By Stacey Schuh, Director of Professional Learning Services at Michigan Virtual
Since March of 2020, my two children have been learning remotely. During this time our family has learned a lot about the importance of advocating for what we need. Depending on the day, it might be space, support, or how to use ten frames (thank you YouTube).
While at a conference on education recently, I heard the term “learning loss” and immediately felt a pit in my stomach.
“Loss” seemed to imply that kids weren’t learning and I vehemently disagree with that assertion.
I kept thinking about how negative the word “
loss” sounded when describing my children’s experiences. It bothered me and made me feel as if all of the hard work done to support students wasn’t being acknowledged or given the credit it deserves.
As a former classroom teacher and the director of professional development for a non-profit organization, I have seen firsthand how much educators have been doing to support students all while juggling their own personal struggles with COVID.
While I will acknowledge learning may look different than before, I think it is important to build upon skills students have gained during this pandemic rather than focusing on what they have not.
A kindergartener learning to ask questions
My daughter started her experience as a kindergartener going face-to-face, which she will return to once her school allows for in-person learning.
When the pandemic hit, emergency remote learning was tough. She struggled with where to go to get instruction, and accessing her learning resources was not easy for any of us.
However, over time she learned important skills that will benefit her for years to come.
Some of these skills include how to share ideas in a group, log in to multiple accounts, keep track of her schedule, and manage assignments.
Just yesterday she yelled down from her room, “I turned in my work all on my own. Mr. Wagner even left me a comment and I listened to it and now I’m going to ask him a question!”
This moment made me smile as I realized just how much she has grown in terms of communication skills. In a face-to-face classroom, she may never have spoken up or asked questions like the one she asked Mr. Wagner on this assignment.
A fifth-grader taking ownership of his learning
My son is in 5th grade. He is very responsible, probably more so than his parents, but struggles with organization. His experience with remote learning was rough at times due to changes in schedules and his overall understanding of utilizing online tools.
After some time, however, he began to show ownership of his learning.
He asked for a calendar,started organizing his files, made sure he had all his materials ahead of time for classes, and followed up on feedback from his teachers.
At one point at the beginning of remote learning, he asked me to reach out to his teacher about an assignment. I looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t have time to do this, you need to ask your teacher.”
From that point on, he communicated with his teachers around questions he had. He learned to be an advocate for himself and his learning.
This skill will serve him well as a learner and contributor for the rest of his life.
A parent learning to let her children struggle
Not only have my children grown during this period of emergency remote learning, but I, too, have also built new parenting skills.
I’ve learned the importance of letting my children struggle, pushing them to advocate for themselves, and being flexible when faced with new challenges.
I have learned that their teachers care for them and want them to succeed through their tireless efforts and dedication to making my kids feel cared for and supported. I will never be able to thank them enough or share how much they have positively impacted our family.
An educator hoping we can reframe our thinking
I would encourage all of us to reframe our thinking when it comes to our opinions on pandemic learning.
How can we use what has been gained to enhance learning moving forward?
How can we assemble newly acquired skills such as grit and flexibility to better equip students when learning is difficult?
Will we go back to the traditional way of learning, or will we use the knowledge we’ve gained to provide more personalized options to meet students where they are?
When we go back to the physical classroom, my hope is that we continue to have an online aspect of learning. I want my children to be prepared for future careers without bells and schedules.
I want for them to be flexible when learning isn’t taking place in a brick and mortar setting.
I want my children to continue to build upon what they have learned. To speak up for themselves and make connections with others in new ways.
I want them to push forward when things are hard, we can and should do hard things.
Really, isn’t education about acquiring skills to work through challenges, to think critically, and to ask for help when you need it?
If so, my children have not lost, but rather gained new perspectives to face future challenges.