This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.
In order for children to learn, they need to feel safe and supported. It is important for teachers to create learning environments where children respect one another and have opportunities to connect with their peers. This past year has been challenging for all. As teachers and children re-enter the classroom setting this fall, some for the first time in a year, it will be particularly critical for teachers to make space for children to connect (or re-connect) with their peers, build relationships, and learn (or relearn) how to respectfully interact in face-to-face settings. Creating this supportive environment is the critical first step in supporting children’s development and learning.
Modeling language and providing time for children to practice using language is particularly critical in the early years of school as they are developing their language proficiency. In many cases, this past year has meant interrupted, hybrid, or virtual schooling--all of which, despite everyone’s best efforts, is not ideal for practicing and developing language. As a result, it will be particularly important for teachers to increase their students’ exposure to verbal language.
Encourage children to make connections and think beyond rote memorization of isolated facts. Make the most of your time with children, and design lessons that challenge them to think more abstractly and activate their higher-order thinking. Due to the disruptions in schooling this past year for many children, a narrow focus on promoting analysis and reasoning would be highly beneficial.
Throughout the course of the day, there are a multitude of opportunities to engage children in effective interactions that further promote their development and learning. For even more strategies and teacher tips, download the resource guide below.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
Every state, every district, every school, every teacher faced decisions that they had never anticipated in the last academic year. As the end of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, it’s time to reflect on those decisions, learn from others, and prepare for the fall ahead.
Given the context of today’s educational landscape, the global pandemic we are still fighting, and the divides our country is facing, strong leadership is essential. There is a clear need to restabilize and improve education for every child, and every educator. But, what does that mean exactly for educational leaders who are leading the way?