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Living in a Pandemic During the “Wonder Years”

With the onset of Covid-19 now over a year ago, everyone has been impacted one way or another. The pandemic has caused isolation, anxiety, fear, confusion and a major disruption of daily routines. As educators and parents, of course our focus is on these questions: how is this going to affect our children and what can we do to help?

While we have been very fortunate at Mountain Sun to be able to have in-person learning this school year, school has looked very different for our students and teachers. Mask wearing, physical distancing, and learning in outdoor classrooms and new spaces have all impacted our learning and social experiences. Plus, we have had to manage disappointments of cancelled trips and lack of interaction with the larger school community. Sleepovers and playdates have been put on hold – or are limited – for a lot of families. This means that being at school is the primary – and often only – source of meeting the high social needs of children in this age group. 

“I miss seeing my family in Florida and I can’t wait to see my grandparents again.” 

Oren,  Age 9

“I am looking forward to travelling with my family again.”

Nina, Age 10

“I am looking forward to seeing my cousins again and doing sports again.”

Charlotte,  Age 11

As teachers of Upper Elementary students, we have always seen the flexibility and resilience in our students, but this year has really brought those strengths into focus and put them to the test. If you think “adulting” is hard, try “kidding” during a pandemic! We witness our young people navigating these uncertain and scary times with grace and vulnerability on a daily basis. That’s why we sometimes think of this age group as the “wonder years.” However, when in-person classes ceased last year, not every child was able to easily engage in the distance learning offered. This naturally caused parents and teachers to think about the impact this would bring long-term to students’ academic growth. 

It’s always been clear that students who attend school regularly show more consistent improvement in academic subjects such as math and reading. In the Monarch class, we’ve observed that even with potential learning lapses from remote learning, all students who returned to school in person when we began in August have been able to progress academically, as if the spring had not been a factor. In fact, we’ve been able to focus even more on purely academic subject matter this year because we haven’t been going on as many field experiences. This has allowed us to “catch up” on any gaps that may have formed due to the lapse in school last year. 

More importantly, we wonder about the pandemic’s impact on our children’s social and emotional health. While we try to begin to do more “normal” activities, it can feel new and perhaps awkward to restart some relationships. Children are excited to hug their grandparents again, but it’s been a whole year! And to them, a year is a long time in the span of their life! Adults are being vaccinated, and they are not. What must that feel like? 

Resources

According to healthychildren.org here are some ways we can support our children:

  • Answer questions about the pandemic simply and honestly. This has been going on for a long time now and we are all getting weary. At times, it seems an end is in sight and other days it seems it will never end. If we are feeling this way, they probably are as well. 
  • Recognize your child’s feelings. We can’t expect to fix what is going on. But validating what they are going through allows us to guide them through it.
  • Model how to manage feelings. If we are panicking and displaying anxiety, they will feel it as well. They look to us on how to deal with the world!
  • Look forward. Keep them informed of what scientists are doing to help us through this. Show them the helpers and tell them it will get better.
  • Lots of hugs and love. This never hurts!!
  • Take care of yourself. Good nutrition, exercise, and sleep all do wonders for our own mental space. When we’re at our best, we can be there for our children.

As teachers, we continue to be impressed with our students ability to adapt to all of the changes quickly imposed on them by this pandemic. We hope that this experience will also have some positive impacts such as learning how to problem solve and think outside the box. Ultimately, this has created a new perspective and appreciation for school and what it brings to our lives. 

Written by Becky Langerman and Kim Skeen