Well into another pandemic school year, educators should take the season of New Year’s resolutions to reflect on ways to improve and do better for students…and teachers.
Not all students learn at the same pace or in the same manner. This was amplified during distance learning when some kids did okay, while others fell further behind, and many stopped attending school. The time is now for schools to adopt proven methods to ensure every student can learn and reach their potential.
We’d like to suggest five key New Year’s Resolutions for school leadership:
- Every student should have access to technology. The pandemic has exposed the extreme inequity in our school system, especially the digital divide that plagues low-income households. There is no excuse not to ensure every student has access to the internet and a laptop. Families need broadband to access teachers, learning tools, curriculum, and information about health, safety and jobs.
- Make the switch to individualized instruction. Students should progress from grade to grade based on their competency in the subject matter, not how many hours they sit in a classroom – or in front of a computer. Some kids are bored and not challenged, while others are lost and not able to keep up. Just four hours per week of high-intensity instruction can lead to a full week of effective individualized student learning.
- Trauma-informed education should be the standard. Schools tend to treat disruptive behaviors associated with grief as discipline cases. When youth act out in grief or other symptoms of trauma, schools must recognize the causes and respond through trauma-informed practices that helps students recognize their emotions, learn to cope and redeem themselves if necessary.
- Offer life skills and job training. Teaching students skills they can use after high school, whether they go on to college or not, is critical. Life skills like conflict resolution, problem solving and social-emotional learning should be a part of a high school education. Students and local businesses would benefit from a skilled workforce, so schools should offer job training from soft skills and professional conduct to hands-on job learning and industry certifications.
- Give teachers the support they need. Administrators need to communicate often with teachers and listen to their challenges and needs. Provide them with the tools and training they need to deal with remote teaching and traumatized students. Build in time for peer collaboration and remember to thank and acknowledge the hard work they do. It’s the students who suffer when teachers are frustrated and unmotivated.