As we're preparing for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, I'm once again hearing discussions about learning loss - and how to "fix it" - crop up in conversations and group chats with friends and colleagues, on social media, and in the news. As the pandemic has dragged on, our students have missed classes, lost out on many experiential learning activities, and struggled to learn over Zoom. The learning loss is real. However, if teachers enter the new school year with this mentality that our children have lost learning, we are doing them a disservice.
Our students have lost learning, but they have also lost so much more. Our students may have lost loved ones to the pandemic, they missed out on birthday parties and sleepovers, they lost their school dances and extracurricular activities. Let's celebrate with them as we return to normalcy and let's mourn what they've lost. Our students need love, support, and social-emotional learning this year, not just curricular knowledge.
The mental health of children and teenagers has been hit hard by the pandemic - the number of suicides, eating disorders, etc. have multiplied. Our students do not need the additional stress of feeling like they've fallen behind, like they have to pack a year and a half of missed curricular learning in as quickly as possible. Our attitudes rub off on our students, as much as we may try to avoid it. If we, the teachers, attempt to "correct" or "fix" the learning loss with all of our energy, we will inevitably increase our students' anxiety/stress and decrease their ability to learn and grow.
While the pandemic is certainly not over, things are looking up here in Ontario with vaccine rates up and case rates down. We will have to continue to pivot accordingly, I'm sure, but for a moment, let's hope. This school year will be full of challenges for teachers and students alike, let's not make it harder for us all by focusing on what we've lost - let's celebrate what we've got.