Working with Autistic Children: Focus on Strengths, Not Deficits

By Temple Grandin and Debra Moore

This week, K-12Talk presents an excerpt from Temple Grandin and Debra Moore’s new book, Navigating Autism: 9 Mindsets For Helping Kids on the Spectrum. In this excerpt, the authors discuss the importance of a strengths-based mindset when working with children on the autism spectrum.

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Building Community in the New School Year

By Suzanne Caines

Like every teacher I know, I was really looking forward to business as usual this fall. I was excited to hug my colleagues hello after a long summer break and to chat casually with students in the hall; to greet them with a smile as they walked through my door and to celebrate a classroom in which every single desk was filled.

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End of Summer Break

With the new school year approaching, K-12Talk will be taking a break until after Labor Day. Until then, you can check out our most recent back-to-school posts below.

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Lost and Found?: Addressing COVID-19 “Learning Loss”

By David Nurenberg

At just about a month away from the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, two words are on the mind of every school administrator: “learning loss.” Learning loss describes the gap between how much students have learned during a year in school and how much they are normally expected to learn, in terms of progress towards state-defined learning standards. Over the past year of the pandemic, students missed out on a great deal of in-school instruction. Just how much they missed varies, as every one of the 13,000 public school districts in the nation made different choices. A report by McKinsey And Company estimates approximately 60% of K-12 students started last school year fully remote, with 20% in a hybrid model and 20% fully in person – but the report doesn’t track at what point during the year, if at all, students returned to full-time in-person instruction, and firm figures as to how much learning loss occurred during that remote time are even harder to come by thanks to uneven data collection and measurement. Suffice to say, almost all teachers (97% in one recent national survey) report some learning loss among their students, and the degree of this loss varies enormously depending on which children we’re talking about. There are vast inequities, both between schools’ ability to provide more in-person learning and/or higher quality remote instruction, and between students, based on the financial and physical health of their families during this time, the robustness of their at-home support systems, etc. Many white, affluent families were able to leverage their usual advantages to maintain or even advance their kids’ academic progress during this time, while many Black and Brown children, especially those from less wealthy backgrounds, fell even farther behind. COVID made these always-present disparities even more pronounced.

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Support Systems and Student Autonomy: What to Focus on When Schools Reopen

By Jeffrey Benson

Many times as a principal, I sat with the school staff after a traumatic event in our community and pondered how to best help students process their experiences. We knew our efforts to resume the typical business of teaching and learning would be unsuccessful without a thoughtful re-entry plan. As teachers and school administrators across the country plan to re-enter the traditional classroom this fall, it is essential that they consider students’ needs to process the turmoil of the past year and a half—and the diverse ways in which individual students will want to do so.

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Designing Effective Inclusive Supports

By Michael Wehmeyer and Jennifer Kurth

As teachers and students head back into physical classrooms, those of us who work with students with disabilities are thinking hard about how best to meet their needs.  After a prolonged period in which these students’ schooling took place at home or in special classrooms isolated from their peers, it is more critical than ever that teachers and other staff members across a school collaborate to help them readjust to inclusive classrooms.  The paramount concern in our view should be that students keep learning, rather than that they “keep up.”  The following is an excerpt that we hope may be helpful in this regard, from our new book Inclusive Education in a Strengths-Based Era — publishing next week!

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Year after Year: A Love Note to Teaching

By Suzanne Caines 

I’m at that age where people are starting to ask me, mostly in a nice way, if I’m starting to think about retirement. You’ve been teaching forever, they say, their tone an odd mix of bemusement and incredulity. Translation: aren’t you excited to stop working? 

Surprising to those who ask, but not to those who know me well, the answer to that question is a hard no. I am not excited to stop working. In fact, I am excited to keep working. I just finished my 34th year of teaching high school English and I can honestly say that I still love it. Yes, love it. Without exception, every single September of my career, I feel true excitement when I walk into a class full of teenagers, mostly strangers, knowing that over the course of the school year, I will have the opportunity to really get to know them.

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What I’ll Take Back into the Classroom from Teaching Online

by Ron Litz

The pandemic suspended our traditional classrooms and methods of teaching, forcing many of us teachers to revise our long-established approaches in order to better meet the needs of our students. As we return to normalcy, we should remember that many of these changes can and should be carried forward into the traditional classroom. As a seventh-grade history teacher, I found that while teaching virtually I made crucial adjustments to four main areas of my practice: establishing connections with students, designing student schedules, introducing content, and assessing student learning. These changes, necessary for a successful online learning environment, will also improve my students’ in-person learning experience.

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Entering the New School Year with Resilience and Identity Safety

by Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas

For many, the last year and a half has felt like an eternity. Many students’ identities have been battered during the pandemic by depression, isolation, and grief. One study found higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts by children ages 11-21 during the pandemic. Consider the mixed emotions students may feel as they return to school. Even for adults, it has felt both exhilarating and scary to go out in public and socialize again; students are likely to share these anxieties. However, as educators we can make the return to a new school year a joyous time by creating identity safe spaces where students are welcomed and accepted, and where they know that who they are and what they think and feel matters.

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My Journey from Teacher to Researcher, And Why You Should Join Me

by Thomas Courtney

Though I’ve taught fifth grade for twenty years, I’ve only recently made what may be the most important discovery of my career: that my own research can be a part of my practice. My experience with conducting research on K-12 education practices began several months ago when I joined a cohort of teacher-leaders and prepared a research proposal about student note taking. The concept of research intrigued me because, for much of my career, bettering my instruction has been an exercise in listening and applying, as opposed to trying and sharing.  

Over my two decades of classroom teaching, I had never considered myself or my colleagues as researchers—but I was wrong. Research is, and always has been, a natural part of our teaching practice, whether we realize it or not. Here’s how I learned to embrace and actively pursue my role as a teacher-researcher, and why you should join me. 

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