Dive Brief:

  • Focusing on relationships with students, families and staff is key to making curriculum connect in remote learning, education consultant Brianna Hodges and Future Ready Schools Director of Innovation Thomas Murray, who share a keynote at the 2021 Future of Education Technology Conference, tell District Administration.
  • Not only must leaders continue to know their “why,” in regard to what drives them in their work, but they must strive to understand the ways the “what” and “how” factors have changed across the school community, including the challenges and traumas students and staff face due to COVID-19 and other current events.
  • Additionally, there must be a continuing acknowledgment that equity doesn’t stop at simply providing a device and internet to every student, but that curriculum must also meet students at their own pace and feature content relatable to their own experiences.

Dive Insight:

The importance of relationships, empathy and curriculum that features examples students from a variety of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can relate to was on the rise prior to the pandemic. But with the traditional school model facing ongoing disruption as the COVID-19 crisis drags on, these have become all the more important.

Social-emotional learning in particular gained focus as a vehicle for teaching soft skills like collaboration, communication, empathy, compassion and conflict resolution that are essential for the workforce — particularly if students are to grow into leaders in their own right. The pandemic, however, puts principals, superintendents and other leaders in a greater position to provide firsthand examples of what those skills look like in action.

For many district and building leaders, this has ranged from taking part in meal distribution and visiting homes to increasing office hour availability and forging community partnerships around internet access and other resources. On a micro level, as Murray explained to District Administration, it also means examining who is or isn’t involved in extracurricular activities or specific courses, working to understand why, and addressing it.

Alongside the pandemic, a national reckoning on systemic racism and inequality sparked by the police-involved deaths of Black Americans has further ignited recognition of the importance of students seeing both historical figures and fictional characters who look like them in curricular materials.

This, along with seeing adults in the school who look like them, can make a significant difference in a student’s level of engagement, experts agree. Boosting teacher diversity, for examplehas been connected to higher graduation rates, lower dropout and suspension rates, and more interest in going to college for students of color. And White students have also been shown to benefit, as they become more open to talk about bias and racism in class.

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