Here’s how I typically initiate this conversation—it’s an exercise I call “Anchors to Sails.” I ask the audience to list all the factors that prevent all students (in their classroom, school, or district) from learning and thriving in school and in life. Without fail, the list of “anchors” is dominated by what David C. Berliner calls out-of-school factors (OSFs)—food insecurity, family relations and family stress, inadequate dental and medical care, community dynamics, and the many implications of poverty. Attendance, behavior, and emotional needs can also be considered symptoms of the OSF anchors.
The conversation is often filled with compassion and frustration, due to the perception that these factors are beyond our control and that despite our best efforts, many students are not learning because of anchors we are not equipped to address effectively. This is where our own mindset must shift, as we cannot allow our list of anchors to simply reflect the reasons kids cannot and will not learn. This is not the end of the conversation; it’s the beginning. Read more