Learning Loss Does Not Exist

By Jamie Ewing

On any given weekend, when a child wakes up later than a usual school day and wanders around the backyard just observing the day, would we say this child is learning nothing?

If a child gets on a zoom call and talks with a distant relative or friends, would we say this child is learning nothing?

If a child is sitting for hours with a set of wooden building blocks just building piles of blocks, would we say this child is learning nothing?

Outside of the six or seven hours a child spends in a classroom, would we say the learning has stopped and no longer happens?

If a child is sitting without a textbook, a tablet, or a computer, would we say a child cannot learn?

I know some of the best learning I ever had happened on family camping trips, wandering historic sites, and building stick forts in the woods. But the best learning experience, for me, happened while I was just playing with my friends or sitting in a large cardboard box imagining the greater world around me.

Learning takes place even when we are sitting still doing nothing, bored.

Over the past year and a half, an educational catch phrase has been rapidly creeping up and being said louder and louder: our students are suffering a tremendous amount of “learning loss.”

There has been no “learning loss” as it is not humanly possible to just stop learning. A child does not stop learning just because they are not in the classroom.

It is the same as summer learning loss. Students do not just stop learning because it is summer. Summer is a time for our students’ imaginations to run wild just like the past year!

Most importantly, our students do not need to hear that they have learning loss. If you ask any student what they learned over the past year and a half, they will most certainly tell you, “nothing” because that’s what students say.

Then, ask them again, and a flurry of things will spill out of their brains. Our children are resilient, and they most likely have learned more this past year than we will ever know.

Until we ask.

Our students have learned in ways we, as educators, never could have imagined, but they have most certainly not stopped learning.

Let’s celebrate their learning. Let’s celebrate the achievements in resilience and perseverance that our students have mastered.

Social learning, as well, has looked very different for us. Let’s celebrate that, too!

What we as educators and parents perceive as social engagement (because this is what we deemed the norm of social engagement) looks very different for this generation or learners. They spend most of the time with a device. It is part of how they learn from each other.

Yes, it is very different from what our generation is used to, so let’s not forget the advances in learning we lived through and work to better understand the norms of this generation.

When parents and teachers hear about this “learning loss,” what do you think goes through their minds? I don’t know of one teacher or parent that didn’t go above and beyond to ensure the best learning for our children over the last year and a half.

The term “learning loss” can only be applied to the idea that because children were not learning in a traditional way, then they won’t be ready for mandated standardized testing.

When people talk about learning loss, what they are really saying is that children are not ready for mandated testing, and mandated testing does nothing to measure how much a child truly has learned. It is only used as a scale to judge a school.

When people talk about learning loss, they are not talking about a child.

Let’s spend time learning what our children have learned and build on that knowledge. We have an amazing opportunity now to really change how we think about learning and learning at school. Celebrate our students’ learning and, while we’re at it, let’s celebrate our teachers. If our students have had all this “learning loss” imagine all the learning loss teachers have had over the last year and a half.

Let’s stop talking about all this “learning loss” and celebrate ALL the learning.