The following are my observations and by no means represent anyone else's views other than my own.
This past month marked the three-year anniversary of the lockdown. Since then, we as teacher have endured the sudden switch to digital learning during that time, the subsequent year of the hybrid classroom, and then last year's return back to full in-person teaching. I have noticed much about the post-Covid/Hybrid student and how much that student has changed since pre-Covid. Quite honestly, I am absolutely perplexed - here are some observations:
- Technology has changed the way in which students view assignments and classwork. I am all for using technology in my classroom. I possess a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I understand the educational theory behind integrating technology into one's curriculum for the purpose of creating higher order, critical thinking in students. In other words, I am not one to just assign digital work for the sake of assigning digital work. Plus, I never assign homework which students must complete outside of class - I always give students ample time in class to do digital assignments. Also, this past year, my school went 1:1 with Chromebooks as a result of being unprepared for digital learning during the lockdown and hybrid teaching, so all of my students have access to technology. HOWEVER, in my observations, students seem to think that anything technology-related gives them the license not to complete work, to put it off for completion at a later time, or not to participate. If I ask students to fill out a quick online survey, to complete a digital assignment, or to take part in a digital activity, it is such a hassle to get them to complete it. However, if I give students something on paper to complete physically which they must turn in or we do a in-class group activity, then it does not seem to be an issue. I noticed this prior to hybrid teaching even as early as 2017, but it has magnified greatly since our return.
- Allowing students to turn in missing work and to retake assessments have shifted expectations. I firmly believe that we need to give students retake opportunities and remediation so that they can demonstrate proficiency and minimal mastery of the material. Once a month, I devote a classroom day to making up/retaking assessments and providing any needed remediation prior to retakes. Students also have until the end of the semester to complete any digital work. But in doing so, have I unexpectedly and unnecessarily created an expectation among students that they do not need to be "present in the moment" when it comes to turning in work and being accountable for knowing material? I will admit that during hybrid teaching, the name of the game was survival, so we teachers were allowing students to turn in late work, half-completed work, anything (!) just so that we could assign these students a grade of some kind and get them to pass the class. Are we as teachers still furthering this model which we created and in a sense are enabling students to further this behavior? Have we conditioned students to expect this? To be honest, there is a limit of how much grace which I can give students on my end.
- I am seeing a lot more student absences than I did pre-Covid. More importantly, it is not a one-day absence, but more of a weekly "2 days at school, 3 days absent" pattern for certain students. Is it because the expectation now is that since much of student work is digital, students think that they do not need to be present in class any longer? As I stated earlier, I am all about giving students an opportunity to make up work and to retake/resubmit low-scoring assignments and assessments, but it is very difficult to do when students are not present in class.
- I am definitely seeing an increase in student failures. The no-fail, CI-model which my Latin program had established years ago and had seen much success pre-Covid is no longer operational. Students cannot pass if they are not doing their 50% or are not present in class on a consistent basis.
- I have never had to battle cellphone and earbud/AirPod usage in class before like I am now. Daily I begin each class with my cellphone ritual (where in Latin I tell students to put away their phones into their bookbags) - because I do this daily, students know the routine. Plus, I put my phone away too in my bookbag along with them to model this expectation. However, I am amazed at how often I still have to tell students to put away their phones, to remove their earbuds/Airpods, and if they are wearing hoodies, to lower their hoodies so that they cannot hide these listening devices underneath. I am finding that personal devices are distracting students to such a degree that they feel like they cannot be without them at all times.
I write all of this not to complain but rather to ask myself the following questions: Where is it that I need to manage my expectations and to adjust them to have a more realistic outlook about today's students? Last year, in our return back to in-person teaching, I adjusted my expectations of what students should know, moved the goalposts of how much material I would cover, and devoted the year to filling in any knowledge gaps. Do I need to continue? On the other hand, where is that students need to manage their expectations and to realize that the educational model which we had set up during hybrid and last year's rebuilding efforts were temporary and are no longer the norm?
I do not profess to have any answers here. What are you seeing in the post-Covid/Hybrid student?