LEARNING: What has happened?

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 10/27/2020, 7:01 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(TULSA, Okla.) Learning is different now. The first lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the US was back on January 20, 2020. Since then, major modifications have been made in many school districts throughout the country. Social distancing. Masks. For some, distance and virtual learning. The experience has evolved into a balancing act for many parents. The end goal? Making sure children receive a proper education while either going to school following COVID-19 protocols or staying home and learning online with district teachers or using district-contracted online platforms. Staying sane is a bonus. “We know that they're not going to get that support from home with some of the online learning,” Dr. Barbara Sorrels told VNN. “And there's only so much that teachers can do.” VNN met with Sorrels, a Tulsa-based child development specialist, on a previous education story. It was during that initial interview we released Sorrels was a treasure trove of child development and education information. “The last thing that everybody needs is to have everybody stressed out over it,” Sorrels said. “Any gains, any academic gains that you may have by trying to push through and get all these assignments done when your child is stressed out, you're stressed out, are going to be lost in that stress.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening in some households. VNN asked parents across the United States to take part in a brief survey during the month of October. Our findings were interesting, but not surprising. Most parents who responded to VNN’s survey have two children in school. School grades were a mixed bag. Only 25 percent of respondents have children doing in-person learning. The other 75 percent are either being home-schooled, or doing distance learning or virtual learning through their local district. Nearly 80 percent of parents made the decision for their child(ren)’s method of learning this school year, as opposed to the decision being made for them by their state or district. Half of respondents said the year is going “good” so far. 37.5 percent described their current school year as “so-so”. The other 12.5 percent said things were going “bad”. While most respondents described their feelings as “happy” or “neutral”, nearly 30 percent said they were either “stressed” or “very stressed”. For at-home learners, most respondents said their children are being given “just the right amount of work” each day. “Too much work” came in second with about a quarter of respondents, followed by about 15 percent responding the amount of daily work was “way too much”. More than 40 percent of respondents with at-home learners said their children “always need” their help. And a quarter of respondents of at-home learners said their job is being negatively affected. Overall opinion varied greatly, including comments such as: “Due to the poor choice of options, we resorted to homeschooling and creating our own curriculum. It has been hard but I am very thankful to make my own rules for my children’s education.” “I am teaching virtually from home; virtual learning has worked out well for my children and me.” “Technology problems are the biggest hurdle, not the actual content. My son has been frustrated and cries almost every other day. The alternative, in person learning is not feasible for safety reasons due to COVID.” Some parents told us they wanted to continue learning at home due to the threat of COVID-19, others said due to the high recovery rate in children, they wished the schools would open back up. Multiple respondents said learning at home was just not working out with young kids. “It’s insane to expect kindergarteners to do everything online. There are no books for my eighth grader, information is disseminated in a crazy manner.” Sorrels told us the idea of children, especially young children, being on a screen all day is less than ideal. Especially when parents may be preoccupied with work. “No neuroscientists worth their salt will tell you that screen time, unfettered access to screen time, is good for children while their brains are developing,” Sorrels said. “There is a time and there is a place and there is a season,” Sorrels said. “And I can tell you, without a doubt, the season is not in the first eight years of life.” Sorrels told us children need to be active. They need to be doing. “Learning any skill,” Sorrels said. “Teaching your children to cook. Teaching your children to garden. Go out and playing a few scenes.” Not stressing out over completing a bunch of assignments on a computer. Instead, Sorrels said this upheaval in traditional learning should be used to forge better connections with children, in the classroom but especially at home, to build attachment and to teach kids lessons they can use in real life. “It's not happening anymore because the lives of parents, even well-to-do parents, are so frantically busy. And again, even well-to-do parents are sometimes just as preoccupied with screens and such as it's not just something that afflicts children who come from impoverished backgrounds, but children coming to school, not having those social emotional skills and not being able to identify their own emotions and not knowing how to self-regulate.” Sorrels told VNN parents, guardians and teachers can help children learn by updating the current approach and models of education, and letting go of some of the old notions. UP NEXT LEARNING: Old Methods vs. New The Oklahoma Media Center is a collaborative of 18 Oklahoma newsrooms that includes print, broadcast and digital partners. The OMC’s first project is Changing Course: Education & COVID. This story is part of that effort.


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