Asked to comment on their teachers’ assertions that following a year of distance learning, the students were kinder, more resilient, and more independent, they had a lot to say.
One of the girls observed that before school closed, there was a lot of social drama among sixth graders. “We’ve been isolated from each other for a year. It’s funny, but all the drama went away when we went into distance learning, and it hasn’t come back to school. Maybe we are being kinder.”
Renewing, rebuilding and restoring relationships were common themes, “I matured a lot. I took a long look at myself while school was closed. It was lonely. Zoom was OK, but it’s not the same as being back in person. I think I took some friendships for granted, and now we’re back at school, it’s like we’re starting over,” a lot of heads nodded after that student statement.
The impact of the pandemic on family life was on their minds, “My dad used to travel for work a lot, and he couldn’t spend too much time with us. During the pandemic, he worked at home. We ate lunch together every day. After all this time, I feel I really know my dad,” said one girl.
“Everything slowed down when the school closed,” commented a boy, “I was used to going from school to practice every day of the week and playing games on weekends. We were going and going all the time, and we didn’t talk a whole lot. We were tired. But once everything stopped, we had more time to be home, and we got closer.”
Students spoke about gaining perspective. Many have returned to school without worrying so much about grades. “I’m not making mountains out of molehills,” summed up one of the boys. “With video games and siblings, there were too many distractions at home, so it’s a relief just to be back at school. I learn better in the classroom. Before the pandemic, I think I tried too hard. Now that we’re back, I appreciate my teachers’ guidance more. They are less strict, more accessible and more creative than they used to be. At least that’s what I think.”
“The experience changed my view of the world. Lots of kids didn’t have what we had. They didn’t have the advantage of distance learning. It made me realize I can do more for myself without being helped, and I need to be more grateful,” surmised a wise thirteen-year-old.
As students continue acclimating to being back in person, Chandler’s School Counselor Adrienne Hollingsworth pointed out what a struggle it can be for some students, especially in the early grades. “Each year of development is monumental, and students have not been in a community for over a year. They are building back their skills. It’s better for everyone to be in-person, but for those who struggle academically, when they were home, they struggled in private. Now they’re struggling in public, and it can be harder for them.”
We are entering week 4 of K-8 students being back on campus. Faculty and staff continue to be tested for COVID each week and we are grateful to everyone (parents, students, faculty and staff) for diligently adhering to the health protocols. Chandler continues to be well served by the Medical Advisory Committee that meets to analyze community infection trends, review CDC guidelines, monitor vaccine developments and advise the school. The committee remains vigilant and engaged.
A study published in the May edition of Science Magazine on the connection between household COVID risk and in-person schooling concludes that in-person instruction can increase the risk of infection, but schools that implement multiple mitigation measures see that risk disappear almost completely. Chandler’s approach to car-line, masking, screening, testing, spacing, cohorting and limiting visitors, keeps our students safe while they benefit from full-day in-person instruction.
With one month left in the school year, we need to maintain our focus and enjoy the experience of being back together.