Let's talk about our children for a minute. Let's talk about what they have been through the past eighteen-ish months.
In March of 2020, the world was plunged into a global pandemic from out of nowhere. Many schools shut down during Spring Break Week and didn't reopen for the remainder of the school year. Our students were rapidly taken away from school, as well as their friends. Younger children, I can tell you from personal experience, had a very difficult time adjusting to this sudden loss of socialization. Our children were thrown into the middle of something that even the adults in their lives could not begin to explain or even understand.
Teachers were sent scrambling to figure out how to keep teaching, even if the students were not in the classrooms. The difficulties that came with this were endless, but teachers being teachers, persevered and kept on teaching, innovating on the fly.
When school resumed in the fall of 2020, children now needed to wear masks if they were in the classroom, be in smaller groups, and take unprecedented safety measures just to be in school. Dividers were put in place to separate students. Groupings were not allowed. Adult family members were not allowed in the buildings. Everyone was on high alert. Each time a child sneezed or coughed, teachers all wondered if they had Covid.
And the masks! This was also new for our students and their teachers. Not only did masks make breathing more difficult, they also got pretty nasty if the children wearing them were younger. Because we were all thrown into this "new normal," families struggled to keep masks clean, or, as in the case of paper masks, keep their children from breaking them.
Another problem that masks presents is the inability for others to read facial expressions. Our students aren't able to read the emotions of their teachers when this key piece of non-verbal language. Children learn language from verbal, as well as non-verbal clues. By wearing masks, part of the learning of language skills is taken away from interactions with peers, as well as their teachers.
So, take these same students, whose world has been turned upside down in the last year and a half, and use the same assessments and expectations of our students as we did pre-pandemic. How is that even fair? Educational pundits will tell you that students in our classrooms are vastly different now than they were before the pandemic hit, yet we're assessing them with the same tools and the same expectations as we did before the pandemic. How is that fair to our students?
Our expectations need to change! There needs to be more focus on the social-emotional well-being of our students. The whole "Maslow Before Bloom" adage could not be more true of today's students. Yet we continue to assess, and we continue to push, without much thought about the pressure this is putting on our "Covid kids."
Here's what I think, and it may not be popular with some who take the time to read this. I think we should, first and foremost, provide for the social and emotional needs of our students. It would be great if we didn't have to assess them at all, but I know that's not going away. Those assessments should not be used for a grade. They should be used by the teachers as a measurement tool, only. Trust the teachers to know what their students need. Trust the teachers to guide their students to academic growth. Let the teachers provide for the social and emotional needs of their students first, no matter how long it takes. As the great Rita Pierson once said: