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New Normal Back To School

The return to school this year is invoking a range of feelings from teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, parents, students and other school staff. Whether going back to school actually means returning in person, online, or with a hybrid model differs across the nation. However, regardless of how students are going back to school this year, there is a lot on the line and a lot being asked of educators, parents and students to keep everyone safe while also ensuring that students are learning. AFT’s Share My Lesson is here to support you as you sail into these uncharted waters and reimagine what learning looks like with all new, free, for-credit Back to School webinars, specifically designed to tackle the unique challenges of this school year.

Strong Planning for the Start of the School Year

So many lessons have been learned from ending the school year through distance learning. Multiple approaches and ways educators and administrators can approach a hybrid model of education have been developed, and we want to help you explore those different options. Additionally, with many schools implementing a hybrid model of learning this year, it is important that there are clear expectations and communications with students and parents from the start.

Engaging Students In Person & Online

The first image that pops into my head when I hear the term “classroom” is of a brightly decorated room full of desks with students and a teacher. But upon more careful reflection, I realize that a classroom is anywhere that learning takes place. Research shows that when students feel engaged, accepted and supported, they are more ready to learn, and there are ways we can ensure students feel this way regardless of location. So, it is important that no matter how students go back to school, we work to make sure they have a positive “classroom” experience.

Supporting Special Populations

Making sure that all students needs are met regardless of whether students are meeting online or in person is essential.

Supporting Students' Mental Health

Let’s be honest. 2020 and 2021 have been full of so many unexpected challenges, disappointments and traumatic experiences. My emotions have definitely been on a roller coaster as I attempt to navigate this new world, and it can often be hard to concentrate on moving forward and getting things accomplished. One day, it is full steam ahead for me; and the next day, I feel like there is a rain cloud hanging over me and I am barely moving forward. Based on conversations with my co-workers, friends and family, this seems to be a feeling shared by many. So, just as we adults feel this way, it is important to recognize that students may be riding the same roller coaster of emotions. Some students may be feeling a range of emotions from the effects of social distancing and witnessing violence against people of color in the news, while others may have been personally traumatized from COVID-19 or police brutality. As students go back to school, it is vital that we support those who are suffering from trauma or poor mental health.

Developing Well Informed Citizens

As if 2020 and 2021 weren’t already crazy enough, it also happens to be a presidential election year. With so many different outlets to receive news, it can be difficult for students to distinguish between high-quality sources and unreliable ones. Students may also have conflicting beliefs and thoughts on candidates and policies, thus invoking conversations and debates in the classroom. With the re-igniting of protests and the various policy stances being debated in regard to COVID-19, this year may be more difficult than others to navigate how to discuss these topics with students and teach them how to find reliable news sources.

Science, Reading & Student Career Planning

Finally, Share My Lesson is also here to provide new ways to teach about science and the history of women in science; the best strategies for teaching reading; and how to support parents and students as they navigate applying to colleges, seeking scholarships and determining a career path.

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