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Will Covid Kindergarteners Have a Disadvantage?

While transitioning to online classrooms during the pandemic was more of a challenge than a nightmare, the transition back to physical spaces is a worrisome hurdle for students of all ages. Some of our most emotionally vulnerable students, our kindergarteners, may face a bigger challenge than others. Among teaching circles, there's a feeling that Covid might affect kindergarteners in several irreversible ways, leaving them at a major disadvantage. So how do educators identify, prepare, and compensate for these disadvantages?

The Social-Emotional Impact

Children at this age are still developing socially and emotionally and may be struggling to express themselves verbally. One of the advantages of being in a physical classroom is that it helps develop this necessary social-emotional learning. With the constant back-and-forth between virtual and physical classrooms, there is little opportunity to work on this learning practically.

Teachers and parents alike will need to be conscious of this. Instead of reprimanding students for an emotional outburst, take them aside and ask them what's wrong. Use it as a teaching moment. Make your classroom, whether virtual or physical, a safe space for them to express themselves, too. 

It's one of those situations where young children must deal with grown-up issues. Kindergarteners were generally exempt from the worst of the physical side effects of the Covid virus. However, those with underlying conditions were still at risk of severe disease and intensive care admission. Parents had to explain why they couldn't see their friends, go to school, or why they had to wear a mask.

With parents stressed out, teachers stressed out, and kids stressed out, the disadvantage ultimately falls on young people. As strong as adults have been this entire time, we need to not exacerbate the social-emotional learning issues kindergarteners may experience over the next year. We aren't perfect, but modeling proper behavior is crucial to social-emotional learning at home.

The Academic Impact

Pre-K and kindergarten programs are significant for a child's development, particularly when introducing basic academic and cognitive skills. With Covid hindering learning on all levels, four and five-year-olds are experiencing major educational disparities.

Children find themselves in an awkward position. Parents must choose between remote kindergarten or staying out of kindergarten completely. Whichever way you look at it, these options can place kids at risk of falling behind their peers and missing major milestones.

On the one hand, adapting to a school setting—including rules and policies—may take longer for students. In situations where proactive solutions are not introduced, these future first graders might struggle socially, academically, and emotionally. Equally, for those that don't attend remote school, the year-old difference might also make the kindergarten curriculum boring or too easy. 

Either way, the gaps created by Covid for kindergarteners might severely hinder their readiness for first grade.

Supporting Our Kindergarteners

There is no one solution to mitigating the negative effects Covid will have on kindergarteners. But there are some common-sense practices we can use to prevent the gap from growing.

Alternatives for Computers

Education took an incredible shift towards digital technology over the last year. While kids love interacting with new devices, these changes can be stressors if they are unprepared to use them. This is especially true with students who have trouble accessing technology. Many are at risk of falling behind. 

To ease this disparity, teachers have used programs supported by smartphones and even programs accessible through TV sets. Educational TV has also filled the gaps in ways that online learning cannot accomplish. 

As long as every kindergartener can access quality educational materials, the risk of falling behind decreases. But that means resources must be accessible to students in every financial bracket. 

Teachers Need Help, Too

Teachers are central to the growth and development of kindergarteners, but there's only so much they can do. The pandemic caught them off-guard just as it did everyone else. To help teachers provide an adequate classroom experience, educators need to address the challenges in modern learning with thorough training and administrative guidance.

Schools should train teachers to identify struggling students, even though their student is on the other end of a computer. Grades are one thing, but seeing physical signs of stress towards a subject can relay more insight into the underlying issue. 

Studies also reveal that hiring teacher assistants can improve performance, especially in reading and math. When students do get back into the classroom, assistant teachers can increase the time spent in small groups and facilitate effective instructional approaches. Ultimately, as teachers get overwhelmed, assistants can fill the gap by addressing the new needs of kindergarteners.


"Remote kindergartens" sound like an innovative solution during the pandemic, but overall, it's not as effective as we want it to be. This is no fault of the teachers who facilitate the classrooms. It rather speaks towards a discrepancy between traditional kindergarten learning and learning technology. A better alternative to remote kindergarten is tutoring supported by collaborations between teachers, parents, and tutors.

Tutoring is a time-tested solution. In early learning, where repetition is central for grasping curriculum content, high-frequency tutoring makes all the difference. Particularly where reading and math are concerned, tutoring programs are affordable and readily accessible solutions that make a huge difference for kids. It may also solve some of the social disparities among young students.

Disadvantages Can Be Strengths 

There's no doubt that Covid kindergarteners face the most complex conditions in recent education history. If stakeholders critically consider the affairs of kindergarteners, they will realize that high-quality care in the early stages of education should be a top priority.

Investing in young learners is a decision that pays off, and during the pandemic, proactive decision-making is more than vital. On one side, the "Covid Generation" might be the most afflicted by the pandemic's impacts. But on the upside, this generation has learned resilience and patience. It is quite remarkably lemonade from the sourest of lemons.

Written by Simon Riitho

Education World Contributor

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