CHENNAI: As schools reopen for kindergarten and primary classes, teachers and caregivers say they are facing challenges in restoring "order" among students. Having remained at home for the better part of the last two years, children are finding it hard to mingle or even make basic conversation, they say.
"During online classes, we interact with the kids for hardly 45 minutes a day, speaking to more than 20 at once. Now, in school, some of them find it difficult to even make eye contact with us. We are giving them time to settle," says Sobha Rani, a primary class teacher at a private school in Velachery.
Some students, especially those whose parents are working, find it hard to make conversation, say teachers. "Many people returned to their offices after the second wave, leaving their children (alone) at home. Having nobody to interact with, these kids either watched TV or used mobile phones. This is what most of them said when asked how they spend time at home. Lack of social interaction has led to this," explains Krithi Das, a teacher from Nungambakkam.
Many students missed having a regular routine, friends and family, and a social life. Psychiatrists say if parents and teachers put in the effort, the children will be back to normal in a couple of months.
"Many children did not even go to birthday parties or family gatherings during the pandemic. It can be overwhelming to see many people in school. At home, parents must talk to their children about the environment at school, other students, and teachers, so they know what to expect. Parents need not worry if children don’t interact. We need to give them space to get accustomed," says Dr R Vasanth, a consultant psychiatrist.
'Accustomed to using phones and watching TV'
With nobody at home to interact with, children spent their time either watching TV or using mobile phones, said a teacher, adding that this has made them face difficulties in interacting with teachers and other children