Covid-19 and its impact on schooling, teaching and wellbeing

At The Helmsman Project we ensure we are across the latest research and insights within the positive education space. COVID 19 has had and is continuing to have a significant and substantial impact on the education of billions of students around the globe. Schools have been closed and teachers have had to develop remote educational experiences and content, almost overnight, using new and at times unfamiliar online technologies . In some schools, this has not even been possible as students lack access to the necessary technology to engage with this type of learning.

The role of education in the evolution of individuals cannot be understated. It is intricately linked to the healthy flourishing of our youth and we cannot  segregate  wellbeing from learning: learning is ‘wellbeing’. Furthermore, education occurs everywhere. The compartmentalisation of education away from the family unit and exclusively into schools is a relatively recent and novel development originating from the industrial revolution. COVID-19 has reunited separated domains. Teachers, students and parents  have been working closer together than ever before and parents have a new appreciation of the role of the educator. We need to foster these new bridges  and ensure all three stakeholders are genuinely and effectively engaged in the learning process.

Teachers have also gained a greater understanding of their students' lives.  Teaching and communicating over online platforms  has given teachers an unprecedented glimpse into the home lives of their students.These insights are giving all three stakeholders a much stronger contextual understanding of each other’s circumstances leading to greater rapport and joint construction of the learning experience for the student, a happenstance more reflective of how education worked for thousands of years prior to the industrial revolution.

In our years of experience at The Helmsman Project, we’ve witnessed how having a student-teacher-parent collaboration built on trust and respect is paramount to facilitating young people’s learning. We need more professional development for our teachers geared towards facilitating these bonds. Behaviour management strategies need to be more nuanced than the current reliance on online scoreboards Teachers need to be given the emotional literacy to better support student mental wellbeing. The ability to self-regulate was also highlighted during the webinar as a crucial skill that led many kids to still succeed during the challenges of COVID-19. Self-regulation does not come naturally to everyone, however it can be taught and developed within an individual. Psychoeducation and professional development for our teachers that explicitly covers self-regulation is critical to helping them to support student wellbeing, as well as their own.

In performance psychology, the Performance Pyramid (Loher and Schwartz) has physical capacity, followed by emotional capacity, as the first two levels that need to be addressed before we can start building mental capacities. We believe at The Helmsman Project that more focus within our education system should be given to learning essential life skills and supporting student wellbeing. The current predominance given to assessments and teaching of curriculum can be unsupportive of students’ emotional needs, and especially those who are experiencing all sorts of challenges in their lives. If wellbeing and life skills were given greater priority in  student development, it could result in less discipline and more learning. Teachers are already fantastic educators, but we need to give them the time in and out of the classroom to foster these skills and develop these proficiencies to help them enhance student wellbeing and learning.

“Never waste a good crisis” is a phrase applicable within the education space today. We can use the experiences of the COVID-19 crisis to reflect on what we have learned during this watershed moment and reinvent the educational endeavour. COVID-19 has highlighted something we seem to have forgotten: that teaching and learning is built on relationships, particularly the relationship triad between student, teacher and parent. If we find ways to foster these relationships, post COVID-19, we will be doing our children, and our communities  a great service.

Matthew Robinson

Starting in 2015 Matthew has coached on every iteration of The Helmsman Projects Adventure program, incluiding the Sailing Program, the Outward Bound Program and the more recent OEG collaboration. He began his work as a volunteer coach, becoming one of the first ever contracted coaches and is now our Head Coach. Matthew has masters level qualifications in Education and Psychology and 20 years experience in both these fields.

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