Why Bother To Notice The Strength of a Child?
Tis the time for end of the year state testing. These lengthy examinations are mandated by the state and measure whether or not my fourth graders are proficient, basic, or below basic in math and English language arts. Since September first, I’ve taught them what they should know as fourth graders; how to read texts, how to answer questions, how to write essays, how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. These assessments will only test a child’s academic knowledge. They will not evaluate the fortitude and stamina these students gained from the losses they have endured over the last fourteen months.
This particular group of students share something in common. In March of 2020, our school shut its doors and went to remote learning. Last year, in the third grade, these students lost more than two months of face to face instruction. Instead, they worked from home completing packets of school work with the help of their parents.
Unlike learning in a classroom, immersed in a community of scholars sharing insights, ideas, and discoveries with each other, these students worked alone, independently and apart from each other. They missed out on the interchanges and conversations that naturally occur with energetic elementary students and their learning. My students lost something they’ll never regain, that learning with their peers.
Last year, as third graders, these students would have taken their state tests for the first time. The reading passages would have been easier and shorter, the math problems less complicated. They would have also learned how to take the test, and how to use the tools and icons on their Chromebook. Instead, my students are learning for the first time this year, how to take a state test and how to become familiar with the resources and tools. This group of students lost the advantage of practicing the test as a third grader, before having to take it as a fourth grader. They will never gain that lost experience.
This batch of students have also lost full days of learning. In order to be open this year, our school days were shortened by ninety minutes. These students not only lost learning time, but, they also lost experiences. Annual field trips that all fourth graders in our district usually participate in; learning to ski and attending the symphony, were cancelled. Again, these losses that will never be regained.
But I’ve noticed something about children. They have the strength to weather changes, they have resilience against losses and they have the flexibility to learn quickly. I may be counting their losses, but they are not.
While they test, I notice some of my students slumping in front of their Chromebook screens and sighing at the length of the passage they have to read. Then I announce that it is time to go outside.
They eagerly line up for their ten minute brain break, head out the door and in seconds, they are laughing with each other, swinging high on the swings and climbing to great heights on the bars. They have not lost their ability to be lighthearted, and carefree, the strength, I believe, found in every child.
Why bother to notice the strength of a child? It is worth it to notice that no matter the losses, a child will show their strength; to stay a carefree child.