As children return to school, they will not be the only ones with plenty of homework to do. Parents, teachers, and administrators need to be prepared with strategies to support students who are dealing with anxiety and uncertainty as they start another school year shadowed by the pandemic, according to experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Most students were at least partially remote last year and academic progress was all over the map. This year is expected to be more in-person, and students are returning with concerns about whether they’re going to fit in and whether they can keep up in classes, said Nancy E. Hill, Charles Bigelow Professor of Education.
“The first thing parents can do is listen and affirm,” said Hill, a psychologist who studies parenting and adolescent development. “Parents should take the time to ask their children how they’re feeling about going back to school, what they are excited about, what they are worried about, and what we can do to help allay their concerns. Even in the asking, there’s an affirmation and understanding that this is a difficult period.”
Teachers and administrators should have a blueprint to help students figure out how they are going to make up for missed work, but such plans should not emphasize shortcomings, Hill said. Students may be apprehensive about learning loss, teachers’ expectations, and lagging behind their classmates.
“I think one of the chief academic anxieties that many students are going to feel is this pressure and sense that somehow they’re behind,” Hill said.
Teachers should brace for a challenging year as they struggle to guide students who are reeling from isolation, loneliness, and anxiety brought on by the pandemic. Some students may also be experiencing grief if they have lost loved ones to COVID or had family members who were very sick.