COVID-19 infections have launched the world into the most traumatic event of the decade. Anxiety is running high. There is a quiet dread in every store, every empty hallway, and city street. Awkward Harkness discussions have been made even more awkward by Google Meet. Classes have been moved online, and for many, including SPA students, it’s been a struggle. Maybe grades have dropped. Everyone seems to be handling the challenges of this pandemic differently. And that’s okay.
Even before schools shut down and learning relocated to home, there were inequities in the classroom. Students with entirely different sets of circumstances and unique challenges were being evaluated using the same standards. Everything from physical activity to eyesight can affect knowledge retention and test scores. Family issues also affect academic performance, as do learning differences, whether diagnosed or not.
The same principle applies to distance learning; the problems are just different. Due to increased reliance on online tools, internet access creates a larger performance gap now than it would normally. With everyone in the family trying to work and live in the same place at once, overcrowding can affect productivity. Stuck-at-home families are more likely to come into conflict, which can further affect performance. Adolescent mental health is deteriorating because of differing responses to trauma, as students have increased feelings of anxiety about their grades, their family’s finances, and their loved ones’ health.
Schoolwork may still be difficult right now for those not facing any of the above issues. Working at home is especially difficult for students because adolescent brains don’t have fully developed executive functioning skills, including time management and self-control. The structure of school helps with these issues, but without it, teenagers start to act like, well, teenagers. In terms of getting work done, there’s a biological disadvantage.
When the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over, however long that may take, things will go more or less back to normal. Streets will be noisy again. Google Meet Harknesses will be a thing of the past. School buildings will reopen. When that happens, remember this experience and learn from it. Successes and failures during this time will teach more life skills than could possibly be learned from the “normal”. Think about the ongoing lessons on how to stay motivated, how to organize time, how to minimize distractions, and how to communicate professionally over the internet. Remember this better understanding of self, personal strengths and weaknesses, and how to adapt.