Menu Close

The Educational and Social/Emotional Fallout from COVID 19

There is a lot of hand-wringing, many headlines, and public exhortations by educators, about how far behind kids are today in their basic skills, and how poorly some students are performing on learning evaluation test. The cause, of course, is the consequences of Covid, including the introduction of virtual learning in lieu of classroom learning. And for some that didn’t happen immediately because the students families did not have the necessary equipment and once the equipment was up and running, there were, of course, the technical glitches, not to mention the fact that life did not go on as usual at home…or perhaps it did and life at home was not exactly conducive to learning, for oh so many reasons. Teachers are being pressured to make sure that kids get caught up. And then there is the trickle down effect, of children being labeled with academic deficits. Children, too, are being pressured, there is extra tutoring, extra homework. And parents are reacting to their children from the fear-based place of their child being a failure and that reflecting on them. But we should not forget, children also lost out on several years of socio-emotional development. They were isolated socially from other children, their age mates, as well as isolated from interaction with older and younger children at school. Students may indeed be two years plus behind in social/emotional development and many may even have lost skills they had already developed. And what are schools doing to help them re-learn and regain that lost time and loss of skills. Certainly it is not the time to impose consequences for the inability to follow rules of the classroom and school, which may perhaps be an inability to just get along, and interact appropriately with classmates.

There are answers to the Covid 19 fallout, the answers are embedded in meeting the students where they are now and not where they should be. In focusing on the now, it will be easier for them to learn and redevelop skills they had before. If a child had been in a coma for a period of time, or had experienced a natural disaster and school wasn’t available, our expectations would be very different. Most likely the ILearn scores would become superfluous to presenting materials at the level of the child’s is functioning and not overwhelming them with materials that are only congruent with their grade level and age level. Many, many students are NOT at grade level, just as the students who experienced Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Ida were not at grade level when they returned to classrooms. If we don’t meet students where they are, if we insist on labels and piling on remediation, we are going to unintentionally shame students. And the outcome is going to be unnecessary stress and will invoke behaviors that arise from stress and we will find our school systems trying to yet again reinvent disciplinary systems that fail because they don’t look underneath the iceberg of behavior to see the shame and stress that drives the behaviors. And in this case, WE will have created the reaction because WE failed to respond to what should be an obvious “why” a student is behaving the way they are. It truly is, the “what happened” to the student that is causing the deficits, academically and social/emotionally. And frankly, it becomes the professionals’ reactions, rather than responses that are feeding the negative behaviors. Students, parents and teachers need only to know where a child is academically and socio-emotionally and meet the child at that place. It is certainly okay to acknowledge, to one another, as professionals, why children are not performing at grade level; I’m not sure it is necessary to communicate, even the why, to the students. It would probably be prudent to let parents know that teachers are aware of how much children lost academically during the pandemic, and the plan on how to move forward meeting the students where they are and not overburdening with additional work, afterschool tutoring, etc.

We can do this. We know that what is predictable is preventable. Meaning, we know that school children lost a lot of ground, academically and socio/emotionally. We can prevent the fall out, or in this case the failing and opting out of school, of thousands and thousands of school children. We can let out a collective sigh and meet them where they are. It will lessen our struggle to do the impossible and most importantly, relieve our children of the burden and shame of not living up to an impossible and unfair standard.

About Author