What Our Students Learned Last Year (It's More Than You Think)July 22, 2021
Thanks to the pandemic, students learned important life lessons along with academics during the 2020-21 school year. We asked Milken Educators about the most important things their students took away from their classroom experiences this year—click to read their thoughtful responses.
Nick Peruski (MI '19) | White Lake Middle School, White Lake
Flexibility! We all get complacent and used to how things have always been done. This year, students (and educators) had to learn in new ways, adapting to constantly changing methods of instruction. Being able to grow and embrace change in an ever-evolving society is critical. This year, students had the opportunity to develop that skill.
Sarah Compton (WI '18) | Northside Elementary, Monroe
My students learned that school is much more than a building, and its importance extends beyond academics. School is where we build connections. School is where we gather to play, laugh, eat, share, and grow together. It was emotional welcoming students back to the building and difficult saying goodbye for summer break. In the time we were apart, students learned the value of our community.
Jane Ching Fung (CA '02) | Belvedere Elementary, Los Angeles
This year my students learned that there will be singing, dancing, and laughing each day. That names and listening skills are important. Learning how to count will help you in life, and sometimes your teacher may have to mute you. But the important thing my students learned this year is that their teachers care about them and believe they can do hard things.
Brian Allman (WV '19) | Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Buckhannon
All my students have learned the value of resiliency. I’ve always had students, due to personal situations, who have developed the traits needed to overcome obstacles. The pandemic has really magnified the importance of it for all students. There are going to be times in life when situations are tough and the way forward is difficult. This school year was challenging in so many ways: lack of consistency, learning gaps, social and emotional loss, lack of equity to resources such as the internet (a real issue in places like West Virginia), family challenges, and the list goes on and on.
These issues can knock you down if you let them. What I saw is a generation of students who are more prepared to collectively tackle challenges moving forward. Were there learning losses? Absolutely. I think educators will do what we do best to address them moving forward. That being said, we can’t let our concerns over academic loss overshadow the positives that have come out of this school year. Students learned in ways that no group before them has ever experienced. We can’t lose sight of that regardless of test scores and other data. That’s resiliency. They faced obstacles with strength and will be more prepared to confront the inevitable challenges that life will throw their way as adults.
On a side note, as an educator, it was nice for me to realize that the world didn’t stop spinning because every standard wasn’t covered as in-depth as I had hoped. The relationships, care, and love that I’ve seen displayed outweighs it all. My students won’t think back and wish they had spent two extra days on my content. They will remember how we tackled a pandemic together and won. That growth is what education and learning is all about.
Dr. Marisa Rivas (CA '09) | Riverside Unified School District
In a year like no other, students learned a wide variety of new things ranging from technology applications to life skills as they faced and met the challenges of a global pandemic. However, the most important thing that comes to mind is how students took ownership of their learning. Students in sixth grade [at Arrowview Middle School in San Bernardino, where I taught last year], brand new to middle school, learned to send their teachers emails in order to ask questions about an assignment or to communicate regarding missed classes. Students felt empowered monitoring their academic progress when checking their grades and missing assignments online. They attended online tutoring sessions outside of class hours to seek additional help and assistance. The ability to advocate for themselves and personalize their learning experience will prove valuable as they continue on their educational journeys.
Nikki Silva (NJ '18) | Nathan Hale Elementary, Carteret
My students learned to persevere. When faced with a challenge they now know firsthand that there is more than one way to go about solving it.
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