As the school year in the USA comes to a close, educators in all types of roles are reflecting on the year and its successes and challenges. While there are so many successes each day for educators, challenges and stressors always seem to be the first—and longest—list created. No matter the year, pandemic or no pandemic, educators are always their own hardest critics. Why? Because we want the BEST for each and every child we serve.
In one way or another, teachers are often told to “give more”—more time, effort, commitment, energy… And we do, time and again, because our students and their families count on us, and we are passionate about serving our communities through education. But this endless ask for more has its limits. It ignores our personal and professional well-being. It also ignores the fact that what educators really need are better tools and support, so we can continue to grow our professional expertise and support our students in all the ways that we want to—not only academically, but socially and emotionally, too.
As we look toward the 2022-23 school year, I ask for our education community to reflect deeply, and to look thoroughly at their learning environments:
- What do you see and hear in your environment?
- Is your district/school/classroom community joyful and collaborative, or given more to stress and isolation?
- Do teachers have intentional opportunities to learn with colleagues about how to deliver engaging instruction and relevant learning experiences?
A positive learning environment is key to success for students and families, and for educators themselves. For high levels of growth and learning, our learning environments must be meaningful and fulfilling. In my work as a teacher, instructional coach, and principal, I have found that educators in all roles say “yes!” to opportunities for professional learning and collaboration that support meaningful and fulfilling environments, and that provide strategies and tools to enhance the work they are already doing. We need to find ways to provide educators with intentional, supportive, collaborative learning opportunities that honor professional expertise and provide tools and support to meet the needs of their students.
The Learner First is excited to launch our Contributive Learning series more widely in the USA, giving districts/schools the tools and support they’re looking for to integrate academic and social-emotional learning in ways that empower students and educators. Over the course of six interconnected workshops, teachers learn to create positive learning environments, develop connections with students, and improve academic and social-emotional learning outcomes through everyday lessons designed for the learners in front of them.
Delivering Contributive Learning in schools, I have seen first-hand how teachers implement the process to collaborate and dive deeply into intentional lesson design that is engaging and connected to students’ interests and identities. They are creating positive learning cultures committed to learning and well-being, and to supporting every student to contribute to the world—to make a positive impact, in any moment of the day. By integrating social-emotional learning into curricular learning experiences, teachers are demonstrating measured growth not only in students’ academic performance, but in their levels of self-understanding, connection, and competency as well—the social-emotional outcomes that, alongside academic knowledge, are the components of holistic success and well-being.
What happens when we do this? Students are showing up in classrooms excited to learn, engaged, and empowered. Teachers are eager to teach and collaborate—they are thinking deeply, forming connections with students, and using Contributive Learning tools to bring meaning and purpose to the learning at hand.
“I’m constantly thinking now… I’m trying to be a lot more intentional about how I design lessons. I want to make sure that they’re purposeful, that they’re engaging.”
—Middle School Teacher
“It’s been so powerful… Seeing another side of the students has really ignited the souls of my staff.”
—High School Principal
In schools today, let’s give more to educators—more of what they need to enhance learning and practice, to support every student in every way that they want to, and to find meaning and joy in their everyday teaching. Contributive Learning is an intentional process for every teacher to be creative and collaborative, and to teach in ways that are fulfilling for their students and themselves.