Building Classroom Community from a Distance

By Louise Goldberg

Since early spring of 2020, the classroom experience has changed dramatically for students across the country and worldwide. School closings, remote learning, and social distancing have created extraordinary disruptions to the classroom environment and left many feeling isolated and distraught.

Even when schools reopen, many children will continue to stay home and rely on their screens for instruction and social interaction. Those who do attend school may find sparsely populated classrooms with curtailed opportunities for group activities. What was once the hub of their social lives may prove to be an almost empty landscape void of playful encounters such as bus rides, recess, hallway jostling and joking, school lunch, and other once banal occurrences. Who knows when these activities will resume?

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Preparing for 2020-2021, When There’s No Way to Know What to Expect

By Sharon Kunde

Teachers are currently closing out the school year and laying the groundwork for the next. But there is, of course, a problem: none of us know what kind of situation we’ll come back to. While school districts and teachers’ unions discuss physical conditions that might make in-person teaching possible (things like reduced schedules, classroom sanitization, extra buses), it remains likely that many of us will use online instruction, either in a blended or intermittent fashion.

In the face of these uncertainties, teachers can prepare this summer by thinking broadly and flexibly about their educational goals. What follows are four guidelines for designing curriculum plans for new and shifting teaching circumstances.

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The Effects of COVID-19 Are Not Just Academic: Preparing for Reopened Classrooms

By Jonna Kuskey

To say the 2020-21 school year will begin a little differently than most is an understatement. Public health experts have indicated schools may still be dealing with the effects of the pandemic in the new year, which means more remote and online learning may be on the horizon, and we need to be ready if that occurs. We also need to be ready for the COVID-19 slide, much like the typical summer slide, only steeper. A study by Kuhfeld, et al, “Projecting the Potential Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic Achievement,” projects students will begin this year with “approximately 63-68% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year” and 37-50% in math.1 

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As Schools Reopen, A New Inclusive Paradigm is Needed

By Debbie Zacarian and Becki Cohn-Vargas

As one school year ends and we plan for the next, we see the glaring inequities that the pandemic has amplified, and we recognize that steps must be taken to address them.  Beyond adopting new guidelines for hygiene and reducing our schools’ exposure to potential infection, it’s urgent that we focus as much if not more attention to an inclusive paradigm of schooling.  This calls for a renewed focus on the global wellbeing of students. We propose four guiding principles:

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Engage your students as future historians of our present times

By David Nurenberg

Samuel Pepys lived through the Great Plague of London, a 1665 pandemic where bubonic plague killed a quarter of London’s population in just 18 months, during which time the Great Fire of London also robbed twice that many Londoners of their homes. Anne Frank spent the last four years of her young life hiding in a concealed room behind a bookcase in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in the 1940s. Throughout the 2000s, missionary nurse Kelly Suter treated victims of the East Timor genocide, the Haitian earthquake and the Ebola epidemic in Liberia.

What do these three people have in common? They all kept meticulous journals of the troubling times they lived through (or, in the case of Frank, didn’t live to see the end of). Keeping a journal as a means of coping with and processing adversity is almost as old as the invention of writing itself; the Book of Merer, an ancient Egyptian journal dating back 4500 years, is the oldest surviving work written on papyrus.

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From Our Editors: Selected Articles on Post-Pandemic Planning

  • From Mary Burns on Edutopia:

Getting Ready to Teach Next Year

  • From Emily Tate on EdSurge:

What Will Schools Do in the Fall? Here Are 4 Possible Scenarios

  • From Heather C. Hill & Susanna Loeb on Education Week:

How to Contend with Pandemic Learning Loss

  • From Gene Kerns and Katie McClarty on EdSurge:

How Schools Can Prepare for a Very Different Kind of School Year

  • From Sarah Cooper on Edutopia:

Distance Learning Strategies to Bring Back to the Classroom

  • From Susan Page on USA Today:

Back to school? 1 in 5 teachers are unlikely to return to reopened classrooms this fall, poll says

  • From David Saleh Rauf on Education Week:

Will COVID-19 Spur Greater Use of Artificial Intelligence in K-12 Education?

  • From Gina Denny on Education Week Teacher:

6 Classroom Changes Teachers Will Make When Schools Reopen

  • From Erika Christakis on The Atlantic:

For Schools, the List of Obstacles Grows and Grows

  • From Sarah Gonser on Edutopia:

How Long-Term Tech Planning Pays Off—Now and In the Future

Catching Up After COVID: Maximizing What Kids Know

By Miriam Plotinsky

As the school year draws to a close, educators nationwide are looking ahead to the daunting prospect of catching students up in the fall. Seen from a deficit mindset, meeting a broad range of student needs once the 2020-2021 school year begins seems to be an impossible charge. Without delegitimizing the concerns about what students have missed, particularly those who have not received distance instruction for a multitude of reasons, we must give students credit for their knowledge—which is vaster than we realize—as we prepare for next year.

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The Importance of Taking Breaks While Teaching from Home

By Catherine Conley

I don’t know about you, but I find I’m working longer hours at home than I did at school. I didn’t gain the commuting time for myself; rather, it was poured right into the work day—and then some. Now I no longer seem to have the time to read for pleasure, something I used to do every day on the train. I no longer walk around my classroom all day, logging in some 7,000 steps before I even head out for my evening constitutional. Instead I sit down at my computer early in the morning and work till well after the time I would normally arrive home. My back is tired; my eyes are tired; my brain is tired. And there are still dishes in the sink, dinner to make, laundry to fold, and let’s not forget all the sanitizing we feel it necessary to complete. Those clearly defined hours are long and have become less productive as our work from home time has gone on.

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Schools have survived crises before, and even come out stronger

By David Nurenberg

As we face the possibility that COVID-19 could force schools to remain remote-operating well into the fall, many are wondering if the shape of schooling is going to permanently change. Will some degree of distance learning remain the new normal? Will some cash-strapped school districts operate entirely online to save on the costs of maintaining physical school infrastructure, including custodial, cafeteria, and transportation workers? Will in-person schooling become a luxury good? Will homeschooling become an expected function of all parents’ and guardians’ lives? Will schools leverage Internet-based relationships across city, state and national borders to become a global learning community?

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Pay more attention to mental health than to test scores

By Peter Smagorinksy

Republished with permission from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mental health has emerged as a critical social and educational topic during the COVID 19 crisis. My contact with my University of Georgia students throughout the shutdown has found many of them struggling with mental health issues. Many of them had pre-existing conditions of anxiety, depression, and other mood and neurological challenges that were ramped up by their return home.

The home is often celebrated as a sanctuary from the world’s ills and evils, but many homes are very insecure. Some of my students left their college dorms for homes characterized by abuse, alcoholism, crowded quarters, anxious and frustrated parents, and other sources of stress and fear. Others developed anxiety and other challenges when cut off from friends and social lives and forced into baby-sitting or home schooling duties with their younger siblings by parents who were deeply stressed by demands of their own.

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