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As we continue to adjust to this new virtual learning environment, success will depend, to a large extent, on whether we can shift our focus from tactical to strategic. And there is nothing more strategic than school climate. You may feel like you have too much on your plate to worry about school climate right now. But the truth is, school climate is the plate. More than 25 years of research tells us that the climate of a school matters; it literally guides how well almost everything gets done. Positive school climates are characterized by psychological and physical safety, where students feel comfortable expressing themselves, asking questions and taking risks, and educators are free to raise ideas or try new techniques. Having a positive school climate means practicing collaborative decision-making to ensure students’ and teachers’ voices are heard, building connections with the community, delivering excellent academic instruction and supporting the well-being of both staff and students.
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) is calling for the inclusion of a provision in the next coronavirus relief bill to establish a Native American Language Resource Center (NALRC) to support Native American language education schools and programs hit hard by COVID-19. The proposed center would promote best practices in Native American language education; provide outreach to students and families; acquisition of distance learning technologies and training for parents, students, teachers and learning support staff; compile digital libraries and curate other online resources in target Native American languages; develop distance learning curricula appropriate for preschool to PhD levels, pedagogical training for teachers, and other efforts necessary to continue Native American language acquisition among American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
In elementary schools, children got 30 minutes of remote instruction in English and math each day. Teachers were supposed to incorporate language skills into that work, but students missed out on 55 minutes of daily English language development they received before the virus struck. The rapid shift to remote learning forced by the COVID-19 crisis has left the nation’s roughly 5 million English language learners in a precarious position. Many have seen their language instruction shrink as districts balance competing priorities and struggle to connect with students attending school from their living rooms. Schools and districts have largely had to figure out how to meet the needs of English learners on their own.
The coronavirus pandemic and school closures across the nation have exposed deep inequities within education: technology access, challenges with communication, lack of support for special education students, to name just a few. During this crisis, there are still opportunities to provide students with tools to help them be independent learners, according to Zaretta Hammond, author of "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain." Hammond shared three design principles of culturally responsive instruction that can be used to support students’ cognitive development from afar in her webinar, “Moving Beyond the Packet: Creating More Culturally Responsive Distance Learning Experiences.” She said it’s important to stay focused on the student and offer small but high-leverage practices that maintain student progress and increase intellectual capacity during this time. She said these tips and activities also work for students without reliable access to technology and the internet.
The U.S. Department of Education has blocked DACA recipients and other undocumented students from receiving COVID-19 relief money in the CARES Act. Around $14 billion in aid money was given to college campuses from the CARES Act, and nearly half of that money was intended to go to students directly in the form of grants. Several weeks after the bill passed, Secretary DeVos released guidance on eligibility for students in which she stated that students must eligible for aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act in order to receive the CARES Act grants, which excludes DACA recipients and other undocumented students. DACA recipients and other undocumented students may receive future aid, however. The House has included new language to the HEROES Act that would prohibit the education department from imposing the same restrictions if it were to pass through Congress. The new act would only require a student to be enrolled in a college or university to be eligible for assistance.
More than 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma didn’t have much. The tribe suffered devastation starting in 1831, when it became the first of many Native American tribes to be forcibly removed from its homeland in the SoutheasternU.S. Disease, starvation and severe winter weather took the lives of at least 4,000 Choctaws and thousands of other Native Americans in what some historians have called the “Indian Holocaust.” Sixteen years after they arrived in what is now Oklahoma, the Choctaws tried to rebuild their lives. At a tribal meeting, they heard of families struggling to survive Ireland’s infamous Potato Famine. They took up a collection, pooled together $170 and sent it to a group collecting money in New York. Fast-forward to the worst pandemic in modern times: The Irish are repaying the generosity they received two centuries earlier from Native Americans. About 24,000 donors from Ireland have given roughly $820,000 in an online fundraiser operated by Native American volunteers to buy food and supplies for families on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
Educators of English learners (ELs) are teaching remotely all over the globe. Many educators reported on a 20 April #ellchat entitled “Engaging & Supporting Families of ELLs during COVID-19 Pandemic” that their success is dependent on the partnerships they make with the families of their ELs. Without these partnerships, teachers may have difficulty contacting their students and their families or, once contacted, students may not come to class regularly. Here are some ways that you can engage and support the families of ELs.
Mariel Vallano says it’s the honor of her life to teach her seventh and eighth-grade students, young scholars who are now acclimating to their first year in America. But the cruel challenges of coronavirus were never within the realm of possibility for the families Vallano now knows so well, families who were struggling to begin with. She set out on a mission to distribute $100 grocery gift cards to all of her students’ families in Ward 4, with numerous parents’ service jobs slashed and food insecurity a growing threat. Vallano’s GoFundMe page in the weeks since has been supercharged. A fundraising effort that once aspired to approach $2,000 has now surpassed $21,000.
Distance learning during this pandemic has been a learning curve. It’s no secret it has comes with challenges as parents take on a new role as teachers. A Suncoast radio station is helping parents adapt to distance learning with a new educational program for parents and students. Solmart Media and Dreamers Academy teamed up to create “Nuestros Niños” or “Our Children.” It’s a new half-hour weekly program for Spanish-speaking parents. It covers educational topics focusing on the needs of parents who are now involved in distance learning with their children. It allows Spanish-speaking parents to engage in their child's education, while still using their language and upholding their culture.
The Latino Book Review has released a free online archive of English translations of Nahuatl folktales. The stories were translated to English from the native Nahuatl folktales collected by Pablo González Casanova in Cuentos Indígenas, which was published by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The translated stories include titles such as “The Lion and the Cricket”, “The Gardener Child”, “The Maiden and the Beast”, and “The Red Grasshopper”.