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The Missing Students

I’ve been thinking a lot about my students. The ones who graduated. The ones who improved without the distractions of physical school. The ones who didn’t. But my mind always goes back to a small, specific group. These kids were doing fine while we were meeting in person. They were attending class, making progress. I even had a decent relationship with them. When we transitioned (I say transitioned, but it was more of an abrupt switch) to remote learning, I stopped hearing from them. These were not the kids who just never attended class and did not hand in work (though I had my share of those, too). I’m referring to kids who were doing ok and then disappeared.

Sure, they surfaced and handed in assignments here or there or responded reluctantly when either I or their guidance counselor called their houses. But there was no consistent contact with them, and their progress and grades suffered. The only thing I have to go on are unanswered emails, phone calls and incomplete assignments. Many of us tend to focus on the kids who didn’t have access to a device or internet or who we didn’t hear from at all. However, I think kids who had decent grades in the beginning of the semester and who did not engage in remote learning in a real way are just as concerning. Are they struggling mentally? Is there some factor at home that we don’t know about? Are they sick and didn’t notify the school? I remember one such student confiding that she was taking care of her siblings while we were still in person, so I can’t imagine what her responsibilities were when she was home all the time. Another student initially did not have a device, but did not participate once it was confirmed that he had the device. 

If we are to continue remote learning in some capacity in the fall (because let’s face it, no one knows at this point what is going to happen), we have to think about these students and try to understand why participating in remote learning seems to be difficult for them in a way in person school wasn’t. Why are were these students able to obtain above average grades in school, but barely scraped by remotely? There are, of course, more questions than answers right now as we enter our summer of uncertainty. With the looming budget cuts, it’s hard to say the schools need more of anything right now, but these kids need as much attention as the long term absent kids and the kids who were regularly responding to their teachers.

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