The meet-and-greet online, which made for ‘sad school’

September 20, 2020

This on-screen education business doesn’t seem to be sitting too well with the kids. Here’s why

As the mother of a four-year-old, my life is not ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. However, the extraordinary takes on a whole different meaning when there comes a time that you are required to prepare the said four-year-old for going back to school (of the online kind) — after a lapse of around six months. This on-screen education business doesn’t seem to be sitting too well with the kids, and to be honest, I kind of see why.

So as luck would have it, the schools in the beautiful city of Lahore opened their doors to students on a rolling basis from last week onwards, with the youngest ones expected to report back from September 30.

It all seems perfectly doable on paper. However, there arises just a little problem. Some schools (and some parents, including myself) have opted to continue with the online learning system for some time, owing to the fear of Covid-19 resurging in these parts of the world. After all, a couple of months of online schooling cannot hurt anyone, right? Right. I was also sure of it until I wasn’t.

The first online meet-and-greet for the nurseries took place on Friday last. Naturally, my kid was quite excited about the whole prospect of meeting his friends after what seemed like centuries. There was a visible festivity in his demeanour ever since I told him about this little online rendezvous. Special clothes were selected for the occasion, and breakfast was had in a very calm and orderly fashion on the fated morning. The best thing is, there was no crying, no shouting, no incessant chants of “but I wanna watch cartoons,” or “but why” — an exception to the norm, if you may, as any mother of a four-year-old would readily divulge.

The meet-and-greet started exactly at 10:30 am. As someone whose eldest begins her A-Levels this year, I must confess I had kind of forgotten what usually happens when over thirty extremely excited preschoolers get together at one place. An online space, no less.

Please bear with me as I try to narrate how the meeting unfolded.

Teacher: “Hello children, my name is T. I will be your teacher this year! I hope you enjoyed your holidays. Are you excited for school to start?”


*Children look at one another, smiling, making faces, sticking their tongues out.*

Suddenly, Child X starts waving frantically at the rest of the class. He gets nothing back but blank stares and confused smiles from his classmates. None of them waves back.

Some of the children have now started showing off their toys to the rest of their class fellows. They understand that such an opportunity to impress their peers might not present itself again.

The teacher now resumes her conversation with the kids, this time individually. “Okay, so let’s begin the meet-and-greet with A. How are you, A? Wave at your teacher so I can see where you are.”

She obviously is as new to this whole online predicament as these kids, poor soul.

Child A does not wave, he does not say a word. I hear his mother whisper in the background: “Bolo na beta! Say hi to the teacher! Look, she’s so nice.” A has decided that today is not the day that he speaks.

My son now has to jump in, of course: “A, why don’t you say hi to the teacher? Are you hiding?” They happen to be the best of buddies.

The class starts giggling. A starts crying. His mother mutes the microphone and turns off the camera. I mute mine and scold my son a bit, begging him to just speak when spoken to.

“But Mommy, I was just saying hi to him.” Right.

I go back online. The teacher is now asking each and every child about how their holidays went. The kids look bewildered because for them the holidays have still not ended and they are just having a chat with their buddies on a machine that they can shut off whenever they want to. Quite expectedly, we come across some more tantrums, more crying and more chaos in whatever is left of the meet-and-greet.

So much so that, towards the end, only 18 students remain online.

As the meeting is about to wind up my son begins sobbing, which turns into a full-blown tantrum in just under a minute. His major objection to this whole affair is that I’ve wasted his precious time by making him attend the “sad school” as he could’ve watched his Minecraft Story Mode instead. Sound logic, as always. Sensing the disaster that lies ahead, I take my leave from the meeting. He vehemently declares that he “doesn’t want to go to the sad school on the laptop.” The crying goes on for what seems like another hour.

So, this was the story of the meet-and-greet that took place on Friday last. Regular online school begins on Monday for preschoolers. Please do remember to send me — and the teachers, of course — good vibes and loads of luck. Many a storm have I weathered back in the day but none comes even close to keeping a four-year-old focused on alphabets and numbers on a machine that he’d rather watch his CeeBeebies on.

The writer is a staff member

The meet-and-greet online, which made for ‘sad school’