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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Designing Effective Inclusive Supports

By Michael Wehmeyer and Jennifer Kurth

As teachers and students head back into physical classrooms, those of us who work with students with disabilities are thinking hard about how best to meet their needs.  After a prolonged period in which these students’ schooling took place at home or in special classrooms isolated from their peers, it is more critical than ever that teachers and other staff members across a school collaborate to help them readjust to inclusive classrooms.  The paramount concern in our view should be that students keep learning, rather than that they “keep up.”  The following is an excerpt that we hope may be helpful in this regard, from our new book Inclusive Education in a Strengths-Based Era — publishing next week!

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Year after Year: A Love Note to Teaching

By Suzanne Caines 

I’m at that age where people are starting to ask me, mostly in a nice way, if I’m starting to think about retirement. You’ve been teaching forever, they say, their tone an odd mix of bemusement and incredulity. Translation: aren’t you excited to stop working? 

Surprising to those who ask, but not to those who know me well, the answer to that question is a hard no. I am not excited to stop working. In fact, I am excited to keep working. I just finished my 34th year of teaching high school English and I can honestly say that I still love it. Yes, love it. Without exception, every single September of my career, I feel true excitement when I walk into a class full of teenagers, mostly strangers, knowing that over the course of the school year, I will have the opportunity to really get to know them.

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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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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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Helping Students with ADHD Readjust to In-Person Schooling

by Nina Parrish

According to survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, about 6.1 million (or 9.4 percent) of children in the United States were diagnosed, at that time, with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Yale researcher and clinical psychologist Thomas Brown describes ADHD as an impairment of the executive functioning system. This means that students with ADHD can struggle with tasks such as organizing, prioritizing, getting started, staying focused, maintaining effort, regulating emotions, remembering learned information, holding information in mind while working, and the ability to self-regulate or monitor work for quality and completion.

Due to preexisting challenges with executive functioning and emotional regulation, students with ADHD may have struggled more than their neurotypical classmates to adjust to the many changes in schooling and other stressors brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC found that, prior to the pandemic, 6 in 10 children with ADHD had at least one other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or a conduct disorder. A research review conducted by Rosanna Breaux, a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, showed that during this past school year many students with ADHD not only experienced an increase in ADHD symptoms such as difficulty with attention and impulse control, but were also more likely to experience an increase in all mental/emotional/behavioral disorder symptoms. 

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Routines to Teach: Fall of 2020

By Mike Anderson, Reposted from Leading Great Learning

Last week I had the privilege of teaching two online workshops for teachers about getting ready for the upcoming school year. They were both so much fun! We played games that teachers can use with their students (either in person or online), shared strategies for co-creating rules with students in K-12 classrooms, reconnected with our deeply held positive beliefs about why we teach, and so much more.

One of the most practical activities we did was to co-create lists of routines we might need to teach this fall as we begin facilitating learning with students. One of these workshops was with Bedford, NH educators, who are heading back in a few weeks with a hybrid model. Students will be in school some days and at home others. The other workshop was held through UNH Professional Development and Training and was attended by K-12 educators from around New Hampshire who are heading back to a variety of settings.

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There should be no “best practices” for in-person teaching during COVID-19 – because it shouldn’t be happening

By David Nurenberg

As a teacher preparing to begin an unprecedented new school year in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been consumed with reading, and writing, tips and best practices for online and remote education. Preparing for this new world alone is an enormous task for teachers already grappling with all the other stresses of this time. But as September draws near, I am feeling even more nervous, and even less prepared, about how to conduct in-person education in this new climate.

The federal and state governments are requiring schools to develop plans for both full and partial/“hybrid” returns to school. That means teachers’ plans for setting up our classroom must account for disinfection and hazardous material handling. We must somehow figure out how to conduct class activities without ever bringing students closer than 6 feet from one another, how to conference with students or intervene in discipline situations from that distance. We have to figure out how to cover required content and meet student learning goals when classes might be meeting only half or one-third as frequently. We must include, and teach, entirely online and remote versions of every lesson for absent students, find ways to catch up students who miss large amounts of school, and figure out how to emotionally support anxious students – and ourselves.

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Preparing for 2020-2021, When There’s No Way to Know What to Expect

By Sharon Kunde

Teachers are currently closing out the school year and laying the groundwork for the next. But there is, of course, a problem: none of us know what kind of situation we’ll come back to. While school districts and teachers’ unions discuss physical conditions that might make in-person teaching possible (things like reduced schedules, classroom sanitization, extra buses), it remains likely that many of us will use online instruction, either in a blended or intermittent fashion.

In the face of these uncertainties, teachers can prepare this summer by thinking broadly and flexibly about their educational goals. What follows are four guidelines for designing curriculum plans for new and shifting teaching circumstances.

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The Effects of COVID-19 Are Not Just Academic: Preparing for Reopened Classrooms

By Jonna Kuskey

To say the 2020-21 school year will begin a little differently than most is an understatement. Public health experts have indicated schools may still be dealing with the effects of the pandemic in the new year, which means more remote and online learning may be on the horizon, and we need to be ready if that occurs. We also need to be ready for the COVID-19 slide, much like the typical summer slide, only steeper. A study by Kuhfeld, et al, “Projecting the Potential Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic Achievement,” projects students will begin this year with “approximately 63-68% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year” and 37-50% in math.1 

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