Love of Learning and the Newly-Emerging Student Elite

Love of Learning and the Newly-Emerging Student Elite

Was there a drop in student participation with Covid-19 virtual learning? Or were some students better prepared for the transition?



It is either a fretful or intriguing thought, the newly-emerging student elite. Or, perhaps it is a signal for optimism. No matter, because it is happening before our very eyes.

Elitism has been part of the human experience since the dawn of time. There is even a Communist elite, pardon the oxymoron.

Yet, the phrase “love of learning” prompts a response. Can there be a downside in loving to learn? Arguably, no, but today’s circumstances warrant an examination and a perspective.

From my view, SARS Co-V-2, the novel coronavirus, and its shutdown of schools has dug deeply into the foundation of academe. No discussion here, however, of the plight of colleges and universities, or their future.

I am looking at the days since mid-March, 2020 when high school students, among others, started working from home via tele-learning.

A heavy burden was placed on these students, out of earshot from their parents and guardians, customarily working at desks in their bedrooms or in the family dining room.

For the majority of students, virtual platform learning was new. Some students, good at technology, ran with it. Others made use of any guidance available, and some students delayed, for whatever reasons.

It is the students who did not login at all, or rarely, who reveal the inevitable cracks in the mainstream educational system.

Given hindsight, it is easy to understand, and accept, that students, not especially academically inclined, saw the March 12 pivot and the subsequent shutdown of schools as a short-lived and temporary relief of the day-to-day schedule.

Maybe it was even viewed as a 15-day jump on Spring break, or a needed time for a change in routine following the first semester mid-term exams, national language exam competitions, and the end of winter sports.

And a period of relaxation for mind-and-body before things really heated up in fourth quarter with spring season sports, capstone projects, culminating concerts, plays, art shows, and final exams.

For whatever reasons, all understandable, there was a drop in student participation. And these are all good kids, our kids.

On the other side of the mid-March pivot were students who started logging in as soon as possible, marshalling all of their resources, lining up a study area at home appropriate for sharing screens, with textbooks and assignments in array, and BOOM, they were set.

Day-by-day, as teachers developed their own skills in virtual teaching-learning, it was a shoe-in for the students who had worked hard and smart.

These students combined asynchronous and virtual live access, downloads of study guides and assignments, work on collaborations using google docs or comparanda, and shared insights for learning and improvements.

How exciting this was and is.

At some point, after numerous discussions, debate, and investigations, school administrators and staff gingerly attempted to determine a grading policy during this unprecedented time in recent history.

The determination to give all students a grade of “P” for “Passing” in all courses was done in error and is bad planning. The decision reveals a systemic flaw with eventual consequences.

With science and medical experts working 24-7 and minute-by-minute media reporting, adults and students attempted to absorb and comprehend the possibilities and uncertainty associated with COVID-19.

One can certainly understand, and sympathize, with the kids who did not stay onboard with their school lessons and assignments.

Nevertheless, we now realize that a newly-emerging student elite is a reality. At all schools, there are competent students who are as COVID-prepared as one could be in their coursework, understanding of concepts, skills development, and legitimate work on assignments.

We need these elite students, not only as future leaders but because it is highly likely that they are also very conscientious and committed to community service, teamwork, and helping others.

When school resumes in September, and this will be the distinguishing feature in contrast to functional elitism of the past, these students can, and will, help the other students who timed incorrectly their response to the COVID-19 pause.

You see, it is their love of learning which has earned them their elite status, and that, dear reader, is overwhelmingly contagious.

School planners, teachers, and staff, soon it will be the time to unharness the ability and drive for students to help each other, and we will collaboratively, with volunteer adult resourcers, flip the downside of this pandemic.

Mary Brown started her teaching career at Harriton High School and is currently a visiting fellow and adjunct professor in Classics at Saint Joseph’s University, President of the Board of Directors of The Children’s School at Saint John’s, and holds a PA Department of Education Administrative Certificate

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