Last week I was worried about a lot of my students. There were some I hadn’t heard from for several days and some who hadn’t submitted anything in weeks. I allowed my worries to get the best of me for a few days, and I’m back to breathing a bit easier again this week. Today I want to focus on the sliver of the student population for whom this whole quarantine thing seems to be working.
Everywhere I look, it seems, there are memes and posts blasted throughout social media describing how distressing and detrimental the switch to distance learning has been for our students’ learning and well-being. It’s true that many, many students are struggling under current conditions due to any number of reasons. And regardless of the student, it goes without saying that all are missing out on very profound social interactions every day we are away. However, what if this sudden shift in learning is exactly what SOME students needed? Let me explain …
After completing our first two weeks of at-home learning, I can name a handful of my current students who are performing better now than I’ve ever seen them perform. Their “assignments” are not only completed on time, but they are done well! For these students, it would seem that being in the comfort of their own homes, distanced from the hustle and bustle of a normal school day environment has served them well. They feel real ownership in how to manage their day and their time, they are more focused and productive when they do choose to work because they are making that choice, and the feeling of pride they encounter when completing a task only inspires a stronger drive for success.
We have another population of students to consider when reflecting about our current learning conditions. Mental health concerns are on an overwhelming rise, and many of our students are included in that rising tide. For some, being at school for a full day does not give them the best chance for success. Though the academic instruction and resources are there, some students are unable to access that instruction due to invisible barriers. The simple act of walking through the school doors is enough to induce genuine physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety or fear for some students. For those whom the building, itself, is the obstacle to accessing learning, this could be an answer.
Though it is not the case for all or even most students, it must be noted that transitioning to distance learning has been a positive change for some. That, in itself, should raise some eyebrows in regards to the day-to-day structures of a “normal” school environment. Could it be that the way classes are currently structured is not suitable for all? Of course they’re not! But why not? And what are we going to do about it?