Post-pandemic school culture and how to navigate it

Source: stuti/istock

I hope to help you, as a parent dealing with the impact of COVID on your children’s school life, to better understand the obligations of your children’s school to you, other parents and teachers. My goal is to give you constructive tools to get what you want for your children through your interactions with their school administrators.

Three entities are most affected by the impact of COVID on education: you, the parents; your children’s teachers; and your children. School administrators have a complicated job to accommodate and support each of these constituencies. Everyone is best served when they understand each other’s experiences, goals, and desires.

Overworked Parents

August de richelieu/pexels

Source: August de richelieu/pexels

Parents know that education opens doors of opportunity and they naturally want to maximize their children’s academic options and experiences.

As the college admissions process has become increasingly competitive, hiring tutors to help students catch up or progress is now the norm. Activities such as sports or playing an instrument, which previously served as outlets for creativity and recreation, have become areas of intense competition.

Trying to provide all the activities and supports that they believe will make their children successful can leave parents feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and sometimes less able to provide the emotional support their children need. COVID has added a whole other level of stress to the mix.

Coping with everything I just mentioned to ensure your children’s success was hard enough. Today, most schoolchildren in the United States are trying to catch up on content and skills they weren’t able to learn or practice in the first year of the pandemic, and many parents fear that their children never catch up.

Add to that job insecurity, the need to supervise home learning, and the real threats of illness and death, and it’s no wonder so many parents seem frantic. A school administrator summarized the situation as follows:

So many children struggle after a year or more of not learning to socialize or self-regulate. The same goes for parents. Consider the effects on adults over the age of two of anger, separation, and isolation, while having responsibility for their children at home.

Step into the shoes of the teachers

Katerina Holmes / pexels

Source: Katerina Holmes/pexels

Certainly, schools are responsible for educating children by developing programs that will promote the intellectual growth of students.

But school also plays an important role in the socialization of children, teaching them to take turns, to communicate their feelings, to show empathy towards others, to compromise, to see situations from different angles and manage the disappointments that may result from misunderstandings between them and their peers.

Schools also teach children student skills like how to persist, organize themselves, and monitor their performance. As students grow, schools encourage them to become more independent and motivated and to maintain their attention longer for school tasks.

Even before COVID, schools saw a growing trend of parents becoming more involved in their children’s education, increasing their specific demands on schools. Teachers, who are the primary implementers of education and primary providers of curriculum, were often called upon — by administrators and parents — to change what they taught and how they taught to better serve their students. and their parents.

But for more than two years now, in addition to their usual goals, tasks and challenges, teachers have also had to navigate the unpredictable world of COVID and its impact on how content has been delivered and acquired. Due to the increased stress on students and parents, teachers are also expected to serve as counselors for their students.

All of this strain on teachers, along with the added daily anxiety in-person teachers may have about the possibility of contracting COVID from one of their students, has left many teachers feeling drained and frustrated.

Add to that that not all parents have the same ideas about how schools should treat students in the face of all the challenges COVID has presented. Conflicting parental demands are common in schools, and COVID has intensified that, sometimes even among parents.

Some parents want to see their children’s teachers take a softer, more empathetic approach, while others expect teachers to show the same rigor and push for progress they could count on before the pandemic. Even when school administrators work with input from parents and teachers to plan the way forward, not everyone will be happy with their plans.

Rodnae Productions/Pexels

Source: Rodnae Productions/Pexels

How are the children?

At the start of the pandemic, the primary focus of teachers was to protect the emotional well-being of students. This has been partly accomplished, simply by maintaining social contact with their students, even virtually. They tried to be more supportive than usual, and academic rigor became secondary to emotional survival.

While this change was understandable and desirable at the time, it resulted in students practicing less to criticize teachers and having fewer opportunities to develop student skills in the classroom.

Every parent knows that COVID has interrupted the delivery of content to their children, significantly affecting their schooling since the spring of 2020. There were and still are schools whose primary curriculum delivery is virtual.

Most families have found that the virtual “classroom” can be less than ideal for gaining knowledge and developing socialization and resilience skills. Virtual classes have often been shorter than live classes, and content has sometimes been removed from the curriculum to streamline it accordingly.

Learning from home, students could wear whatever they wanted, take screen breaks whenever they wanted, mute themselves if they wanted, or eat a snack during a lesson. There were few or no class rules about behavior, and they had no peers in the room with them to cause conflict. If they wanted to give up a task, they could. Teacher feedback was delivered more gently and less publicly, making it easier for students to receive.

When schools began to reopen, the “new normal” for students changed again, and the demands and expectations teachers had before COVID were reinstated. Many teachers whose students had been learning virtually for eight months or more were caught off guard when they discovered how many of their students had not yet reached the level they expected.

Teachers expected progressing fourth graders to have mastered some concepts and have all of the academic and social skills they were accustomed to in fourth grade. But with an abbreviated curriculum and few opportunities to practice these skills, many children seemed “younger” than usual to their teachers. They entered the new school year less prepared to learn the content their teachers expected them to learn.

Moreover, once the children returned to school, direct correction from teachers felt unfamiliar and more punitive than it would have been if they had received this kind of feedback all along.

Liza summer/pexels

Source: Liza Summer/pexels

Students’ heightened sensitivity to verbal corrections of their behavior or criticism of their academic performance stimulated protective responses from their stressed and worried parents, which I will discuss in more detail in my next article.

I leave you with this reminder: all stakeholders in the field of education have been negatively affected by COVID, so it is important that parents, as guides for their children, remain aware of its effects on all people involved and exercise caution when defending their children.

Carol C. Reed