Reclaiming the Joy of Teaching

Many faculty aspired to a career in education because teaching, learning, and connecting with students brought joy. Yes, we recognized the work involved would be demanding. But we also got excited about the first day of class, spent inspired-hours crafting new learning activities, and smiled when students we met as first-years came back to connect when they neared graduation. Unfortunately, COVID-19, political unrest, climate change, and economic disruption has affected both us and students. Over the past semesters of teaching through the pandemic, the four of us ended each semester thinking, “That was the hardest semester we’ve ever had.” And now we’re anxious about what the next semester has in store. We hope, like us, you are looking for ways to thrive in these difficult conditions that are not going to change anytime soon. If so, we invite you to join us in taking the first steps towards joy, even if joy seems a long way off.

How recess helps students learn

As parents and schools seek to support students’ social and emotional needs—and teach them what they need to learn—some education leaders are missing one particularly effective opportunity.

The U.S. Department of Education has offered guidance on how to help students navigate the stress and trauma of the pandemic and readjust to in-person schooling after long periods of closed schools. But as someone who studies recess in connection with child development, I couldn’t help but notice recess was missing from the federal guidance and from many local efforts to support students as the pandemic continues to unfold.

Is team-teaching the future of education?

America does not have a shortage of licensed teachers. It does, however, have a shortage of people who want to teach.

High pressure. Low pay. Little encouragement. More responsibilities heaped on each year. These are a few of the reasons the profession is bleeding personnel.

But that could change if educational institutions consider systemic and structural approaches that spark imagination, encourage collaboration and improve outcomes for both teachers and students.

Creating more accessible classrooms in 3, 2, 1…

Equity became one of the top issues as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe. Educators in every building acknowledged the continuing need to create more equitable education environments.

The interruption of in-person learning environments has impacted everyone but has particularly challenged those with specific learning needs. Students deserve the resources and support they need to fully engage in learning, and when you design for inclusion, everyone benefits.

Early Literacy Strategies That Work

As a first-grade teacher, I thought I knew how to teach reading—I’ve even received accolades for my pedagogy. During guided reading I would pull small groups of kids based on ability, spending 15–20 minutes with each. We would read through our story of the week by taking a picture walk to help us understand the story. If students were stuck on a word, I would cue them to sound it out and look at the picture.

A simple routine to support literacy development in all subjects

When you look at the five components of reading and how teachers’ emphasis on them changes as students learn to read, one constant is word learning. This shouldn’t be surprising for those familiar with Scarborough’s Reading Rope, which suggests that vocabulary and background knowledge are essential components of skilled reading. These two strands of the rope can account for a 50-60 percent variation in reading comprehension scores. Not only do students need to know how to decode words, but they must also know the meaning of words in order to apply their meaning toward comprehension.

Stop isolating students with disabilities

The pandemic has given us all a taste of forced isolation. We’ve seen how it can leave individuals feeling lonely, scared and depressed.

Imagine if that was your permanent experience.

For many students with disabilities, isolation is the standard practice, as they are routinely educated in settings away from their nondisabled peers with little regard for the detrimental outcomes.

Washington is shipping more disabled students out of state

Meseret Haile had run out of choices. Her 12-year-old son, Leoul, who’s autistic and nonverbal, was stuck in Seattle Children’s Hospital for nearly eight months. After several violent episodes at home, he couldn’t safely return to his school, and no other facilities would take him.

Except for one — halfway across the country, in Wichita, Kansas. It was called Heartspring, a residential facility and school for kids with developmental disabilities. The Bellevue School District, where Haile’s son previously attended, would pay roughly $300,000 a year to send him there.