ABC (MH) = A Back to Classroom (Mental Health)

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August 10, 2022

Writers: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio and Christopher Jan Dumaguin
Researcher: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio
Editor: Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Peer Reviewer: Jake Lester Villanueva
Graphics: Sarah Mondoy, Krystle Mae Labio, Jacklyn Moral
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It’s been more than two years since the threat from the coronavirus outbreak challenged various sectors, including education. But despite this, the continuance to deliver the learnings in every home as today’s educational alternative mechanism made available — flexible learning. This new normal was introduced as the modern and contemporary way of putting school settings at students’ homes. Now in the post-pandemic era, most schools are starting to go back to face-to-face learning, which causes confusion and hesitancy among the students, added to their concern for their safety, health, and finances. 

Students’ Baggage

The Department of Education announced this November 2022 the #LigtasBalikEskwela2022. This directive is to commit face-to-face classes from Kinder to Senior High School. This announcement gathered various reactions and comments from the Filipino students. Some of them are excited to return to school as they missed having their baon, seeing their classmates while bonding with them, and the ambiance of the classroom is the primary conducive learning environment. But most students expressed fear and sentiments regarding this matter [1].

A study conducted by PHINMA Education titled “Managing the Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on college retention: the Phinma experience” showed a significant number of students affected by this global pandemic [2]. The student’s financial situation significantly costs them their education funds and adjusting to distance learning [2]. Students with no accessibility and poor connection to the internet or technological resources made them become unmotivated and even distracted; due to these reasons, they feel uncertain about their future, and their psychological well-being and mental health concerns are affected. Relative to this matter is the increase in loneliness, anxiety, and stress [2]. 

To unlatch the gates of school after two years is a significant change to the lives and routines of students considering the increased expenses of such essentials and necessities, including fares, dorms for those who live far away, uniforms and school supplies, and other costs for their education. After the students are exposed to their classes in virtual and internet spaces, returning to their face-to-face courses will significantly shift their psychological, emotional, and mental aspects.

Teachers’ Chalk 

The primary persons in-charge in delivering the services of education are the teachers. Teachers essentially extended their role in providing learning during this pandemic. Part of their many responsibilities aside from teaching is being the ‘second parent’ to look at the student’s ability to absorb the matter taught them through various assessment measures.

Last January 25, 2022, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) launched a nationwide “Psychosocial and Mental Health Webinars” for 7,000 teachers via virtual meetings [4]. Dr. Homer Yabut of the De La Salle University-Psychology Department and the chairperson of the Psychological Association of the Philippines-Central Luzon discussed experiencing fear, worry, loneliness, and isolation among the educators affected by the COVID-19 situations [3]. These mental health issues resulted from homesickness and a lack of social support [3]. Teachers also expressed that they encountered burnout, difficulty in concentrating, and struggling in leisurely activities [4].

Teachers experiencing mental challenges soared for this upcoming School Year 2022-2023 [5]. The federation of public school teachers’ association of Teachers’ Dignity Coalition [TDC] requested to move the opening of the classes with the reason of giving the teachers sufficient time to rest [5]. In reference to DO No. 029 s, 2023, the teachers were only given 21 days of break before the start of remedial and enrichment classes [5]. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers [ACT] showed that 70% in the survey that educators negatively impact physical and mental health due to workloads and distance learning [5].

Back To School Supplies

Because of the escalation of mental, emotional, and psychological concerns among students, parents, educators, and other academe personnel about being back and reopening schools, hereunder are the following tips for your mental health and well-being:

  1. CRAYONS. Color your day by doing what you love and rekindling your interests. You may play games, go for a walk, talk with your friends and loved ones, and take care of plants or pets [6]. Have time for yourself to relax and enjoy what you do to recharge from stress and working hours [6]. 
  2. PENCIL. Plan and list the tasks and things you will do for the upcoming school year [6]. Set short and small goals and take some break between working hours [6]. It will help you plan your time better and alleviate the stress of having too many unplanned things to do [6].  
  3. RULER. Measure and set boundaries. Not all the clock hours are supposed for studying and working. Help yourself to put hours for yourself, family, friends, and work [6]. These activities are as important as your working hours [6]. Allow yourself to vitalize through enough rest you deserve.
  4. BAG. Given the preventive measures, ensure that you have a safe and healthy space to enjoy the school and learning environment. Increase your social connections not in quantity but by quality. Join clubs and organizations that may boost your self-esteem and widen your skills. You can keep yourself apart to limit the spread of the virus, but it is essential to stay emotionally and socially connected with friends, family, teachers, and colleagues [6]. 
  5. SCISSORS. Learn to cut the negativities that may invalidate your perspectives and feelings as an individual being. Getting together with people who make you feel good can be very replenishing and a great way to create greater emotional support in your life [7]. You may be the one to introduce them to one another, or they may be a small group of friends you met in a class, at church, or inside the campus [7].

If you feel that the stress you are experiencing is overwhelming, or if you are dealing with trauma or a severe situation the average person may not understand, therapists and support groups can be wonderfully effective [7].

 

Pre-Session Q:

  1. What are the top priorities you should consider before going back to school?

Session Question:

  1. What are the things you look forward to when students and teachers go back to school?
  2. What are your ways to maintain your mental health and well-being amidst the uncertainties of returning to school? 
  3. How can you provide support for teachers and students who will be going back to school?

References: 

  1. Rappler. (June 2022). Filipino students share anxieties, joys, expectations on return of face-to-face classes. https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/health-and-wellness/filipino-students-share-anxieties-joys-expectations-return-face-to-face-classes/
  2. Dumlao-Abedilla, D. (January 2022). Study weighs pandemic toll on students’ mental health. Inquirer.NET. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1537244/study-weighs-pandemic-toll-on-students-mental-health
  3. Jimenez, E. C. (January 2021). Impact of mental health and stress level of teachers to learning Resource Development. Shanlax International Journal of Education, 9 (2), 1-11. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1287736.pdf
  4. United Nations. (n.d.). Philippine educators explore mental health concerns in UNODC webinar series. https://www.unodc.org/roseap/en/philippines/2022/01/mental-health-concerns/story.html
  5. Dela Pena, K. (June 2022).‘Our only chance to rest’: Teachers groan under weight of extended work order. Inquirer.NET. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1610816/our-only-chance-to-rest-teachers-groan-under-weight-of-extended-work-order
  6. UNICEF. (n.d.). Ten mental health and well-being tips for teachers. https://www.unicef.org/eca/stories/ten-mental-health-and-well-being-tips-teachers
  7.  Verywell Mind. (n.d.). How to Create a “Safe Space” Anyplace.   https://www.verywellmind.com/how-and-why-you-should-create-a-safe-space-for-yourself-3144981
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