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At the start of this week, 20% of students and teachers were absent from the school in the Springfield, Missouri, school district where Cicely Woodard teaches high school math. A spike in COVID-19 is to blame. With a severe shortage of substitutes, the district announced Tuesday that it was canceling classes for the remainder of the week.
“It brings back all those memories of March 2020 when we weren’t in school at all,” Woodard — a former Tennessee teacher of the year — told PEOPLE. “I’ve heard a lot of my students say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go back to that. It was really hard for me not being able to go to school.'”
There is no doubt that the pandemic continues to take a toll on children’s learning, with one in six parents reporting that their child’s school or daycare has been closed in the past few weeks, according to a national survey from Axios and Ipsos published on January 11.
A report by McKinsey &Co, a New York-based consulting firm, also mirrors the pandemic’s toll: It estimates that students across the country entered school in 2021 an average of four to five months behind what they would normally be in reading and math. That gap, according to the report, widened to seven months among students in low-income schools.
“It’s a very difficult time,” Woodard said, adding that the loss of a much-needed connection between students and teachers due to pandemic home and hybrid schooling “is impacting their learning.” .
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Woodard is so concerned about catching up and thriving for students nationwide that she’s joined the advisory board for Teachers1on1, an online tutoring service launched this week that connects kids with certified teachers across the country in a wide variety of subjects. (The program’s selection process for its tutors is difficult — less than 2% of teachers who apply are accepted, the company said.)
Below, Woodard, who is also a mum to two boys aged 15 and 12, and Christopher Lohse, a former science teacher and principal who is now Academic Director of Teachers1on1, share advice for parents trying to help. their children. .
Listen to your child
“Instead of ‘How was your day?’ ‘Very good.’ Those are the answers you’ll get,” says Woodard, “but ask very specific questions like, ‘What did you experience in class today? How was he learning? What happened to funny? And really try to get the students to talk about school and talk about what they need.”
Many factors can cause lagging performance.
“Don’t panic, but take it seriously,” says Lohse. “There can be a number of reasons why a child might be performing poorly. It might be related to a pandemic. They might have a health problem themselves. Something might be going wrong. suddenly happen.”
Cicely Woodard Cicely Woodard
Start conversations with your child’s teacher
“I’ve had many parents reach out and say, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but right now it looks like my student is struggling. What can I do? And all of a sudden I’m able to give them very specific suggestions, specific things they can do for their child,” says Woodard. “Teachers are very good at assessing students’ learning, understanding what they know at the moment, and then being able to move them toward the goal of the lesson, or toward the goal of whatever they’re doing. are challenged at the moment.”
It can be scary to reach out, but do it anyway
“Families may feel like they don’t have the power to challenge or have a conversation with teachers about their child’s performance,” says Lohse. “I can even speak to this from my own experience. There were times when I would call families and they would say, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you reached out to me because I’m in I’m a little ashamed of what’s happening to my child’s performance in school and I assumed people were judgmental about my parenting. “”
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Teachers want to help
“Teachers are in the business of helping students,” says Woodard. “I would say email is a great way to contact teachers because then they can check those emails when they’re available and at the best time for them.”
“When it comes to students who struggle academically, research indicates that high-quality one-on-one tutoring can definitely help them,” Woodard said.
“For many students, they need quality tutoring, access to one-on-one tutoring, with teachers who understand the content,” she adds. “That’s one of the reasons I serve on the board of Teachers1on1, because I truly believe that students can benefit from these kinds of relationships.”
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Research available financial support for tutoring
If your child needs help but you can’t afford tutoring, schools are in a better position to help because of an influx of pandemic-related federal funds, Lohse says. “Parents can ask their local school to say, ‘Is there a way to cover the costs associated with this service for my child?'” Teachers1on1, for example, will set up a pilot program with some Los Angeles schools. where they will offer 500 hours of free tutoring, with plans to expand access to other school districts across the country, he says.