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Fighting coronavirus: Safety is first order of business as teachers in UAE return to work – News

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With half of their faces hidden in masks, they sat for safety briefings and discussed how they would go about the different learning models.

Hundreds of teachers in the UAE returned to work on Monday, August 24, as schools reopened to its staff for the first time since March.

With half of their faces hidden in masks, they sat for safety briefings and discussed how they would go about the different learning models that would be used for the this ‘new normal’ academic term.

Brendon Fulton, executive principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said they spent most of the day training teachers on how to implement and monitor the new safety regulations on campus – “from the obvious social distancing requirements to the more subtle nuances of teaching with a mask on”.

“Everyone was very excited to be back in school and planning for the return of our children. Things may look a little different, but we are working hard to make school as normal as possible for everyone,” Fulton said.

Teachers were also commended for their active participation during the summer break for their professional development sessions, holding demonstrations on different educational tools.

Despite all the new challenges, school heads said teachers were excited to welcome students back to their classrooms.

Andreas Swoboda, principal at Uptown International School (UIS), said: “There was quite a buzz this morning at UIS as teachers met for the first time in many weeks.

“Our teachers know that this school year will be a special one, with many new requirements and added responsibilities that they have to fulfil, such as the need for classroom as well as online instructions; ensuring that movement throughout the school buildings is minimised; ensuring that students observe the necessary guidelines; and developing paperless teaching even more.”

Teachers are also being urged to use art and creative techniques to reinfoce safety messages like ‘wash always’ or ‘be smart and stay apart’.

“Institutional strategies need implementation with agile leadership and approach. Health and safety of the students and staff remain paramount, teaching and learning will now need a digital spin and the wellbeing of all stakeholders is of vital importance,” said Sangita Chima, principal of Amity School Dubai.

Schools agree that learning to collectively manage all aspects of the new term – in a creative manner – is the “biggest challenge” ahead. However, they are confident that they can rise above it all.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal of Credence High School, said: “The past few months has taught mankind at large to adapt to this pandemic and any change that may come up. We are of the strong belief and confident that as long as the learning continues for our children, we have nothing to worry about.

“The teachers are excited to be back and have been guided on the best practices to successfully deliver hybrid teaching. The wellness of students will continue to be our focus.”

‘STUDENTS MAY LOSE UP TO 10 MONTHS OF LEARNING WITHOUT IN-PERSON CLASSES’

Besides keeping the school community safe, educators have also been addressing other challenges arising from the pandemic. ‘Learning loss’ has been a cause of anxiety, a principal said.

“We estimate that schools that don’t return to in-person instruction until January 2021 could see students losing between six to 10 months of learning,” said Sangita Chima, principal of Amity School Dubai.

“Attendance and engagement, grade-level content, strong core curriculum, uninterrupted teaching time, and smart use of face-to-face pedagogy are techniques that will help. Risk assessment, health and safety, pedagogy, crisis management, contact tracing, student well-being and staff morale are all of equal importance, and have been discussed with teachers and staff.”

nandini@khaleejtimes.com 





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