Did Lack of Socialization During the Pandemic Impact Student Development?
With the start of the new school year, many teachers nationwide and at Alta have noticed an uptick in disrespectful classroom behavior from their students.
They claim their students are loud and unfocused in the classroom. Students have stolen and vandalized things, and there is more disrespect of others in the hallways.
Such behaviors are usually not so noticeable, so teachers are wondering if these unexpected and negative behaviors are a product of the pandemic?
The pandemic affected many students’ mental states, leaving some feeling depressed, anxious, and extremely isolated. Many didn’t have true contact with their friends and family members for months in a row, besides through technology. Teachers posting to social media believe students missed out on social and emotional development as they stayed home and did school online.
Alta, however, had a somewhat normal school year last year after the Test to Stay program in January. That was a game changer, so if other schools across the country were strictly online, those students would be even more socially behind.
“The lack of expectation and structure over the past year and a half has shifted people’s priorities from academics to other things,” Psychology teacher Sam Webb said. “Isolation didn’t help, but it’s not the whole reason. In the end, it comes down to school culture and individual decisions.”
The Alta Counseling Office is addressing the issue by visiting freshmen and sophomore advisory classes to talk about showing empathy and support for others.
Teachers are also going to let the “natural consequences happen.” Students who don’t pay attention or who act up in class will get a grade that reflects that, Webb said.
Classroom situations aside, students are struggling with added stress this year and that can be reflected in classroom etiquette. Some students had to take on more jobs over the pandemic or help take care of their little siblings. Some have lost family members to COVID-19. During the time that all these issues arose, students’ social networks were uprooted and they weren’t able to express their issues to anybody else.
According to counselor Cierra Johnson, those issues have impacted student social development. “Students were more isolated than they’d ever been before,” Johnson said. “It is definitely a factor and has impacted student emotional and social learning.”
[students] didn’t have the necessary interaction with adults to understand expected behavior… and student life has been full of inconsistencies lately.”
— Alta Counselor Ms. Bell
Being back in school has brought students together again, some for the first time since the pandemic began. So many are out of practice for behaving maturely at school and that equates to more disruptions and more raucous behavior. This has left teachers feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time they waste to get their classrooms under control.
On that note, managing behavior stresses teachers and classroom situations. Focusing on behavior management instead of course content is disruptive and not helpful according to teacher Denise Ferguson.
“Most teachers are stressed because they have to spend more time managing behavior,” Ferguson said. “It’s exhausting. Teachers are happiest teaching their course content, not managing behavior.”
The pandemic certainly left its impact on students’ behavior, but it’s time to get back to normal. Ferguson believes it really is in everyone’s control. “Behavior expectations can be met. It may take a bit of time.”