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.

Continue reading “Support Systems and Student Autonomy: What to Focus on When Schools Reopen”

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!

Continue reading “Designing Effective Inclusive Supports”

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.

Continue reading “Year after Year: A Love Note to Teaching”

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.

Continue reading “What I’ll Take Back into the Classroom from Teaching Online”

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.

Continue reading “Entering the New School Year with Resilience and Identity Safety”

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. 

Continue reading “My Journey from Teacher to Researcher, And Why You Should Join Me”

20 Books to Celebrate Pride Month

by Kasey Short

All educators help shape their students’ worldview–and self-image–with the narratives they hold space for in their curriculum. As an English teacher, I am especially aware of the stories and perspectives I validate through the books I assign and recommend to my students. This Pride Month, I have been considering how I use literature to broaden my students’ understanding of gender expression and sexuality. Though I teach 8th grade English and so am primarily interested in young adult novels, I’ve accumulated a list of some wonderful LGBTQ+ books across the K-12 range!

Continue reading “20 Books to Celebrate Pride Month”

Use Summer Reading to Recharge After a Stressful Year

by Laura Milligan

Teaching children to prioritize their well-being is an essential part of an education, and is now more important than ever as children continue to process the traumas and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare to return to in-person schooling. Wellness can take many shapes, and as a teacher I believe that reading is an essential act of self-care. When we read, we cultivate connection, a deeper sense of empathy, and peace within ourselves, which in turn emanates to those around us. Reading offers students and teachers alike space to reflect and reset after a year blanketed with bewilderment. Here are seven reasons to promote reading among your students.

Continue reading “Use Summer Reading to Recharge After a Stressful Year”

Supportive Strategies for Post-Pandemic Classrooms

by Christine Boatman

Over the past year, my students have experienced loss and trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—including health crises, financial hardships, and limited access to education—as well as from a wildfire that tore through our community, burning many homes. Now that my students and I are returning to an in-person classroom, I am considering how I can best support each student through this transitional period. Teachers everywhere are faced with the challenge of helping students readjust to a classroom environment, face residual trauma from the past year, and “catch up” after what was, for many, a less-than-productive school year. Here, I share some strategies that I have found essential to supporting my students as we return to in-person schooling.

Continue reading “Supportive Strategies for Post-Pandemic Classrooms”

Helping Students with ADHD Readjust to In-Person Schooling

by Nina Parrish

According to survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, about 6.1 million (or 9.4 percent) of children in the United States were diagnosed, at that time, with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Yale researcher and clinical psychologist Thomas Brown describes ADHD as an impairment of the executive functioning system. This means that students with ADHD can struggle with tasks such as organizing, prioritizing, getting started, staying focused, maintaining effort, regulating emotions, remembering learned information, holding information in mind while working, and the ability to self-regulate or monitor work for quality and completion.

Due to preexisting challenges with executive functioning and emotional regulation, students with ADHD may have struggled more than their neurotypical classmates to adjust to the many changes in schooling and other stressors brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC found that, prior to the pandemic, 6 in 10 children with ADHD had at least one other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or a conduct disorder. A research review conducted by Rosanna Breaux, a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, showed that during this past school year many students with ADHD not only experienced an increase in ADHD symptoms such as difficulty with attention and impulse control, but were also more likely to experience an increase in all mental/emotional/behavioral disorder symptoms. 

Continue reading “Helping Students with ADHD Readjust to In-Person Schooling”