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To re-belong: Confessions of a SPED student during the pandemic

To re-belong: Confessions of a SPED student during the pandemic


Just when things started going in the right direction, Joy, who due to personal reasons asked to be addressed in a pseudonym, felt that she went back to square one—mentally and socially—when the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were implemented.

Some people dreamt of dropping their pens, closing their hard-bound books, and leaving the four corners of the classroom. Students who can’t wait to graduate, enduring hours of lectures. And while it brings light and knowledge to many, sometimes it could be too much. Joy, though, begged to disagree.

The drive to learn and socialize

“I love learning. I love studying. Gusto kong natututo ng bagong bagay na alam din ng iba,” Joy says.

Joy is a registered Person(s) with Disability (PWD) and has been diagnosed with a Learning Disability ever since she was young. Because of this, she only has a select few friends, which often resulted in a weight brought down her shoulders.

However, she found her silver lining last 2018 after enrolling in the Special Education (SPED) program offered by Aurora Quezon Elementary School in Quirino, Manila. She actually found a place where she belonged—free from any judgment or ire.

“I am happy here. I have so many friends now,” she says.

New, difficult adjustments

But just as she found her safe haven where she could grow without restrictions, with her and her classmates understanding and supporting one another, online classes happened.

Everyone was stuck at home, being able to only see each other on screens. It was a hard adjustment for the students, teachers, and even parents alike.

According to Joy, the parents actually have a Facebook group chat wherein their teacher, Geraldine Agaton, lays down their activities. With this setup and some of the activities ranging from written outputs needed to be photo-documented and videos needed to be recorded, the students have a hard time understanding the processes which lead to parents taking up most of the groundwork.

“Nag-ka-klase kami ‘lagi. Wednesday [lang] wala,” says Joy. These synchronous classes usually last for an hour and often with distractions. “Minsan nawawala sila dahil sa [mabagal na] wi-fi. Minsan hindi nila alam [paano] makapasok.”

Impacts on mental and social health

According to a study by Kentucky Counseling Center, students develop their communication and social skills with social interactions. But because of the pandemic, “there’s a lack of interaction and students face social isolation. This greatly impacts a student’s mental health.”

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“Nakakamiss din [ang] classmates ko, lalo na if magluluto kami or gagawa [ng] projects,” says Joy. “Malungkot sa bahay.”

But because of the restrictions and protocols, there is no other choice but to push through online classes. What the school does to at least alleviate the problems is to provide the necessary equipment (tablet, data allowance, sim cards, etc.) and tutorials on how to access the tablets and needed learning websites with students and parents. The materials were funded by the City of Manila.

Teacher Agaton encourages them to open their cameras and speak through synchronous sessions, as it is the only time of the day that the students get to communicate with other people. With everyone’s overexcitement of talking with each other, a mediator and patient guide such as Teacher Agaton, like all teachers, is commendable.

Despite the heightened restrictions earlier this year due to the Omicron variant, schools are starting to ease again into the idea of conducting face-to-face classes.

“Hindi [na] ako makahintay na sa school ulit magklase… mas masaya [kapag gano’n],” says Joy.

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