High school teacher Jessica Wall teaches at Oak Park High School. Jessica Wall said she had to adapt to teaching changes throughout COVID-19. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wall
Students across Los Angeles County returned to schools with the option to mask March 14. Approximately two years after schools closed their doors and began virtual instruction, a sense of normalcy returned.
Carrie Wall, professor of Teacher Education at Seaver, conducts research focused on trauma-informed learning practices alongside teaching students how to adapt in their field following virtual learning.
“I feel like, there’s also some hesitation about students and teachers being close, like proximity wise, just because of like, you know, all this stuff,” senior Education major Megan Strydom said. “Having connections to students has been harder because of that, where you are wanting to keep a physical distance like that, in turn just becomes an emotional one as well.”
Trauma is defined as: “A disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Carrie Wall said her research has extended to the emotional and traumatic response of students throughout the pandemic. Carrie Wall said she teaches trauma-informed learning styles. She has taught at Pepperdine for 19 years in the Seaver Education program.
“In my research, even on trauma-informed approach, the number one thing, it’s not rocket science is relationships,” Carrie Wall said.
Carrie Wall teaches techniques which help young students to process emotions, particularly on Monday mornings after they can be heavily immersed in trauma over the weekend.
The Education program at Pepperdine seeks to focus on teaching in a way that prepares future educators to handle the whole student and their well-being, Carrie Wall said.
Students faced heavy exposure to trauma in various ways throughout the pandemic. Academically, research has shown how students suffered during the pandemic, but the effect of the social-emotional aspect is long-lasting.
Jessica Wall, high school teacher at Oak Park High School, daughter of Carrie Wall and Pepperdine alumna (‘18) said she acknowledges social emotional learning with her students to support them with not only their academic challenges but emotional trauma as well.
“At the same time, it seems like they’re still carrying around the weight of COVID,” Jessica Wall said. “And in a lot of ways, the pressures, the fears that the toll the mental health and being an isolation. Overall, just in general, I would say their emotional resilience is lower, I think because they got overwhelmed.”
Strydom is a full-time student-teacher at Ladera STARS Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and teaches first grade.
Strydom began teaching before the pandemic and said she has observed how young students have been affected socially and academically by the pandemic.
“I think it was a social adjustment for kids coming back into school, they had to learn how to make friends again, and to be in contact [with other students],” Strydom said.
The emotional effect that the pandemic has created on how children interact with others is something that Strydom said she observed noticeable differences. Young children, like the first graders Strydom teaches, have only attended online school in their lifetime.
“I think with other students, there was definitely some hesitation in terms of how kids were supposed to navigate being with other kids the entire day again,” Strydom said. “I think that was new for them to discover. And I think because of that, we’ve seen some very interesting behavior patterns in terms of social settings.”
Carrie Wall said she felt prepared to teach when virtual learning started. The Education program at Pepperdine focuses on how to prepare teacher candidates for the varying roles they should expect to encounter, Carrie Wall said.
“As a teacher, I always tell my teacher candidates, we should always be lifelong learners, we should never teach the same lesson the same way,” Carrie Wall said. “So what the pandemic did is it forced me to [do what] I already tried to incorporate.”
Students said they have suffered in a variety of academic ways through the pandemic but the developmental time for their social skills was interrupted.
These effects are worrying teachers in how their students are able to cope while teachers scrambled to re-structure how to teach the “whole child” virtually, according to National Education Association.
“I don’t think that they’re fully through that time of high stress and there are definitely lingering effects,” Jessica Wall. “The writing is weaker as well from an academic standpoint, but of course that social emotional learning is the one that’s maybe even more troubling to us teachers.”
Whether a student is in primary or secondary school, college and beyond — the emotional tolls that students faced are long-lasting and will take time to repair according to the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy.
For teachers like Jessica Wall, she said there is hope for the future.
“I think students are out here trying and the effort is still there. The desire to connect is still there, the desire to do well is there,” Jessica Wall said. “And anyone who misconstrues or misrepresents Gen Z, I am the first to defend them. They have this deep desire to make the world a better place. To love and support each other and they still want to learn. So I have hope for them, and I’m really proud of them.”
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Contact Whitney Bussell via Twitter (@bussell_whitney) or by email: email@example.com