Halfway through a school year characterized by modular and online learning, students are already complaining about being physically and mentally tired. They don’t want their parents to know. But I believe their parents do, and they should.
I often hear colleagues talk about feedback they get from parents, that their child is so stressed with school requirements that they don’t want to even browse their modules anymore, or that they would just play in the computer or their mobile phones all day long. Moreover, cases of student suicide also seem to place the blame on the bulk of schoolwork.
Skeptical and defensive as always, I would say these stories are exaggerated, and that “stress” is just a convenient reason for students to skip school-related obligations. But when my own students started opening up, I had to rethink this through.
One of the older boys in my class gave me an honest response when I asked why he turned in only two of the eight answer sheets on the due date. “Sa totoo lang, tinatamad na po akong tapusin ‘yung iba. Pasensya na po sa katamaran ko,” he replied and punctuated it with a crying emoji.
Another student, one of the best in her class, also shared that she has been feeling heavy lately, that she is “emotionally and mentally drained” and even something so trivial could make her cry. She assured me that she is not harming herself so that I would not tell her parents about it. These students fear that they would just be misunderstood, probably because they themselves do not understand what is happening to them or why they are feeling that way.
The Department of Education once cautioned the public not to directly connect students’ psychological and mental health concerns with the bulk of modules given to them. DepEd might be right about it. It’s not the modules per se. According to an article in the American Psychological Association website, the struggle of learners in this time of pandemic is how to “cope psychologically with the loss of access to friends, teachers, and routines associated with going to a physical campus.” This is definitely a challenge for these teenagers whose lives generally revolved in schools; and it is something that cannot be compensated for by virtual setup.
In the same article, experts noted that some habits among teenagers also change. They are sleeping more during the day and some are skipping assignments or playing online games during study period. These are the same feedback I get from parents whenever they come to school to pick up their child’s modules and turn in the answer sheets. They told me that their child stays awake until dawn doing paperworks and then sleeps the whole day, to which I would reply that it is not good for their physical and mental health.
I wish I could have offered more advice though, but I am no expert after all. I, myself, am not even a parent to begin with.
Well, experts do have some advice on how parents can help their kids. Among these ways, according to Heather Stinger (2020), are for parents to ask their children what they are learning, to guide them in through breaking down assignments into smaller tasks, to help them organize their time, and offer personalized, genuine feedback about the work they are doing.
Meanwhile, Nicole Hadler from the University of Michigan also listed tips for students to help ease their stress while learning from home. She tells students that it is okay to feel angry, worried or sad; but if these feelings worsen to the extent of not being able to function like their normal self, then they need to reach out for help. Hadler also encouraged them to maintain a routine, sleep well, connect with others, and take a break to do something rejuvenating.
I could only hope that these pieces of advice could at least ease the problems of the learners, while we, teachers, and the parents continue to reach out to them and keep a listening ear to whatever they want to talk about. This and the oft requested “consideration” are the least we could do to at least help them to soldier on till the school year closes. Between accomplishing the modules and keeping a healthy mind and body, it is the latter that matters. (VANESSA L. ABUBO)