The only thing my son has learned from fourteen months of distance learning is how to turn a playground argument into a chat box argument,

Virtual School Helps Social-Emotional Growth, But Learning… Not so Much

By Cara Meredith

Recent studies show that students have not advanced academically since the pandemic began, but have shown great strides in areas of social and emotional growth.

In California, where 55 percent of all public-school students remain in distance learning as of April 30th, children have excelled in attitude and relationships.

“I mean, they’re sure as hell not any smarter,” one principal stated anonymously, “but there’s been a significant increase in areas of social-emotional growth. You should see how they encourage one another in the comment box on Zoom. Now that’s school spirit!”

With electronically-obtained permission from parents and caregivers, researchers studied the interactions of over 3,000 students from more than fifty classrooms across the state.
After observing online interactions between twenty-four students in one Oakland third-grade classroom, research analyst Irena Pattuchi cited the following example as proof of growth in areas of social awareness and self-awareness:

Student A: When I woke up this morning, I got a dog!
Student B: I HAVE A DOG
Student C: i have 2 {dog emojis}
Student D: I have a dog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Student E: my dog is princess
Student F: {three dog emojis}
Student E: named princess
Student G: I have a {cat emoji}. I like {2 cat emojis}. Better.
Student A: Yeah but I didn’t have a dog before I woke up.
Student H: I have a cat, a dog, a hamster, three fish and a pig. They are named Harry, Meghan, Archie, Swirlie, Twirlie, Swimmy and Ham. I am a pet person. I am going to be a veterinarian scientist researcher when I grow up.
Student B: U HAVE A PIG
Student I: i {heart emoji} bacon!!!!!!!!!!!!
Student J: poop
Student D: im a vegetation
Student D: Vegenarnian
Student D: VEGETARIAN no ham
Student H: By law, potbellied pigs are allowed in Oakland. We don’t eat our pig. We just call him Ham.
Student J: poop
Student D: its mean to eat {dog emoji, cow emoji, cat emoji, fish emoji, giraffe emoji, hamster emoji, mouse emoji, pig emoji, monkey emoji, chicken emoji}!!!!!!
Student A: The dog is my emotional support animal.
Student C: kinda like hanukah pupy!
Student E: im gonna name him monica
Student J: poop
Student H: Daveed Diggs is my neighbor. He loves Ham. Ham is my best animal friend.
Student D: ham is bad!!!!! dont eat meat!!!!!!!!!! {pig emoji, pig emoji, pig emoji, bacon emoji, bacon emoji, bacon emoji}

The chat box included 723 comments over the course of next two and a half hours of distance learning, Pattuchi further citing the students’ chat box interactions as proof of social and emotional growth.

“You’ll notice that when Student A shared her excitement of waking up to discover a new puppy this morning, ten of the twenty-four students engaged in appropriate developmental response to her news,” Pattuchi shared. “They showed social awareness when they shared about their own pets. They showed self-awareness when they further connected the dots between their own beliefs of religion and food, for instance.” The study, titled “Students are Smart in Other Ways: Examples of Social-Emotional Growth in a Global Pandemic,” was published in the New England Journal of Very Smart Things.

Parents, however, disagreed.

“Social-emotional growth? Yeah, right. The only thing my son has learned from fourteen months of distance learning is how to turn a playground argument into a chat box argument,” stated the parent of Student D, the vegetarian.

“Sure, my son calls himself a plant-eater, but he ate two Double Doubles, animal-style, for dinner last night, and was stuffing a pound and a half a pound of bacon into his mouth this morning while instigating a supposed riot against the meat-eaters of his class. His spelling was atrocious because he could only type with one hand. Social emotional-growth, yeah right.”

Critics also cited educational leadership as a key component of social-emotional growth, further noting the absence of the classroom teacher in the aforementioned example.

“I’m paying how much in taxes every year to keep the public schools running, yet there’s not a teacher in sight! What are the kids learning? All they want to do is talk about their pets!” said Lyndsey Johnson, a concerned citizen

Sources confirmed that the third-grade teacher was indeed present and teaching a repeat of second-grade lesson plans on the top bun of the hamburger paragraph essay method during the cited chat box conversation. Of the twenty-four students, records show the following: three children were absent; ten children were engaged in chat box commentary; four children were drawing pictures of lettuce, tomato, bun, cheese and meat; and seven children were watching YouTube videos of kittens meowing and further wreaking havoc on former First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign.

Pattuchi declined further comment.



About the Author

Cara Meredith is a freelance writer and author of the spiritual memoir, The Color of Life. A former high school English teacher and non-profit director, she is completely over the school year (and distance learning as a whole). You can connect with her on her website, as well as Instagram and Facebook