#37 – Reassembling After Loss: Putting the Pieces Together for a New Picture

Unpacking Education April 28, 2021 26 min

The problem with the term “learning loss” is that it puts the focus on a deficit mindset. The loss that students experienced this year was of an opportunity to learn in a traditional manner: in a brick-and-mortar school, sitting next to their peers, with their teachers guiding the learning face-to-face. This has been challenging for many. However, to say that our students have not grown is shortsighted. They have learned about resiliency, adaptation, self-reliance, and self-awareness—critical lifelong learning skills not measured by our school system.

Rather than focusing on a deficit, what if we reframed our lessons from this year as an opportunity to see how students have learned in a way that our educational system does not currently value? While this podcast episode includes the topic of loss, our focus is on how we might reenvision our classrooms based on what we’ve learned from remote teaching and learning that we could not even imagine previously.

How might we redesign our teaching practices so that they encompass all students, providing them with the tools and strategies they need to guide their own learning and building their critical thinking and problem-solving tool kit to help them design a better tomorrow?

Join our Digital Learning Specialists for the last installment of our SEL series, where they talk further with our special guest, Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator from Galveston, Texas. Together, they discuss learning loss as a social construct created by adults to compare groups of students and how we might take lessons learned from this year to accelerate learning—first by providing students with social and emotional supports that they need, so they can focus their attention on critical skill-building.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Mathematicians know that stepping away from a topic for a while requires time to recollect the bits and pieces when you return. Those bits and pieces aren’t lost—they only require reassembling, and often the reassembling leads to greater understanding.

John Ewing, mathematician


The following are resources available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Take Time to Identify What We Have Learned

The term learning loss has become a popular label to place on the educational experience of children this year. It is a term that causes stress and anxiety. More importantly, it is a term that undermines the stories of growth, resilience, and adaptability that have been the hallmark of our individual experiences this year.

In this episode, we recognize and honor how much has changed in public education during the pandemic, identifying areas where we have grown, learned, and succeeded that should be carried forward into the next academic year.

  • Generation C: While the term is not official, more and more people are talking about the generation of children who are growing up during the pandemic as Generation C. It’s important to note that it takes researchers years to observe shifts in attitudes and then retrospectively determine historical events that might have caused them. In today’s podcast, we talk about the concept of Generation C, but not as a means to categorize a group. We talk about acknowledging an important moment in time when we as teachers and parents must remind children about what they have learned, not lost. Children have developed leadership skills and learned to troubleshoot, problem-solve, and adapt to change—skills actively sought by future employers that have been learned by even our youngest students.
  • Growth Mindset and Executive Functions: Just as we need to shift the narrative from categorizing children based on a historical event, we need to embrace the narrative of growth, adaptability, and cognitive flexibility that has blossomed during pandemic learning. Every day, we are meeting new challenges. Teachers are modeling vulnerability and building trust with students by embracing the complications that come from remote teaching and working from home—the blending of public and private lives. Students thrive when they see adults work through something that we do not yet fully understand. All it takes from us is the courage to share our own journeys.
  • Qualitative Data: Now is the time to collect the stories: teacher stories, student stories, parent stories. The qualitative data available to us will help inform how we might restructure our educational system to include a focus on critical thinking, problem-solving, perseverance, inclusion, and social and emotional learning. Gather stories about difficulties your students had in accessing their online learning—from bandwidth access to device access to technical abilities. Gather stories about how students overcame challenges with resiliency. Gather stories about how the pandemic provided more opportunities to interact with students’ families to better build community and offer individualized support. Gather the stories that will help inform the changes you would like to see implemented as a result of what we have learned this year.