“There’s no learning deficit in this pandemic year” – former superintendent

The post below is verified as having been written recently by Teresa Thayer Snyder, former superintendent of the Voorheesville district in New York state. She wrote this wise and insightful essay on a social media site. It is remarkable for its insight and wisdom and continuing relevance. In heeding Teresa’s guidance, the topsey-turvey learning world of 2020-2012 will be richer for many kids, parents and also educators. (I have edited it for some brevity).

Dear Friends and Colleagues: I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address concerns being expressed about the deficits children will experience from this pandemic. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the world.

Skip the tests: kids need all the help and compassion we can spare this year.

In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted.

We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a hand-crank telephone! They simply do not apply.

When children come to school, we need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned.

Remember, their brains have not gone into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not be focused on traditional school material, because they may be focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with a missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death.

Our job is to welcome them and help them write that history. I plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet children where they are, not where we think they “should be.”

Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world.

Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world.

Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives.

The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

Thank you Teresa!

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