“I’m tired of hearing people say that kids are falling behind. Behind what exactly? We have third graders logging into Zoom meetings, troubleshooting technology glitches, learning to communicate their needs, and adapting to a completely foreign school environment. With these life skills, I think they just might be pulling way ahead.”
I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot since I stumbled upon it on Instagram last week. There’s so much we can’t control right now, and there’s a lot of legitimate fear of children falling behind. But I can’t help but wonder what “falling behind” really means. What do we truly mean when we use that phrase? Is it exclusively academic? Developmental? Social-emotional? Are we trying to encompass the whole child, or is the focus on one portion more than others?
When I work with families and learners struggling with the realities of education during a pandemic, we talk at length about what we can change and what we cannot. What is within our control? How can we adapt it to make it better? What is outside of our control? How can we adapt what we can control, to help make it better? We can’t control the unbelievable instability, unpredictability, inequity, and loss of pandemic education. But what can we control, as teachers, educational partners, parents and guardians, school administrators, learners? What can we adapt, to help make it better?
What if we considered a new perspective and leaned in to these unprecedented circumstances, focusing on what learners can uniquely gain right now?
Are the benchmarks that we’re citing when we talk about falling behind truly critical and time-sensitive? Are they rooted in capitalizing on cognitive development, social emotional development, and sequential foundational skills? Or in societal expectations and standardized test preparation? What is truly critical and deserves our time and attention most at this exact moment?
If learners do take a different path and embrace this year’s unique possibilities, will the lasting impact be negative or positive? What do you think?