Despite the academic setbacks, our kids are not broken

Our kids have lost so much—family members, connections to friends and teachers, emotional well-being, and for many, financial stability at home. And of course, they’ve lost some of their academic progress,” Ron Berger, senior advisor at EL Education, author and former teacher of 25 years.

Ron Berger’s quote in his article Our Kids Are Not Broken, points to the anxiety educators and parents have felt surrounding the effects of the pandemic on academic setbacks for their

children. Worrying about this issue is absolutely normal and an inevitable development. However, could it be that by continuing to cling to a model that favours almost scientific measurement

of academic progress no longer serves children and the current situation as it evolves? By focussing on ‘remediating learning loss’ are we missing whatever newness wants to emerge from

the moment?

Our work as Leadership Coaching, inspired by the Co-Active methodology ,has always been to encourage educators, teachers and parents to see the whole child, multi faceted and naturally

creative and resourceful – they don’t need to be fixed, they are enough as they areWhat is the unintended impact when we start thinking in terms of ‘fixing’ the child? And what is the knock

on effect if this mode of thinking is adopted in a systemic, long term level?

As long as kids feel like their job is to come to school to be fixed, their hearts won’t be in their own work. We fall into this trap of thinking if a kid misses three months of math content, that’s a

crisis,” says Ron Berger. This implies that while the purpose is a noble one, we’re missing the point: our kids are not broken, they are quite the opposite in fact, they are quick to recover and

bounce back.

The last year has been undeniably challenging for kids, impacting them socially, emotionally and psychologically. It is clear, now more than ever, that ‘the presence and quality of our relationships may have more impact on learning and development than any other factor’. (source: Pamela Cantor, MD, Linda Darling-Hammond, Karen Pittman researchers an educators)

Could there be a hidden opportunity in the setbacks of the pandemic? Is now the best time to put emotional intelligence and the social needs of children first? Extensive research shows that labeling kids and giving power to stereotypes (e.g. the class clown, the optimal learner) impacts them by lowering their own expectation of themselves and what they are capable of! Consider, then, what could be the impact on the child’s confidence (academic and life), security, trust in their own abilities if ‘soft skills’ are nurtured?

Positive behavior interventions don’t have to be complicated, they can be as simple, for example, as smiling at students entering the class, a gesture that improves academic engagement by 20 % (and makes some teachers go viral as is evidenced by this tired teacher who put on a smile!)

At Leadership Coaching, we have had the honor to witness educators and teachers truly inspire those around them with their tireless support to encourage and connect with children, despite the many difficulties that the year of the pandemic brought. We have also witnessed that the dramatic shift and disruption in daily routines has impacted learning loss for students and, equally as important, has played a psychological, emotional and physical toll on teachers who are quite simply, exhausted.

It’s clear that integrating social and emotional initiatives will benefit not only the students, but the educational staff, and the learning environment as a whole.

Imagine if school is welcoming AND engaging, providing strong relationships and support as well as topics that challenge, excite and propel students. “Addressing concerns about learning loss by raising difficulty levels may seem counterintuitive but with strong relationships and support, this approach can be surprisingly effective,” says Ron Berger.

Is it possible to create a space to hear the needs of all children and explore topics that inspire passion in them for the next scholastic year? Perhaps it is not such a distant possibility, anymore.

Given the year we have just had, and the growth that has arisen from it, ware now wiser, and perhaps, clearer, about the systemic shift that is ushering in the new education paradigm – and a better sense of the tools we need to do the job. The question is not just one, but manywhat will we do with this new wisdom and knowledge? Will we be both undertakers to an era and system that is simply not serving, and midwives to the newness that wants to emerge? Will we empower teachers, students and parents to step into their resourcefulness and innate human capabilities and trust this process?

At Leadership Coaching we believe that all individuals are constantly in a state of choice. We leave you with a final question for reflection:

What choice will you make and what do you need to do to make sure that your choice comes from a place of resonance?

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