The Kids are not Behind

There has been a lot of pandemic-related talk about school and student progress. The drastic alterations we have been experiencing have caused a big chink in our academic calendar, for sure. Disparities among school districts are exacerbated, and issues with technology are causing major headaches. We can rightly point to places where our educational system is not equal, and hopefully will fix the problems. There is one thing that I take issue with, though, that seems to make the problems worse. It is the idea that kids are somehow “behind” academically. As far as I am concerned, that is not the case. Despite all of the problems related to education in the past year, the kids are not behind.

I do understand how ones gut reaction would be that kids are behind educationally. We are conditioned to think in terms of grade levels, academic performance and ranking. But this gives us a skewed idea of education and the results we have come to expect. We focus on benchmarks set by districts and governments, which may not be realistic. But human knowledge is not something necessarily easy to track, or set in stone.

Milestones are fun to track, but are not set in stone.

For example, Monarch butterflies have a specific developmental track. If they do not reach those milestones at a certain point, they will not thrive, or even survive. But kids? They will always have the chance to learn something new. There will always be chances for them to grasp a concept. Adults are always learning new skills, be it for work or for curiosity. And kids are no different.

Perhaps it is the word “behind” that I take most issue with. “Behind” implies that there is a specific target that must be met; otherwise, one is not doing well. Like our educational development is somehow genetically programmed. Here is the deal: for the most part, there is no genetic component to our learning timeline. A kid who does not learn all of the state capitals by 4th grade can still learn them. The 9th grader who struggles with Algebra may suddenly find the subject click when they take it in college. Students are not behind now; rather, they are learning at a different pace at the moment.

We get so used to marking our child’s progress. When it comes to education and learning, things are not so easy.

Think about it – academic progress is something made up, it is something that we came up with. The specific timeline for “achievement” is constantly altered to meet our expectations. That also means that we can readjust those expectations to something more realistic. Maybe we need to acknowledge the progress being made, instead of the man-made milestones being missed. It cannot feel good for these kids to hear that all of there work is not up to par. Especially when so many are trying so hard.

For those who are worried about your child’s academic progress, know that there are many helpful things you can do to help academically. It is quite simple, really. The most important thing a parent can do to help their child academically is to read to them. It does not have to be anything too highbrow, either. Comics, the back of the cereal box, the story going through a video game, anything. Have discussions with your kids. Talk to them – not at them. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Have everyone put down their phones and engage in life together. Communicate with these special beings.

Some things can be easily measured – learning is not one of them

We need to get away from the damaging idea that our kids are now behind. Yes, things are weird now. Yes, some educational targets determined by educational groups are not being met. That does not mean that less learning is happening, or that things are being missed completely. What it means is that education is different right now, and we can adjust accordingly. Life is full of opportunities to learn, and remembering that makes a big difference in the attitude of how we see things now…speaking from experience.

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