PETALING JAYA: The first day of school was chaotic, but not in the traditional sense of the word.
This time around, there were no children crying at the top of their lungs pleading to go home after the first ring of the school bell.
For the first time ever, students – except for those sitting for major exams – started their schooling year from home, in accordance with the new normal.
Pupils, especially those in Year One, and their parents, had to adjust to the new norm of knowing when to mute their microphones to avoid overlapping sounds and technical issues relating to the systems they had to log in to.
To address these issues and to beat the first day of school blues, Shanti Panchadcharam’s daughter Noveesha Sathis Kumar kept her trusted companion by her side – her soft toy Bingo – throughout the day.
“Chaos on the first day is normal, but this time it involved a lot of technical difficulties.
“As the day progressed, however, it got better because the teachers became comfortable with the pupils and vice versa.
“She was extremely excited and her teachers began lessons for Science, Mathematics and Physical and Health Education (PJK), ” said Shanti, 36, a procurement manager.
Mother-of-three Azza Azrin Juri, 33, said her Year One son’s school session was filled with noise and chatter as the day mainly involved orientation.
Azza added that all 36 pupils in the class of her son, Arrizqy Izzran, were in attendance, together with their parents.
“It was noisy with everyone trying to speak over each other, pupils playing with their microphones and continuously asking their teachers if they could use the loo and drink water.
“But his teachers are good, they handled the situation very well and having other parents around to guide their children also brought calm to the new environment.
“My son couldn’t wait to begin school; he woke up much earlier than usual and even put on his school uniform although he wasn’t required to!” said Azza, a housewife.
While Azwan Zar Abd Rashid’s eldest son, who is in Year Four, is somewhat used to online learning, his younger son in Year One will need time to adjust.
“It wasn’t easy; I had to sit by his side the entire time because he either couldn’t understand what his teachers were conveying or we
had problems due to our unstable Internet connection.
“Also because he’s young, his attention span is short and he gets bored easily with online learning, ” said Azwan, 40, who will be taking leave from work for a week to ensure his sons’ e-learning process at home goes smoothly.
He credited his sons’ teachers for being well prepared despite the challenges.
Teachers didn’t have it easy either.
A headmaster from an Orang Asli school, who wanted to remain anonymous, said forwarding information to his pupils’ parents had been difficult because many of them did not own smartphones.
On the other hand, those with smartphones do not respond to the teachers’ messages.
Another teacher from a primary school in Kuala Lumpur said lessons, especially for the Year One pupils, ran smoothly.
“The support from parents and children from the Year One classes have been very encouraging and they are helpful; they and their children showed so much excitement to attend the first day of school through the new norm.
“However, we teachers had difficulties getting pupils from the other years to join the online sessions, although they are already exposed to how online learning is conducted, ” she added.
National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan urged parents of primary school pupils to continuously engage with their children, school teachers and headmasters if they faced difficulties in adjusting and adapting to online learning.
“Especially for parents of Year One pupils, don’t keep your problems to yourself.
“Engage with your teachers and come up with solutions together for the betterment of your child’s education, ” he said.