by Jonna Kuskey
The pandemic laid bare what has for years been very apparent to those of us in the education system: society is reliant upon schools to take care of more than children’s educational needs. School is a lifeline, a stabilizing force that provides boundaries, routine, sustenance, safety, security, love.
As such, school is one major provider in children’s lives of their basic physical and psychological needs—food, safety, a sense of belonging. According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), these fundamental physical and psychological needs must be met before the ones that as educators we aim to nurture—a sense of self-esteem, accomplishment, and fulfillment of personal potential—can be addressed.
Continue reading “Pandemic Reflections: School and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs “
by Debra Em Wilson
In education, we don’t write books for fame or fortune—that aim is best left to the J. K. Rowlings of the world. We write because we have something important to say. As an educator for more than thirty years in the field, I’ve observed the ever-increasing demands placed on teachers in classrooms. The internet is rife with articles about teachers leaving the field due to burnout, disillusionment, frustration, and compassion fatigue. Teachers enter the field to teach, yet it often seems the classroom is expected to serve more as a mental health clinic than a place of academic learning. This leaves us feeling like our skill sets are inadequate and we’re “not enough” when it comes to meeting the diverse emotional needs of our students.
As teachers, we love to witness all students engaged, motivated, and thriving in the classroom. This begins with understanding learning as an embodied experience involving the bi-directional loop between the mind and body. In my book, The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning, I share the science that underpins regulation, resilience, and academic buoyancy in a practical way that is within the skill sets of teachers and leads to the ultimate goal of optimized learning for every student. Along the way, I integrate Polyvagal Theory with concepts familiar to educators including academic resilience, fixed and growth mindsets, cognitive load theory, extended mind science, and Martin’s Wheel of Motivation and Engagement.
We don’t need yet another curriculum—heaven help us! We need a better understanding of what it means to be a regulated human in a dysregulated world. We need to see the joyful messiness of our classrooms through a polyvagal lens of hope, curiosity, and possibility. It’s only from a state of regulation that we create a transformative space for change and can see preferred or alternative futures. I invite you to come on a journey of discovery with me as I explain Polyvagal Theory and its classroom implementation through stories and metaphors, while tossing about a bit of humor in the process—something we can all use more of these days!
Continue reading “Polyvagal Theory: What Is It and How Can Teachers Use It?”
2022 saw teachers and students alike adjusting to a “new normal.” As the dust settles on the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many educators have found themselves facing new quandaries: How do we address the inequities that were exposed and heightened by the pandemic? How can we help students “catch up” scholastically, socially, and emotionally when they’ve spent formative years in a state of lockdown? Can things really go back to normal? Should they? Below are five popular posts from 2022 addressing these and other important and timely concerns from educators.
Continue reading “2022 in Review”
by Dr. Sharon Kunde
I sometimes refer to an event that happened “before the pandemic” and then correct myself: what I mean is “before the lockdown.” Even as our social and work lives have started to return to pre-pandemic norms, the pandemic is not over for any of us. But it’s particularly not over for students, and its persistence has different impacts on students of different ages.
Continue reading “Pandemic Reflections: On the Class of 2024”
By Alexis Wiggins
I confess that my pandemic experience may have been a bit different from that of many educators in the U.S. I have lived and taught just outside of Houston for the last six years, and Texas opened its schools for in-person learning in August 2020. By October of 2020, my school was back to full-time, face-to-face learning.
Continue reading “Pandemic Reflections: What Matters Most in Education”
by Jessica S. Early
I was filled with anxiety and hesitation before attending this year’s NCTE annual conference. After living through a global pandemic and growing increasingly familiar with Zoom meetings, I was nervous about gathering with so many people again. NCTE had not convened in person for two years and, like many English language arts teachers and teacher educators from around the country, I didn’t know what to expect. But what we found was a renewed sense of connectivity and inspiration.
Thousands of English teachers traveled from throughout the United States and beyond to learn from one another and from poets, authors, and scholars. We were gathered in the convention center in Anaheim, California, to do what we have always done as a profession: celebrate and grow in our work. However, what felt unique about this gathering was that we were also there to heal after experiencing the shared trauma of living and teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a time of heightened social and political unrest.
Continue reading “Teaching New Genres: The PSA in ELA Class”
by Kyleen Gray
I have heard many people speak of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that humans have a wonderful tendency to try to see the good in terrible experiences, but in reflecting on the pandemic I just can’t seem to find much good to mull over. What does come to mind are the cracks in our educational systems that the pandemic uncovered, revealing how fragile our carefully constructed systems really are. We must identify these cracks, acknowledge that they could reopen, and attempt to patch them before another crisis occurs.
Continue reading “Pandemic Reflections: Sealing the Cracks “
The start of this school year has brought with it a mix of feelings for educators and students alike. Perhaps the strongest has been relief—even joy—at returning to physical classrooms and the company of peers, resuming sports practices and other much-missed afterschool activities, and leaving behind the experience of learning or teaching in front of a computer screen with only virtual interactions to sustain engagement. But it has also been accompanied by record rates of depression and anxiety, as everyone carries with them to school the pandemic legacy of stress and isolation, grief, and fear.
I’m proud to say that Norton Books in Education has just this week published Coming of Age in 2020: Teenagers on the Year that Changed Everything in which teenagers from across the country show what it was like to be trapped inside and missing—or reinventing—milestones like graduations and championship games while the coronavirus pandemic raged, an economic collapse threatened, the 2020 election loomed and the Black Lives Matter movement galvanized millions. The 161 pieces chosen for the book—diary entries, comics, photos, poems, paintings, texts, lists, charts, songs, Lego sculptures, recipes and rants—come from over 5500 entries to a contest that The New York Times Learning Network ran in the fall of 2020, inviting students to share their experiences during a time that will define their generation. We think it’s an extraordinary collection from ordinary teenagers that is, as Jim Burke says, “a testimony to the strength and resilience of young people.” For despite the stressful events these students were experiencing, their creative pieces often sound a note of hope, growth, and inner resolve. This seems like an opportune time to look back at where we all were two years ago and think with students about the changes that have occurred.
Today on K-12Talk we’re sharing a small selection of these student pieces, with their accompanying artist’s statements, and we encourage you to visit The Learning Network site for exciting ideas about how to teach with these materials: How to Teach With the Art and Artifacts in Our New Book,‘Coming of Age in 2020’
Carol Collins, Education Editor
Continue reading “Student Pieces from “Coming of Age in 2020”: How Teenagers Experienced the Pandemic”
by Deborah Appleman
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
As the summer wanes, we teachers slowly turn our focus to the beginning of school. For teachers of literature, that often means a trip to the dusty bookroom to decide what texts teachers and students should read together throughout the year. This is, or should be, a complicated decision, a thoughtful calibration of text and context, of who our students are and what kind of reading would serve them best as we encourage their personal and intellectual development. After the obligatory quick count of paperback and perma-bound copies of literary texts, we consider factors of readability, literary merit, and relevance. We re-read state standards and confer with our fellow teachers about our school’s curriculum. This fall, however, there are even more factors to consider as we attempt to make our best pedagogical decisions about what to teach and why.
Continue reading “In Defense of Teaching Troubled Texts in Troubling Times“
by Christine Boatman
New teachers everywhere: welcome to the education profession! I and all your colleagues are so glad you are here to be a part of our team raising the next generation of students. We see your enthusiasm and excitement. Your passion and zeal bring joy to our schools and rejuvenates all of us. We are excited to hear your new ideas.
While there is so much anticipation and excitement with being a new teacher, it can be hard! Just remember that all veteran teachers were once first year teachers; with that in mind, I have gathered below some advice for your first year in the classroom, both from my own experience and from the advice that was given to me by my colleagues when I was a new teacher.
Continue reading “Advice from Veterans for New Teachers”