdoor activities.

“All devices are turned off and as a family, we go walking at least two days per week. This has helped them to feel better physically and have a good sleep at night,” said Alvin.

While virtual learning may present some challenges, parents and their school-aged children are urged to focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

The Johnsons and the Jacks like that, due to virtual learning, there is a decreased risk of their children contracting the COVID-19 virus. There are less distractions, students work under less pressure allowing for greater flexibility and virtual learning improves their technical skills. They said the challenges of peer pressure and bullying are also reduced.

While the pandemic might have heightened anxieties, the Johnsons and the Jacks have not overlooked other challenges children may face today such as bullying, peer pressure, making good friends, avoiding bad associations, video game addiction, and the danger of chat rooms, which they said are only some of the issues that threaten the well-being of children today.

One of their favorite resources is a free website, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where they have found articles on “How To Deal With Isolation”, “Help Your Children To Deal With Disturbing News Reports”, and “How To Beat Pandemic Fatigue”, helpful.

Gabrielle especially recommends the section designed for children with articles, videos, songs and activities that she said help her deal with situations she may face at home or at school. In addition, topics such as “What’s a Real Friend?” and “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” are addressed in a video series designed for young people.  

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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