“In the long-run, there’s no returning to what schooling was like prior to the pandemic.”
By Ileana Najarro
At C.W. Ruckel Middle School in Niceville, Fla., so many kids were using their cell phones in class—a violation of the school’s rules—that administrators loosened up their policy of confiscating them. It had become impractical to enforce. Students had become heavily dependent on devices to help find answers quickly—a side effect of months of remote learning—and were expressing frustration when they had to wrestle with a question or problem on their own, said Steve Chambers, a social studies teacher.
In a New York high school, one teacher has students who stressed out over their parents losing jobs. And at another school, teachers must help their older students re-learn classroom rules.
The individual anecdotes of frustration, stress, distraction, and anxiety students are experiencing this school year add up to a large, complicated reality of social-emotional and mental health needs that teachers must acknowledge and help address—at the same time that they must move children forward academically. It’s a difficult balance to strike.
“At the end of the day, if kids are dealing with mental health issues or families’ basic needs being met, that is going to hinder and has continued to hinder growth in the academic areas, and in academic skills,” said Katrina Miles, an English and drama teacher at Temecula Middle School in Temecula, Calif.
Getting students interested and excited about learning—a challenge that predates the pandemic—is harder than ever, according to a December EdWeek Research Center survey of 630 teachers across the country. Low student engagement is the most widespread problem teachers pointed to as an impediment to helping students reach grade level, with 68 percent of respondents citing it. Large percentages of teachers cited four other major barriers as well: behavioral problems (59 percent), student quarantines (55 percent), and student mental health needs (54 percent)…
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