This school year demands a new approach to teaching. Here is one – Le 74


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Backpacks, fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils and new goals. I love this time of year, but I worry that students and teachers will return to schools that are at breaking point.

Students’ learning needs are enormous, with recent national data showing they are making progress, but not fast enough to quickly close the gaps associated with the pandemic. And student well-being, which directly affects academics, is in crisis: more than 44% of high school students said they felt constantly sad or hopeless in the past year.

The picture is also bleak for teachers. Some schools are facing high levels of vacancies, which means teachers will continue to have to cover other classes, staff bus routes and monitor dining halls rather than giving struggling students extra help and work on lesson plans.

Given these extraordinary circumstances, a return to traditional teaching methods and anything resembling a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work for many school communities. Students who have lost ground will be left behind, as will those who continue to miss classes.

While in-person teaching is essential, it needs a refresh. Children no longer need to spend most of their class time listening to teachers speak from the front of the room and passively taking notes or answering questions. Instead, teachers can use whole-group instruction more effectively, saving it for things like rich class discussions, and can replace routine lectures with short video lessons that they create and combine. to homework. Students can then work at their own pace, while teachers respond to children’s needs individually and in small groups.

I made this shift, to differentiated, mastery-based learning that more and more schools are trying, when I was a math teacher at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C. Today I trains teachers to redesign their classrooms by replacing live lessons with their own instructional videos, allowing students to work at their own pace and assess them based on their mastery. It is not a model tied to any particular grade level, content area, or program; any teacher can do it anywhere.

The challenges I faced, although before the pandemic, were somewhat similar to those faced by educators today. I was traditionally teaching and the students were disconnected. Some found my classes too slow, while others couldn’t keep up. I didn’t have time to work one-on-one with the students and get to know them, and many children missed classes due to responsibilities and challenges outside of school.

Fortunately, I had a colleague who used innovative methods and helped me transform my teaching to meet student needs. Teachers today are even better prepared than I am to try something like this. Schools have new technological tools, and students and teachers have new digital skills. Educators and school leaders are open and excited about innovative approaches that personalize teaching and help students keep pace when they are away from school. It may look a little different depending on the subjects and levels. For example, younger students should be more structured than older students, their videos should be shorter, and they should spend less time working alone.

In my math class, students came to enjoy working through content, toward mastery, more independently. This approach freed me to help them — a kind of personalized instruction that I couldn’t offer before. If there were 10 lessons to be completed in three weeks, students worked through them at a pace that suited them. I could assess them and intervene if necessary. Struggling students always received extra support, while those advancing at a faster pace could deepen their learning and work on complementary courses, getting the kind of educational experience they deserved.

All students could access the video lessons at any time, which was especially useful for those who were absent or wanted to press pause and rewind. Overall, my students were happier and felt more supported, and I was less stressed and rediscovered my passion for teaching.

Changes I noticed immediately in my class included improved attendance and engagement. A student who rarely came to class started showing up almost every day. He knew he could pick up where he left off without feeling embarrassed, but he also knew that I wasn’t going to let him slip through the cracks. He approached me one afternoon and said, “Mr. Farah, I can’t refine your course any longer. »

More recently, I was visiting the classroom of a sixth grade English teacher, providing training in this approach, and a boy, an emerging bilingual learner, whispered to me that this was the first time he could comfortably ask his teacher for help. .

There is an urgent need for leaders and policy makers to seize this moment to listen to students and trust teachers to create new and better learning environments. By doing so, the nation could emerge from this crisis with schools that meet the needs of diverse learners and allow all children to reach their full potential.

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