The average school year is stressful enough for most kids and teens. Since 2020, kids have had to cope with another difficulty: the chaotic pivot to virtual learning, then going back to school during COVID—in some cases, several times, or with a combination of the two. As schools around the country continue to return to in-person learning and classroom procedures resembling pre-COVID times, we can’t forget about the many challenges students have been facing with both educational formats.
Challenges for BIPOC, Low-Income, and Special Needs Students
BIPOC and low-income students face a slew of difficulties with distance education. They may not have access to high-speed internet and compatible devices at home, or a parent/guardian who is available to help with homework, making virtual learning inaccessible. Then there’s the embarrassment of having to explain this to their teachers as well as the stigma of poor academic performance. On top of all this, such children often face food and housing insecurity, parental job loss, and other domestic stressors that make in-person school such a necessary support system.
Students with disabilities and their families have had to cope with similar challenges. Special needs students may rely on in-person coaching to help them learn, making autonomous virtual learning an impossibility. These students also lose on-campus healthcare and other supports when in-person school is not in session. Returning to campus can also be disorienting and overwhelming, especially for those anxious about speaking in front of a classroom.
Disadvantages for General Student Mental Health
Kids and teens with pre-existing mental health concerns go without on-campus support during virtual learning. Others have developed poor mental health in isolation—even college-aged students. Public school students have felt unmotivated to learn and cut off from teacher support during lockdowns, and their academic progress often suffers. This, paired with the inability to socialize with friends, worsens their already-low moods. Yet returning to in-person learning can be equally anxiety-inducing, depending on academic, social, and health factors.
The Good News
Not all of the news is bad, however. Some students have found it easier to focus on academics without social distractions and have earned slightly higher grades and test scores. Conversely, some have enjoyed an improved quality of life after returning to in-person classes. Those who have temporary or chronic illnesses can save physical energy by joining classes online. There have also been state and federal initiatives to provide disadvantaged students with access to high-speed internet and technology. Nonetheless, it is important for us all to remember how much of an impact the ongoing pandemic has had on all of us, and on children most of all – and to be mindful of the challenges they may be facing in the midst of these circumstances.
An excellent way to help students cope with the challenges of transitioning back and forth between in-person and online learning is to enroll them in an extracurricular music class. Performing music has significant benefits for mental health and cross-curricular performance. If you’re a Boston resident interested in reaping the many benefits of performing music, visit the Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) and consider enrolling in a music class today. You can also support the nonprofit organization so that all local residents can enjoy these benefits.