Meghan Mathis

It’s already October, and teachers are getting a true feel for this school year’s biggest challenges. TikTok challenges, anyone? We asked the WeAreTeachers Advisory Board to give their predictions for the remainder of the school year and tell us the biggest issues facing teachers. From critical race theory to mental health and wellness, these are likely to be the biggest issues in education for 2021-2022.

Reintroducing Collaboration Skills

After almost two years of virtual/asynchronous learning, most schools are planning a fully in-person schedule this year. We are likely to find many of our students out of practice with working with others face-to-face. Therefore, one of the biggest issues facing education today will be how we reintroduce and reteach these vital collaboration skills.

Understanding Critical Race Theory

Scroll through your social media feed or check the news outlets, and you’re likely to hear about this issue. Critical race theory has jumped into public consciousness in a big way. A major topic in political debates, it’s certainly going to remain one of the biggest issues in education today. Because of this, teachers will need support in understanding what it is, what it isn’t, and how to talk about it with students and parents. WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member Patty McGee believes that teachers are facing a daunting but essential challenge this school year. “Inequities in our society have come to the surface, and we have the opportunity to repair them as a country. The classroom is one of those places that can aid this repair through healthy, developmentally sound conversations about inclusion.”

Rebuilding Student Stamina

WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member Shannon Webster is concerned about how the hybrid and remote school settings have affected student stamina. “Students have become very accustomed to having someone at home give them immediate direction, correction, and support. I imagine many teachers this year will struggle to reestablish the need to grapple and will have to reignite students’ desire to be empowered by learning.” In addition to fears over “learning loss,” teachers this year are going to be faced with the challenge of how to reacclimatize students to the rigors of the school setting.

Scheduling Time To Reflect

Many districts are rushing to return to normal pre-COVID routines. But if schools bring students back without reflecting on these past few years, we will have lost a great opportunity. One of the biggest issues facing education this year will be finding much-needed time to reflect. The modern educational system has never experienced anything like this before. What have we learned about what works and what doesn’t work for our students during this pandemic? How can we keep the things we know worked for our students and find better alternatives for what didn’t? “If we don’t reflect on the innovative approaches used during and lessons learned from the pandemic and leverage that new knowledge moving forward, we miss an opportunity to make the best of a bad situation,” states WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member C.C. Bates.

Building Meaningful Connections

We know the power of positive face-to-face interaction. Being able to see our students in person this year will definitely be a good thing. But our students are arriving in our classrooms carrying not only their triumphs but also their traumas along with them. WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member Fred Dillon stresses the importance of focusing on what really matters this year. “A big part of helping students move forward is building meaningful connections with them, so they know we value them, their experiences, and their learning.”

Supporting Mental Health and Wellness Needs

As students return, they will bring a wide range of mental health and wellness needs with them. In addition to all of the normal things teachers do in an average school year, one of the biggest issues facing education this year will be how to best address our students’ mental wellness needs. WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member Julie Stern explains how valuable this is for our students and for us. “When teachers practice well-being strategies with their students, everyone benefits. We don’t have to be experts or do anything elaborate. Even something as simple as asking students to take three deep breaths or playing a nature video as students enter our rooms can help boost our moods and health.”

Planning For The Unexpected

We are so ready to “return to normal.” But one of the biggest issues facing education this year will be the knowledge that we aren’t there yet. We may never be. The debates over mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and potential second quarantines loom in the wings as we greet our students and begin the year. WeAreTeachers Advisory Board Member Anthony Kim states, “Our mental models of what school is will shift as macro-conditions from our health to work environments change in coming years. Adaptability is key to supporting our future generation.”

Anthony Kim has been making yearly predictions about education on his blog since 2010. Check out his complete list of predictions for 2021 here.

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