Student engagement in the classroom post-COVID-19

I recently read a blog by The Annie E. Casey Foundation called “Reengaging Students Who Lost Their Way During the Pandemic.” It reminded me of Josh. Josh was a student of mine a few years back, his reputation as a rebellious young man preceded him. Our class was primarily 9th graders and, at 18 years-old, Josh stood out – literally. According to his records, he was frequently absent and regularly confronted his teachers and his peers in an aggressive manner resulting in a substantive list of behavioral issues. Students such as Josh rebel for a number of complex and diverse reasons. The long list of attributes that contribute to misbehavior and poor student engagement were exacerbated by COVID-19 leaving a wake of chronic absenteeism, uptick in disruptive behaviors, and expansive list of social-emotional needs. 

As we assess the impact of COVID on teaching and learning, it’s safe to say that more young people across the nation are disengaged. Josh was disengaged and I was struggling to create a connection with him. As students returned to class this fall, social interactions appear to be a bit different. Fights are up and tensions are high as teachers band together to support each other and their community of learners while organizations and foundations are stepping in to support. Through the support of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The National League of Cities (NLC) has created a hub of resources to help disengaged students like Josh, and their teachers too. NLC’s hub includes a resource guide to address student reengagement. Three resources stood out:

Josh and I had our challenges, but we found our way. We found common ground rooted in mutual respect. A few years after our time together, I walked into a local nonprofit organization to find Josh standing behind the counter. After a warm greeting and a short chat, it was clear that Josh had found his voice and passion and was creating a life for himself. He was fully engaged. 

Today’s students have had to manage countless challenges to their learning environment and many are acting out. We can help. Reengaging disengaged students to help them find their voice is our job and it is our passion.