When counselor Lydia McNeiley greeted the eighth graders returning to Charles N. Scott Middle School in Hammond, Indiana, this August, she couldn’t believe how tall they looked. “They’ve grown a foot since the last time I saw them,” says McNeiley, who—like school counseling staff across the country—had to do most of her work online last year.
Virtual check-ins had their limits. And, of course, because students had been living through a global pandemic, their needs were greater than ever. Parents lost jobs, families lost homes, and far too many children lost loved ones. That’s a lot for developing brains to process, she notes, especially while physically separated from friends and other support networks.
So, along with their backpacks and growth spurts, students are bringing lingering trauma to school with them. “It’s not a regular school year,” McNeiley adds. “I don’t know what a regular year will look like in the future, but we’re not there now.”