We asked our school partners what they need this year…here’s what they said.

As an organization that works to support educators and school leaders on everything from leadership development to culturally responsive sustaining practices, it’s critical that we pay attention to what they are paying attention to. In fact, we know that only by listening can we begin to understand the challenges and opportunities that our schools face.

We have three years of operating under COVID-19 behind us; but that doesn’t mean we’re back to normal. It’s kind of like there is no new normal. Schools are often a mirror to society, and we constantly face new issues that affect our broader world: climate change, migrant policies, and poverty and economic security are just a few of the major forces that impact education. Educators are grappling with all of these and more, having to be flexible, innovative, and, most importantly, student-centered through it all.

Here’s what we asked our school partners:

  • What are the social issues or challenges that you face going into the school year?
  • What type of support do you need most this year?

And here’s what we heard:

Kirsy W. Duvergé, Assistant Principal, Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy Bronx, NY:

“One social issue we are facing this year is around the significant increase of newly-arrived students. While these students were welcomed to our school via the registration process, there have been challenges. For instance, the language barriers have unfortunately led to a perception (or maybe more than a perception), that students will only interact and/or respect staff who speak their language. Likewise, veteran staff have expressed feeling either inadequate or ill prepared to respond to and/or educate students who don’t speak English.”

“We need more human resources. It just dawned on us that we have NOT ONE Spanish speaking content teacher! Most of our Spanish speakers are support staff. This is a significant oversight that we are looking to remedy as soon as budgetarily possible. I would also say that we would benefit from professional learning around cultural sensitivity, tone, body language, and how that impacts your approachableness to students from different backgrounds. Of course — shmoney! Funding is always a factor that could support these types of challenges. We could use funding to hire bilingual content teachers to open up a bilingual/dual language program. We could also use funding to either build a PLC program to address ways to ‘be’ culturally responsive both academically and socially emotionally but also to check in with ourselves and reflect on our own biases.”

School leader from an alternative high school in Boston, MA:

“Our students arrive to learn in our community, overcoming a number of obstacles to get here. Mental health remains a primary issue for our young people — still exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are struggling. Limited resources and stigma around treatment remain barriers to addressing the issue. Substance abuse is a coping skill for many around their mental health, and an avoidance strategy for others. Also, many of our communities see violence every day.”

“[Also], technology advancement continues to grow at a rate educators cannot keep up with. AI is becoming a far too common resource for students to complete their school work. Young people are glued to their phones. There is an expectation, post-COVID-19, from students that they should still be able to do their work online, remotely. Students are not engaging in their learning as they once did. Education needs to catch up to technology, and society needs to consider the balance between a reliance on technology and the power of human interaction.”

“We have a tremendously talented team of adults in our program — fully committed, with decades of diverse experience. But, we operate with no budget, and do not have a permanent student support staff on our team. The lack of resources limits the depth of the work we can do. Additionally, [our work] is unique and critical to meet the needs of our students. Systems-level work is needed so folks at the city, state, and national level better understand the work and can support our continued growth.”

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