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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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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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.

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A Return to Teaching in a Pandemic Year

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.

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Collaborating with therapists to support your students during COVID-19

By Mary Eno

COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on our educational institutions. Therapists who work with kids are experiencing these reverberations along with teachers and school support staff, as we work hard to find ways to support our clients who are struggling. And, just like many school personnel, therapists are hustling to learn how to do their jobs online while worrying about when and how we might be able to open our offices safely again. While we might be tackling kids’ problems from different angles, we’re dealing with similar issues and share a common goal: ensuring that all children learn and thrive at school.

As a therapist who has worked for many years with kids who have school problems, I’ve learned that there are enormous gains when teachers, student support staff, and therapists collaborate. Each party has different insights to share and has access to different aspects of a child’s world. Together, we can pool our data points about a particular child to better understand their lived experience. Given the myriad problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, it has never been more important for schools and therapists to work together to support vulnerable students and their families. So how can educators and student support staff best collaborate with outside therapists?

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