Summer provides a refuge from the reality of the COVID virus that has had a devastating effect upon our lives. Children are able to get out of doors and go to beaches, ride bikes, see friends (albeit at a social distance), get ice cream, and take walks in the fresh air. In other words, they are able to be kids, momentarily free from “home schooling,” and at-home confinement where a constant barrage of discouraging news affects their family lives.
But summer will soon give way to fall and a myriad of questions about what children and their parents can expect remain unanswered. What will the new normal look like? How do children move from the relaxing days of a relatively carefree summer to the constrictive misnomer of “online learning?” I write “misnomer” because the harsh reality is young children have suffered from the notion that learning can effectively take place at home. Parents, burdened with trying to work from home, reduced incomes, and the worries that accompany so much uncertainty have little time and energy to assist their children with school work. Teachers, with the best intentions, prepare online lessons in their attempts to effectively meet the needs of their students, but know full well that nothing can replace the teacher/student interactions that are inherent in classroom learning. What often goes unrecognized is these same teachers have children of their own who are in need of assistance with at-home instruction.
During this present pandemic, with the uncertainty of an effective vaccine being ready by fall, parents are faced with a dilemma they know too well from their experience this past school year: How will they effectively help their children with schoolwork when they have to meet their own obligations?
As a former teacher, I know the importance of advanced planning and the need to modify lessons to meet the various learning styles inherent within classroom instruction. I have always relied upon parental input when planning my lessons to meet their children’s needs. Parents know their children. They can read when their children become bored, tired, “antsy,” feel overwhelmed, etc. They are their children’s first teachers. However, many parents have met with frustration when trying to help their children muddle through with at-home schooling during the COVID shutdown of schools. In the past, they had been aware of their children’s academic growth through work sent home, report cards, and conferencing with teachers, but their understanding of how this progress occurred is extremely limited.
What many parents are not aware of are the various measures that teachers take to keep children engaged in the learning process. They aren’t aware of how often a teacher changes tactics when faced with students’ confusion. They aren’t aware of the theatrics teachers perform to engage children in the learning process or the many methods and materials teachers use for encouraging students to take the risks so necessary for learning. The classroom is truly a laboratory for learning; a place where teachers and students join together to observe, explore, and reach conclusions as one cohesive unit.
During my various conversations with children, from the very young to college-aged students, I have heard over and over that one of the things they missed most during these past COVID-filled months was attending school. In its absence, children have come to appreciate all that school has to offer. Yes, school offers a safe environment for learning the skills necessary for academic advancement, but the social aspects of school are of equal importance. Lunchtime, recess, after-school walks towards home, shared bus rides, and field trips, provide opportunities for developing an understanding of, and respect for, the world around us.
School will eventually resume once again and children will once more go through each week dreading the studying and homework that accompany each day. That’s life. In the meantime, COVID has served to remind us of the many people, places, and things we often take for granted.