When I was growing up, “doing school” always seemed to come naturally to me. I was well behaved, I made good grades, and I was often one of those students raising his hand to volunteer an answer to a question. My ability to thrive in a traditional classroom was clear on open house nights, when my teachers invariably greeted my mom with flowery descriptions of what a wonderful student I was and how… surprising…that was compared to their experiences with my older brothers. (The Fleenor family has some stories, trust me!)
So when I started my teaching career, I admittedly struggled to empathize deeply with my most struggling and/or misbehaving students. I cared about them, of course, and I wanted them to be successful, but I was missing that visceral, I’ve-been-in-your-shoes connection. As I grew as a teacher, I learned better tools to support them, but I didn’t fully understand what it was like to be at the back of the class. That is, until I started doing yoga.
by Tim McHugh, co-owner and VP of Sales/Marketing at Saddleback Educational Publishing.
Educators have done an amazing job adapting to what many have compared to a “100-year storm,” but hurdles such as access to technology have proved especially challenging. Even worse, these challenges hit many of our less fortunate students the hardest (and this will likely continue in the fall). How can we talk about equity for learners if we don’t provide an equal opportunity for all students?
Cultivating a positive classroom climate, setting our norms, and getting off to the right start has an impact on how students interact throughout the year (Wong, 2005). The need for structure and a welcoming environment does not change as we shift to being physically distant or online. This is critically important to keep in mind as we enter a school year like no other. This year comes with unique challenges at every turn. While each school’s reality may be different, we have some common truths that remain important as we strive to cultivate an environment where all students have the best shot at learning.
Along with basic needs such as food and shelter, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that humans also have the need to belong and feel accepted.
Think back on a time when you went somewhere new. Perhaps you traveled abroad or went to a professional networking event. Maybe you are thinking of your first day of class in college.
You might remember looking around at all the people, yet feeling a sense of loneliness. I remember the first trip my husband and I took to Mexico. When we heard another couple speaking English with a southern accent, we were immediately drawn to them. When they said they were from Texas too, we felt an instant connection. Or just a few months ago, looking at a group of peers at a conference and seeing a name that was Serbian like my mother’s. The lady and I made eye contact, and I went over to her. The moment I pronounced her name correctly she lit up. She said no one ever reads her name correctly. Even though we knew nothing else about one another and had never met before, we instantly connected.
Whether you’ve been an educator for four decades or five minutes, you’ve never had a start to the year quite like this. As unbelievable as it may seem, at this point in time we cannot say with certainty what form the school day will take when we return, nor what the school year will bring in the months that follow. Given this, it may be worth taking a moment to acknowledge how this ambiguity may be affecting both you and your future students. Maybe you’re sleeping more or less, or you may already be having back-to-school nightmares. I’m used to being on the road during this time, and I find myself constantly waking up in a panic from a nightmare about missing a flight, or showing up to a training prepared for the wrong topic or dressed inappropriately. It’s exhausting! All of this uncertainty can bring about anxiety, so please give yourself some grace for whatever you are feeling about the upcoming academic year. And when you can, try to find the positives — however meager they may seem.
by Hirva Raj, Regional Sales Manager for Texas, Ellevation
Over the last three years, I have found that Texas districts with more than 300 ELs truly benefit from an electronic LPAC solution. It has been a joy to see districts make shifts from the world of paper into adopting software to better meet the needs of administrators, teachers, and students. (Not to mention seeing how much paper is being saved by digitizing the LPAC process through software.) The joys of working with dozens of districts across Texas include hearing about all the time savings and efficiencies created by adopting an electronic software solution.
The 2020-2021 school year will be, by far, the most difficult one to plan for yet. There are simply too many unknowns. As a nation and as a world, we just lived through and are currently continuing to experience the unprecedented reality of COVID-19. For some, family members have passed away, illness has struck, jobs have been lost, food has been scarce, tensions have been high in households, and anxiety has risen. And worse, it isn’t over yet. The physical and emotional side effects are overwhelming. It’s challenging to think about how academics fit into this equation.
All of you advocates and educational leaders are doing amazing work on campuses and in districts to support English learners. And because of that, great things are happening in classrooms across the state and the nation. You are planning instruction that is based on student needs. You are delivering quality lessons that invite and empower students. You are coordinating professional development opportunities and instructional coaching cycles that truly affect instructional practices. You are engaging parents and including them in their children’s education. And this is just the beginning. Continue reading “Leading the Way! What’s Working for English Learners: Call for Proposals”→
For many years the way we approached mathematics was very resistant to new ideas, methods, and strategies. Imagine being in any place in the world where all the people had to think in the same way, following the same procedures to solve problems, and being told that you are not a good person if you do not memorize the rules. How would you feel? Can you see how someone might get anxiety or dislike being in that place? BOOM! That is exactly what some students — and even adults — feel in a math environment, and that has to stop. Continue reading “Three Mathematical Mindsets that Show Everybody Can Be a “Math Person””→
Yesterday, my own fourth grade daughter handed me her “argumentative essay” to read before she turned it in. My middle school teacher-eyes, with their sky-high expectations, immediately saw about 20 errors I would have loved for her to fix. But, not wanting to repeat the tears I’d brought her to the day before, I remembered how to be a teacher and used the “hug, push, hug” strategy with my daughter/student. Continue reading “Tallying Your Wins: Hug – Push – Hug”→