Teachers Can Leverage Their Value to Transform Schooling

By Patricia A. Jennings

Our school systems are completely outmoded and becoming so dysfunctional that students and school staff are being stretched to the breaking point. Teacher dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, discipline problems are rampant, and school staff are being subject to more aggressive and even violent outbursts from both students and parents. In my view, these are all symptoms of the intense pressures that our outdated education system places on students, teachers, and families—especially as this system struggles to return to its status quo following the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, teachers are burned out and quitting in droves as the teacher shortage crisis deepens. How can we turn this around? First, we need to examine our education system itself.

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A Reflection on the 2021-2022 School Year, So Far

By Kevin Scott

Last year I wrote about my return to the classroom in a wild year and discussed many of the challenges I faced as a 7th grade U.S. history teacher after more than a decade away from teaching. While some facets of teaching—and attending—middle school have returned to ‘normal,’ so many things have not. For example, while all my students are back in the school building they don’t have lockers because our locker pods would pack them too closely together. So they carry everything with them everywhere they go throughout the day. This doesn’t sound too bad until I think about what it would have been like in my former office life, if I had not had a cubicle—if I had had to carry my lunch, my laptop, and any notes or notebooks to every meeting I attended every day, with no place to call my own. My students are now twelve-year-old nomads who are really, really good at leaving stuff behind.

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Schools survived the worst of the pandemic, but will they survive the aftermath?

By David Nurenberg

Across the nation, students and teachers are back in classrooms for the 2021-22 school year. Remote instruction is largely a thing of the past, and the pandemic, while hardly over, has become a familiar, normative part of daily life. With teachers and all but the youngest of students eligible for vaccination, COVID-19 has, for many schools, become more of an inconvenience than an object of dread. But teachers are reporting higher rates of burnout, experiencing less job satisfaction, and resigning in greater numbers now than during the worst times of last year. Studies by the Rand Corporation, the National Education Association, the Brookings Institute and others show record teacher shortages that are only predicted to rise. The Rand report concludes that teachers are “more likely to report experiencing frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general population.” Why, when things are looking up, are somewhere between a quarter to a third of all teachers looking to leave?

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Online Opportunities: The Continuing Benefits of Remote Instruction

By Stephanie L. Moore

This week, K-12Talk presents an excerpt from Stephanie L. Moore’s new book, SEL at Distance: Supporting Students Online.

A note from the author:

In SEL at a Distance, one idea I share for how we can frame thinking about how to use learning technologies to support SEL is “affordances.” When making decisions about technologies and designing online learning environments, it is important to think about what learning opportunities different technologies afford (or do not afford). The following excerpt provides several examples around common questions I hear, reframing the question of which technologies are “better” into instructional considerations in online learning. One of the paramount considerations at this uncertain time, as most teachers and students have returned to school buildings even as new variants of COVID emerge, is how to leverage the tools teachers have at hand to center their pedagogy around students’ needs.

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Shifting from Instructor-Centered to Student-Centered Pedagogies:

Online (and blended) learning afford you the ability to shift your pedagogical practices so that you spend less of your live or in-person time with your learners as the content delivery vehicle and more time focused on feedback, support, and interaction. We often rely on ourselves to be the primary information delivery channel, by way of lectures. Unfortunately, in the rush to move online during the spring of 2020, many schools tried to replicate live lectures, not realizing this took the least advantage of the online learning environment. Lectures are something you can readily record and let learners watch on their own time. This could be a lecture you provide or an available video you find online and want your students to watch. Rather than taking up precious together-time with learners for this, have them watch it on their own then show up ready to engage in active learning with you. This makes much better use of anytime, anywhere content delivery that the internet is good for and reserves live time (whether in a class or online) with your students for meaningful interactions.

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How to Partner With Your Local Library

By Jonna Kuskey

Our high school, like many across the nation, has eliminated its library. To fill this void, our English department has worked intensely over the past several years to obtain books for our classroom libraries by applying for grants, writing numerous Donors Choose projects, asking teachers and friends to donate books, and scouring the bookshelves of secondhand stores. Still, we have a fraction of the books that our old school library housed, so we put our heads together to brainstorm solutions to this problem. We realized we were ignoring the most obvious solution, one that was free, easy, and right under our noses: our local public library.

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Grateful to Be Teaching In Person

By Ariel Sacks

Some people thought the pandemic would propel us into a new era of online learning, replacing many teachers with computer programs. But for me, it’s pretty clear that my students need community and connection, and virtual learning simply did not facilitate these two needs. I continue to believe that being together in the same space with their teachers and classmates positively impacts all aspects of students’ learning and socialization. I am so happy to be back with my students in person every day—after a year and a half of teaching middle school ELA remotely—and my students are thrilled, too.

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Three Lessons I’ll Carry Forward from Virtual Instruction

By Kathryn Nieves Licwinko

As soon as someone finds out I’m an educator, they immediately want to dig into my feelings about teaching from behind a screen. In fact, virtual learning seems to dominate most of my conversations about education. Even after I returned to in-person instruction, discussions shifted toward wondering if (or when) we would return to remote instruction again. As I and my colleagues teach amid uncertainty of what the rest of the school year holds, I continue to consider the lessons I learned from teaching online. I not only think about which virtual teaching methods were successful and what I would do differently if my school were to return to online learning; I also consider how I can apply the lessons I learned from virtual instruction to my traditional, in-person classroom. 

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How to Sustain Hybrid Learning Models

By Kyleen Gray

Over the past year and a half, nearly every school on the planet has upended its format of delivering education. Some have stayed in classrooms with significant physical distancing restrictions, while others have completely left the physical classroom in favor of full distance learning. Many more have found a (somewhat) happy medium in hybrid learning, with some students learning in the classroom environment while others learn from home, either due to illness or a desire to stay safe in a physically distanced environment.

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Turning on Your Teacher Brain

By Catherine Rauchenberger Conley

At the beginning of this school year, I responded to a colleague’s “how are you?” with “I’m still waiting for my teacher brain to kick in.” “I know!” she replied. It turns out that I was not alone in feeling out of sorts at the beginning of the year. I know my curriculum and content, and I am beyond thrilled to have ALL my students in the classroom with me. I know what books I need and how to set up my Google Classroom and all the other apps that have invaded our teaching lives over the past nineteen months. I also know with confidence which apps I can ditch or use less frequently in order to bring the students back to a sense of working in partnership with other people rather than apps. Yet somehow, there’s something missing, something intangible.

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Teaching Email Skills to Students While Keeping Parents in the Loop

By Mary M. McConnaha

For so many people connected to education, last school year felt isolating and stressful. Even in schools like mine where teachers and students were in-person or at least hybrid for much of the year, it was easy to feel disconnected. Parents felt confused and concerned about the work being done at home, and they often had to juggle work and homeschooling. Teachers’ workloads more than doubled, as they coped with rebuilding classrooms completely online, teaching the same content to two groups, and worrying about their own health and safety when very little was known. It was a year of stress like none other. 

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