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Preschool students thrive on distance learning – but yearn to get back to school

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Greetings to you all from Turkey. My name is Nurten Akkuş. I am a Global Teacher Prize Top 10 Finalist. I am a preschool teacher –my students are between the ages of 3 and 6. I work in a socio-economically disadvantaged area, where I seek to change and improve people’s lives with education. I attach great importance to paying attention to the individual characteristics of my students. We have made our class and school suitable for the development of my students. We enjoy education by having fun and discovering together. Before the coronavirus entered our lives, we had a great school environment. However, suddenly we had to move this educational environment that we created to digital media.

The virus first reached our country in early March. Everyone was in panic as the world woke up to the epidemic and thousands of people died. Our health ministry and state administrators gave out information about precautions to take. The schools were on vacation. People in our country were called on to “stay home” to try to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

Around the world, we are having a very difficult time. Schools are closed in many countries. We cannot teach face to face. But we are teachers. Our students and their families are always very important to us. It was very difficult to explain this situation to all our students, because we loved learning and school with our students. Families and children were very worried about the virus. I wanted to reduce anxiety before we began teaching online. I had to increase their motivation.

First of all, I talked to the families. I told them that although we need to pay attention to the news, excessive anxiety will be negative in children. I did family education online. We constantly communicate with the groups we have created with them.

Then I spoke to my students online. It was a different experience for them. I told them how we should pay attention to cleaning, and what the virus is, in a simple way suitable for age groups. I asked the children to make part of their home an activity centre. They made their home environment fun.

A great system was made by our Ministry of National Education. Distance education was supported with TV channels. Online training content, game activities and books were prepared. We have set up an online classroom with this system. We share our daily activities there. We also share the daily education flow with the families and enable them to participate in these activities. We carry out many activities with our students such as art, science, plant breeding, vital skills training, free activities, drama, design, mathematics and language education. Through this process, psychological support has been provided for students and families in our country.  

All teachers are constantly communicating with their students in Turkey. Distance education methods and educational content are further developed by our Ministry of National Education. Despite the fact that my students are young, they are obliged to learn via distance learning methods. Families and teachers take an active role in the distance education process. I have given lectures in Turkey and many different countries. But I am giving online conferences right now. Teachers always believe that face-to-face education is very important. This is absolutely true, however, teachers now think that given the critical situation in the world, opportunities for distance education should be well known.

The Varkey Foundation, which works to build the capacity of teachers, offers a great chance for teachers to meet online to discuss methods in different countries of the world.

In a very short time, we have become used to living with digital life and learning. Of course, we miss being with our students and our school. They also miss us. However, my students’ health is very important. And they should not miss out on their education. I hope this epidemic ends as soon as possible in both my country and the rest of the world, so that all people in the world are healthy and that all children can go back to school.

Nurten Akkuş

Nurten Akkuş was one of the finalists of the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize.

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This piece is part of the Teacher Task Force’s #TeachersVoices campaign, created to bring forward the experiences of teachers working every day to ensure their students continue to benefit from a quality education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate, go to our dedicated webpage.