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?”
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 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 “
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”
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.
Continue reading “Grateful to Be Teaching In Person”
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.
Continue reading “Turning on Your Teacher Brain”
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.
Continue reading “Building Community in the New School Year”
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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I love the
beginning of school. August and
September hold new possibilities full of hope and promise, a chance to start fresh,
to learn from last year’s failures as well as successes, and to build something
even better than the year before.
I didn’t always look so
excitedly toward the beginning of another school year. When I was new to the
field, I taught the prescribed curriculum that was handed to me. Although I was “teaching by the book,” my
students were struggling. I came to realize they were struggling precisely because
I was teaching the prescribed curriculum.
Continue reading “Back to School: Learning about Students”