Virtually any discussion that is held about the reopening of schools, eventually, the term “learning loss” will be used –– especially with summer swiftly approaching. We spoke with two educators –– Stacy Davis-Gates, Executive Vice President of the Chicago Teacher’s Union and Cecily Myart-Cruz, President of United Teachers of Los Angeles. Both education leaders shared their thoughts on how the term has been misused and abused during this pandemic, particularly when the reopening of schools is discussed.
“We are going to have to show up and pull up for our kids in a different way,” Myart-Cruz tells MadameNoire. “What happened prior to the pandemic wasn’t good enough. And now here we are in this unprecedented time that we need to lean into the moment and really lean and on mental health, and arts and music and dance. How do we actually fight forward for those righteous demands for our kids? Especially our Black and brown kids?”
The Los Angeles educator went on to say that while many institutions suggest that our children lost something during the pandemic, they fail to recognize what they’ve gained.
“A lot of people are going to use the fancy buzzwords learning loss and I’m gonna challenge folks to not use that, especially in the Black and brown communities. Don’t use that word and, and the reason why I say that is it is a ploy by the standardization community, privatization community to use that, right-wing as well as, you know, folks who say they’re progressive liberals. They say our kids have a lost something during this pandemic. And I want to challenge that notion to say ‘No, they haven’t, actually.’ What they’ve learned is survival. What they’ve learned is how to thrive in a pandemic. The thing that folks learned was that there was a racial reckoning over the summer. They know the difference between protesting and rioting. They actually know the meaning of insurrection. Those are the things that we can be proud of and one of the things that I want to say is you know, you can’t lose what you’ve never had. So when our babies come back into buildings and you see the lightbulbs go off and you see that they’re back in their environment, you’re going to see thriving like never before but let’s not conflate that kids lost something.”
Davis-Gates echoed similar sentiments during our call, pointing out that the system’s preoccupation with so-called “learning loss” is reflective of a disconnect from humanity.
“The worst part of this whole reopening discussion is that we have disconnected the humanity of the people who are dealing with the impact of COVID-19, from the actual recovery from COVID-19 so I have suffered loss and the only thing that you are telling me that I’ve lost is learning,” she said. “People have lost their homes. Evictions are at an all-time high. You have people losing their lives and you know the only thing that our institutions can tell parents who are doing the best that they can with what they have is that they are somehow disenfranchising their children if they don’t send them back to a facility.”
The Chicago teacher also emphasized the importance of establishing social-emotional supports for students along with COVID-19 prevention procedures.
“You’re saying learning loss and they need to return the building what’s in the school building? How is the building itself going to help the recovery and healing process because the kids are just sitting in front of me with a mask on and separated by plexiglass?” she asked. “That doesn’t mean recovery. That means location. Recovery means traumatic supports. What are the social-emotional supports built into the school day? What are the ways we make learning more enjoyable and applicable in a time of a pandemic and Black Lives Matter?”
“You tell me learning loss, I’ll tell you about students who are taking care of their siblings. You tell me learning loss, I’ll talk to you about high school students that are picking up utility bills because they’re the only ones in the household with a job right now. That learning loss in terms of how it’s a racist standardized test would evaluate it is one thing but learning to survive and surviving in a pandemic is something different.”
Our children have faced enough during this pandemic. That last thing we want to do is make them feel as though they are lacking as they return to classrooms.