By Merve Berker
ANKARA (AA) - As Teachers' Day was celebrated this year under pandemic conditions with both online and in-person teaching, some teachers in Turkey shared their experiences with Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
Emel Seri, 52, a director of a kindergarten in the capital Ankara, said: “It's not easy to be a teacher during the pandemic."
“You are not able to hug the children the way you want or make gestures and facial expressions.
"Body language, gestures, and facial expressions are very important, especially in preschool teaching,” she added, pointing out that she prefers in-person education instead of online methods of teaching.
Teachers are one of the riskiest groups, according to Seri, who noted: “For the healthy development of children, it is very important that schools are open. Because the best form of learning is peer education. It is both easier and more permanent for children to learn from each other.”
Yasemin Simsek, a 35-year-old preschool teacher, said: “In this period, in-person education has suffered disruptions, especially the preschool education.”
“Online education opportunities during the preschool period is limited. So it has to be in-person for it to be proper for pedagogical purposes. And, as preschool teachers, this process has been too hard for us,” she added.
Selin Ozkurnaz, 24, was among those who taught both online and in-person during this period.
“During the pandemic, online education had more disadvantages than benefits,” she said.
“Children were exposed to computers during the pandemic period like us -- teachers and parents -- while we wanted to keep the preschool group away from three “Ts”: television, tablet, telephone.
"We couldn’t prevent children from being exposed to such [most times] harmful tools”.
Children were quite difficult to keep on screen during the period, Ozkurnaz said, sharing her hopes that with the support of families, teachers and students will overcome this difficult process together.
“Distance education is very hard to apply in the preschool period, it should rather be through in-person experience,” she told Anadolu Agency, stressing the significance of hygiene measures in schools.
- 'Distanced generation'
Elif Mujde Erdem, 28, also talked about difficulties for both teachers and students during the outbreak.
“As a kindergarten teacher, what upsets me the most is that we can’t contact students the way we used to do. We can’t hug them or shake hands anymore, which adversely affects the emotional bond between me and my students.
"When they're upset or bored, or when they trip and fall, I'm not able to help them as I used to do.”
“There's a generation growing up without face-to-face interaction, and it's hard to touch their heart through the screens. A generation is living behind masks, smiling, laughing, or getting upset, which we are not able to see,” Erdem said.
Besides teachers, she also commented on the situation of students: “Our children adapted much more easily to this pandemic process than we did. Sometimes they even forget the mask on their faces, they don't realize it, they're so used to it. Our children are aware of the seriousness of their situation.”
But Erdem also stressed that children adapted much more easily to this period compared to teachers.
"Sometimes they even forget about the mask on their faces, they don't even notice it, as they're so much used to wearing it now."
"Our children are aware how critical the situation is," she added, noting that actually, it has not been so hard to teach children how to keep the social distance while eating, playing, or during any other activity.
Miray Cengiz, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher, mostly have students around 3-4 years old.
Recalling that she tried online education during the first period of the pandemic, Cengiz said: “It was very difficult to keep a 4-year-old student in front of the screen for 40 minutes. Some initially said they did not want to participate or were shy because that was something they weren't used to do”.
“When a child comes to you, cries, or and wants to hug you, you can't say no as that little boy or girl needs you at that moment, and I may need to hug them to make them calm down as an initial step before fixing the problem at hand,” she said, noting that she now continues with in-person teaching.
She also told Anadolu Agency that it has been an easy and smooth process to teach her students the hygiene measures during the pandemic.
"It took us about one week to get used to wearing masks and social distance rules and now my students are all very well abiding by the rules, while initially, I've even had students who cried because their masks kept slipping or falling."