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How International Families Can Catch Up on Social-Emotional Learning

The pandemic has had a variety of effects on education, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. International students, perhaps, may be hardest hit by the lack of social-emotional learning loss. After all, it’s hard to get to know classmates again after a year of learning remotely.

Specifically, international students may not have had as many opportunities for social-emotional learning as they would have if they were attending school full-time on an in-person basis. This in turn created a deficit and many international students are facing a social-emotional learning loss.

The Impact on International Students

Stress, lack of focus, quarantines, and sometimes illness or death among family members compounded the social-emotional learning loss. Not only were students faced with more to deal with, but they did not have resources to help them.

International students have experienced a significant loss regarding their social-emotional development. As things return to normal, they may find it difficult to reintegrate into American culture because they have not been inside a classroom in more than a year. Some are still learning remotely in their home country while their U.S. peers have gone back to the classroom. Overall, they have been isolated from their peers, and many may struggle to assimilate as learning resumes.

Supporting International Learners

Here’s how international students who may be struggling with social-emotional learning loss can be supported.

Make a Plan

Remote learning does not fully replace the in-person student experience. Now that most international students are back on campus and the level of deficiency is coming into focus, international parents are asking a critical question: What are schools doing to remedy the situation?

Tackle the Problem

Be Innovative! Ask your advisor or counselors for creative ways to help students get back on

  • Remediation: Ask about remedial support for struggling students. Include short- and long-term strategies. Talk about how to communicate and create friendships with your child and their school.
  • School District Outreach: The school may be collaborating with superintendents and principals at nearby schools to access resources. See if your child can be involved.
  • Higher Education Partnerships: Learning loss is not limited to the K–12 population. International college students have experienced the same challenges with remote learning and backsliding as their younger counterparts

Tenth Grade … Take Two?

Repeating a grade is not a decision made frequently or lightly. However, for some children, it may be a good choice. This can be ideal if the student:

  • lacks maturity, especially among children who learned remotely for one year or longer
  • unable to catch up to their peers, academically or socially

If you are thinking of holding your child back a year, be aware of some considerations that can affect international families:

  • Visa and Travel Policies: Schools need to pay attention to an acceptable commencement age, and monitor and correlate the program completion and end date on a student’s Form I-20. Any adjustments will have to be intentional and made across the entirety of a student’s records.
  • Campus Life: A student held back will be older than their peers. A 19- or 20-year-old senior differs greatly from a 13- or 14-year-old ninth grader. Ask your school how they manage age disparities in the student population.
  • Mental Health: The social-emotional effect of not moving on with friends and classmates is significant. Have honest conversations with the school about your child’s mental health as well as the implications of repeating a grade and the toll it may take on your child.

Facing issues surrounding social-emotional learning loss with intentionality and a solid strategy will lead your child into a rewarding school year.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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