I was trying to reflect today about all the changes I think I’ve seen among my students over the past three years – in comparison to previous ones.
It thought it might be useful to me, and perhaps to others, to share those reflections.
This post in the first in a two-parter – I’ll share in the next one ideas I have on how I’m responding or not responding to them (along with any ideas in that vein that readers contribute).
Most of the more challenging changes I’ve seen seem increasingly apparent in students who are not in my ELL classes (except for the cellphone use issue – that’s across the board). I wonder if some of the experiences they endured in their home country and the journey here may have enhanced their sense of resilience?
One thing I haven’t seen, though I know many other have, is reduced academic skills. I just haven’t seen any signs of so-called “learning loss” – not in my ELL classes or in my Theory of Knowledge ones. Admittedly, however, half of the students in my TOK classes are IB Diploma candidates and many of the others are probably students who are fairly self-motivated. So, my experience might not be a representative one in that area.
Here are the changes I have seen – or think I’ve seen- and I welcome your commentaries:
Increased Sense of Independence & Openness
Many students seem to be more independent. It seems like many more have jobs outside of school (I haven’t seen any data on student part-time jobs before the pandemic and now), more appear to be willing to go to college away from home and more appear to be open to changing gender orientations (both for them and for others). I also have somewhat of a sense that they might be more progressive overall in their social and political beliefs.
Having Increased Home Responsibilities
This one is a bit of a counterpoint to the first one about more independence. My sense is that many students have more responsibilities at home – for sibling care, elder care, making financial contributions to the family – than pre-pandemic. If this is, indeed, the case, then it might also contribute to this next change.
A Greater Willingness To Be Absent From School
I think this one is a two-edged sword. I believe far too many students came to school ill in the past, and many schools promoted this unhealthy perspective with ridiculous “attendance awards.” So, I think it’s good that students are staying home when they are not feeling well.
On the other hand, my sense is that more students miss school for reasons that not related to illness and, perhaps, because of increased family responsibilities. I also, though, think more students don’t come for other reasons, including because they just don’t feel like it.
I hope to have more specific data (here’s state data) on this for our school in a couple of weeks.
Increasing Difficulty In Controlling Cellphone Use
I think this is a challenge for many students though, as I’ve previously written, I estimate about 85% can manage their cellphone use fairly well – at a level similar to pre-pandemic levels. Pre-pandemic, there might have been minor issues with the remaining fifteen percent. Now, however, many border on being obsessed with it (though I am not a clinician and probably can’t accurately define an “obsession”).
Some Are More Reluctant To Work In Groups
When given the option of working individually or in a self-selected small group, perhaps two-or-three (at most) students in my class would choose to work alone pre-pandemic. This year, it’s at least triple that amount.
In addition, pre-pandemic, there was minimal resistance to working in random-organized groups. This year, there appears to be much less openness to working with classmates outside of their close friend network.
Greater Number Of What Appear To Be More Major Mental Health Challenges
The increase in student mental health challenges across the country is no secret. I would say that the number of students I refer to counselors is double the amount I did pre-pandemic, and those challenges appear to me to be longer-lasting.
Let me know if you are seeing similar or different changes at your school – or none at all.
And let me know your ideas on how to respond to them for inclusion in my next post….
My concern is that the pand3mic shut downs had the effect of undermining the importance of school and schoolwork. So many students got good grades during the pandemic for doing very little. Everything that educators did for years to stress the importance of school just unraveled. Students pay attention. This will take some t8me to repair. Yet the trend seems to be to continue lowering expectations.