MK-based teacher says not all students have lost a year’s education

MK-based teacher and guest writer Emma Norris has written a piece exploring the issues of teaching in the pandemic and argues that it’s too simple to say children have lost a year to the recent situation.

One thing that’s been bandied around in the news recently is the that school-age children need to ‘catch-up’ or that they have ‘lost a year’ of their lives through the on-again, off-again schooling of the past year. While I can see that, for some, elements of this may ring true, it seems reductionist to simply suggest that the sole importance of a child’s life is their academic education.

As a teacher, I am sure that lots of people reading may feel that academic education would be (and perhaps should be) my main focus and responsibility, but I feel that thinking such a thing would actually make me less of a teacher. I recently stumbled across an old post that was once again doing the rounds on social media, from ‘The Contented Child, Child Wellbeing Consultancy,’ which really rung true for me. It reads:

“When I look around my classroom, I couldn’t tell you who crawled first, who walked before one or spoke in sentences by fifteen months…You know what I can tell when I look at my kids? I can tell which families value kindness…I don’t see their milestones, I see who they are: their actions, their inner-voice, their struggles and triumphs. [But] we [as teachers] are supposed to talk about testing and benchmarks and data.”

Of course, a school’s purpose is about cultivating the minds of the next generation and ensuring they are well-equipped for their adult life. But who’s to say that education, this year of all years, a year that I feel will already be so engrained in many of the minds of these young people, shouldn’t instead be primarily focused on the wellbeing of these students, nurturing them and working to heal the wounds that the pandemic may have caused, whatever their age?

In addition to this sentiment, these are countless children, parents (and not forgetting teachers) who have worked exceptionally hard throughout the lockdown-enforced school ‘closures.’ Some of my Year Six children have produced some of their best and most creative pieces of school-work this year from their homes. One of the children in my year-group even got up and dressed into his school uniform every single day during the period of remote learning.

Children have learnt so many things this year: they’ve learnt the importance of friendship and family; they’ve learnt the value of human interaction; they’ve learnt kindness and empathy; they’ve learnt to be self-motivated and creative and they’ve even learnt how important it is to live in the moment and appreciate the small things we can all be guilty of overlooking.

Not all children have lost a year; many have gained life-lessons that will stay with them long into adulthood and beyond. I’ll leave you with one final message to sum up – the last few words from that viral social media post:

I had a Mum last time [at parent’s evening] say: “I don’t worry about reading and maths, she will get there. I want to know…how is she, as a person? Is she kind? Does she include others?”

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