By Charlie Warhaftig

Back in the 70s, as a result of the Vietnam War, we had hundreds (and possibly thousands) of our soldiers that were Missing in Action. I remember those days well. In fact, I wore a POW/MIA bracelet, as did many of my friends. There is nothing worse than having people you care about missing in action.

But that is what’s happening to many of our students. The pandemic has taken a toll. A large number of students pulled out of traditional public education altogether, instead choosing homeschooling and (in some cases) literally missing in action. Still others who are back in the classroom are not doing well emotionally and as a result, their focus and ability to learn is also missing in action.

(ET) Magazine was created to explain, promote, celebrate and hopefully accelerate technology’s positive influence on education. But in this (barely) post pandemic world, a combination of years worth of contributing factors and some very serious consequences of the COVID Crash have come together to shake the foundations for a massive number of America’s youth.

So while we use our resources to race through exciting and exhilarating new uses for technology, let’s make sure we take a moment to pump the brakes and watch for the yellow flags that are going up on every corner of the oval track.

If you are like me and generally have your nose buried in tech articles, you may have missed many of the salient facts. According to Franklin Schargel in his new bestselling book Preventing School Violence, “The COVID-19 virus has created global havoc on the world’s economy, healthcare, and education systems. In addition, it has added to existing childhood anxiety, stress and trauma. It has disrupted the lives of children, their parents and the lives of educators as well. Children already face anxiety, stress and trauma in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. With the onset of the pandemic, researchers correctly anticipated an increase in youth suicides due to increased family financial stress, isolation and children being home-bound.

Children need socialization, which schools provide. The lack of in-person, in-school learning has also created a widening of the learning gap between wealthy and low-income students, and between children of color and Caucasian students. Anxiety, stress and trauma in children have similar symptoms of PTSD, which include:

  • Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
  • Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it’s happening all over again
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Having trouble concentrating

Unfortunately, many young people do not possess or have not been taught coping skills to deal with stress and trauma. Children experience greater stress and trauma as they age. First from their family, then hormones, then school, then dating, and then the workplace. Managing stress and trauma are tied to coping, growing anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. There is a rising concern among educators that the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 virus pandemic has created increased difficulty in forming the relationships that teachers need with their students.”

And just as Schargel said, we are seeing these feelings upending our students with a vengeance.

So, what to do?

First, let’s slow down. Remember, many of your students missed two years of regular classroom attendance. That may not seem like a long time to me and you, but to a ten-year-old that is one fifth of their entire life. It would be the same as if I were to lose 12 years; heck, I wouldn’t remember a thing.

Second, let’s put it in perspective: They didn’t just miss 2 years of classroom learning. Their lives were significantly altered for two years. You can’t expect them just to pick up where they left off and then hit the jets to accelerate and add-back the learning. There are two years of heavy emotional experiences there to process. You literally need to work classroom learning back into the mix.

Third, let’s ask them how they are doing. Frequently. Consider an organization like Resources for Resilience for a daily five-minute check-in. If you can’t afford five minutes a day to make sure the kids are alright, your agenda is much too busy. Remember, busy does not equal rigor. Never did. Never will.

Fourth, connect your data dots for a 360 degree view of your students. Very often, schools have the data they need to paint an accurate picture of their students. They just need help putting the data together. Consider a firm like to make it happen.

Fifth, let your kids be kids. That’s what they are. They are not little grown-ups in short pants. Children develop at their own paces. That is biological, and you can’t change that no matter how hard you try, or how badly you want them to do well on a test. When in doubt, let them play! Sixth, make sure you have plenty of professional help. Counselors, nurses and mental health professionals are all very valuable. You would not expect a mental health professional to be able to run your district. Please don’t expect that you can do their jobs.

For the reasons outlined above, and for hundreds of others, we have come to a time in the lives of our children when their emotional states are particularly fragile, and we need to be keenly aware. As the Dean of Students at Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, Virginia (my daughter Carolyn) has said, “It doesn’t matter what you are trying to teach them if they are not in the emotional frame of mind to learn.” So, let’s make the time to ensure our learners are in a position to learn. Because once we do that, they will find that the world is theirs for the taking. And their brilliant teachers and amazing curricula and mind-bending technology will help make this the most important part of their lives, and their best years ever.

Because these years were never intended to be throw-aways, to be time spent preparing them for the more important years to come. These wonderful, exciting, exhilarating, beautiful, meaningful years are their years. And these are the times of their lives.

About the author

Charlie Warhaftig is CEO of SBA Global Consulting