Sunday, July 25, 2021

Lifeless, Detached Students Have Returned to My Classroom

Writes Jeremy Adams, at the Los Angeles Times, "The Rise of the Zoombies":

Almost every teacher I know has noticed the same sinister reality this summer: Kids have come back to the classroom. But the classroom hasn’t come back to the kids.

Far from it.

More to the point, they are back, they are sitting at their desks, but in many ways they now embody the detached, lifeless malaise of a hipster zombie incapable of showing the slightest patina of zest or zeal. This isn’t their fault, mind you. They have spent the last year in a learning ecosystem that was decidedly not of their choosing — watching Zoom classes, learning through omnipresent pixilated screens that demanded little from them and, in too many instances, taught them even less.

And now?

Now, they are perpetually chilled out, difficult to intellectually prod or verbally poke. They resist verbal engagement with me — or with each other. At the end of the day, we usually have a few minutes to spare before the bell rings. But nowadays there’s little talking. No socializing. No teenage gossiping or flirting. Instead, they silently self-medicate on their devices. For decades the bell would ring and students would fly out of the classroom like it was on fire. Now, their departure is, at best, a leisurely gait.

So we meander forward during this summer school session, making our way through the world history curriculum. The students are oddly obedient. They never argue. Never talk over me. They do everything they are “supposed” to do. But they ask zero questions. They make zero connections. It’s hard to make them laugh, and I can’t tell if they are smiling behind their masks. I am skeptical that they are learning anything of substance despite my best efforts. Their eyes are distant. I can’t decide if they are confused, disoriented or bewildered by the COVID-caused whirlwind they have endured.

My class is almost entirely populated by students who haven’t learned traditionally in nearly a year and a half. And they don’t pull any punches about the difficult pedagogic terrain that lies ahead...