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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Daniel Castellanos was a young child, a psychiatrist predicted that he would “likely never learn to talk, let alone read and write”. Two decades later, Daniel received the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association employee of the year award for his work as a prep cook at a popular Lancaster restaurant – beating 20 other nominees from across the 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.
Science teacher Lisa Ross taps a walnut on the desk of one of her high school students. She taps a pecan on the desk of the next student and an almond on the next. One by one, she guides them to wrap their nuts in a napkin and bash them open with a mallet to see what’s inside. “What part of the plant is this?” she asks. “The seed!” they answer in unison.