In this era of distance learning, teachers all over the nation really do miss the controlled chaos that was their classrooms just months ago. But what do they miss most? Their students.
“I used to think it was too loud when 15 6-year-olds would tell me about recess all at the same time. Now it’s too quiet. I used to look forward to a few minutes of alone time during the day. Now, I miss the fun chaos,” said Laura Giles, a Utah first-grade teacher, in her April 2020 Daily Herald column.
She and her colleagues have been teaching remotely now for more than three weeks. Following examples of other elementary schools around the country, they took part in a teacher parade and drove around their students’ neighborhoods greeting students from afar.
“What we found out is that this parade, although fun, was a somber reminder that we miss these kids — our kids. That is how we start to think of our students when we spend several hours each day, most days, with them. Our students, our children,” Giles wrote.
Students miss their teachers as well. School serves multiple purposes in a child’s life — teaching them socialization and citizenship skills along with academics.
Many children are sitting out this current pandemic in the relative safety of their homes. The worst thing they may be suffering from, at least on the outside, is boredom. But on the inside, it may be another matter. According to a 2017 study by Alice Fothergill, children feel the same stress and anxiety of traumatic situations as their parents but hide it more.
And children going through this pandemic will experience both mental and emotional effects, Vann R. Newkirk II said in a March 2020 article for The Atlantic.
“While most adults still have work and other routines to carry on, school is the primary source of structure and socialization for kids. Children have rich social lives, often experienced almost exclusively in school and extracurricular activities,” Newkirk wrote.
Without those activities and contact with trusted adults outside the home, Newkirk explained that “prolonged social-distancing measures will mean profound separation from some people who provide care. All the FaceTime in the world can’t make up for fill-in help from aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and gym coaches.”
So how can teachers, students, and parents connect socially while physically distancing?
Many teachers use Google Meets or Zoom to connect with one or more of their students — to read with them, go over new concepts, or just chat and listen. The hours they once spent in the classroom are now used to email, call and text students from home. Some teachers even sit in their students’ driveways (six feet apart, of course) just to be with them face to face for a few minutes.
Educators around the nation are doing their best to facilitate distance learning with the highest level of engagement in their students. But they know it is not the best solution for most of their students.
Londyn Freeman, a third-grade teacher in Utah, pointed out in a recent Daily Herald article that teachers understand that every student will have some knowledge and skills gaps during this time. But students’ well-being is paramount.
More importantly, Freeman pointed out, is that parents monitor their children’s emotional wellness during this time, and ensure they have coping strategies and open communication. Once everyone comes back to the classroom, teachers can tackle the academic gaps.
“This is what we are trained to do,” Freeman said in the article.