Shifting Priorities and the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Effect on the Education Field

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped education in extensive ways. Reports show significant declines in student achievement milestones and the widening of already large opportunity and achievement gaps between communities in a number of ways. These datasets may be discouraging, but after three years of rolling schedules and forced flexibility, there are some positive changes in priorities that can be gleaned from an otherwise trying time for teachers, administrators, school counselors, and those about to enter the education field. 

Bringing Mental Health into the Classroom

Importantly, the pandemic brought on unprecedented levels of mental health needs for children, teens, and those working in education. It brought to light, and exacerbated, many mental health issues that were already existing before the pandemic began, and they will surely continue after it ends.

Increased funding for hiring mental health workers, trauma response and mental health training for teachers in the classroom, and more create an opportunity for all stakeholders – communities, school districts, families, teachers, and more – to prioritize and address mental health issues both in the short and long term. In addition to several proposed pieces of legislation supported by the American Psychological Association (APA), “psychologists are committed to finding new ways to address children’s mental health, not only for their own well-being but for the common good” said one article published by the APA. For example, offering continuing education programs for teachers on trauma-informed practices and Mental Health Primers, which help teachers understand how to identify behaviors in the classroom that may be related to underlying mental health conditions, along with more examples in the article.

Many educators quickly realized there was additional education and deeper skillsets that they needed to better address and understand the mental health and wellness of their students. Programs like John Carroll’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) program in Advanced Studies with a specialization in Child and Adolescent Health and Wellness help classroom teachers build this understanding for themselves and their students. The program includes an overview of healthy development, and includes an exploration of how to handle mental health issues in productive ways and be proactive in their classrooms.

A Chance to Prioritize and Optimize

For years, educators and education researchers have highlighted growing disparities and increasing needs for updates in delivery methods, organizational structure, and teaching as a whole. As one Washington Post article put it, the pandemic “tested basic ideas about instruction, attendance, testing, funding, the role of technology and the human connections that hold it all together.” School districts, schools, and teachers had to take a step back, then prioritize and optimize the work they were doing, highlighting student wellness and equity, remaining flexible, involving the community, and blending learning materials. 

We’ve talked before in this blog about culturally responsive classrooms, competency-based education, and how the role of the teacher is changing. Each one is important in overcoming barriers brought on by the pandemic.

A New Look to the Classroom

Another potential concept in this reshaping and reframing is the idea of the “powered-up school,” wherein a public school leverages community partnerships to supplement education and bring in new experiences.  This may include bringing students into outdoor spaces or introducing professionals from various fields into the curriculum. 

The pandemic also brought on the idea of the blended learning classroom, which combines various technologies, including remote learning, to offer flexibility and more opportunities for customizing a child’s education to meet their specific needs. 

Your Future Begins at John Carroll

An advanced degree in Education, including the Master’s of Education at John Carroll University can help teachers fill Ohio employment gaps for those with unique education specialties, such as literacy, mental health and wellness, and others. Each one plays a crucial role in helping education come back from COVID-19 strong.

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.