I previously wrote about the fact that teaching is, in part, an emotional activity, and that the absence or diminution of connectedness between teachers and students triggered by covid, particularly when remote instruction was necessary, has left both groups feeling less fulfilled and more exhausted. Pre-covid, “Each day, in every classroom, there are thousands of human-to-human interactions. With words land smiles and open arms, teachers and children seek to communicate. And in doing so, a teacher can connect with children in ways that allow sharing, soothing, and learning.” However, covid has significantly affected the atmospheric conditions in the classroom even as students and teachers have returned to in-person instruction this year. As a result, the danger remains that ”… there can be no communication if the instructive words are not heard, the tender touch is unfelt, and the admiring gaze is unseen.”
The importance of students being emotionally “held” by teachers and the mutual give-and-take between teachers and students that enliven the process of learning for both participants cannot be underestimated nor can its’ disruption. Students’ and teachers’ motivation is linked to the competence they experience, and to the prospect of success or the feasibility of achieving it. If this prospect is lacking, they will in general try to avoid their task… (Luc Stevens, van Werkhoven and Castelijns,2001).
As educators, parents, and students race to make up for time lost in delivering and receiving instruction, it is most important that we pay close attention to the state of the relationships between the participants/stakeholders in the process of teaching and learning. Impasses have occurred when many fine students (and teachers) have experienced a loss of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and anger at having their lives disrupted in such a significant way during covid. These impasses resulted from a loss of or withdrawal of connection as each attempted to make their best effort to cope. Fixing the connections involves a rekindling of the good feelings each held for the other in the past.
What does this entail? Perhaps the approach is to navigate the challenge of hurrying up while slowing down sufficiently so that connections can be nurtured. Good feelings result in good endings. This means a return to the age-old practice of listening and being accurately emotionally responsive by making time for questions, comments, and objections. Teachers must exhibit a readiness to be available to students, to focus on students’ competencies, to avoid criticisms and judgments, and to challenges students to take an active part in their education.
While all of this may be considered good teaching, it is needed more than ever now. Administrators, too, need to support teachers in the above endeavors by recognizing their needs and giving an ear to them, and providing them with the supports they need to keep on going and doing their important job.