I keep seeing Facebook posts and articles about how sad it is that no matter what teachers do, kids are falling behind. I’m over it. First of all, thinking like that serves no purpose. Secondly, let’s start by remembering that no matter what, teachers always start where kids are. In truth, benchmarks are more of an administrative construct. Much of our curriculum, though mandated, is relatively arbitrary. Here’s why I think kids aren’t falling behind, rather they’re right where they should be. They are:
Learning things from time spent in quarantine
We’ve heard about lots of kids learning to clean, cook, and solve problems around the house. These life skills put academic learning into action. It may help to reframe quarantine as experiential learning.
Discovering personal connections
Teachers know more than anyone that learning comes in many different packages. They’re finding ways to get kids to look around for learning tools in their homes. Kids are discovering how to connect what they already know, through curiosity, to new information.
Gaining social-emotional learning skills
For many children, this crisis has helped them learn to ask for help, be flexible, connect to people in different ways, and learn to problem-solve. Though the set up for this kind of learning is shocking and heartbreaking, it’s ripe for SEL building. When kids come back to school and things go wrong, as they do, they’ll have better independent skills for righting the ship.
Developing in their own time
Any pediatrician worth their salt will tell you that a large part of working with kids is waiting it out. Growth and development will happen with or without bricks and mortar schooling.
Child development experts say it’s not possible to get children to progress to a new stage of development before they are ready. For some children, the time gone by will help them learn skills they would have learned more quickly. For other kids, they’ll learn some skills on their own. And for still some others, they’ll need to work on skills when we get them back. But, guess what? That’s the way it’s always been.
Experiencing quarantine with everyone
Though the inequities in education will remain, and this quarantine has sure pointed out that huge flaw in our system, this is happening to all of us. This means that all of the work being accomplished (or not) is through the same brain fog we all share. This common bond may actually serve us well in the future. We generally assign whole-class texts as a way to build a community base to launch learning, but many teachers will find a way to make quarantine our community base.
Wanting to come back to school
For so many kids, this is making them realize how much school brings them. I think kids are going to come back with renewed interest in learning. If technology and illness have slowed down teaching, if anything teachers have been amping up their connections with students and families. This has to have an added benefit of having students come to school ready to learn from their trusted connection.
Reading and being read to
We know that reading books every single day increases knowledge exponentially. One of the finest things to come out of this quarantine time is the availability of books being read online. The more kids read, the more they retain.
Being okay because it’s what we do
Things will be different no matter when we go back to school, but thinking that the kids will be behind is unproductive and not entirely true. They will be missing some skills and some knowledge, but that’s true of kids every year. We can change the paradigm by meeting every kid just where they are and moving them forward when we can.
Come share your it’s going to be okay stories in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
And check out What Teachers Miss the Most About School.