How Long Will it Take to Recover Instructionally?

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/high school principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership
Teacher at the front of the classroom instructing students.

The global pandemic known as COVID-19 has enlisted many discussions in all walks of life. One of the main discussions has been how long will it take for us to recover. The road to recovery has touched every facet of our lives in one way or another, and honestly, most of the impact has left us seeking recovery in some form. We all just want to be like we were pre-COVID-19. Education of course was impacted in a major way, and we are still discovering the effects of this dreadful pandemic.

As we begin to come out on the other side of COVID-19 in some form, we must evaluate where we were, where we are now, and where we are headed in the future. We must begin the road to recovery immediately. Our students cannot wait for us to “learn as we go”. We must be proactive in order to return to pre-COVID learning.

Which Instructional Practices Were Most Affected?

While there is no doubt all instructional practices were affected in some ways, identifying the ones most affected and how student learning was impacted is imperative. Identifying the ones most affected could be as vast as there are school districts in the United States.

Direct Teacher/Student Instruction.

The direct teacher/student instruction method underwent many changes due to the pandemic. Direct teacher/student instruction is one of the most important methods of teaching and is as old as teaching itself. It is the direct teacher/student instruction that allows for the building of rapport as well as the opportunity to help students find themselves within a particular topic.

With many students and schools choosing virtual learning, many students and teachers had to adjust to meetings via Zoom or other virtual tools. This practice of instruction had to be modified to accommodate, regular classroom instruction which included social distancing and mask wearing. Also modified instruction for the virtual student had to be incorporated as well. Students and teachers have had to become adept in Zoom meetings and also using electronic lessons through programs such as Canvas. One of the major issues due to this new type of instruction became chronic absenteeism. The need for more communication with parents took time and effort from the teacher while balancing those who were attentive and appeared to be doing well with the new format of instruction. Any way you slice it, COVID-19 changed the way we deliver direct teacher/student instruction.

Electronic Classroom Assignments.

With many students and parents choosing virtual learning and many districts staying virtual this year, electronic assignments became the norm for many school districts. Electronic classroom assignments are just what the name implies. Teachers post assignments to a platform such as Canvas and the students complete the work from home and submit the assignment to the teacher electronically for assessment. As in direct teacher/student instruction, however, students often would turn in work late or not at all. Many times the student would state that they had connection issues making it impossible to turn in the work in a timely fashion. In many cases due to poor internet in the area, unfortunately this was true.

However, as in chronic absenteeism, some students simply would not do the work and then used internet connectivity as an excuse. In either case, though, work would not be turned in or would be late which made adequate assessment difficult. Often teachers would the have to resort to “distance paper/pencil assignments” which usually caused longer wait times, causing the student to fall behind.

Student Small Group Study Sessions.

Student small-group study is a teaching practice where students are placed in small groups and given an assignment to fulfill collaboratively. With some students in person and others virtual, theoretically this type of instruction should and could work very well. However, as in the previous two examples, students either unwilling to engage, or not showing up at all inhibits the groups opportunity to function properly.

Additionally, the teacher in a conventional classroom setting can better monitor and ensure everyone is being productive within the group. Again, with some students virtual and a “no-show” for class, the teacher doesn’t have much recourse. One again, parental contact must be made to encourage the students to be a productive part of the group. This leads to more time away from what the teacher is tasked with doing, which is to teach her class.

Technology Issues.

Technology is a great friend to students and teachers alike. Heretofore, technology has been used to enhance the educational process. With COVID-19 limiting classroom access, though, technology became a must. For many, technology became the only educational option they had, and with good internet access, many fared very well.

However, for the student with limited or no internet access, this new “virtual” learning format became a nightmare. School districts were left scurrying around desperately trying to find connection access and devices for students. Funding became and issue for parents and for school districts. While many districts did eventually find ways for most students to get technological access, many times it was too little too late. The students were no longer engaged and found themselves uninterested in some instances or so far behind they were overwhelmed.

How Long Will it Take to Recover?

How long will it take to recover from the rampage of COVID-19? Well, the answer is we really don’t know. With the COVID-19 numbers down significantly, the hope is we can get students back into the classrooms with their teachers in front of them. The hope is that we will then be able to look at the data and not only teach new material for grade-level students, but find ways to remediate those areas we have fallen behind at the same time. Significant time must be spent analyzing the data and collaborating as to how to move forward. While it is important to get “back to normal”, we must continue to put the students first and take the time that is needed to do it right.

Determining Which Instructional Strategies to Use in the Meantime

It will be important to determine which instructional strategies will work best going forward. This determination must be met with an open mind and a willingness to work toward returning to normal as soon as possible. Many new strategies were born through the pandemic. Continued use of those that are effective is important. We must, as always, meet our students where they are and attempt to move them forward using all available means at our disposal. New times are coming, and it is up to us to make sure that our best is still yet to come.

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