February 10, 2022
It was the month of March, 2020. The time of Covid lockdown in Bahrain and I was teaching online from home. I used to take classes from my bedroom. My son who was just 4 years then would curiously watch me talking to the screen. In the same room, I also would teach him to write the alphabet during the free time.
The other day he said, “Lets’ go to school”, pointing to the bed room where I usually take my online classes.
“It’s not a school but a bed room” I replied. But he insisted that it is a school! It’s then that I realized how Covid has robbed my child of that crucial experience of getting to know what pre-school feels like!
Although he got the admission to preschool that year, I decided against it as online classes would never give my child the feel of a school. Further online learning can never substitute the real learning that takes place through social interaction with peers in the real school. I realized that although the teachers try their best to teach online, it is the parents who take on the roles of real teachers for these preschoolers.
Almost two years elapsed and my child did not get a chance to see the school! When I visited the school for admission to grade 1, I took a picture of the school and sent him, and I could not believe that he had himself replied on WhatsApp, “I think it is a good school”.
Being a teacher of English to adult students, I never had the experience of teaching the small children. But when I started teaching the alphabet to my four-year-old son, I become a student. I did not know where to start from!
I had to start with the standing line, slanting line, sleeping line and curves which gave my child the much required motor skills to write. Letter tracing worksheets and letter writing drills went a long way in acquiring the writing skills at a much quicker pace. I would clap and motivate my child to write every time he complained of his hands paining. When he learnt to write the capital and small letters of English in a short span of one month, I was on cloud nine with a sense of fulfillment and began to realize the little teacher within me. It reminded me of the adage ‘Home is the first school and parents are the first teachers’.
Donning the dual role of dad cum teacher, I could teach him to read and write what is required of a preschooler. But the real challenge was teaching him the speaking skills. Despite being an English teacher, I never cultivated the habit of using English at home for the sake of children as most parents do these days. I am now desperately waiting for the schools to reopen and resume regular classes, so that my child gets to learn in an authentic environment.