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?”
2022 saw teachers and students alike adjusting to a “new normal.” As the dust settles on the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many educators have found themselves facing new quandaries: How do we address the inequities that were exposed and heightened by the pandemic? How can we help students “catch up” scholastically, socially, and emotionally when they’ve spent formative years in a state of lockdown? Can things really go back to normal? Should they? Below are five popular posts from 2022 addressing these and other important and timely concerns from educators.
Continue reading “2022 in Review”
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 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.
Continue reading “Teachers Can Leverage Their Value to Transform Schooling”
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.
Continue reading “A Reflection on the 2021-2022 School Year, So Far”
By Eric Iversen
For a long time, advocates of STEM education have worked to bring STEM learning closer to students’ lives outside of school. This year, though, COVID has made STEM learning a part of students’ lives in ways nobody ever imagined or wanted. As schools were forced to close, educators have been managing the switch to emergency remote learning to the greatest of their abilities, and the resources and strategies that have been shared across the K-12 world are voluminous. Even so, there is no doubt that uprooting STEM education from the school building comes with many kinds of loss, including carefully designed classroom and lab spaces set up with technical equipment and materials that are impossible to replicate in the home.
Continue reading “STEM and SEL in Tandem, at Home”
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?
Continue reading “Collaborating with therapists to support your students during COVID-19”
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
Continue reading “The Effects of COVID-19 Are Not Just Academic: Preparing for Reopened Classrooms”
By Peter Smagorinksy
Republished with permission from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mental health has emerged as a critical social and educational topic during the COVID 19 crisis. My contact with my University of Georgia students throughout the shutdown has found many of them struggling with mental health issues. Many of them had pre-existing conditions of anxiety, depression, and other mood and neurological challenges that were ramped up by their return home.
The home is often celebrated as a sanctuary from the world’s ills and evils, but many homes are very insecure. Some of my students left their college dorms for homes characterized by abuse, alcoholism, crowded quarters, anxious and frustrated parents, and other sources of stress and fear. Others developed anxiety and other challenges when cut off from friends and social lives and forced into baby-sitting or home schooling duties with their younger siblings by parents who were deeply stressed by demands of their own.
Continue reading “Pay more attention to mental health than to test scores”
By Cathleen Beachboard
As schools start making Covid-19 contingency plans for next school year, we must address a secondary crisis that will affect school systems and classrooms everywhere: traumatic stress. Even before this pandemic, almost half the nation’s children had experienced one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a survey on Adverse Childhood Experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This pandemic, unfortunately, is adding to that trauma with its far-reaching ripple effects from families losing jobs and income, people going hungry, children seeing family members sick and dying, and a looming fear to leave home due to threat of illness. Even the parents or guardians whom students normally turn to for stability may be overwhelmed trying to keep their own mental health stable. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56 percent of adults said that this pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent stated that it has had a major impact.
Continue reading “The Future of Education: Trauma Informed Practices”