Updated: Feb 11, 2021
Sister Teresa D. Goins
For a few months, we have studied regression which, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, has become prevalent in children and teens. Our topics were Developmental and Behavioral Regression (October), Academic Regression (November), and Social Regression (December). In this final article of the series, we will pose an informal case study on the topic. Thanks go to our study subject for her candor and willingness to be interviewed. She will remain anonymous and will, herein, be called Lila. She is fourteen years old in her first year of high school.
In mid-March 2020, the pandemic shut down Lila’s school; but she had no idea that from then until now (almost a year later), she would not have stepped foot back into the classroom. * She remembers, “At first, I have to admit, it was great not having to get up early and go to school; but now, it is horrible.” For the rest of the academic year (like other schools across the nation), the Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) method was used. Thick packets of paperwork were sent home with students, representing their ‘homework’ through May. However, completed NTI work seems to have been used in a somewhat nefarious way. “I don’t feel like I learned anything new from March on,” Lila recalls, “because all the work was a review.” She was also discouraged to learn that, although she completed her NTI work, a few friends who did not were promoted to the ninth grade, all the same.
Lila’s extra-curricular activities also came to an abrupt halt. Upcoming Visual Arts and Chorus field trips she had earned in the Gifted and Talented Program, along with her Archery tournaments, were canceled. Her eighth-grade prom was reduced to her (and one other friend) dressing in prom gowns and listening to music at her grandmother’s house. And she missed walking across the stage for her eighth-grade graduation. Lila’s dad drove her through the school parking lot, where she was handed her diploma through the car window, then, hurried off to make room for the graduate in the car behind her.
Fast-forward to today, Lila is a high school freshman and now suffering through remote, virtual learning. “Zoom is easy,” she’s says, “but most teachers just log on, assign homework, ask for questions, and class is over in 10 minutes. Very sterile and not any one-on-one help. Plus, I have seven classes in just four hours, which is not enough time for me.” About her grades, Lila hesitated, “They’re not so good. It’s hard to keep up. School is just not the same …”
Lila is a very bright child, always an Honor Roll student; but since the pandemic, her grades have plummeted from A’s to C’s. What’s worse, due to missing work (work that shows up virtually as not completed), she had five “F’s” on her first Midterm. There were glitches between Google Classroom and Infinite Campus that, when resolved, improved Lila’s scores; but the mechanism by which students can check for missing work is convoluted. She made up schoolwork during fall break but is still (in the second term) not scoring very well.
Lila and her grandmother stay in constant contact with her teachers for help. Her freshman counselor reports that a large percentage of kids are struggling this year, with many, failing. Lila wants to succeed but cannot seem to get acclimated to this new normal. It is unlike her to fail at anything, but virtual school has become her painful nemesis.
According to child psychologists, peers can mean more through the teenage years than family; but today, kids cannot even go to school to see them! Lila loves people and sorely misses her friends. Her only contact in class is a quick “Here,” or “Present,” during roll call, and a glimpse of one still-photo icon each, representing her classmates. Lila is a hands-on learner and also needs her teachers, “I know I need help, but communicating by email is not working.” Some might argue that the social aspect of school (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with a child’s academic performance; but experts would differ. Lila (who was always happy and well-adjusted) feels isolated and sad, doesn’t sleep well, and has trouble giving school her best. The school day has morphed into a dull routine of her getting up (alone in the house), turning on her Chromebook for class, eating lunch (alone), then, attempting her homework, without any help. Lila offers, “I am lonely …”
In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, Lila was so excited to be a freshman! She had acquired new clothes and a new backpack of goodies but would be ‘all dressed up, with nowhere to go!’ Her sense of comfort and normalcy has all but crumbled around her. She understands that, if wisely processed, this ‘temporary trouble’ could serve as a good learning experience for the future; nonetheless, she is suffering.
The pandemic is no one’s fault – especially not schoolteachers, who are also doing their best – but Lila (and other kids like her) need our prayers. The initial purpose of my four-part article about youth regression was to bring attention to the growing phenomenon; but Lila’s story has made it much more personal. It is the responsibility of parents, guardians, grandparents, and Christian mentors to uphold our young people. The worst casualty of the pandemic, of course, is the loss of so many precious lives; but the education and emotional wellbeing of our children are also at stake. Please pray with me for Lila and others. Thank you.
* A few weeks into the academic year, Lila’s school held a total of two weeks of in-person classes. However, Lila contracted COVID-19, was in quarantine, and could not attend. She had only minor symptoms and has thankfully, totally recovered.