Attending school and college online is so new and strange that no one knows the best way to deal with it
The year I turned 16 was great. I had just finished my tenth board exams and got back to school, eager to do anything but study. It was the year I finally stopped studying Chemistry and also the year I got my first boyfriend. I loved school — I knew everyone and they knew me, I had enough pocket money to hang out in Kookie Jar after school, and what money I didn’t have, I earned through part-time jobs and quiz competitions.
My nephew turned 16 this year. He hasn’t left the house in 7 months and spent the day chatting with me — the Wifi had stopped working and so, he didn’t have to attend classes. He had shifted to a new school in March after his boards. He hasn’t met his classmates yet, except on Zoom. He has no friends from this school and there’s no hanging out in coffee shops.
Attending school and college in a lockdown via online classes is so new and strange that no one really knows how to deal with it. There are no definitive guides or must-dos. But, after 7 months, there are some basic tips that are working for students globally.
Here are six tips that will come in handy.
1. Stick to a daily routine: Make a schedule to fit in all your classes and assign some time for hobbies and interests. Leave time for a daily walk or a jog — anything to take you away from the screen. If you have hobbies that don’t require a screen, all the better. If you don’t, now is a good time to learn some new skills. Learn how to cook!
Spend some time dancing, even if it’s only in the bedroom. Listen to podcasts (You’ll have plenty of options, everyone has a podcast now).
2. Use a big screen: Lots of students are developing eye problems or getting frequent headaches because they’re not used to spending so much time staring at a screen. While there’s no permanent fix for this, choose to use a big screen, if possible. Use a laptop or an iPad if you have access to one.
Try to avoid smartphones for long video calls or study sessions. Also, a lot of students stare at the screen for long periods without blinking. This dries up your eyes and causes irritation. Make a conscious effort to blink. Take frequent breaks as well. Walk around in between two sessions. Do some exercises — stretch, jump, squats. Whatever works for you.
3. Pay attention to your posture: You don’t want to develop back pain on top of everything else right now. Sit straight while you’re studying, ideally on a chair. Don’t slouch. Don’t keep your laptop or any other device on your lap. Place it at a distance of about 2 feet away from you. Remember when your parents said don’t sit too close to the TV? Yeah, you still can’t sit too close.
4. Read: Teachers and education experts agree that this is a good time to catch up on your reading. Read whenever possible, read as much as possible. Study alone, do research, learn a way to make notes that actually works for you. All great self-learning hacks that’ll help you even when things go back to normal and you’re in a regular classroom.
5. Stay connected: Every report of the pandemic speaks of how people all over the world are stressed with the uncertainty of it all. Of course, we don’t need reports. It’s there in our conversations and how we interact with each other. It’s normal to feel alone and lonely.
Karunya Chintamani Banerjee, a final-year MA student at JNU, says she misses the relationship between professors and students, or with her classmates. Professors who have focused on getting to know their students are her favourites, the classes she looks forward to the most. “The whole sitting alone in your room and staring at the screen for hours on end can get very alienating,” says Delhi University MA student Mohona Chaudhuri, adding that what has worked for her is to be in constant touch with classmates and friends. “Thankfully the ability to withstand online classes hasn’t turned into a competition, so everyone is pretty open about how it’s getting to them or affecting them.”
Stay in touch with your friends. It’s difficult when you haven’t met them in months but try to take some time out every day to check up on your friends. Share your news with them, or just discuss the class you attended. It’ll make you feel connected. After all, you’re not the only one going through it. Your friends are struggling with exactly the same things. Even if you can’t solve problems, laughing about something that happened on a Zoom call has never failed to bring people closer.
6. Positive reinforcement: Reward yourself whenever you achieve a goal or when you tick something off the to-do list. Watch an episode of your favorite series if you have to, or have that chocolate. It’ll keep you motivated and happy.
Follow these tips for a better lockdown school and college experience. And remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to an adult or a professional if you’re feeling really low. Now, excuse me while I go and reward myself for finishing this article by eating a brownie.
Shreemayee Das is a writer, stand-up comedian and co-founder of The Grin Revolution. She has a degree in English Literature