EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Wilkinson, technology coordinator and 23+ year teaching veteran in Lumberton Township School District (NJ), was initially inspired by the The Who’s The Kids are Alright for this article, but as you read on, he changes his tune to The Offspring’s The Kids Aren’t Alright.
Tom's combination of teaching, tech experience and parenting has placed him right in the middle of the malaise facing the education community. His perspective is one with which I'm sure you can relate.The last seven months haven’t been easy for educators in this disruptive environment. It has been a blur trying to navigate the “new abnormal.”
I am with The Offspring on this one: the kids aren’t alright. Please understand that I’m not a trained psychologist, but as a parent, teacher, educator, resident, the following are observations that I’m experiencing. My research citations include teaching in physical and virtual classrooms, hearing from students, friends and colleagues, readings from my user groups and blogs, and living on a daily basis with my own family.
Students are not coping well
The social-emotional well being of our students should be more important than academics right now.
- Summer wasn’t a recharge like it usually is; fewer activities and limited vacations was hardly a break.
- Most students aren’t ready for their 20-21 “grade.” A good number of them fell apart in the spring.
- Some of these kids totally disappeared or gave up in the spring, and we are going to have to do even more to bring them back – physically, virtually, emotionally and mentally.
- Struggling readers are lost: too much text and written directions.
- We are all running around like chickens without heads; lots of transitions from class to class and subject to subject with minimal down-time.
- Everyone is totally “fried” after each morning session; we are doing all of our core academic classes in the AM, sending the kids home for lunch, and then finishing with electives/specials/health and PE in the afternoons.
- My own kids need naps after the AM; it’s a struggle for some of them to finish their classwork in the afternoon and evening, let alone homework.
- I often need an afternoon nap too!
- Most students are tech savvy, but they aren’t ed-tech savvy.
- Tech problems are real – there are so many factors beyond our control: connectivity issues, programs won’t load, too many people online at the same time in the same location, etc.
- Everyone is on information overload – too many emails, text messages, posts, resources.
- And finally, parents are totally tapped out. It's hard to work and manage your child’s education at the same time
All of us need to take a step back and focus on our health and wellness as well as the health and wellness of the kids.
2021 definitely isn’t “business as usual.” All of us need to take a step back and focus on our health and wellness and the health and wellness of the kids. This is paramount for both staff and students in the upside-down world in which we now live.
Hang in there, as it has been a long stretch to start the year. If you ever need to talk, reach out to a colleague or friend. Heck, you can even reach out to me. Thanks for reading.
* I have been told that my point of view and lens is unique as I am a resident, parent (four students in the district), administrator/teacher, husband of a district 2nd grade teacher, and “LIFER.” This district is my one and only stop, for I started right out of college and am still here 24 years later *
** Special thanks to my wife and fellow teacher, Susan, as this article was an education collaboration while brushing our teeth, having family dinners, transporting our kids to and from a myriad of activities and “talking shop” both early in the morning and late at night **
Tom Wilkinson is the Technology Coordinator of the Lumberton Township School District (NJ). He graduated from Northwestern University in 1996 and has taught in the district ever since. His specialty is both educational technology and professional development. He is also a Lumberton resident, devoted husband, and father of four children ages 12, 11, 11 and 11 (yes triplets!)