Student Engagement

How I learned in my summer vacation

How I Learned In My Summer Vacation

Categories: Authors, Instruction, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Student Engagement

Years ago, it wasn’t unusual for the teacher to assign the usual “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay to welcome back students to the classroom. Teachers Pay Teachers (a website I would never recommend) has nearly 458 activities that incorporate the “summer vacation” theme. There are thousands of “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” images available on Google for teachers to download, print, and give to their students. “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” appears to be a part of an academic rite of summer passage.

However, the iconic “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” writing activity is not morally, nor culturally sensitive. There was a time when teachers used the traditional writing assignment to get to know their students’ interests and family hobbies. There was an assumption, albeit misguided, that most students and their families vacationed in the lovely Adirondacks or students attended neighborhood play dates with Dick and Jane or students took part in “up north” camps.

Simply put, the assignment no longer reflects our society or what it might define.

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A visual representation of virtual student learning

Relationships: First and Always

Categories: Instruction, Pandemic Response and Educational Practices, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Student Engagement

In the spring of 2020, I published my very first book, I’m Listening: How Teacher-Student Relationships Improve Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in which I poured everything I knew about teaching and learning.

And Then, The Pandemic
Suddenly, everything I wrote in this book seemed wholly inadequate for the emerging challenge of teaching during a pandemic. The pile of my newly printed books remained untouched, as instead teachers (including me) searched for books and articles that promised best practices and solutions for virtual learning. As an instructional coach for grades 6-12, I immersed myself in tutorials for digital tools that held the promise of perhaps an easier yet still productive school year for our students and teachers.

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Research Based Learning: a Lifelong Learning Necessity

Categories: Authors, Instruction, Literacy, Student Engagement

 

“Give a person a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a person to fish and she will eat for a lifetime.”
– Adapted from a saying by an unknown author

What is Research-Based Learning?
Research-based learning (RBL) consists of a framework that helps to prepare students to be lifelong inquirers and learners. The term “research,” which often conjures up a picture of students writing research reports, is here defined as a way of thinking about teaching and learning, a perspective, a paradigm. It is a specific approach to classroom teaching that places less emphasis on teacher-centered learning of content and facts and greater emphasis on students as active researchers.

In a research-based learning approach, students actively search for and then use multiple resources, materials, and texts in order to explore important, relevant, and interesting questions and challenges. They find, process, organize and evaluate information and ideas as they build reading skills and vocabulary. They learn how to read for understanding, form interpretations, develop and evaluate hypotheses, and think critically and creatively. They learn how to solve problems, challenges, and dilemmas. Finally, they develop communication skills through writing and discussion. Read more

Physical and Psychological Environments for Every Body

Physical and Psychological Environments for Every Body

Categories: Authors, Instruction, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Solution Tree, Student Engagement

I like to think of myself as pretty aware of ableism. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder back in the 1990s and while I’ve learned to live with both thanks to having worked with great therapists (and, not for nothing, being married to one), my mental illnesses continue to be a trip hazard on my professional path.

Also, my husband and coauthor Jonathan Weinstein and I have a son who is autistic and goes to a school for students with special needs. From the moment I arrived at his campus, I noticed how his school environment is built for students with needs like—and unlike—his. Read more

Thoughtful Engagement Leads to Essential Empowerment

Categories: Authors, Instruction, Pandemic Response and Educational Practices, Solution Tree, Student Engagement

As we reflect on the trials faced during this COVID-19 state of being, we long for a chance to navigate away from struggles and toward new beginnings. During this new phase of learning designed by the pandemic, I find myself in the role of guest teacher in order to keep the education of students continuing when symptoms or close contact removes the regular teacher for a brief period. I must admit that I absolutely love being back in a classroom setting and interacting with students. Having an opportunity to provide instruction on a variety of topics fills me with both excitement and anxiety. As a principal the stakes are certainly high; you make sure to meet the same expectations you have set for your staff when you take the reins, and one of the key pieces is student engagement. Engagement is paramount while we focus on bridging learning gaps caused by the recent upheaval.

All parties grapple with building connections and maintaining engagement during this socially isolated time. The struggle is real. It is real for the teaching staff, students, support staff, administration, parents, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the list goes on. We have all been searching for an answer on how to engage safely with each other, on the level we desire and know to be essential for growth in an education setting. Critical are the relationships built during the course of a school year. The personal bonds that teachers have with their students reinforce basic needs of belonging, which is the antithesis of what many of us are currently feeling. Social isolation, specifically in a school setting, has created a disconnect. The pandemic has often left us with somewhat superficial attachments rather than the deeper camaraderie facilitated through daily face-to-face sessions. Targeted work to show compassion and caring through our extended or virtual classrooms has been a goal for educators of all disciplines. Integrating social-emotional learning strategies has provided help in this work of regaining and maintaining connections as we shift our focus from engagement to empowerment. Read more