Teachers Still See Effects of Pandemic on Students

by Evelyn San Miguel ‘26

It’s been four years since the nationwide shutdown of schools from the Covid-19 Pandemic, and many have been left wondering whether or not the world has recovered. Although masks and social distancing have fallen out of fashion and the virus is no longer considered a public health emergency, the long-lasting effects of the global shutdown rings the loudest in the ears of students and educators alike. Despite going “back to normal,” academic disparities from virtual learning continue to harm the progress of the next generation.

Sherwood teachers had their fair share of setbacks during virtual learning for the 2020-21 school year. “Teaching during the pandemic was frustrating,” recounted math teacher Heather Baxter. “I tried to do fun things, like breakout rooms and play music when students entered Zoom, but the enthusiasm from students was lacking.” Baxter’s feelings echoed those of most teachers: virtual learning prevented teachers from holding students accountable, and students are still slow to come back from the setbacks that came from online learning. She often has to catch her students up on basic concepts from Algebra they may have missed if they weren’t engaged on Zoom, and has to compensate by offering to reteach concepts during lunch.

English teacher Ashley Graham-Bell noticed that when her students came back from the virtual learning year, they were “really resistant to collaborating with other people … they didn’t want to speak. That was the thing that was really the hardest part.” Students also had a hard time completing tasks independently, but indicated they didn’t want to work as a group.

“There was a hypersensitivity to being seen and heard,” said Graham-Bell, who added that many of her students had become more passive learners after virtual learning. This trend of passivity brought less independence, with more and more students relying on technology or other adults to provide them with answers instead of seeking them out themselves.

Baxter and Graham-Bell noted the rising popularity of AI systems, like ChatGPT or Photomath, that their students have used to cheat on assignments. The systems have contributed significantly in the trend of technological reliance, with students being unwilling to complete the most basic work. The volume and rigor at which students used to work has declined, with students lacking basic skills like reading comprehension and writing structure. Graham-Bell found herself having to compensate for the learning that her students lost in middle school from virtual learning. But the biggest loss that she saw in her students was the “lack of joy, a lack of curiosity, a lack of spark … [and less] learning for learning’s sake.”