I recently read an online post in which someone described their frustrating year, teaching from behind a screen. They shared that this was a “lost” year for student learning. Yet, I wonder if that’s true. Did our students truly slide back in terms of their education due to the pandemic? I completely understand how difficult this year was for us and our students. Don’t get me wrong. There were frustrating moments this year. But how much “loss” did our students experience?
Ironically, today a colleague shared an article that dealt with this exact issue. The world works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? In it, Rachael Gabriel of the Washington Post argues that students have, in fact, not experienced learning loss; rather, they have lost the “imagined trajectory leading to a previously imagined future.” Wow. Let that sink in.
Sounds pretty accurate when you think about it. Simply put: our kids lost what we imagined they would learn in our classrooms. Performing a scene from Shakespeare, dissecting a small frog, taking a class field trip: everything imagined our students would do in any typical year.
And for that matter, didn’t we all lose what we imagined our lives would look like last spring? Weddings, vacations, family reunions, simply going out to dinner with friends? The pictures we painted for ourselves suddenly lost their colors as well.
If we only think about this imaginary loss, are we missing something important? What gains did students make rather than lose this year?
- The Value of Time. With much more freedom and flexibility with their schedules, my students have learned how to better manage their time. I will admit, my students are not perfect at this, but who is honestly?. However, I have seen a definite improvement in their ability to balance school, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. And they are much more aware of my time. I have received several apologetic emails about submitting late work. I appreciate their thoughtfulness in acknowledging that my time is valuable too.
- Technology Skills. My students are navigating multiple online learning platforms depending on which one their teachers selected. This isn’t easy. They also know how to troubleshoot internet connectivity issues. And they are doing this with much more ease and confidence than a year ago.
- Interpersonal Skills. Some may argue that students have lost much in terms of their peer relationships. In a traditional sense, that may be true for schools that are hybrid or completely remote this year. However, I argue that this year has allowed all of my students to appreciate each other in a way they never did before. We have been hybrid for about seven weeks and hosted a spirit week last week. I was nervous as the Student Council advisor that students may not dress up. But, participation was through the roof. Both in-person and at home kids donned their best outfits in the name of showing pride for our school and community. These interpersonal connections shape our school culture and the kids need this more than ever.
- Resilience. My students have overcome the challenges of living and learning during a global pandemic. Just think about that. None of us, neither students nor teachers, were prepared to spend our days teaching and learning in a new way. And yet, they did it. They stepped up to the plate and motivated themselves to learn in a way we did not prepare them for.
My kids navigated this rollercoaster in the absolute best way they could. Let’s remember that they are kids. Kids who will come out of this on the other side with a toolbox full of priceless skills rather than a list of losses. While the traditional skills we can measure through a multiple-choice test or a project with a carefully crafted rubric make look different this year, the soft skills they did learn are immeasurable. These skills are priceless. These are the skills they will carry into their futures and allow them to adapt to the ever-changing world. And that makes me pretty excited and proud to be their teacher.
What skills have you seen your students harness? Leave a comment below.
Click here to access Rachael Gabriel’s article.