The Most Important Thing Students Need During COVID

We’ve all seen some amazing acts of love and kindness from teachers lately– both at Trinity, and across Virginia. Parades, Zoom parties, and virtual music class are just a few of the novelties that come to mind. It turns out that these gestures have a much bigger impact for good than just making a child’s day, though.

Let’s face it– we are four months into the most bizarre, terrifying, and unstable year the modern world has seen. And while the adults of Planet Earth are working tirelessly to problem-solve, heal, help, and mitigate, our children are suddenly suspended in a strange new world of their own. According to a recent report by UNESCO, over 90% of the world’s children– almost 1.6 billion–have been sent home from school for the remainder of the year. In the United States, 75% of school-aged children are now at home.

There is already hope for the future, both near and long-term, for education in America, although it will doubtless look much like it did back in September. Still, signs of a new educational model are emerging. But what about now? Although plans are already underway at every level to map out the future of education– from stepped-up hygiene practices and  small class sizes to a continued emphasis on remote learning–it is important to take note of the impact this moment has on our children. How is this closure on such a massive scale going to impact our students– both next year, and beyond?

A recent NPR article focused on the effect of long-term school closures on children, specifically those in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane devastated the region, schools did not re-open for an entire semester. Many students did without any instruction or interaction with their teachers at all. The result? Those students who were “behind” the curve were dealt a blow that took years to recover from. Inequalities in the classroom are magnified without continuous instruction, and extremely challenging to overcome.

This grim scenario does have a hopeful ending, though. Studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education  showed that regular interaction between teachers and students through episodes of extreme social disruption does more than just continue the lessons. It has the ability to offset enormous stress for children, bolster confidence and security, and encourage positive communication strategies.

So, for parents and teachers at Trinity Lutheran School, this is good news. The online instruction, Zoom meetings, and virtual chapel services are serving our students in more ways than one. Our teachers seemed to know right away that the connection between teacher and student is the most important element of education– that’s the thing that motivates and empowers, that instills the confidence to tackle hard things, that instills a love of learning. With this connection intact, we are learning together and moving forward. This truly is what “educating hearts and minds” looks like.

Maureen Crone is the marketing and development director at Trinity Lutheran School, and the mom of two really good digital students who connect with their teachers every day.