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A Request To Our Teachers… Please Put Kindness First Towards Young Kids Struggling With Online Schooling?

In an online PTM for my 5th grader, the 4 teachers focused on all that he was doing wrong, and nothing about the hard work we had done to do better after the earlier feedback. In just 5 minutes, the confidence we worked on building over so much time was broken. 

In an online PTM for my 5th grader, the 4 teachers focused on all that he was doing wrong, and nothing about the hard work we had done to do better after the earlier feedback. In just 5 minutes, the confidence we worked on building over so much time was broken. 

Today I sat with my 5th grader for his online parent-teacher meeting for open day.

A curious and cheerful child, my boy is full of energy and loves connecting with people. He is full of laughs and humor, generous, and caring. He has always had lovely teachers who have recognized his strengths and supported him to address his weaknesses without letting them define him. He is still in touch with some of his preschool and elementary school teachers and speaks to them every now and then, and he is genuinely fond of them as they are of him.

Online schooling has been hard… on all children

Online learning has been hard for my boy. The opportunity to connect and engage in person has been taken away from him as it has been for so many other children. He has become quiet, easily distracted, and less engaged. He does not have a rapport with his teachers and I am not sure that is anyone’s fault. To me, the important thing during the pandemic has been my children’s socio-emotional well-being. I have tried to support that and his academic growth as well.

A few months ago, I was called for a meeting with his class teacher, and it was pointed out to me, and rightfully so, that my boy was distracted in class, not paying attention, and lagging in his classwork.

I sat him down and we decided to work on some of this feedback. At first, he was upset at being singled out like this but then he recognized that it was in his best interest. He started doing his homework diligently, trying harder to stay focused during class, and asking me for help when he was in doubt or hadn’t understood something. He did pretty well on his tests too and felt so thrilled to see his efforts bear fruit.

But the teachers were harsh in the PTM…

However, all that excitement was snuffed out completely in a matter of 5 minutes.

5 minutes was the time it took to break down the confidence we worked on building over so much time. 5 minutes where 4 teachers told him and me all that he was doing wrong. How he wasn’t attentive, how he avoided showing homework, how he did not answer, how he did not participate enough, how he needs to improve. Basically how just everything seemed to be wrong.

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My heart went out to him and I asked them if there was nothing at all that was going right for my child. One of the teachers, God bless her, piped in to say he was improving, and that he should continue to be attentive and do his work well. But I saw his face and I knew the damage was done.

This year is an exceptionally different one. It has impacted us and our children in so many ways, some more than others. While one child may sail along just fine in this online interface, another may be completely lost and feel alienated. This is a time for trust and kindness, a time to seek out and recognize the good and the right because just so much is bad and wrong right now and we have almost no control over it.

Can we teachers be more gentle with young children missing the human touch in online classes?

But this we can control, this much we can do – a kind word to balance the negative feedback, a smile to recognize the efforts that have borne some fruit, a pat on the back, albeit virtual, an acknowledgment that one is more than the things going wrong – that much we can do…and should do. It’s a very small thing for a teacher or parent to act on, but it is a very, very big thing for a child.

My meeting for the other children went well. I heard about how wonderful my other child is, but it did not make me smile. All I saw was my fellow’s sad expression, the disappointment in his face, the flash of anger in his eyes as he got up and said he never wanted to go back to school.

A few days ago was World Teachers’ Day. I am a teacher too. I know the heart and effort that goes into teaching. I also know that the online platform is not optimal and cannot even begin to replace in-person teaching. I want to recognize teachers and all that they have done to help my boys keep learning through the pandemic. But I also want to request teachers to keep in mind the range of different learners, learners who may have socio-emotional, behavioral, developmental, or learning challenges and needs that this online platform fails to recognize. Yes, math and language, and science are indeed important. Good work habits need to be cultivated too. But, self-esteem comes first. Safe spaces are critical. Each child wants to feel loved and valued.

And so, my request to teachers is to please put kindness first. Believe in each learner and know that they will try harder when they believe in themselves too!

Image source: Victoria_Borodinova on pixabay

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