By Patricia Lucas, Spanish teacher at Gateway School
As a teacher of over forty years, I felt I had “seen it all” — every educational trend, methodology, pedagogy, and innovation. This most recent challenge sent this “maestra”, a World Language middle school teacher at Gateway School, into a near free fall. The educational challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic have caught all educational constituents off guard scrambling for the best ways to move forward.
My students’ varying responses to Distance Learning have brought me new insights, unexpected innovation, flexibility and challenges.
It is my belief that the most critical need for all students is to feel valued as members of a school or class community. This can be difficult to achieve through a computer screen particularly for the youngest of our learners or those with specific learning differences or challenges. The innate need for inclusion, self identity, and basic security is all-encompassing to most students. Some say that without the steady maintenance of these vital connections the next epidemic we may face could be the most serious of all, one of mental health.
The well being and feelings of connectedness for our students must be of the highest priority. Ideally, we must tend to this every day, in every class, and at every minute spent in the “on screen” classroom. I am very fortunate that Gateway School subscribes to this philosophy and places it into practice every day.
While learning and skill mastery remain paramount it truly cannot effectively happen without first considering and tending to each student’s social emotional needs. This Social Emotional Learning (SEL) must be firmly in place to nurture the entire class community, foster connectedness and ensure student engagement.
In short these tenants might be prioritized as such:
- Students over Standards
- Compassion over Compliance
- Patience over Procedures
- Empathy over Enforcement
- Grace over Gimmicks
Some may argue that potential delays in curriculum delivery and mastery due to the extra time SEL requires make it too hard to implement. The well being and feelings of connectedness are my highest priorities in order to create the best environment for learning. The above tenants remain key lessons in my curriculum as an educator teaching AND learning in the time of COVID-19.
Patricia Lucas is a World Language educator of over forty years. The past 23 years she has been teaching middle school Spanish at Gateway School in Santa Cruz, CA, the only CAIS accredited school in Santa Cruz County. She has a passion for teaching and learning and credits much of the knowledge she has gained to the hundreds of wonderful students with whom she has worked these many years. Gracias por todo a mis muchos estudiantes estimados!