We’ve now lived with the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year.
One of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic will go down as the collective transition to remote learning for all students. This transition, of course, was not only difficult on students. Parents have been forced into double-duty both as parents and as teachers; and, in multitudes of cases, were (or still are) forced to work from home while teaching from home simultaneously.
Understanding isn’t strong enough of a word to describe the empathy that this situation should be met with, both from the perspective of the parent and the child. Regardless, fears of children “falling behind” in school abound and are founded on the competitive nature of the education system as well as college admissions.
While education officials as well as college admissions officers should be understanding of the pandemic learning situation, and “falling behind” truly shouldn’t make a difference in moving up to the next grade in these troubling times, the fallout is inevitable. What causes it? How can parents reduce its affects? What actions can educators take to help students in these unusual times?
It’s caused, at least in part, by economic and racial disparities.
According to a study from the Economic Policy Institute, “research regarding online learning and teaching shows that they are effective only if students have consistent access to the internet and computers and if teachers have received targeted training and supports for online instruction.” In other words, interrupted WiFi service, malfunctioning or outdated hardware or software, and lack of resources and preparation for teachers, leads to “online school” failing to make the grade. Additionally, “given the various ways in which the crisis has widened existing socioeconomic disparities and how these disparities affecting learning and educational outcomes, educational inequities are growing.” Communities at socioeconomic disadvantages -- particularly minority communities and all communities in which parents are largely unable to make ends meet -- are not afforded the same at-home learning equipment due to overall lack of financial resources. The report goes on to offer solutions, including: “Recovery: Provide extra investments to help students and schools make up lost ground as they return to in-school operations,” and “Relief: Give schools urgent resources so that they can provide effective remote instruction and supports.”
Parents can provide a listening ear, as well as enrichment resources, during the summer.
Unusual times call for unusual solutions. Traditional academic workbooks are helpful, and free downloads for all subjects are available across the internet, on social media platforms like Pinterest as well as on sites such as EdHelper.com. Additionally, a list of non-traditional enrichment activities is available on EdCircuit.com. These non-traditional enrichment activities lead to bonding experiences and encourage parents to listen to their child’s feelings.
Educators need to go beyond teaching subjects and assigning homework.
According to InsideHigherEd.com, teachers should get creative when providing emotional support to their students during the pandemic. Important recommendations include sending supportive emails with words of encouragement with “optimistic language” such as, “When you come back this fall…”, repeating old lessons, bringing the human aspect of the educator’s life to correspondence, and “talk about COVID-19 and fear.”
While no formula for success is perfectly tailored to each individual situation, the name of the game to keep children from falling behind in their education is a combination of understanding, effort, listening, and resources.