The physical and emotional effects of change during the crisis
The Corona-19 Virus hit us all suddenly and deeply. It affected us on a physical level – the obligation of being in quarantine, limited space to move around, prohibitions to be in public spaces, and lack of exercise in general. It impacted us on an emotional level as well – the isolation, fear, uncertainty, confusion and doubt. And it also happened to all of us at the same time, leaving no time for the elders to process what was happening, so that they (we) could create a safe emotional space for the younger generations.
What were the emotional effects of the crisis on adults, parents, and children from an educational perspective? How did teachers react and what did they do to stay connected to their charges? What measures did educators take to compensate for the drastic changes? And how will the time away from school affect students in the long term? Through conversations with directors, teachers, parents and students, we can answer many of these questions. International organisations took the initiative to gather information from schools all over the world to find out what some of the effects the quarantine had on students and teachers, and the methods teachers and directors implemented successfully in their schools so that the students’ emotional and intellectual needs were met in the short term. Furthermore, though we’ve never experienced a pandemic the way we did at the end of the last school year, there are precedents for how the loss of the scholastic environment affects students, and we can learn from these occurrences.
The implications of the loss of the educational environment
With regard to academics, for instance, researchers know that schooling affects our IQ for the rest of our lives (both positively and negatively). We have evidence of this through, for instance, the 1968 teacher’s strike in New York City, when, after 40 days of teachers refusing to enter the classroom, their student scores fell two months below what they were the year before. In another case in Belgium in 1990, the French teachers went on strike and their students’ scores dropped significantly, while the test scores of their Flemish-speaking peers (whose teachers did not go on strike) were not affected. In a third case, in 2004, after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, students could not attend school for several months, and consequently their scores were extraordinarily low, in comparison with the results of their exams in previous years. The conclusion we can reach is that schooling factors into our scholastic achievements significantly. However, what’s more is that these results also impact on how we see ourselves and our own intelligence in our adult lives.
Schools have social and academic influence
The loss of time in school cannot be taken lightly, because, schools are both academic and social institutions. The skills developed during school hours are not always replicated in other areas of our students’ lives. Skills we may take for granted such as sharing, negotiating and diplomacy, among many other social inventions, are an integral part of a school day; yet while these skills are also learned and practiced in the homes of students with siblings, children without brothers or sisters do not have the opportunity to develop these important social skills when at home alone.
The socio-economic aspects of isolation also is a factor in how the loss of the educational environment affects students. Those who depend on school to learn how to interact more fluidly with the majority culture and the classroom language, when they have limited contact with the school population, they fall behind in their studies and lose time in integrating into their communities. Moreover, these students have added stress when they need to translate messages from their directors or teachers for their parents. Depending on the age of the student, this may not always be possible. Most of us are also painfully aware of how school is often the only place many students will receive a healthy meal; it is also a safe zone for children who experience physical and/or emotional abuse at home and these incidents are aggravated during an obligatory home confinement.
‘The changes that are essential, happen during times of crisis.’ So concludes Andreas Schleicher, in the Abril 2020 HundrED Research Report. Schleicher is one of the founders of the organisation HundrED, based in Finland. With ambassadors all over the world, it has taken the initiative to collect information on the best educational practices that have come out of these recent challenging changes.
In the next blog, we’ll explore some of the conclusions reached by the HundrED organisation, and teachers all over the world. Like you, they were faced with forced isolation, had little training in distance teaching, looked for ways to compensate for reduced contact with at-risk students, wanted to support students about to take critical exams, and at the same time were trying to assure their general student population.
Richmond is dedicated to finding and sharing key ideas that will help you to move forward towards innovation. Until then, we want you to benefit from resources we’ve been gathering that you can use online or in the physical classroom, to help your students to engage a bit more in their studies.