During the COVID-19 pandemic, 188 countries imposed countrywide school closures, and more than 1.5 billion children and youth were impacted. We are now faced with putting systems in place to determine the magnitude of the loss of learning and development for the young generation. More than two-thirds of the countries in the world introduced and had to scramble to implement a national distance learning platform. While every attempt was made to ensure equal access, school districts experienced wide variations in internet access, quality instruction, and digital technology. Realistically, before the pandemic, almost one-third of school-age children were already digitally excluded, and the closures exasperated the learning gap. Children from upper socio-economic subgroups continued their educational process with interruption nonetheless, but compared to children in lower socio-economic subgroups, the learning gap during Covid-19 is traumatically astonishing.
Because of those staggering statistics, we were forced to put education, health, and wellbeing at the top of the list. We relied heavily on the CDC and relevant task forces and legislative working groups under the leadership of the Governors to develop plans to move forward as much as possible. Putting the child first was a stellar example of radical change. Like never before, we witnessed the CDC, state health departments, local leadership, community members, and schools working together to an unprecedented degree redesigning parks, facilities, providing electronic/digital devices, Wi-Fi at various locations city-wide, providing sustainable food supplies, and redesigning neighborhoods to ensure the playing field was as level as possible for all children.
During the COVID-19 crisis, children were home with parents responsible for taking on teaching duties in concert with educators nationwide. They had the responsibility of offering guidance to the children about how to best deal with the impact of being locked down and the possible threat of being impacted by the pandemic, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially. And the more pressing question was and is at this point, “What now?”
While there are still lots of unknowns about what moving forward will look like post-coronavirus, we can be assured that some form of normalcy will be reestablished as well as new norms. As educators, we should continue the child focus and put systems in place to make up for learning loss by enhanced monitoring while moving full speed ahead by encouraging students to focus on critical thinking skills coupled with leadership. It is no secret that because of the various social media platforms, students were inundated with large doses of conspiracy theories, misunderstandings, denial, and a lack of compliance to sanitary measures. Therefore, it is paramount that children foster the ability to think to debunk and navigate fake news and contrasting data critically. They must think rationally and clearly to avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety as they continue working to close the gap on learning loss.
Finally, we must ensure students receive as much mental health support as possible and that they can feel totally comfortable communicating their needs. When communication happens, should educators be mindful of their emotional intelligence and ability to display empathy. They should also prioritize students by becoming sensitive to the differences that will exist from one student to another. Rarely is any situation identical. Therefore, it is paramount that educators make time for counselors to interact with students early on to ensure all students understand and display characteristics of good emotional intelligence by being sensitive to, be aware of, and demonstrating empathy for others’ emotions and behaviors which is crucial, especially during unprecedented times like we are currently experiencing. Students should not be in the dark about what is transpiring post-covid. They should be allowed to articulate their truth independent of excessive pessimism, as Covid-19 represents a platform to develop altruistic attitudes and critical thinking about natural events.
About the Author
Dr. Frederick Fields is an educational consultant and author of Educator’s Strategies for Effective Relationships and Conversations with Millennials and Generation Z Parents. He holds a Doctorate of Education from Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University. He currently serves as Senior Director of Student Services for the Little Rock School District, where he oversees the Counseling & College/Workshop Readiness Department, Student Health Services, Student Hearing Office, Alternative Learning Programs, Student Registration, Homeless Education Program, Student Attendance, Dropout Prevention/Truancy, Care Program (affordable before and after school child care), Mental Health Departments, and Juvenile Detention Coordinators.
Armed with over thirty years of teaching, administration, community engagement, training, and leadership skills, he serves passion and fidelity. All in hopes of ensuring that every student, family, and community receives the best educational experience. All while working tirelessly to bridge the gap between generations and formulating winning strategies on education and customer service in the post-pandemic era.
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