In the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, two of my grandparents died, both of whom were pillars in different branches of my family. On the fourth yahrzeit of my grandfather’s death a couple of months ago, my stepmom shared Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall, in his memory. I had never heard of the poem before but have returned to it many times in the weeks since as I reflect on the losses, silences, and birth in myself, in our educational systems, and in our society over the past few years.
To the new teachers out there, are you: Excited about what this year will bring and courageously making an entrance into the education arena for the purpose of serving today’s youth? Vowing personally to provide the utmost professionalism possible whether your initial, or second profession from a previous career?
Keep our children in school and out of the school-to-prison pipeline: A parent’s concern about COVID-era school discipline
As a parent of two African American boys, I am concerned as we begin to navigate our way back into the school building. I am worried that this new era in education could make my children and other BIPOC children vulnerable to disproportionate school discipline, especially exclusionary discipline. Schools are under increased pressure to keep children and teachers safe, and removing a face mask or breathing on someone could spread sickness; this undoubtedly makes for a more tense learning environment. With new rules in place, it concerns me to think that BIPOC may bear the brunt of these new consequences and be subject to exclusionary discipline practices at higher rates than other students.
As schools and districts across the country continue to pivot, adapt, and recalibrate to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, collecting feedback from students is critical. This can be done in both formal and informal ways, ranging from casual conversations with students or advisory groups to administering a school-wide climate survey. To bridge the divide between these formal and informal feedback mechanisms, semi-structured conversations with diverse groups of students can serve as an opportunity to learn more about students’ experiences and dig deeper into opportunities to boost school climate. Student climate data can illuminate key areas of success and opportunities for growth, allowing school leaders to understand, reflect, and act on feedback. Whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid, consider the following tips for planning, running, and reflecting on conversations about students’ experiences and perceptions of school climate.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting upon what it means to celebrate the holiday this year. For many of us, Thanksgiving will look and feel very different from past years. We are unable to come together to celebrate with family and friends as the nation is suffering from a widespread and deadly pandemic that has created economic devastation. As a country, we have collectively awoken to and are reflecting upon our role in the systemic oppression that people of color continue to face on a daily basis. We are experiencing turmoil during a transition of presidential power unlike any we’ve witnessed before. And, as I re-read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I feel shame that the origins of this holiday include the mass murder of indigenous people that has yet to be atoned.
Forgiveness, acceptance and flexibility. Three little BIG words I have spent countless hours instilling in six-year-olds over the past 15 years. I never would have imagined simple lessons taught in my first-grade classroom would become so meaningful during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I get to see my mom today! She’s picking me up!” Evan would shout as he entered the classroom. Evan would talk all day about mom and the fun things they have planned to do, only to realize at dismissal as time passes and each friend gets picked up; Evan’s mom is not coming.
Now more than ever, Superintendents, School Directors, and Principals recognize and understand the need for social-emotional learning for both students and teachers. The uncertainty of COVID - 19 has affected everyone in many ways, and its effects may have long-lasting impressions in education.
Ask anyone who has studied Bloom’s Taxonomy and they’ll tell you that just because students learn something once does not mean they have internalized that learning, can connect it to something else they know, or apply it to new situations. By “learning,” we refer to anything that children learn, like how to tie their shoes, multiply fractions, or recognize and label their emotions.
Educators across the nation are now faced with the unique challenge of distance learning, all while living through a global pandemic. Are my students healthy? How is their mental health? How do I do this distance learning thing? How do I support my colleagues or staff? Why am I washing dishes again?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many district leaders are grappling with the new challenges of social emotional learning, among other things, in a virtual learning environment. Particularly when teachers, administrators, and counselors are not accustomed to remote learning, several questions emerge on exactly how to continue cultivating relationships and environments that support social-emotional skills and mindsets.