Covid’s impact on children has been overlooked during the past 9 months. We have ignored their needs and expected children will simply roll with the punches as the punches come. We expect them to learn and achieve in virtual school despite the environment. We expect they will buckle down and work hard to learn as if nothing is happening around them.
Just learn on the computer now, we tell them. Just use your computer. Even when we have in-person school, everything revolves around the virus. Wear your mask. Stay 6 feet apart. Eat lunch outside in the cold weather. Don’t talk loudly. Silent lunch inside if it is raining. Don’t scream or sing in the presence of others.
I learned this morning how deeply the pandemic has impacted America’s youth. I teach, and one would think I would have seen this impact prior to this morning. And yet, I did not.
During my advisory time on Zoom, which includes 9 students, we started to discuss the new year. I asked how many of them make New Year’s Resolutions. Of course, as they are only 10, most shook their heads. I played “teacher”, acting in surprise and told them that in order to achieve goals, they should have resolutions to start the New Year. In response, one of my students said, “I make themes, not resolutions!”
“Themes?” I said. “Ok, what is the theme you will make for 2021?”
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought about it.”
To prompt the thinking, I asked the group, “Ok then, what’s the theme for 2020?” They responded quickly in the chat.
“Worst year ever”
“Saddest year ever”
And I agreed. Yes, this year was sad, I replied. So let’s think about 2021. In my typical teacher mode I said, “Can we make the theme, happiest year ever?” “What can you do to make it the happiest year?” Teachers are always looking to help kids take on responsibility for their actions and question ideas. And then the chat blew up on me.
“Not Gonna Happen”
“It’s not going to be that way”
I was shocked. These 10 year-olds were rejecting my proposal that they could look upon 2021 optimistically and make it more than what 2020 turned out to be. They stood firm. They were resolute. I acquiesced. The history teacher in me turned to — well yes, we have lived through this most difficult time. However, you know, this gives you experience to ensure something like this never happens again. People like me are relying on you to make a better world. And now, you have the perspective of what can happen. Now, you know we do not want this to ever happen again. And, you will make a difference.
In the chat-”That was a great speech”.
These 10 year-olds weren’t buying it. They told me that they have lost trust, and faith, in the world. They articulated that they have no optimism. They are afraid of the vaccine because it has yet to be tested on kids. They are afraid of the length of the needle because one of them saw it on the news this morning. They have resigned themselves to a life like we are currently living. A life with no expectations, no joy, no trust, and no hope or faith.
What have we done?