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A student and teacher reveal how they were impacted by COVID-19
2020-05-26

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The COVID-19 pandemic has left many with devastating health impacts. It has also revealed other, less visible consequences. The strict isolation measures, the closure of schools and workplaces, and loss of income to many families has had, and will continue to have, significant negative impacts upon education, mental health and well-being.


In China, schools have now reopened in most parts of the country. As part of the #LearningNeverStops campaign, UNESCO spoke to a teacher from Wuhan City and a student from Beijing to find out how they were coping, how the pandemic had impacted their health and well-being and what advice they have for others in a similar situation.

 

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Ms Dingfang GUO, Psychology Teacher from Hubei No.1 Affiliated School of Central China Normal University, Wuhan City, Hubei Province


How has COVID-19 outbreak changed your work?


I am a psychology teacher and I teach Grade 8 and 9. My school has been going online for over two months. During this period, I deliver two major lectures online every week, through both live streaming and recorded lessons. My lectures also attracted some teachers and parents, which is different from the past when I delivered teaching only to students in class.


I had to learn a lot of new skills to make best use of the different online learning platforms. To prepare each lecture, I would need three days of preparation, e.g. finding a lot of reference materials from various sources and recording my own teaching using the smart phone.


I feel I am working all the time. Apart from preparing and delivering online teaching, I receive many questions from students, which I need to respond to on an individual basis. I also receive requests for help from parents, some of whom would listen to my lecture together with their children. Understandably there are lots of child-parent conflicts during this special period. I am happy that I can be of help to them.


A lot more discussions about lesson planning are happening online among my peer teachers. We sometimes also visit each other’s online teaching sessions. I feel that I gained more understanding about colleagues, and they also have got to know more about me. As a psychology teacher who teach multiple classes, so I need to coordinate with all the class head teachers. We added each other to our circle of friends on social media, which brought us much closer than before. This kind of communication during this special period goes beyond work-level and builds solidarity. I think the improved communication among teachers will have a lasting impact.


How do you feel during these challenging times?


Wuhan is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have every reason to panic. But in fact, I feel that once people have accepted the fact, they become calm instead, and definitely more united. Many people volunteered to help others, by offering different services they are capable of, e.g. psychological support, cutting hair, purchasing daily necessities, etc.. I am grateful for their selfless support.


How has this situation impacted on your health and wellbeing?


My family members are all fine. Like many people, during this period I adopted the habit of physical exercise and paid attention to nutrition, which can strengthen immune system. I have no problem getting daily necessities, with the help of community volunteers.


Our school schedules physical exercises and eye exercise in the daily distance learning program for students. All students and teachers are also required to report on their health status on a daily basis.


What are the most challenging aspects of social distancing?


As a teacher, the most challenging aspect of social distancing is that I cannot physically see my students. I know that some students cannot help feeling certain level of anxiety due to the lack of direct interaction with peers. As a psychology teacher, I care for their mental health. So I try to be a role model for my students with my calmness and positiveness in all my communication and interaction with them. In calmness and positivity lies strength, which I hope both the parents and students could sense from me.


What uses of ICT and other means have been most helpful?


Our local education bureau recommends to schools some popular online teaching platforms, which I made best use of. I have used different types of tools and platforms for my teaching, such as Zoom, QQ, Dingding, etc., depending on different purposes. No single tool or platform can satisfy all needs, but a user can use a combination of them. I found QQ very convenient to facilitate discussion among students who can also pose questions to me individually, and I can then give individualized advices and recommend reference materials. The biggest academic database in China, CNKI, now offers free access, which is another great help.


What health and wellbeing tips would you give others in a similar situation?


It is a challenging time, but we shall take it positively. Firstly, we need to follow the basic hygiene and quarantine rules to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy.  A teacher can use this time to recharge and learn new skills, which will be useful in the future. Apart from supporting students’ learning, a teacher can also be a great moral and psychological support to students and parents. 


Zhen LIU, Grade 11 student from Beijing Dongsheng Middle School


How has COVID-19 outbreak changed your work?


The COVID-19 outbreak took place during our school holiday, so there was not much impact initially. But once the new school term started and the school closure was announced, we switched to online learning. Because of this change, I no longer needed to commute between home and school, which saved me some time. I feel I have more time for myself, which enabled me to learn more things on my own and have more time to relax.


How do you feel during these challenging times?


During this period, our outdoor activities and shopping, etc. have been very limited and I couldn’t help having some fear about the uncertain situation. But with more understanding about the virus I started to have less anxiety. Our school has provided timely information and monitors our health status. The local community and government has taken very practical measures. People are helping each other and making contributions to ending the epidemic. I was touched many times by what I have seen.


How has this situation impacted on your health and wellbeing?


I personally am not affected by the situation. During the school closure period, I have kept a balanced diet and have got used to exercising at home. Our school also schedules online physical education and psychology class, to help keep us physically and mentally well. Certainly, I have no opportunities to meet with friends and relatives but have been keeping in touch with them through phone calls and social media. I missed playing sports and having fun together with my friends, but I have also enjoyed reading more books and watching movies.


What are the most challenging aspects of social distancing?


The first challenge is regarding online learning. With fewer interactions than the normal offline classroom teaching, I sometimes cannot help drifting away, and I definitely need more self-discipline. The second challenge is regarding physical exercise and entertainment. But as I said, I have developed some new interests in this period to keep myself busy and energized.


What uses of ICT and other means have been most helpful?


I have made use of online learning and social media APPs and platforms. I also frequently check on virtual maps that show the changing epidemic situations.


What health and wellbeing tips would you give others in a similar situation?


Although the pandemic is still going on, I think people can still find ways to keep themselves active. With appropriate protection, you could still take a walk outside.


Meanwhile, it is the best time to make use of the internet to keep connected with friends and relatives and to continue learning. There are abundant learning resources out there. Of course, from time to time, you can also watch some favorite videos and play your favorite games. Certainly, you shall strike a balance between study and play, and get the most out of this special period and allow yourself to grow.


Source: https://en.unesco.org


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