It’s Been a While…

I have been terrible with keeping up with my blogging this year. If I’m being honest, I have struggled to know what to share or write about. In years past, I naturally wander around my classroom taking photos of all of the crazy awesome things we have going on, and the photos inspire my writing. This year has been so different in that way. With masks and distancing, I have not found as many photo ops this year, which I have found has also affected my writing.

This year has been challenging in many ways. Anyone who knows me and my classroom knows I do not like to sit for long periods of time. I love to incorporate tons of movement into my lessons. I enjoy hands-on activities, team-building challenges, design challenges, drama activities, and anything else to get students thinking, doing, speaking, listening, and working together. Social distancing has made many of these activities and ideas very tricky, and some near-impossible. It has certainly encouraged some creative thinking and problem-solving for all of us.

This year continues to push and pull us in all sorts of directions. I am regularly impressed by the grit and perseverance of my students. The truth is, mindset is powerful. I have found there are two ways to think about a tough situation. You can either think, “I have to…” or you can choose to think, “I get to…”.

I have to limit my lessons to two days per week.
I get to see my students for a full 90 minutes for each day we are together.

I have to stop doing the team-building and hands-on group activities I love doing so much.
I get to be creative and stretch my thinking with how we accomplish certain things this year.

I have to follow all of these strict social distancing protocols.
I get to be part of the solution.

I have to teach 100% virtually this week.
I get to see and talk and laugh with my students in a safe way this week!

What you think about you bring about, and I am choosing to think positively about school. What other choices do we have? This is the only middle school experience these students are going to have, so I am going to bring my best to the table for them, regardless of the circumstances.

We are making it work!

Who’s to Blame?

Today, my classes are reading a short story called Storm Warning in which a young couple with little sailing experience decides to rent out a sailboat to spend an afternoon picnicking on an island outside the harbor. An overwhelmed employee skips a few steps in order to get the sailboat checked out to the couple quickly. A bystander decides against warning the couple of the storm brewing nearby because he figures they probably know what they’re doing.

Their lack of sailing experience, paired with the brutal storm winds and whitecaps, the couple finds themselves in a deadly predicament, unable to find their way back to the harbor. A conflict between the air and boat rescue mission crews causes a fatal accident, as one of the sailers is flown from the boat, never to surface again.

After reading the story, students are asked to think about all characters in the story. There are seven total. Then I ask, “Who’s to blame?” On their own, they ranked the seven characters in order from most to blame to least to blame.

Finally, I removed myself from the discussion and told them to talk about their rankings. The expectation I set for them was that by the end of the discussion, they all needed to have the same exact ranking. So far, I have completed the activity with only one of my five Humanities classes.



  • Initially, students naturally broke into small groups to discuss with a neighbor or two and started to share their choices and reasons. This could have been because some were afraid to share their opinions to the whole group right away. It could be because they recognized the benefit of starting small and transitioning to bigger. Either way, it was fascinating to watch.
  • Eventually, the conversation somehow naturally morphed into a whole-group discussion. It often occurred when one group had a break in the action and overheard a comment from another group they wanted to chime in on. The natural transition was so fun to observe as each small group suddenly turned to join the group as a whole.
  • There were very minimal interruptions. Overall, students were very respectful with their listening and waiting for an open turn to comment.
  • Without prompting from me, students were naturally citing evidence again and again from the story to prove their point and to persuade others to change their rankings about certain individuals in the story. They also often pulled from their own personal background knowledge and experiences to support their ideas.
  • They showed empathy toward various characters at different times throughout the discussion. They often considered how they would feel if put into a similar situation and tried to justify or at least understand the actions of some of the story’s characters.
  • Some students spoke more often than others. Some kept quiet more often than not, but all chose to speak out when they felt compelled to comment. All voices were heard.
  • After not making much progress toward the ultimate goal of matching their rankings, they strategized and decided to reverse their thinking and work their way backwards through the rankings.
  • After about 25 minutes of discussion time, the entire group had a matching ranking they all felt good about.


  1. The ranking the group landed on in the end did not match one student’s original ranking. This means every single student changed their minds at some point during the discussion. This also means they allowed their minds to be changed. By entering with an open mind and truly listening to the voices and opinions of those around them, each of them was swayed at some point throughout the discussion.

    How many adults can say they walk into similar situations in the same way as my students did today? How many adults can say they are open to the possibility of having their minds changed? How many adults can say they are able to participate in a discussion in which people are disagreeing and are able to truly listen to differing opinions without interrupting others involved?

  2. As the teacher in the room, it is so difficult to keep my word and to keep my mouth shut. If I’m being completely honest, I disagree with their final ranking. That’s not the point. In fact, the point really is that there is not one right answer. Every single person in the story carried some of the responsibility.

    When we apply this thinking to current events, as we did at the end of class today, it becomes evident that all of us play a part. The fact is, when it comes to the enduring racism in our country, the current pandemic, the approaching election, you name it, there is not one person to blame, not one person who carries the weight. Each of us carries a responsibility on our shoulders.

  3. To piggyback off of this idea, a final take away for me had to do with my first class’s choice in ranking one particular character from the story. Tom, a fisherman passing by the sailboat on its way out to the ocean, has the opportunity to warn the sailors of the impending storm. Assuming they know what they are doing, he decides not to say anything and goes on with his day.

    Of the seven characters in the story, the students in my first hour class today deemed Tom the third person to blame. This speaks volumes to me. Tom is the only character who is never actively involved in the actual story scenario. He is an innocent bystander who happens to notice something odd and chooses not to say anything about it.

    Third on the list? We all find ourselves in uncomfortable situations in which we are the innocent bystanders on the side. It can be easy to redirect responsibility onto the shoulders of those directly involved. According to my students this morning, though, we all have a responsibility to speak up when we see or hear something that isn’t right.
A Decade of Work — The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign

Tough Conversations

I think we can agree our country is in conflict. That might, however, be all we can agree on. As the political climate intensifies, as we walk through a complicated and confusing pandemic, and as we watch those around us rise in protest, the differing beliefs and opinions among us are many. As a teacher, it is challenging to know what my role is amidst such chaos and unrest.

After the death of George Floyd in Minnesota this summer, when riots emerged around us and social media erupted with negativity, aggression, and hate, my role became clear. We need to learn how to have tough conversations without demolishing every person and relationship in our path. I decided to start with racism.

Let me be clear. As their teacher, I do not ever attempt to impose my own beliefs or opinions on my students. I do not strive to change or alter their ideas. I DO hope to open their eyes and their minds to ideas other than their own, to listen to the words and experiences of other people, and to seek to understand from where others are coming. I encourage them to be willing to change their minds – not to change them. There is a difference.

Since day one this year, I have been prepping my classes for the coming days and weeks where we will be joining in some tough conversations together. We will address certain instances that have occurred in recent days, and we will reflect on events from the past. We will view these incidents from differing perspectives to try to gain insight and understanding, and we will pull from our own backgrounds and experiences to discuss our personal reactions and responses.

In order to get comfortable with the inevitable feeling of discomfort that accompanies these tough conversations, we had to set some ground rules. First, students anonymously shared the fears they had about what could happen while discussing racism together. I encourage all readers to look closely at the lists you see below and ask yourself if you have had any similar feelings in recent months. I have. And I do. I understand the gravity of my role as facilitator of these conversations. I admitted to my students I share similar fears. I worry I will say the wrong thing or that feelings will be hurt. It scares me, but I believe this is why we need to do it.

Next, they anonymously shared what they hope does happen while discussing racism together. Here I urge readers to notice the courage that exists in the words you see below.

Finally, we agreed that setting some group guidelines would be helpful in doing our best to avoid the fears listed while nurturing and encouraging the hopes. Imagine social media platforms in a world where all members were cognizant and mindful of the following guidelines. My students offer hope, strength, maturity, and respect at a time when those traits feel forgotten and misplaced. The future looks to be in good hands.

Grace & Silver Linings

After five full months away, I walked back into my classroom on Monday. It’s funny how some things are like riding a bike (colleague interactions and project planning) while others are not (setting an alarm and sitting on my rump, staring at a screen all day). However, most of us are realizing it’s not a bike we’re riding anymore. We’re riding a roller coaster of new information, new schedules, and new guidelines, and it has not always been easy on the stomach.

I made the poor choice a week or so ago to jump into the rabbit hole of community comments on social media regarding back to school (and fall sports) decisions being made by our district. It’s tough to read accusations and criticisms toward the district for which I am proud to represent. It’s tougher to read accusations and criticisms of teachers who are currently at the whim of all district-decisions. And it’s tougher, still, when you know some of the parents and community members making such hurtful comments.

The thing many do not realize is the amount of work and thought that has been put into every detail and decision made so far. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I do NOT envy anyone in positions with decision-making power right now. No decision will be made without upsetting someone. Though I admittedly do not agree with every decision so far, I do realize and respect the time, energy, and consideration being put into each one.

I also realize how concerned and frustrated and afraid our community continues to be. While some choose to lash out with hurtful words behind the mask of their keyboards, I am trying my darndest to breathe deeply and offer some grace. Those in positions of decision-making power are facing questions and obstacles no one has ever faced before. They are human. They are our neighbors, family, friends. They are doing their best. Which is what we need to do… our best.

As I sit in my classroom in these final days before the school year begins, I have a choice. I can worry about the unknowns. I can panic about preparations. I can fear for the safety of myself and my students and families. I can argue things I know I cannot change. I can cry about not seeing the faces of every student every day.

Or I can look for silver linings. Because there are many.

I get to leave my dining room desk and return to my colorful classroom. I get to see and interact with my students every week. I get to extend and deepen discussions and learning opportunities as we navigate a new block schedule. I get to flex my creativity to create meaningful projects that combine in-person and virtual components. I get to explore profound topics of race, truth, politics, equity, mindfulness, and personal wellness with young, eager minds.

I don’t know much. But I do know exerting energy on the negative stuff is exhausting and drags me down. Putting my focus on the silver linings energizes me and lifts my spirits.

This year will be unforgettable, no doubt. I’m not ready for all that lies ahead, but I’m ready to do my best.



Another year has come and gone. I think we can all agree this was one for the books. As I sit in my new hammock (thanks, Mom), reminiscing over the events of the last 9 months, I find it difficult to believe so much can happen in such a short amount of time. So many  moments. So much laughter. So many life lessons. So much for which to be grateful.

I was able to find comfort in my own rhythm this year, as it was our first year in the ARCTIC Zone where we didn’t undergo many drastic changes. I feel like I am finding my place and purpose better and better each year.

On a personal level, this year will remain close to my heart as the year I watched my dad close his eyes for the final time. The compassion and support received from my students, families, and colleagues was astonishing. Though broken, my heart remains so grateful.

This year provided many opportunities for creativity and growth, especially in its final weeks. Though challenging for all of us to varying degrees, I always try to be grateful for the chance to stretch myself.

Speaking of stretching, the pride I feel in my students’ accomplishments this final quarter is indescribable. The challenges presented were the first of its kind. The grit and discipline displayed by our youth and their families are nothing shy of impressive.

For example, our 8th graders are tasked with a culminating final project of writing and presenting their very own TED Talks. Typically, a live, formal presentation would be made and recorded at the downtown Grand Theater in the final weeks of school, but we all know how that went this year. Rather than ditch the project, we pivoted. Students brainstormed ideas, drafted and drafted, participated in feedback discussions with each other, revised and revised, and finally recorded their personal talks. I can’t lie – many students did not finish. The obstacles presented were too great… this time. But, for those who did make it to the final submit button, the world deserves to hear their voices.

Please take a few minutes to listen to the words of Jack, one of my 8th grade students, in his final ARCTIC Zone project. And then, take a few more minutes to practice your own gratitude.

“A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste”

We had inservice yesterday which allowed opportunity to connect and collaborate with our department colleagues. Though the date for the inservice has been on the calendar all year, the way the day was used was, no doubt, different from the district’s original intent. We began the day with a mini course on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for both students and educators alike. This was followed by small group discussions within our department teams, considering seven essential questions regarding what has happened this quarter and what is to come in the fall.

The first part of our discussion was spent reflecting on how we tackled the sudden school closure and transition to emergency remote learning. Not surprisingly, our conversation included a lot of talk that connected to our early morning course about SEL. The primal needs of our students include safety, reassurance, comfort, and connection. Beyond that, our goal this quarter was simply to motivate, engage, and empower students as best we could.

The remainder of our discussion was spent on determining priorities for the fall, predicting varying student needs after being home for so long. I was sold on the glaring need for personalization in the classroom before we were all sent home. Let me tell you, though – observations of my students and those around me over the past few months has made this even more obvious.

It’s not often everyone in the world is able to experience the same exact phenomenon at the same exact time. I have friends in Australia who are under social distancing restrictions just like we are, and though I know we are facing a pandemic, global in nature, reading their posts on social media that I can so closely relate to, still feels strange to me. It’s affecting us all. And yet, how differently we have each responded.

I see it in myself when I talk to my friends and family. I see it in my students when I connect (or don’t) with them via email or video chats. Everyone is responding in their own ways. Some are riding some awesome highs while others are experiencing some daunting lows. Some you might expect to take it all in stride are struggling while the ones who can’t seem to keep it all together on a typical day are thriving. It’s odd and fascinating, but without needing to understand all of the moving parts that go into what creates a person’s reaction to an experience like this, it reveals one important detail: we are all very different. Our needs are unique to each of us.

Some students will return in the fall (hopefully), ready to take on the world, craving challenge and opportunity. Others will struggle to walk through the school doors. And they might be interchangeable from day to day. But what I have come to realize more than ever is that the reality of this situation has nothing to do with a virus. This is every day. Every day students walk through our doors with differing backgrounds, experiences, hours of sleep, calories consumed, social interactions, you name it. That goes for adults, as well. All students deserve a personalized approach to learning based on the ebb and flow of their wants and needs each and every day.

I just finished my third book of the quarantine called Future-Focused Learning: 10 Essential Shifts of Everyday Practice by Lee Watanabe-Crockett. I strongly recommend it to anyone in education as it not only offers insight into what should be made important in classrooms today but provides numerous activity ideas for immediate implementation.


An idea introduced early in the book is one I have read over and over – that we are no longer living in the industrial age where we are preparing students for a limited number of occupations and societal roles once they graduate. What resonated with me from this book, though, is this: we need to prepare students with just in time learning versus just in case learning.

“For example, they don’t require knowledge just in case they want to become scientists, mathematicians, or historians, but rather they need knowledge that is just in time to give them what they need to continue to do what they are doing in the moment, a moment that may require scientific, mathematical, or historical knowledge.”

I see two things in this quote right now. First, all students do not need to be taught the same exact things in all content areas but instead should be exposed to all areas and able to explore them in their own ways and at their own paces. Second, isn’t the current crisis we find ourselves in the perfect example of just in time brought to life for some businesses and organizations??? Employees all over the globe have had to think on their feet, to creatively problem-solve, to concoct new methods and practices out of thin air to stay afloat in recent months. Look at our local restaurants suddenly advertising on FB live for their curbside pick-ups! Heck, Twitter recently told all of their employees they never have to return to work because they have suddenly realized it can all be done from home anyway!

For reasons related to the virus, school cannot and will not look the same in the fall, but we have an opportunity staring us in the face. When social distancing restrictions are eventually lifted, regardless of how far away that might be, we must move forward. We must look at the personal needs of each individual student and be able to respond accordingly. We must prepare students to problem-solve in real time, just in time, with creativity and diligence. We must make learning future-focused. To quote economist and professor at New York University, Paul Romer, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”





Virtual Film Festival

Though we maintain variety with all other Quarter Projects from year to year, third quarter always remains the same. We challenge students to write, record, and edit a film to enter into our ARCTIC Zone Film Festival Competition. The focus of the film is different each year, but the final product remains the same – a finished film that is judged by a panel of  community volunteers. Judges use a specific set of criteria to narrow the entries down to the top 10 films which are aired on the big screen at Micon Cinemas for families and friends, which is followed by a short award ceremony for the top three film groups.

Like everything else it seems, this year’s Film Festival was impacted by the stay-at-home order. Our final day at school was Monday, March 16th, and the Film Festival viewing was slated to be held that week, Thursday, March 19th. It was a bummer. Students questioned when they would get to see each other’s films. We assumed we would reschedule once this whole thing blew over. Then school was canceled. Yikes.

The restrictions under which we find ourselves have forced many to get a little creative with how they proceed with certain activities or events. We knew we had to find a way to host our Film Festival so we could celebrate and congratulate the hard work and dedication our students put into their film projects this year. So last Thursday evening, over 40 families tuned in to a virtual meeting where we were able to view the top 10 films and announce our winners.


I was happy to be able to give the recognition to those students who earned their spots in the festival, but I was even more proud of how many students and families showed up to celebrate together. During these very strange, uncertain times, it was an opportunity for us to come together in a unique way to share in something that matters – student success.

I’m reminded of a Swedish proverb: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” Let us all find ways to share in joy as we continue to also share the sorrows life is thrusting our way. We stand a better chance together.

If you have 40 minutes to spare, I would strongly recommend you check out our Top 10 Films of 2020. Feel free to offer feedback here or on the YouTube link itself. My students, like all of us, long for acknowledgment, criticisms, and praise. Be well. Share joy.

2020 Film Festival Winners
First Place: Jake’s World Tour (Jack, Oliver, Cameron, Connor)
Second Place: All an Act (Michelle, Cienna, Madison)
Third Place: Addiction (DeShea, Cameron, Isaac)


Choice Boards

It’s always nice to feel validation for the time and energy you’re putting into something. In education, validation can often be difficult to find by looking anywhere other than directly into the eyes of your students, and even then, it isn’t always on the surface. I subscribe to a blog by AJ Juliani, an author in education who I have come to strongly respect and whose opinions always seem to mirror my own. His blog this week highlighted the use of “choice boards” in the classroom and how they “can be an extremely practical way to give meaningful and relevant learning experiences in the midst of emergency remote teaching.”

Boom! What are we using in the AZ right now to further students’ experiential learning while we’re all stuck in our homes? Choice boards! Validation feels good.

We just rolled out our third “Flex Board.” We call them Flex Boards because they’re flexible – students have choice over what they complete. Each board is made of a table of activities ranging in point values from 10 points to 40 points. Lower points = less time/energy/complexity for that task. Higher points = more. They set a “point” goal for themselves to earn within a two-week time period, and they can complete any combination of activities to reach that goal. At the end of the two weeks, they reflect on their achievements and set a new goal for the next two weeks.

We currently have goals ranging from 30 to 150 points. This is personalization at its finest, especially under present circumstances. Some students are motivated and excited to challenge themselves and others are drowning right now. The intent is to help each of them set a reasonable and achievable goal, so they can feel confident and successful under such trying conditions.

All activities on the board relate to a common theme. Our first board’s theme, for example, was COVID-19, so the activities included things like watching and responding to the news, hand-washing experiments, virus exploration, etc. This is our current board surrounding the theme of Wellness: 


Validation also comes in the form of student success. While it can be easy to focus all of your attention on those few students who are not engaging as frequently as hoped, it is SO good to direct your attention to those who ARE. Our second Flex Board theme was Create! Every activity on the board had students designing, building, making, and producing. We try to create (pun intended) activities that will engage students with their surroundings, allow them to explore real-world skills, and promote opportunities for family-time and teaching.

Though many of the activities submitted over the last two weeks were not easily captured in an image, I’ll share some that were.

Some students experimented with wood-working.


Garden Bed


LOVE Blocks


Tech Deck Ramp


Bird House


Coat Rack

Some created 3D dioramas of a historical event. Who was I to say, “No,” when asked if the diorama could be built in Minecraft?


One student is painting his thumb green by growing his own vegetables from scraps in his kitchen.


And MANY students are trying their hands in the kitchen, something I wish I had spent more time doing when I was in middle school.


Egg Bake




Beans and Mashed Potatoes

I see the pictures above, and I feel proud and validated. Our use of these Choice or “Flex” Boards has simplified remote teaching and learning for us, and has provided a great opportunity for personalization across our student population. They offer a variety of activity choices, and it mixes things up every couple weeks as we transition from one board theme to the next. I highly recommend the use of choice boards while teaching from home AND while teaching in the classroom, and I also recommend checking out AJ Juliani’s work.




Room to Grow

Two years ago, a university student spent a quarter of the year observing in my Humanities classroom. He had never before heard of project-based learning and was caught a little off guard upon entering my room expecting an English class. He was very eager to learn about our unique and flexible approaches and enjoyed his time shared with us.

When it came time to teach his one lesson, he was very proud of his plan. He had incorporated drama and storytelling, choice and creation all into one jam-packed creative-thinking design activity. It was my turn to observe, so I sat back and watched. It was a highly engaging activity, and students were excited. All around the room, groups were calling him over to ask if they could do this or that or add in some props or try something like this one thing they saw once. His reply to nearly all questions was, “No.”

When the classroom was emptied of student eyes and ears, I asked him why he turned down so many of the student requests. He didn’t really know why he had except that he hadn’t anticipated many of the questions and didn’t want things to get out of hand. He said, “I just don’t like not having control.” My response?

“How do you think the kids feel?”

Humans yearn for a sense of control in their lives. It’s why so many of us are struggling under our current “safer at home” constraints. The students in our classrooms are no different. Project-based learning can provide students with a strong sense of control simply because they are involved throughout the entirety of the project process. Their voices are included every step of the way. This kind of autonomy in a school setting develops self-confidence, ownership, and independence.

I’m reminded of an idea I read in a book in recent years, though the book it came from is escaping me at the moment. At any rate, the author explains how babies make 0% of their own choices. Everything is decided for them. For safety reasons, it’s the best thing for them at that time. Our society has deemed adulthood to be when a person turns 18 years old, at which point he is responsible for 100% of his own choices. When we look at “growing up” in this way, the author (who I will remember as soon as I publish this post) argues that the job of parents, educators, coaches, and other adults in a child’s life is to prepare students to go from that 0% to 100% in those 18 years with a gradual release of control and independence. In middle school, students are over halfway there.

By handing over a chunk of control to their students, teachers need to be flexible with process and product outcomes. Giving control means giving choice, and students will not all make the same choices regarding their learning environments, processes, or products. That being said, not all students will be able to accept the same amount of control. Some are ready for a lot, while others are not yet equipped for that same amount. It requires a great deal of flexibility, patience, and understanding on the part of the teacher.

One of my favorite recent descriptions about how student differences should dictate the differences in their learning environments and expectations was in a TEDEd Talk delivered by a student named Olivia Chapman in 2017 (check it out!). The talk, entitled Is Equality Enough?brings to light the uncomfortable realization that schools are a great example of negative equality – a spot where equality is not enough but rather equity is what schools should seeks to accomplish.

In her elaborate and eloquent speech, Olivia uses the following metaphor to illustrate the need for equity in schools:

“School is supposed to be a place to learn and to grow, but not all students grow well in the same conditions. Oddly enough, neither do plants. A cactus can store water for long periods of time. It doesn’t need much of any attention, and it is very large and very strong. An orchid, on the other hand, is a small, delicate flower that needs a precise temperature and amount of water in order to survive. So if you were to plant an orchid in the same environment as a cactus and expect them both to bloom, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Likewise, if you plant students in the same classroom environment, and expect them all to flourish, you’ll once again be disappointed. Not taking the time to think about every student as an individual is like telling a flower it’s not beautiful and that it doesn’t deserve to bloom because its petals aren’t the exact same shape or color as all the other flowers. But really, if you think about it, no two children or flowers are exactly alike.”

There you have it. Straight from the heart of a student who is living it. Students, like plants, require differing levels of support and care. There needs to be flexibility in learning environments and expectations based on the individual, not on state and national mandates. We need to foster safe and nurturing, creative and stimulating environments where students are able to grow into their own individual identities, at their own paces. Where they are planted may not fall within our students’ control, but we can offer opportunities for them to flourish and bloom where they are planted.



Unpopular Opinion?

Last week I was worried about a lot of my students. There were some I hadn’t heard from for several days and some who hadn’t submitted anything in weeks. I allowed my worries to get the best of me for a few days, and I’m back to breathing a bit easier again this week. Today I want to focus on the sliver of the student population for whom this whole quarantine thing seems to be working.

Everywhere I look, it seems, there are memes and posts blasted throughout social media describing how distressing and detrimental the switch to distance learning has been for our students’ learning and well-being. It’s true that many, many students are struggling under current conditions due to any number of reasons. And regardless of the student, it goes without saying that all are missing out on very profound social interactions every day we are away. However, what if this sudden shift in learning is exactly what SOME students needed? Let me explain …

After completing our first two weeks of at-home learning, I can name a handful of my current students who are performing better now than I’ve ever seen them perform. Their “assignments” are not only completed on time, but they are done well! For these students, it would seem that being in the comfort of their own homes, distanced from the hustle and bustle of a normal school day environment has served them well. They feel real ownership in how to manage their day and their time, they are more focused and productive when they do choose to work because they are making that choice, and the feeling of pride they encounter when completing a task only inspires a stronger drive for success.

We have another population of students to consider when reflecting about our current learning conditions. Mental health concerns are on an overwhelming rise, and many of our students are included in that rising tide. For some, being at school for a full day does not give them the best chance for success. Though the academic instruction and resources are there, some students are unable to access that instruction due to invisible barriers. The simple act of walking through the school doors is enough to induce genuine physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety or fear for some students. For those whom the building, itself, is the obstacle to accessing learning, this could be an answer.

Though it is not the case for all or even most students, it must be noted that transitioning to distance learning has been a positive change for some. That, in itself, should raise some eyebrows in regards to the day-to-day structures of a “normal” school environment. Could it be that the way classes are currently structured is not suitable for all? Of course they’re not! But why not? And what are we going to do about it?