During an era of social isolation and online classes, students are struggling more than ever to stay engaged with their learning. Not only have studies shown that online learning is less effective than a traditional classroom setting – low-income, Black, and Hispanic students are likely to experience the greatest learning loss from remote learning. These students are less likely to have reliable access to a conducive learning environment, and it shows: only 60% of low-income kids are regularly logging into online class, and just 60% to 70% of kids are regularly engaging in online learning at schools that predominantly serve Black and Hispanic populations.
In addition to struggling with the accessibility of their learning, many students have had increased concern for their health, family’s financial situation, education, and basic needs since COVID-19 began. Furthermore, social and emotional disruption can reduce kids’ academic motivation and lead them to drop- out of school.
Pre-pandemic, students experiencing similarly difficult situations benefited greatly from mentoring. In middle school, David struggled after his father passed away. An Army veteran and former teacher at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Pete Erbe, became David’s lunch buddy and mentored him through tough times.
While David used to lack engagement and behave disruptively, he became more motivated since working with Mr. Erbe. Mr. Erbe helped David set academic goals and encouraged him to participate more in sports. David also said that his mentor helped him through the grieving process after his dad’s death by talking about it with him. David’s grades, attendance, and behavior improved, and he started playing on the neighborhood soccer team.
With reduced student engagement and heightened emotional trauma, mentors can help kids more than ever during the pandemic. Kids need both academic and emotional support to combat the challenges they face in online learning. According to an America’s Promise COVID-19 survey, 93% of students offered social support by an adult from their school found it to be helpful. In addition to emotional support, mentors can also give practical advice on time management and creating a healthy school-life balance during this chaotic time.
Communities In Schools mentors are finding creative ways to help their students amidst the pandemic. In Texas, CIS mentors are holding Masked Mentor Mondays, where mentors can safely connect one-on-one with their mentees. A CIS mentor in San Antonio is supporting students by providing monthly social-emotional learning challenges for her students. Additionally, mentors can organize meetings with their students at a local park or outdoor space to connect with them.
Despite social distancing regulations and remote learning, mentors are still making a positive impact on students’ lives.