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It’s time to close the gaps of social distancing in education

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Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2022. 10:54 am CST.

By Participate Learning: It’s time to close the gaps of social distancing in education

  • For education systems, the physical return to the classroom has meant the advantage of teaching face-to-face again, but it has also implied the need to drive strategies to reduce academic gaps and generate emotional well-being among students.
  • Participate Learning is currently recruiting new teachers for its next school year in the United States. Interested individuals can apply at participatelearning.com
  • International educators speak from experience and share their insights.

 Isolation caused by the Covid-19 showed how people deal with it in different ways, however, among all age groups, it is likely that one of the most demographic segments affected were children. The interruption of their routines and social dynamics impacted its scholar capabilities not only in the academic sphere but social interaction skills.

This is not a local symptom, but rather a global one. At least this is the opinion of a group of educators from Belize. They are currently working in the United States educational system since they were recruited by Participate Learning, an international program that facilitates exchanges for teachers from all over the world to teach school-age children in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The main idea of the program is to provide scholars the opportunity of having a multicultural education.

These Belizean educators have had the experience of looking at the before and after of the pandemic within the U.S. educational system. Also they identify patterns of impact that social distancing had on the teaching-learning process and how this has affected children not only academically, but also emotionally. This understanding has allowed them to find similarities and differences in the impacts perceived in different countries and contexts.

According to these education professionals, the changes identified are not only in the academic learning itself, but also in the students’ ability to follow instructions and establish new social routines, for example, being close to other classmates or having communication face-to-face after a long period of virtual lessons.

For these educators, gaps in academic literacy have impacted the school system as a whole. At different scholar levels, reading comprehension and writing skills are lower than the pre-pandemic academic standards; the same is true for numerical analysis and arithmetic problem-solving skills.

On the other hand, in the social area, students also showed weaknesses in socialization, low tolerance to frustration, difficulty in managing emotions, and limited socioemotional education.

How to overcome difficulties in post-pandemic education?

Through their experience in the United States, Belizean educators have identified socio-educational practices that have allowed them to reduce the gaps generated by social distancing and the interruption of physical attendance in the classroom. Among these practices, they recommend maintaining fluid communication between the teacher and the students as a way to reinforce trust and progress on a solid foundation in which students know the learning objectives and know what is expected of them in terms of comprehension and execution of tasks, projects and academic tests. They also emphasize the importance of educators striving to be creative and making an extra effort to support students who are lagging behind when necessary. On the other hand, they also recommend seeking the support of people such as counselors, social workers or psychologists, if the school team has these profiles within the institution.

Teachers agreed in their opinion that home support for students is extremely relevant because it facilitates children’s progress because as they notice their own development, they are motivated to want to learn more.

Last but not least, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that education is a humanistic task and therefore must understand students in a holistic way as people, so it can be very useful, before starting academic work, to take the time to ask students how they feel, develop dynamics and games that increase their confidence and security, and open spaces to share and talk openly about the academic and social difficulties that students feel.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

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