The Covid Slide: What is it and Can Parents and Teachers Cure it?
The global pandemic has hurt the world in a number of ways beyond financial and robbing people of their sense of normalcy. As parents struggle financially and do their best to make sure their children are still receiving some kind of education, long term damage by the closure of schools is starting to become its own crisis. But by far one of the most worrying aspects of the global crisis beyond the financial and medical is the Covid Slump.
Schools have been essentially shut down since Spring Break 2020. This was during the beginning stages of the virus when the disease was novel and the medical community wasn’t sure how to handle the influx of people suddenly coming down with the illness.
Fast forward to July of 2020, schools are out for summer and many school districts aren’t sure whether or not reopening schools is safe for students and teachers. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the longer children and teens stay out of school, the further the “slide” progresses and the more knowledge they lose everyday.
The Summer Slide
The Summer Slide is an educational phenomenon known to teachers and parents since the mid 90s. Basically, it was discovered during the months students are off for the summer break and aren’t learning, they begin to forget what they’ve learned and lose all of the progress they made over the course of the school year. By the time they start up again for the next year, they need refresher courses to remind them of everything they should have already learned but failed to retain.
A further study in 2015 showed that the slide was very evident in 3rd and 5th graders, who lost significant ground in both reading and math.
The Summer Slide is a result of schools closing for two and half months while students are on break. During the break, schools do their best to create learning opportunities for students who want to get ahead, prepare themselves for tougher classes, or maybe learn a new skill instead of being stuck at home for the summer. Summertime educational courses and summer reading programs help combat the summer slide significantly even though the only true way to prevent the slump at all is to keep kids in school.
The Rise of the Covid Slump
To understand the severity of the Covid Slump, imagine the damage caused by being out of school for only two months for summer break. Now, imagine those two months turning into six and you’ll understand why so many teachers, leaders in education, politicians are worried about what the pandemic has done to erase the strides many young students have made in school.
A few weeks after schools closed, it became evident to many educators that students needed to complete the rest of the school year somehow. They simply couldn’t remain on an extended Spring Break until summer vacation. So, many schools scrambled to move their lesson plans online and began their new normal of teaching classes online.
Students received their assignments online or picked them up at the schools to complete at home. Instead of classrooms, students and teachers had meetings through programs such as Zoom and Skype. Conferences and tutoring were done by phone or email. Many schools even made breakfast and lunch available for students to pick up by drive-thru. Now, parents and kids were working from home together.
Though the system may have worked for a time in the beginning, many teachers and staff ended up having to track down students and parents to find out why assignments weren’t being completed. Many students became burned out by the process of a new way of learning. High school seniors became disheartened as football games, senior class trips, proms, and graduations were canceled because of the pandemic. Parents, unable to help their children with assignments grew frustrated, and many resented having to become teachers themselves.
Let’s be completely honest: many kids and parents failed to take the situation seriously and decided to do nothing for the rest of the school year. Now, when schools attempt to open back up in August, students will have had six months of no real classroom instruction. Practically everything they learned at the start of the 2019 fall semester has likely been forgotten. Worse yet, American students will not be the only ones feeling the covid slide but so will students around the world.
Covid Slide vs Summer Slide
The Covid Slide is a far greater beast than its Summer Slide counterpart. The problem with understanding he Covid Slide is modern education experts have never had to deal with a situation like this before. There simply is no baseline from where to begin that would help educators come up with ideas on how to deal with the educational destruction happening on a daily basis.
The current problem that must be addressed, before even attempting to assess the academic damage that has been done by the virus, is to figure out how schools will reopen or if they will open at all at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. While there is great pressure at the federal level to open schools, many states and local governments where infection rates have increased significantly since Memorial Day are apprehensive about sending students back to classes as normal. Until the virus is under control, parents simply aren’t willing to send their children back to school where they may potentially become infected. Beyond students, many teachers and staff also don’t want to risk becoming exposed to the virus, where they may not only contract it themselves but also unknowingly infect other students.
Some of the proposed ideas include a continuation of online classes as well as allowing some students to return to school for short periods of time. Some students will likely only attend school for a few hours a day each week. Some may not have to return at all.
After the conditions of how students will return to school are decided, then teachers and staff can figure out how to adjust their teaching styles in order to make sure students are learning the best they can and getting as much support as possible. However, it’s been made very clear by most experts that the effects of the Covid Slide will be with us for quite some time until students have made up for the lost time.
How to Turn the Tides of the Slide
While there’s no way to reverse the slide quickly, if parents, students, and teachers work together, both the length of time students experience the slide and the severity of the slide can decrease.
But in order to make positive changes, parents and students working together at home have to put in place common sense strategies to make sure academic success is possible.
Remove Distractions and Work on Building Attention
As many adults have discovered as they too have had to transition to working from home, distractions are everywhere when working from home. Television, gaming consoles, food, social media, and various other things can be major distractions when a student is trying to study at home.
Parents and students should work on building a space where they can study without distractions and know their limitations when it comes to what will help them focus on what they need to do and what won’t. Because classes are held online, the urge to wander and look at other websites is always present. Parents should make sure their child is still on task from time to time and ask questions about what they’re learning to see if they’re making real progress. It seems simple, but distractions can severely hurt one’s ability to not only concentrate but also retain information.
Engaged Students are More Focused Students
A student who doesn’t feel engaged in their assignment will easily become bored and distracted. This is a common problem among students learning from home today. There are just some students who require learning to be an engrossing activity in order for them to feel as though they’re learning something. Many students simply can’t learn by answering questions on a screen.
One way to spark engagement is by simply asking why. Both parent and student can review the assignment together and think critically about why it’s important to learn the lesson they’re working on. This is a concept that can be applied to virtually every subject including math, science, reading, and English. The process of making students feel engaged doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply showing some interest in what’s being taught can go a long way.
Progress Should Be Rewarded
When your student is on track and is making great progress with school work, reward them for all their hard work. You and your child can decide what kind of reward is appropriate, but it’s important to recognize their accomplishments and the effort they’re putting into their education. If it’s not easy for you to work from home with all the distractions and everything going on, remember they’re trying to do the same thing with all the same distractions.
Be Encouraging of Their Effort and Struggle
Remember what it was like to be a student. Now, imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a house for six months and not being able to have any social interaction with anyone except the people around you. Plus, you’re trying to learn brand new concepts and ideas virtually on your own without any real help from a teacher or tutor.
When your child is struggling with what they’re learning and they’re deeply trying to understand their lessons, be the encouragement they need to keep going. Be a positive and reinforcing voice for them and if possible, help them when you can without completely doing the assignment for them. There is never a good time to be negative when they’re stressed out and trying their best to do things right. And if you realize that things are just too tough for them and they’ve tried their best, talk to their teacher or school and get them the help they need.