(An abbreviated version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, August, 2021)
The good news: School boards are actively preparing for a return to in-person learning in September.
The not-so-good news: According to the CBC and other news outlets, experts worldwide are warning of delays in literacy, numeracy and socioemotional development in kids because of the pandemic.
This COVID Slide as it’s been dubbed sounds alarming. But then I considered my own kiddos. Although they struggled at the beginning of the pandemic, they also developed new skills, discovered new interests and adopted new ways to connect with others. The COVID Slide is neither as ubiquitous nor straightforward as it sounds.
To gain more insight, I conducted an informal social media survey of educators in Canada I know, seeking how best to support youth after over a year of hybrid and/or remote learning. Their professional advice converged in 4 main areas:
- “We need to challenge this idea that kids are “behind”. Yes, maybe they are behind as to curriculum exposure they would have received in a normal school year, but they ALL are, so they are not behind relative to one another. The children who really need focused remediation will be those who did not attend regularly — students who are our challenge to reach in a normal school year as well. Schools know who these kids are and are already making plans to support them.” — Shelly B., Secondary Teacher-Librarian, Southwestern Ontario
- “It’s not about the content kids learn … but of the learning skills that are acquired. With remote learning, students have had to become more self-motivated and figure things out on their own. That is something to be proud of.” — Alice L., High School Teacher, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
Unplug & Focus on Mental Health
- “I would stress the importance of unplugging this summer. We will certainly have a greater focus on embedding technology in our classrooms now that many students have gained fantastic skills, but taking a break this summer is important. There are so many benefits to tech in the classroom; however, learning to balance on- and off-screen time has been a challenge for many kids. This is really vital for mental health.” — Tanya M., Elementary School Teacher, Upper Grand District School Board
- “Get them outside!! So much of this year has been sedentary. Get them exploring the natural environment, helping with gardening, doing and making things to exercise their body and mind.” — Shelly B., Secondary Teacher-Librarian, Southwestern Ontario
Read, Read, Read
- “Reading yourself in front of kids, reading to young kids, and encouraging older kids to read is more important than any time lost in the classroom.” — Alice L., High School Teacher, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
- “Read to and with young children, and encourage teens to read by having books around that they want to read. Make family trips to the library to get more books! Regular reading has been established over and over to be one of the best things to support language skills development.” — Shelly B., Secondary Teacher-Librarian, Southwestern Ontario
- There are of course lots of workbooks, but I’m not a fan. Drill without application doesn’t stick as well as we’d like to think … For math, I would recommend the U of W (University of Waterloo) Problem of the Week. These problems are organized by dual grade levels and by strand. They work on both literacy and numeracy skills as they are quite in-depth. Solutions are also available making it helpful for parents.” — Tanya M., Elementary School Teacher, Upper Grand District School Board
- There is an amazing podcast on ADDitude magazine, (ADHD Experts Podcast: 357), about how to help kids over the summer in a meaningful way!” — Amy C., Elementary School Teacher, Toronto District School Board
- “Losing over 1 year of in school education is devastating for high needs students … Tutors would be great to help review with the kids if parents could afford this idea.” — Gary S., Retired High School Behaviour Support Teacher, Winnipeg School Division
The post-pandemic period may be stressful as kids adjust to increased academic and social demands. However, with both academic and mental health support from parents and educators, any COVID Slide should only be temporary.