by Carolyn Curtis
The past year has been exceptionally challenging for educators, who have been dealing with multiple COVID-19-related stressors, including navigating remote, hybrid, or in-person learning, and worrying about their students’ well-being. In education resources, much of the focus during Mental Health Awareness Month has been on the need for educators and school leaders to support students, which is critically important. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five students struggled with their mental health and up to 80% of these students did not receive the necessary support. The rates of mental health struggles in students are expected to increase in the coming years.
We must not forget, however, that educators are often front-line workers when it comes to student mental health, and that they also can be impacted by their students’ struggles.
Continue reading “Strategies to Prevent Compassion Fatigue”
by Vernita Mayfield
“There’s a fight in the girl’s bathroom!” As a middle school administrator, I knew all too well the urgency of this frantic call. I dropped the basketball mid-game and raced toward the restroom. The assistant principal, already on the scene when I arrived, had the situation well under control with both girls spraddled, tearful, and breathless on opposite ends of the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. A squabble over “talking stuff” had somehow escalated to a physical altercation that could have resulted in serious harm to one or both fighters as one of the participants wielded faux fingernails sharpened like blades. But the assistant principal had used her professional skills, personal relationships with the students, and “teacher voice” to dismantle and deescalate an otherwise volatile situation. More to the point, absolutely no one was shot or killed in the process. This conflict was deescalated without a single weapon discharged—an outcome that happens in schools across the nation.
Continue reading “A Fight Worth Fighting: Use Your Skills to Address Systemic Racism”
This post is an excerpt from Alex Shevrin Venet’s new book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education (W. W. Norton).
Once students have experienced trauma, how is their access to and experience of their education affected? Based on what we know about how trauma impacts student learning, we can see that school isn’t equitable for trauma-affected students. Schools can be indifferent to how trauma affects children, even outright retraumatizing and harmful. If we want school to be equitable for students who have experienced trauma, we need to rethink how common practices in schools are failing our trauma-affected students.
Continue reading “School Isn’t Equitable for Trauma-Affected Students”
By Diane Staehr Fenner, PhD
In my last blog post for K-12Talk, I described how it felt to be an educator and a parent during what we have come to realize were the early stages of the pandemic. Now, more than a year and seemingly a lifetime later, I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate about what’s been most crucial to me during this time. As an educator and author who primarily supports multilingual learners and their teachers, I’ve witnessed teachers’ Herculean efforts to foster relationships with their students and ensure students stay engaged in their education, often at a distance. At the same time, as a mom of three kids in middle and high school, I’m often up in the middle of the night, worried about how the pandemic has affected not only my own kids’ schooling but also their well-being.
Through both of my roles, I’ve personally witnessed how students’ mental health has become a more frequent topic of conversation since the pandemic began. The reality of living through a pandemic has exacerbated many students’ previously existing anxiety and depression and has created new mental health issues for others who did not suffer prior to COVID-19. This post is prompted by a sense of urgency about the need for schools to respond to students’ mental health concerns as educators envision what school might look and feel like in the next academic year.
Continue reading “Reimagining Mental Health Support for Students”
This post is an excerpt from William Dikel’s book, Student Mental Health: A Guide For Teachers, School and District Leaders, School Psychologists and Nurses, Social Workers, Counselors, and Parents (W. W. Norton).
ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, is a uniquely challenging disorder for children both inside and outside the classroom that is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood—often to the extreme detriment of the child. Here, in recognition of National Autism Awareness Month, we share an excerpt from William Dikel’s book Student Mental Health (Norton 2019) that guides teachers in recognizing ASD in their students.
The types and severity of symptoms of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) in children vary widely, from mild and not obvious to severe. Some of the most challenging students are those who have ASD in the more moderate range of severity, but who also have multiple other psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar mood disorder, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and so on. Given the dramatic symptoms of these other problems, their ASD may not be obvious. However, it is important to recognize that this disorder has unique characteristics that can interfere with a student’s educational progress and social-emotional functioning in ways that other mental health disorders do not.
Continue reading “Recognizing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)”
By Kevin Scott
I’m a teacher. Simply writing that statement feels refreshing and comfortable, yet it’s an identity to which I only recently returned. I taught 7th graders in the early 2000s. My first year of teaching U.S. history included trying to explain the election of 2000 and Bush v. Gore. My second year began with 9/11, and my third included the D.C. Sniper, which forced every kid in the D.C. metro area to stay indoors for the entire fall. No sports, no P.E., no riding bikes—just fear. I stayed in the classroom until 2007 when I took my experiences to a national education organization to use what I knew in a new environment. If I’m being honest, I was burned out and had two young sons who wanted to know why their dad wasn’t at their preschool’s “Donuts with Dad” or the end of year graduation lunch with the rest of the parents in their class.
Continue reading “A Return to Teaching in a Pandemic Year”
By Sharon Kunde
Marianne Moore argued that good poetry fashions “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”: worlds created of words in which toadlike reality crouches and springs on us, eliciting clenched hands, dilated eyes, “hair that can rise/if it must” (24, 5-6). Like good poetry, good pedagogy invites students into the world of ideas and allows them to create useful, authentic experiences and artifacts with those ideas.
While poems are easy to integrate into units on longer prose works, I strongly recommend devoting an entire unit (or more!) to poetry. In honor of National Poetry Month, here are some suggestions for final projects around which you can build an engaging poetry unit.
Continue reading “Three Poetry Final Projects for National Poetry Month”
By Pete Barnes
Connecting with students on a personal level is always challenging for busy teachers, but this pandemic year has been especially difficult for getting to know students and their families. No matter what teaching models our schools are using, we must continue to work extra hard this school year to know students as people. Whether it is exposing our own quirks and personal passions, setting up class time for students to share, or finding ways to make students feel like individuals, teachers must make efforts to connect. The extra time is well-spent, as students who feel accepted and valued are far more likely to learn. Here are some strategies that work for me, with possible modifications for remote and hybrid learning scenarios:
Continue reading “Connecting with Students During a Crazy School Year”
This post is excerpted from the book Creating Confident Writers: For High School, College, and Life by Troy Hicks and Andy Schoenborn (W. W. Norton, June 2020).
Perhaps one of our most important jobs as writing teachers is to help our writers understand that literacy is much more than reading, researching, and academic writing. For many students, the only real changes they see in their ELA and composition courses over the years are that the mechanical demands become stricter (with specific attention to MLA, APA, or other style guides) and the papers get longer. It is an unfortunate reality that turns many of those same students away from writing or, worse yet, forces them to see school-based prose as the only kind of writing that counts.
Continue reading “Given a choice, some students will choose to write poetry.”
By Ian Kelleher
It is so easy to fall for the siren call of a new piece of EdTech. Someone shares a link and you think, “WOW! I’ve got to use that!” While this new program might be a welcome novelty for your students, they won’t necessarily be reaping all the benefits that EdTech has to offer if the technology is not being used strategically.
Instead of trying to work the newest, shiniest EdTech into your lesson plans, effective online teaching calls for a small, well curated list of tools that work for your students, your subject, your community, and your personal voice as a teacher. Remember: you are aiming for a tool belt, not a tool chest or a basement of tools.
Continue reading “Using EdTech to Increase Student Motivation”