By Kevin Anderson
Posted on 2021-02-22
When students were asked to discuss “learning loss” for a recent article, one said about school during COVID, “I lost time I could have been enjoying my childhood.” I thought that was a profound statement on how students are feeling right now. While it is clear that some typical school learning did not happen to the same extent as it did before the pandemic, I would like to reframe how we view the learning that did happen and learning goals moving forward.
I contend the primary focus of schooling should not be to push students toward artificial learning benchmarks at the expense of “enjoying their childhood.” We need to focus on helping students first develop a love for learning. We need to focus on what they can do, not on whether a small change in a test score–based trajectory happens. Using a packaged program that raises their score five points on a standardized test is not worth it if it decreases a child’s engagement in school.
And we ignore that truth when the primary focus is on “learning loss.” Schooling at its best allows students to find their identity and their passions. And it helps them see that they are loved. That should be a major lesson of COVID-19 that we recognize to move forward.
Therefore, we need to focus on meaningful learning opportunities for all students, not a deficit- and remediation-minded emphasis on making up for lost time. Post-COVID student support requires very careful and thoughtful approaches for several reasons:
Instead of continuing with more of the same strategies to support students, we need to emphasize enriched learning for all. We need to get students engaged through meaningful connections to their community and their lived experience. For example, teachers can have them build literacy skills while gaining empowerment through exploring a unit on health equity and COVID-19.
As Dr. Bettina Love, the inspiration for several points in this editorial, emphasizes, we need to focus more on joy—celebrating that we made it through COVID and dreaming of what can be—not repeating the same things we have always done.