Read about burnout, back-up plans, and the surprisingly sweet moments of connection teachers have experienced firsthand in our “Zooming In” interview series. In this series, four teachers share their experiences with internet issues, mischievous cats, taking care of their own children, worries about disengaged students, and overcoming new challenges.
Dezere is a language arts teacher in southeast Ohio; she teaches in Meigs county but lives in a bigger city outside the district. It’s been a unique challenge reaching kids who live far out in rural areas, and at first, the district was “blindsided” by the initial adjustments to the pandemic. In her own words, Dezere says she learned that “my job’s harder than maybe even I gave myself credit for...I recognize now that I’m more than just a teacher,” citing times when students showed up for online sessions just because they missed seeing her. Throughout the experience, Dezere has learned new ways to cope and had new opportunities to stretch problem-solving muscles.
One of the biggest challenges for Dezere has been making sure the students she’s not in contact with are able to receive an equitable amount of work: about 50% of her students have not been able to get onto the online learning platform, and for many, it’s because of socioeconomic status. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the school tried to purchase hot spots, but wasn’t able to distribute them. Instead, teachers have had to come up with an alternate curriculum for students who can’t access a reliable internet connection. The district has also reached out to community facilities like churches, some of which have opened up their parking lots for students to use WiFi from laptops and tablets in their cars. The other side of this challenge is “the teacher worry. They’re my kids and I haven’t heard from them.”
Through Google Classroom, Dezere has been holding Google Meet sessions throughout the week that serve as office hours for academics as well as morning sessions where the class plays a game or has a discussion to work on social and emotional learning. She uses Google Stream for students to discuss the books they are reading through comments. One of the things Dezere hoped her students would understand is that the online classroom can still be engaging and that those connections don’t just go away when they’re not in the classroom. Dezere was pleasantly surprised that she has been able to maintain some of that energy and community; she was feeling pretty negative at first while making her lesson plans, but her students have proven to be very resilient. She says, “I still feel a good sense of joy and connectedness with my students that I didn’t expect to feel through this.”
While Dezere is grateful to work in a profession that allows her to work from home, that comes with a lot of other mixed feelings. She spent her last day with her students unaware that it would be their last day together; that she wouldn’t be able to give her students one last hug or help them clean out their locker. “Those are the things that make me sad. You know, you work with these kids for a whole year and you rely on those ceremonies and rituals to really feel like you can let them go off to the next grade level, and so there’s like a sense of unfinished-ness.”
One of the most surreal but memorable moments of this experience was the dog running in while she was helping a student, giving them a good laugh together. “It’s weird to see these two worlds come together...and that’s okay that these two worlds are together right now and they’re functioning and they’re working.” Some of the challenges of teaching online have turned into great opportunities: the reading fair that Dezere organizes every year was successfully shifted to an online platform, and she was impressed with the websites some of her students built.
On her biggest worry or fear during the coronavirus pandemic, Dezere said, “I think that this event, this piece of history that we’re all living through right now is going to change so much more than just the here and now. I don’t think it’s going to be something where it’s over and we’re back and everything’s normal. And I worry about that. I worry that this is going to shift our routines and what school looks like.” She and her fellow teachers are exploring the different ways they might have to adapt their classrooms in the fall and waiting for Ohio Department of Education to provide some direction. Overall, she worries that things might never be the same and the kids might never be the same.
Erin is a 7th grade math teacher in a rural school district in northeast Connecticut with all pre-k through 12 students on one campus. Most students in her area have internet access, but don’t have enough bandwidth to use video on zoom calls. While everyone in her small, tight-knit community is missing their end-of-the-year festivities, they are working together to find alternative ways to celebrate their students and say goodbye for the summer. For instance, parents have started a Facebook page to “adopt” high school seniors, and send them gift baskets. They are planning two end-of-the-year parades for elementary-middle school teachers and high school seniors.
Erin wants administrators and parents to know that even though each teacher will find different solutions for remote learning, they are all giving it 100%. Her math team came up with an ambitious plan they wanted to share with the other teachers, but when their principal told them to “slow down,” they realized that teachers with their own children would have a harder time implementing it. (No one on the math team has their own kids.) According to Erin, “What you’re seeing is teachers working harder than they’ve ever worked before because they had to recreate everything. We’re all working like we’re first-year teachers again.” She also mentioned one science teacher at her school reading passages out loud and recording them for students who have trouble reading.
“This is stuff teachers do all the time anyway,” Erin said, “but it’s just even more outside the box now because you don’t have the things you bought from the teacher catalogs in your classroom.” Using a whiteboard app to see students’ math work in real-time has been extremely useful, but teaching geometry remotely has posed its own unique challenges, especially since Erin left about half of her supplies at school. So far she has improvised to teach volume by layering crochet squares on top of each other and pouring water dyed green with food coloring into different shaped containers. Her students had a good laugh when her cat Thaddeus started drinking and playing in the green water.
Breaking up the monotony and making each day different and exciting has been another challenge. Giving students options is important to Erin; she knows that many of them don’t like to see themselves on the screen, so she records her lessons and also teaches live. One day when she was feeling sad, she wore a Ninja Turtle outfit to all of her classes, much to the delight of her students. She’s using a “penguin cup challenge” to keep them connected and interested in school; they earn penguin points for participating in selfie challenges, doing acts of kindness, and trying other silly activities.
Not seeing her students’ faces has been the hardest part of remote learning for Erin. “There’s so much that a face can tell you,” she said, remembering a student in her class who seemed a little off. When she asked what was wrong, she learned that the student’s family had to put their dog down the day before. She laments that teachers have lost the ability to innately know what their students are going through, or at least know when to ask. She has noticed that her kids aren’t counting down to summer the same way they usually do, and she worries about how they will stay happy and engaged over the summer. However, she’s observed that “the kids are more resilient, I think than we are, and so we’re always worried about their health, their mental health, and they’re just like ‘aah, I didn’t do my work!’”
Erin points out that teachers are planners and ultimately concerned with their students’ safety, so not having a plan to keep their kids safe has been really troubling: “Ask any teacher their plan for an intruder and holy crow do they have one. And they’re creative and they’re crazy, but the teacher knows exactly what they would do. And so it’s like situations like this--I don’t know yet what we’re gonna do.”
In preparation for next fall, the 7th grade team is working on transition videos to welcome incoming 6th graders, and teachers will hold office hours for their incoming students before school is out. Depending on what happens in the fall, Erin thinks that meeting students for the first time online will look very different. Right now she can hear her students’ voices through their chat messages, but it won’t be easy to get to know new students virtually. She will have higher expectations for digital participation if that’s the case. If they do go back to school, that will look different too; it’s going to be hard not to give hugs. She adds, “I just think it’s going to be very strange, no matter what happens.” Erin still hasn’t figured out how to handle the last day with her own students, and she’s not looking forward to cleaning out her classroom; “I think there’s still boxes of tissues and chocolate in there, so I’ll be alright.”
Joe is in his 13th year of teaching and has two kids of his own. He was AMLE’s teacher of the year last year and Pennsylvania’s teacher of the year for 2020. Living and working in the same space with no commute to “change gears from teacher to parent” has left Joe with less time to recharge, which sometimes leads to feelings of burnout. He reflects, “I’m just kind of like this dad-teacher-guy right now for my own kids.” When new opportunities come up, Joe asks himself “Can I sustain this and make it meaningful for the audience it’s going to, for myself, for my family, and for my students?” He stresses that content is a secondary worry for educators compared to students’ well-being and a feeling of connection with them. During our interview with him, Joe could see bubbles floating past his window from his kids playing outside.
Joe has heard from a lot of other teachers that they feel like they have never worked harder, but he thinks a big factor in that exhaustion is the delay in feedback: as teachers build up their learning environments in person, they are able to see instantly what’s working and what’s not working for their students. However, in the virtual classroom, that feedback takes longer to come through, and it can be draining.
In response to some headlines he has seen that suggest remote learning practices should be used to save money, Joe warns that “there is nothing that will ever replace a face to face interaction.” Of course, there are some aspects of remote learning that will be adopted going forward because they have real advantages in the classroom. But he notes that “nothing replaces a fist bump in the hallway” or a smile and a “good morning.” As a parent and an educator, Joe believes that authentic face-to-face interactions are vital to any school environment. “I can see a reaction in my own daughter’s eyes when she has something that’s from a book publisher, and then when she hears her own teacher talking through a lesson—completely different reactions.” Another thing Joe has learned during this experience is how important a teacher’s voice is to their students. While we may joke about using “teacher voice,” students do feel comforted when they hear their own teacher’s voice.
One of the advantages of remote learning that Joe has observed is making materials available for students to access all the time. His students have really enjoyed the flexibility to work on their own schedule, but there’s a negative side to that as well: both students and teachers can feel like they need to be “always-on.” According to Joe, “It’s kind of a double-edged sword from a mental health standpoint, from both sides.” Some parents and families are more hesitant to engage with virtual meetings and technology, and balancing between the active families and those who are less engaged has been a big challenge.
Another positive thing Joe has observed is that virtual meetings are opening up new possibilities for efficiency. For instance, using a zoom webinar for morning announcements could allow the entire school to “visit” each classroom and create a sense of community at the beginning of the day, and some short in-person meetings could be held virtually to save time.
Joe’s administrators have been really supportive and understanding. They recognize that, much like the students, every teacher is coming into this with their own situation at home and their own strengths. For instance, while one teacher may be really comfortable with calling students on the phone every day, another teacher might make really great videos for their class instead. He views remote learning as an opportunity to highlight those differences and individual talents while allowing teachers to be leaders for others with similar talents.
While Joe believes this situation has been traumatic for his students, the feeling he’s experiencing himself is a sense of grief. “You get so used to these months, and this is when students, interpersonally—they blossom. This is when that trust that you've developed as a class all year, really, it’s almost indescribable to convey how students...open up, and you have that family now.” Having grown closer over the past several months, Joe and his students are trying to recreate their end-of-year traditions and celebrations, but he recognizes that they are not the same. The challenge here is to figure out how to honor those traditions that have been lost while still moving forward and focusing on the future. Having a lot of extra time to think right now has been good in some ways and dangerous in others. Moving forward into the summer, he worries about students feeling alone or isolated, dealing with difficult questions, and ultimately remaining engaged when there’s no routine.
Surprisingly, an online game night with his academic team, their families, and their students that had nothing to do with school was the most normal they had all felt in a long time. “When it boils down to what makes effective teachers effective, it’s that...when you can emotionally connect on some level with a student and make them feel welcome, and you’re basically dropping all of those protective barriers...there’s the adage don’t let the student see you smile until after the new year; I don’t subscribe to that. But you are shedding that guard completely.” Joe felt that seeing the inside of his students’ homes (and vice-versa) helped them connect as people with real emotions outside their roles as teacher and student. Joe has been amazed at the resiliency of some of his students remaining engaged while fighting their own battles: “I know they’re at home and their parents are both essential workers, yet they’re staying right there with you. They’re in every Zoom call, they are smiling, they’re still bringing energy.”
Kristen is an English teacher in a low-income school district outside Cleveland. She is in her 4th year of teaching and has an 18 month old daughter. “I've seen a lot of…’why are we still paying the teachers?’ online,” Kristen said, “and that’s really discouraging because we’re putting in so much time and effort, so I hope they know that...we’re not always going to get it right, but we’re not going to give up.” Kristen wants parents and the broader country to know that educators are trying as hard as they can to make this as seamless as possible for the students. Her message to them is that “We’re all in this together like everybody keeps saying, and we’re still going to show up no matter what.” This experience has taught her a new level of patients for parents, students, administrators, and colleagues.
The biggest challenge for Kristen has been continuing to connect with students when she can’t see them everyday. Collaborating with other teachers throughout the transition to remote learning has been extremely helpful. As an English teacher, she has surprised herself a bit with her own ability to pick up new technology and use it to recreate her lessons online. However, assigning work on Google Classroom does not carry the excitement that passing out physical assignments or talking through them together in person does. Not being able to physically see her students means she can’t really tell if they are following along and understanding the lesson at hand, which has contributed to a feeling of burnout, and when the “aha” moments do happen on Zoom, they are not as satisfying.
These feelings come in waves for Kristen: “Some days I feel more helpless than other days. I feel happy that we are moving into the summer, but at the same time I feel nervous and worried for my students, that I haven’t been able to give them a proper goodbye. And kind of just unsure of the future.” She hopes her students know how much their effort is appreciated. So many of them have been very patient and dove in head first with new programs, which she is thankful for. “Some of these students are doing better online than they were in the actual classroom,” Kristen said, “and it just kind of shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all for education.” It’s always a pleasant surprise when students who didn't “show up” in the classroom show up for class online.
Thinking ahead to this summer and what things will look like when school starts up again in August, Kristen is worried about the emotional trauma her students will continue to experience and their physical appearance and well-being: “Teaching in a low income district, my biggest worry and fear is that my students are going to come back weighing less, with lower self esteem because oftentimes we were their safe haven.”
Kristen hopes her administrators know how hard it’s been for teachers to balance family, teaching, grading, and still turn the computer off at night. She shared a story about one morning when she had 15 minutes to get her daughter changed, fed and put down for a nap before a Zoom call and got it all done in a mad scramble. She keeps her daughter entertained during staff meetings at home by watching a lot of Fancy Nancy on Disney Channel.
Middle school teachers navigating online teaching in the time of COVID-19
In March 2020, most school districts in the US moved to fully online instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this radical and unprecedented change, middle school teachers have had to adjust to the challenges of teaching young adolescents online, and meeting the needs of students who are developmentally “in the middle.”
Here we describe the efforts of two middle school teachers, Ariana (science) and Gina (math), to take their teaching online. When schools went online, Ariana and Gina began journaling weekly to document changes to their instruction, their concerns about their students, and their own feelings about this dramatic change to their teaching. The essay is organized around the essential attributes of middle level education as outlined in This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents; successful online schooling for young adolescents must be developmentally responsive, challenging, empowering, and equitable. Within each section, we draw from Ariana and Gina’s journals to provide examples of how some teachers are addressing these attributes.
Online Education for Young Adolescents Must Be Developmentally Responsive
Middle school is a crucial time in an adolescent’s development, and one’s middle school experience can have a dramatic influence on their future learning trajectories. In moving instruction online, Ariana and Gina reflected on the ways in which they worked to be developmentally responsive before the change and took action to figure out how to maintain these practices in an online environment.
For Ariana, an important part of being a developmentally responsive teacher is understanding where students are and how to get them where they need to be. Before the pandemic, she relied on classroom discussions to involve students in discourse around science topics, both for checking understanding and establishing norms for sharing ideas. With the switch to online learning, Ariana felt she lost the opportunities for exchange of ideas that she valued. One way to support discourse is through synchronous video class meetings, but relying too heavily on synchronous meetings can be inequitable. Challenging herself to find a solution, Ariana found Padlet, a virtual bulletin board where students can post audio, text, or video. Students can comment on their classmates’ ideas, and a discussion can occur in real time as students participate from their own computers. Ariana found it useful to encourage discourse between her students, and reading their ideas helped her make decisions about how to plan online meetings and lessons.
Gina also used technological tools to advance her teaching while still attending to her students’ developmental needs. She notes that for many adolescents, pre-algebra and algebra appear as a challenging new language. Asking middle school students to use new language for mathematical reasoning online calls for a teacher who anticipates these challenges and creates an environment in which students feel comfortable learning new things. Gina provided her students with a weekly video in Screencastify in which she guided students through the outline of the lesson and created short instructional videos on math content. She found that students began to anticipate the video as part of their new weekly routine. As a developmentally responsive middle school teacher, Gina recognizes young adolescents seek structure, especially during a time when their routine is disrupted.
Online Education for Young Adolescents Must Be Challenging
Young adolescents are rapidly developing intellectually and are increasingly prepared to grasp more complex ideas. Middle school teachers who understand this develop challenging lessons and engage students in active learning.
Stereotypically, active learning in science is associated with “hands-on” learning, which is difficult in an online environment. But the key to active learning in science is what students do with their minds more than what they do with their hands. Ariana engages students in wondering about everyday phenomena and using what they know to construct scientific arguments. She begins with a warm-up question through an asynchronous discussion board format where students can respond to the question and others’ ideas. In a recent lesson about human impact on the environment, the students were asked to describe what materials make up a Happy Meal™. After they shared their own ideas and responded to others’, students read an article explaining the natural resources that go into making fast food. While reading, they are challenged to make a list of all renewable and non-renewable resources used. Ultimately, students are asked to write an argument to address whether making a Happy Meal™ is good or bad for the environment using a graphic organizer for developing arguments. Students develop a claim, drawing on evidence from the video, and justify it using the evidence and scientific principles. This asynchronous background work sets the stage for a synchronous class in which students present and critique others’ arguments.
Gina recognizes that both mathematical language and concepts can be challenging and that students need opportunities to confront these challenges, particularly as the language and concepts become more abstract in algebra. Gina values rigor and believes online instruction must create a balance so students can feel confident about the content and challenged through productive struggle. Gina gives students opportunities to explore math concepts synchronously through class discussions and asynchronously using videos, images, and interactive programs such as Desmos and Geogebra. She sets the tone in synchronous meetings for students to discover mathematical concepts through their own exploration, peer collaboration, and discussion.
Online Education for Young Adolescents Must Be Empowering
Early adolescence is a time of uncertainty with respect to self-confidence, peer relationships, and independence. The social isolation and disruption of routine that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly challenging for students who are developing quickly. Empathetic middle school teachers attend to their students’ socio-emotional development even in online environments and work to help their students imagine and construct their own future learning trajectories.
Ariana has found that the switch to online learning has been empowering for many of her students. As students take more responsibility for their learning, they are accountable to log in to the learning management system and complete assignments; there is really no way for the teacher to continuously remind all of her students. This level of responsibility, while potentially empowering, can be overwhelming for a student. To help support them, Ariana’s school created an “Online Agenda Book” that students can use, which gives them instructions for each day of the week. Ariana models the use of this resource with her classes in synchronous meetings and schedules individual meetings when students need more help organizing. This resource creates a structure that makes the organization of students’ time and work manageable. In the past, structures in the school have served this purpose. In the absence of school structures, but with adequate support, Ariana has found that students can become empowered to take control over what and how they learn.
Gina agrees that in this difficult time, students have learned a great deal about their own learning preferences, work ethic, motivation, and organization. Students do not usually have to fully utilize these skills until higher grade levels, but Gina sees her students doing it. During synchronous meetings, she continues to encourage students and congratulate them for handling the work for all of their classes. To Gina, a large part of empowering students when so much has been disrupted is finding ways to show she cares. She uses online platforms to keep in touch with students and their families, and she works with parents to help them assist their children.
Online Education for Young Adolescents Must Be Equitable
This We Believe calls for creating a classroom environment that is equitable for all students. The move to online instruction creates additional challenges for equitable education. While most students have access to computers or smartphones, Ariana and Gina teach in a large, diverse public school district, and some students lack the crucial time, flexibility, and resources that others have. Some may not have dependable Internet connectivity, and in some families there is only one computer or smartphone that has to be shared. In some cases, students have increased responsibilities at home and may have to help younger siblings with their schoolwork. Some may even have ill family members. Of the AMLE essential attributes, Ariana and Gina agree that creating equitable instruction online provides the greatest challenge. We assert that the pandemic, and the accompanying changes to teaching and learning, calls us as educators to be more attuned and empathetic to the diverse needs and challenges our students and their families face. This is a time that calls for maximum flexibility, and Ariana and Gina have worked hard to provide a variety of ways to engage students in challenging learning, communicate with students and families, and allow students to produce and submit assignments through diverse means. Great middle school teachers are understanding, empathetic, and flexible. The challenges of teaching online during the COVID-19 pandemic have reaffirmed for Ariana and Gina what they value as teachers and has provided valuable insight that will help them and other teachers meet the needs of young adolescents in a rapidly changing world.
Daniel M. Levin is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park, specializing in science education, teacher education, and middle school teaching and learning.
Ariana Lulli is a sixth grade science teacher at Parkland Middle School in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland.
Gina Ethe is an eighth grade mathematics teacher at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland.
J. Elisabeth Mesiner is a doctoral student in science and mathematics education in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland College Park. She focuses on middle school mathematics and science teaching and teacher education.
Consider the connection to equity when asking or requiring students to have their cameras on
Sustainably and systemically focusing on equity (everyone gets what they need), diversity (the combination of people of different backgrounds), inclusion (everyone is invited in and feels they belong), and justice (breaking down the barriers between groups) is a challenge for most schools. The addition of COVID-19 magnifies this difficulty causing many teachers and school administrators uncertainty as to how to meet educational and equity needs at the same time.
I believe students need to be seen and heard in their classrooms, and schools are tasked with helping them learn to use their voices and become visible in ways that work for them. With COVID-19, we find ourselves needing to be differently mindful of students and to be sure to see and hear our teachers.
Emily Style writes "education needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected" (Curriculum As Window and Mirror, 1996).By continually asking ourselves to view each decision through the lens of equity, we are better able to make decisions in a multi-faceted way, providing both windows and mirrors.
When considering equity questions, I remind myself to recognize, acknowledge, know, remember, understand, ask, share, and apply. Putting this framework into practice, let's briefly address a commonly asked question “How is asking students to have their cameras on during class connected to equity? We just want to be sure our students are paying attention.”
- Recognize your limitations. Even the most engaged teacher or administrator cannot recognize and plan for every inequity. While knowing this is true, it is equally important to think about it as the beginning rather than the end of the discussion highlighting the necessity of our ongoing learning about our biases, including multiple points of view in decisions and creating an atmosphere of openness to learning more.
- Remember, we are in each other's homes without an invitation, permission, or a conversation ahead of time. Liza Talusan, Ph.D., a strategic consultant, and educator working a webinar about this topic offers, "For many, a home is a private place, separate from work, school, and life outside of its doors. Yet, virtual learning thrust teachers, leaders, coworkers, and peers into this private space. With a focus on content, curriculum, meetings, delivery, and engagement, the boundary between home and 'outside of home' quickly became blurred with little to no regard for how this boundary-crossing impacts the environment."
To get the school going as quickly as possible we often missed the step of discussing how we enter each other's spaces. This intrusion into each other's most intimate areas is exposing to students, parents, and teachers and creates a sense of vulnerability. Seeing into each other's spaces can also give the false sense that we know each other better, which may be true of some and is probably more true for those whose circumstances at home are not a source of discomfort, embarrassment, or judgment.
- Consider the experiences of all. Think of a student turning the camera off because she watches her siblings while her mom, as an essential employee, goes to work at the grocery store. Imagine a teacher who doesn't feel supported at school for being open as a gay man and whose home is his place to be his authentic self. Should he ask his husband not to get a snack while he is teaching because the kitchen is also the classroom? Consider the student attending a private school on financial aid who does not want his classmates to know his family's socioeconomic status. Remember the students with insecure or no housing and those who don't have computers or wi-fi.
- Know that feeling exposed raises anxiety. Increased levels of anxiety make make learning, teaching, parenting, and deciding much more difficult.
- Remember the normal. Even when students are physically in our classrooms, we aren't always able to tell if they are paying attention.
- Understand that having cameras on or off is not the most critical factor in this scenario. It is a decision schools can make quickly and uniformly if they choose to do so. To be equitable, we need to be asking other questions such as:
- How do we--and how should we--talk about equity in our schools?
- How do we create space for our school community to share their experiences comfortably?
- How do we listen to and respond to the experiences of our school community members?
- Share with students your desire to teach them with a foundation of equity and partnership. Create student communication avenues such as surveys, email, and time after class to share their individual needs.
- Apply the information gathered from the previous questions. Ask students how they can demonstrate their engagement with or without a camera. As we consider this transition, Talusan asks, "How did schools and organizations pay attention to the boundary-crossing that occurred during this time? What might schools and organizations do to engage in more culturally aware and responsive ways of entering into the home?" Administrators can ask teachers to share what has worked and what hasn't in their student, parent, and coworker interactions. Teachers can ask students what is working for them and what isn't in classrooms.
In graduate school, I learned about systems theory. In brief, systems theory is the belief that organizations are like organisms changing as circumstances change. One tenet of systems theory is that active organizations must "pay attention to the external environment and take steps to adjust itself to accommodate the changes to remain relevant. " (from Five Core Theories -- Systems Theory--Organisation Development). If we consider schools as organisms, they too will have to change with the lessons learned during COVID-19. I hope one change will be viewing the experiences of students and teachers through the lens of equity. And it's not too late to do so now. We rushed to teach online and through packets as quickly as possible and did so for the best of reasons to continue educating our students, and we have already seen many adaptations to our environment. For example, many teachers see a need to reduce the amount of time they are spending teaching and increasing the amount of time with students working together. We can message to our communities a plan to be more firmly rooted in equity and recognize that often when inequities occur, they are unnoticed by those in the decision-making process. The goal is to create systems of communication of proactive education for students, professional development for teachers, and training for parents to create systemic and sustainable support for equity for all.
Jen Cort worked as a counselor, principal, and senior administrator for 25 years before moving to consulting for schools on equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice. Jen is the host of a podcast called Third Space with Jen Cort.
Advice from an online teacher
When you tell your friends you teach middle school, do they cringe and follow with “It takes a special person to teach middle school”? Or, if you are from some areas of the south, you get a “Bless your heart.” Well, they are right! It does take someone who is willing to be a little weird and a little cool. It takes a teacher who wants to come out of their comfort zone and be vulnerable. A middle school student can see right through you and your authenticity, and this is true even in an online environment!
As the majority of middle school teachers across the world have had to become online teachers practically overnight, I thought this was the perfect time to share some of what I have learned through my experience as a fully online teacher. I realize it is not the same as your challenging situation may be because I have had time to plan and prepare lessons and resources I need each day, but I hope the advice and resources I can offer will be helpful.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching seventh grade math virtually for four years, and I can tell you that teaching middle school students online takes even a little more finesse than my years in a face-to-face classroom. My students are the tech gurus, but they don’t know how to access your Google classroom. They can record themselves all day on TikTok, but they don’t know how to download a document. They can watch YouTube videos for hours, but they get bored a few minutes into a teacher-created video. So, how do you keep them engaged, learning, and begging for more?
Here are a few simple tips:
They want to know you are listening to them. They want to know you can “see” them through the computer. They want positive affirmations when they do well, and they want to know you see them when they are not working. They want to know they matter. So, how do you pay attention to all of your students? This can be challenging! Each week, I start by calling my failing students. I open their grades and go through their work with them on the phone. Then, they can re-submit and correct work. They can also hop into my virtual office on Zoom where I pull up assignments, write on a whiteboard and actually see their face. Each Friday, I send out texts and emails with positive affirmations to students who have submitted their work or done something I can praise them for! Students love to show their families these texts and emails. It gets their weekend started off right! If you have a class reward system, award them points. Class Dojo is a great site where you can input your students’ names and award them points. My students work HARD for those Class Dojo points. You may need to change the rewards to something you can do virtually. They can redeem them for extra credit, being me for a day, picking a song before you start your lesson, and a variety of other rewards.</e,>
Make it fun!
Create interactive and engaging lessons. Play games with your students during the lesson! That’s right...even when teaching new content! Sometimes it may feel easier to deliver the content, model the problems, and let students practice. But, what if you played games while you were teaching the lesson? My top favorite games to play with my students are Pop the Balloon, Whole-Class Escape Rooms, Connect Four, and using a board game (either in PowerPoint or physically showing one with my camera). The students are engaged and learning. They want a turn to play and will do just about anything for a chance to “pop” that balloon! See below for quick videos on how to incorporate these into your classroom immediately.
Although much of your recent online work may be asynchronous due to varying schedules of your students’ home situations and perhaps sharing of devices, it really can help you connect to your students to offer some live instruction. I challenge you to give some of these synchronous lessons a try. These fresh experiences might be just what your students need to keep them motivated through the end of the year.
Another way to make it fun is to have a class party. We have a party every month where we showcase student talents, play music or games, etc. Since I teach online all year, once a month works great for my team. If you are doing distance learning for a short time, maybe you do something fun on Monday to start your week out strong or maybe you do something on Friday to end on a good note. Some fun party ideas are:
Student DJ Party Students send in songs and vote on which ones to dance to. Encourage cameras to be on! Remind them of dancing etiquette and appropriate clothing.
Student Spotlight Have students send in a slide with fun facts about themselves, but no pictures. Students must guess who the mystery person is on each slide. Throw in one about yourself! You and your students will learn so much about each other. I am always surprised at how much they already know!
Themed-Out Parties Pick a fun theme and do everything around that theme. For example, a virtual SNOW party! We had a virtual snowball fight by throwing paper at our cameras. It sounds silly, but the laughs that came out of that moment were priceless. We included winter-themed crossword puzzles, word searches, coloring pages, and more. What theme would you want to do?
Student Talent Show Students video themselves performing their talent and then show them one by one during the show. You would be surprised what some of your students’ talents are. Students love it! We recorded it and sent it out to families to watch later as well. *Make sure when students send in that they are giving permission to send out later.
Keep it simple.
Take a look at what you’re having students do each week. Are you having them log onto several platforms to complete work? Are they struggling with their usernames and passwords? Look at your current set up and see what’s working and what’s not. The fewer logins the students need, the less frustrated families and teachers will feel. I also suggest reaching out to other teachers. Collaborate with them on the platforms they are using as well. For example, for a couple of years I tried different scheduling platforms for my calls with families. There are five other teachers on my team. Since we all share the same students, we decided to use the same platform for scheduling calls. Our families really appreciated this! It made it simple for them, and I had a much better turnout of families making appointments. This significantly reduced the time it took to track down students.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
We tell students all the time to step away from the computer, but I can never remember to eat lunch! Make sure you are stepping away. Move around, go for a walk, cook lunch, or make a phone call to a friend. I set a timer when I need to get up and move around. This allows me to take care of myself without losing track of time. When I come back to the computer, I’m a much happier person and can handle situations better. Set office hours and stick to them. Do not work outside those hours and encourage your teammates to do the same. Parents will get used to receiving immediate responses. You have to protect your personal time as well. It can wait until the morning, I promise. Working from home can be hard because your computer is always there. Make sure to shut it off and put it away. If you work out of an office, shut that door at the end of the day and don’t go back in! It took me a long time to get good at this. But I am a better teacher, wife and mom when I set a schedule and stick to it.
No one knows for sure when this new reality of online teaching in a time of COVID-19 will end for good, but I hope that you have learned some tricks and tools that you may be able to implement even when you are not able to physically have your students in your classrooms. In the meantime, every day will not be perfect. It takes practice and routine to get online teaching down and even then, one setback can derail an entire day. One minute you may feel like a rock star, and the next minute you might be downing a bag of candy. Take some deep breaths and know that you can do this. You are a teacher. Keep showing up for your students. Keep doing your best. I know you are.
Melissa Martin currently serves as a middle school math teacher and content lead for Florida Virtual School. She was recently named 2020-2021 Florida Virtual School’s District Teacher of the Year.
Stacie K. Pettit, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the College of Education at Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia. She is also a proud first cousin of Melissa Martin.
The final weeks of the school year are full of bittersweet reflection on special memories and mixed feelings about the year to come. Students come together to say goodbye to their classmates for the summer, the first step in preparing themselves to come back to new teachers in the fall. For those beginning and ending middle school, it’s the start of an important transition and entirely new school experience. Underneath the outward excitement about warm weather, free time, and family vacations, the students process their hopes and fears for the coming months together, building strong friendships and opening up to new experiences.
Students making the transition into and out of middle school face the reality that they are leaving behind many of their friends and familiar routines and expectations. Things are going to be different, but they don’t entirely understand how. End-of-year celebrations and gestures of recognition usually provide some closure and give students an extra nudge forward into their next phase of education—but not this year. Some students will end their elementary school journeys, and eighth graders will finish middle school at home in front of a computer, if they have access.
As we wrap up our final units and communicate with students and their families about our schools’ plans for ending the academic year, we must take extra care to recognize the big transitions our students are making and express an understanding that they will need extra guidance and support. In AMLE’s position paper on the transition into and out of middle school, we emphasize that the transition to a new school is a process that takes place over time, not all at once during a ceremony or the first and last days of school. While some of the activities that make up your normal transition program will be more difficult to facilitate as a large group, the key factors at work are still there and still need to be addressed. It’s a good idea to review the procedural, social, and academic changes your students will be going through and work with other staff to share the responsibility of preparing students to transition while learning from home.
The biggest challenge of ending the middle school year remotely will be to establish relationships with incoming middle schoolers--who ended the year under traumatic circumstances and without typical preparation for middle school--and make more space for eighth graders to prepare for the transition to high school. They will need extra support with navigating their new school and space to voice their feelings about the upcoming transition to teachers, mentors, and each other. With communication and teamwork, school leaders, teachers, staff, parents, and students themselves can work together to ensure transitioning students build relationships at their new schools that will connect them with the knowledge and resources they need to thrive.
Here are some strategies your school can use now to ease your students’ transitions under shelter-in-place orders:
- Reach out to high schoolers to speak to your eighth grade class and prepare incoming sixth graders by reaching out to elementary schools to see what was covered and how class was conducted during the pandemic.
- Match incoming students with mentors to connect virtually or become email pen pals over the summer.
- Give your current students the opportunity to write a message or make a video for students in the incoming grade, and ask freshman classes at your high school to do the same for your eighth graders.
- Dedicate some class time to talking about the soft skills students will need to thrive in their new school. The Bridges Course at Graded, the American School of São Paulo, Brazil covers community, diversity, resiliency, and responsibility.
- Create a vertical team of middle and high school teachers in your district to focus on adapting the transition process for your current circumstances.
- Plan plenty of opportunities for peer and student mentor interaction early next school year for social and academic success.
Of course, whatever support you are able to organize at school will be greatly affected by the way each student’s family handles this transition at home. After weeks of remote learning, we know just how different each student’s home life is and how varied their parents’ ability to support and attitudes are towards schooling at home. It’s incredibly important now to show parents that teachers and school leadership are in their corner and support them with insights on how to motivate their middle schoolers at home. A strong home-to-school connection may be the most important lifeline for students in transition this year.
Ask parents to stay alert to signs of depression or anxiety in their child and seek help for students who are struggling. Whenever they identify anxieties related to their child’s new school, encourage parents to turn them into positive action by learning about those things that are anxiety-provoking (e.g., school rules, schedules, locker procedures). Encourage older siblings to connect with younger siblings to talk about their school experience and answer questions.
In order to create a moment of solidarity between students and families and raise funds for families battling cancer and at highest risk for COVID-19, AMLE has partnered with the HEADstrong Foundation on our #Family1st campaign. Friday, May 15 marks International Day of Families, and this campaign encourages families of middle schoolers to do something fun together for 27 minutes on that day or in the week following: HEADstrong will be sponsoring a TikTok Dance Challenge and awarding the family with the most creative video with gear, prizes, and recognition on social media.
Share these details with your students’ families and encourage them to participate!
On a normal school day, you could walk into any middle school classroom in the world and find a group of young people with a wide range of experiences and identities, all in a unique moment of their development as human beings. The intellectual diversity of students is one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of working with this age group, but when students and educators can’t gather in the physical space of a school, the classroom dynamics and activities teachers rely on to build the relationships that create a sense of equity are almost completely gone.
The task of “meeting students where they are” becomes much more literal and complex for educators; one of the first tasks for administrators has been to adapt breakfast and lunch programs to reach students who rely on their school to get enough to eat. The families that students typically leave at home during the school day are now ever-present as they are tasked with remote learning; for some, two parents are living and working at home, some have single parents caring for them, and some students are responsible for taking care of siblings. Most of these situations were very real and present for students before COVID-19, but now they are inescapable.
At the same time, teachers have a much harder time monitoring their students’ engagement and well-being. In the virtual classroom, a struggling student may be completely un-responsive, giving no indication why they are not engaging with learning modules or turning in work. Other students fall between the cracks and their learning gap widens because they don’t have the support they need to follow through and do their best. Assessing student work with equity in mind becomes a guessing game when each student has a different level of access to school materials and a different home experience.
If high-performing middle schools provide the best educational experience for their students when they create an equitable learning environment, how do we begin to translate those dynamics and practices to the digital space? When we get back to school, how do we use this experience to better adapt school services to meet students’ needs? It’s clear that taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach and giving all students the exact same learning opportunities is not sufficient to serve students from various backgrounds influenced by race, class, gender, and sexuality. That’s why AMLE is engaged in revising our landmark position paper This We Believe, scheduled for release this fall, to take these differences into account as things to be respected and embraced rather than considered a deficit or ignored.
Educators should examine how they can build a school community that models equity for students and families through policies and a culture that acknowledges differences and ensures that students are not punished for them. Students should see themselves reflected in that culture and expect to be respected as individuals. ALL school staff, including teachers, counselors, aides, and administrative and support staff can affirm the voices of all students in the school community.
Educators who practice continuous self-assessment and improvement should always be asking “What am I not seeing?” Teachers need to acknowledge their own cultural background to see their blind spots and gain an understanding of the complex social realities that students are experiencing, as they are always influenced by social identities. Modeling this kind of social responsibility and giving students the opportunity to do so ensures a culturally relevant and respectful education, which colorblind pedagogies are rarely able to provide.
The conversation on making middle school education a truly equitable experience is only just beginning. We have prioritized discussions on equity in our webinars and #mschats, so check out our upcoming topics and get involved!
The value of setting a learning framework with student input during remote learning
Norms are the patterns of behavior defining how we treat each other, ourselves, and our shared spaces. Norms exist in all physical and virtual classrooms. We often create norms at transition points such as the start of the year, term, or quarter. Typically, norms are listed on the walls, are not revisited often, and may be communicated to parents.
Norms exist in all settings. The question is, are they created intentionally or unintentionally? For example, when in school, intentional norms about seating are to assign seats and unintentional norms are when there is no seating assignment, but students sit in the same places each day. Intentional norms are essential and are attached to values. Intentional norms provide routines, agreements, consistency, and a framework for addressing difficult situations.
When reviewed consistently and created with equal contributions of students and teachers, intentional norms provide the guardrails for the classroom. Imagine the norms are the frame around a beautiful picture, with the picture being a reflection of students and teachers working together.
With COVID-19 bringing an entirely new teaching environment, many teachers find themselves reactively creating norms when situations arise. A teacher started her remote class and was frustrated because some of her students were in bed. Telling the students they must all be out of bed at the start of class elicited immediate negative responses. In this case, the teacher created a norm (must be out of bed) without attaching a value (presenting as “ready to learn”) or inviting students into the discussion.
Realizing values and student voice were missing, the teacher reframed the experience asking herself:
- What are the classroom values I want the norm to support?
- How will I communicate the values to the students?
- How will the student's voice be invited into, and heard, in the discussion?
- In what areas am I willing or unwilling to be flexible?
- How will I ask students what might be missing?
The teacher started class the next day with “I realize I forgot to have a norms discussion. The value I want our norms to support is showing up ready to learn, and I want us to work together to identify how this looks, feels, and sounds. While flexibility is important, some boundaries are necessary, including limiting outside distractions and listening for learning, rather than debate. Let's work together to create our norms, given how quickly things are changing; we will revisit our norms during our last class on Friday and will adjust as needed.”
The teacher asked students to be ready to co-construct norms the next day and invited them to share concerns privately if they had critical contributing factors they didn't feel comfortable sharing with the entire class. COVID-19 and remote learning disproportionately impact students with mental health concerns, physical disabilities, learning differences, lower socioeconomic status, and students who are members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, question/queer) community, and more. These experiences may be challenging to share with the entire class while being mindful of your school's requirements, so it is essential to create communication streams to allow students to share.
Learning online--and therefore viewing other's homes--can cause students, parents, and teachers to feel exposed. Addressed thoughtfully, the use of norms can help reduce instances of invasion of privacy. When the teacher invited students to share outside of class one student offered that he was in bed during class because it was the only spot in his room where his classmates could not see that he shared a small room with two siblings, while another shared that her anxiety was elevated with COVID-19, and being in her bed made her feel safer.
When the class met to work on norms, the teacher reminded them of the importance of equity. Without providing any identifying information, she incorporated questions such as, “how might we ensure we are not causing someone to disclose a private part of their lives while also being in class together?” The students and teacher collaborated and decided that to be in bed was allowed as were virtual backgrounds, however, students needed to be sitting up, dressed, and presenting as ready to learn.
Our “classrooms” are different now, calling into question how we create norms when nothing is normal. We might consider that while our settings are different, our need to treat each other with fundamental decency is unchanged. Therefore, we create intentional norms by:
- Outlining the goals and benefits of norms.
- Connecting all norms to values, noting those classroom practices not connected to values are probably habits rather than norms and may be unnecessary.
- Including the student voice, giving think-time, outlining the expectations of the discussion, and allowing personal concerns to be raised outside of the group discussion.
- Communicating your boundaries, remembering most of us are frustrated when we believe we are working as a group and the facilitator (in this case, the teacher) has not communicated intended outcomes or “no go” areas before the discussion.
- Ensuring you include norms for how the group will respond when the norms are challenged.
- Reviewing and revising regularly.
- Communicating the norms with students and parents or guardians.
If you are wondering where to start, you might pick one of your classroom values, use the steps above to plan, develop words to use with students, consider the “what if's” including how you will respond to challenges, and permit yourself to revise as needed. Intentional norms are even more critical as we are all faced with so many new situations, and we are comforted by as much consistency as possible.
More ideas on creating norms
Jen Cort worked as a counselor, principal, and senior administrator for 25 years before moving to consulting for schools on equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice. Jen is the host of a podcast called Third Space with Jen Cort.
Four ways educators can lean into discomfort
To get from Reno to Lake Tahoe School in Incline
Village, Nevada, a school official had to drive me up
6,500 feet of steep, narrow roads lined with snow
banks. The air thinned as we ascended above the
clouds, so she handed me two Advil as soon as we
arrived. I needed to be able to present throughout the
day and couldn’t afford to get a migraine.
“Altitude sickness—that’s a new one,” I told
Bob Graves, the head of school, as we chatted that
morning in his office. “I’m used to worrying about the
talking part. Until recently, public speaking terrified
me.” If Bob was alarmed, he hid it well. “Really? What
changed for you?” he asked.
The short answer was that I was tired of getting in
my own way, and I felt inauthentic prodding students
to stretch while I played it safe. I had interviewed
dozens of experts on risk-taking over the years and
decided it was time to apply their advice to myself.
We’re all works in progress, and the start of a new
decade is a good time to relinquish a few fears and
chase long-shelved goals. As educators, we can spend
so much time helping students realize their potential
that we neglect our own growth. That's a mistake. If
we want students to lean into discomfort, we have to
take risks, too.
No matter where you are or what you hope to
accomplish, here are four strategies that can help you
summon the courage to fail.
Forget about yourself.
At my last school, I had to present to a small group of
parents in the school library. You would have thought
I had to give a TED talk to thousands. I couldn’t sleep
for days before the event and was thoroughly depleted
by the time it was over. I never wanted to feel that
way again. I knew that small exposures extinguish
phobias, so I resolved to accept every speaking
invitation that came my way.
Fast forward a few years. I was about to deliver
my first keynote address but got cold feet when I
realized 600 educators would be in the audience. I
retreated to the booth above the auditorium to pull
myself together. After I took a few deep breaths, I
texted Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure. She
not only is one of the few people I know who presents
all the time, she’s the type of person who will stop
whatever she’s doing to help a friend. I prayed that
she could get me back in working order.
“I can’t do this,” I told her. “I feel sick. There are
too many people here, and they’re all going to be
staring at me.” She kindly but firmly told me that no
one cared about me. At all. “They want to know if you
can help them help kids," she said. “That’s it.” She
then suggested I play “You Will Be Found,” from the
musical DEAR EVAN HANSEN. I listened to the lyrics,
which describe a teen boy in emotional pain who
desperately wants to be seen. Once I took myself out
of the equation, I was good to go.
Start with the end goal.
Everyone defines risk differently. You might think it’s
no big deal to apply for a promotion, but shy away
from social risks. An educator might not apply for a
team leader position because they don’t want to step
on the toes of a friend who wants the position. Or a
teacher might hesitate to express a contrary view at a
faculty meeting because they worry they'll alienate or
Many years ago, I initiated the screening process
for a vulnerable student who needed academic
interventions. A couple members of the special
education team told me in advance that they opposed
giving the child an IEP, so the tension was thick even
before the first meeting. I anticipated a battle and did
my homework but was stunned when the team cast
protocol aside and hastily voted against services.
I never questioned whether I should report the
infraction, but that meant calling out a couple of my own
colleagues. I was scared that I’d permanently damage
already-strained relationships. To deal with my fear, I
shifted my focus to the end goal. I reminded myself that
the student’s right to a fair process mattered far more
than my discomfort. I shared my concerns with the
principal, who determined that the child’s rights had
been violated and instructed us to start over.
Take starter risks.
Risk-taking is like building muscle—it’s a slow,
incremental process. To boost your confidence, take
starter risks. If you don’t feel ready to present at a
national conference, consider a local conference. If
that’s too big a risk, try asking a question at the end
of someone else’s presentation. If you aspire to write a
book, start by submitting an article or contributing to
a blog. If you’re not ready to share your ideas publicly,
keep a journal, take a writing seminar, or post
comments in a closed Facebook group.
The categories of risk don’t have to match. For
example, if you want to change jobs but resist change,
practice flexibility by trying a different gym or
running route. Or join a recreational basketball team
with players you don't know.
Capture the underdog effect.
Perhaps someone told you that you’re the wrong
person to lead a new initiative, or run a staff meeting,
or present at a conference. Or maybe you applied for
a job and were told you don’t have what it takes to be
successful. Instead of letting others define your limits,
leverage the underdog effect. A recent study found
that people who believe that others do not expect
them to do well are more likely to receive higher
performance evaluations from their supervisors. They
work extra hard to prove others wrong. If there’s no
setback, there can be no comeback.
It took me a long time to submit my first article
to The Washington Post. I not only questioned
whether my ideas were worth sharing, I worried
that others would judge me for thinking I had ideas
worth sharing. And then my first piece ran, and my
worst fears came to life. A colleague called me a self-promoter and told me I had no business writing
anything. I already was plagued by self-doubt, and
the criticism nearly derailed me. But it also was a gift
in disguise. No way was I going to stop writing and
validate that person’s off-base assumptions about me.
Frustration kept me moving forward.
Use negativity to your advantage. In fact, take
special note of whatever trait most irritates your
critics. If you amplify it, you might discover it’s your
secret superpower. Stubbornness can morph into
determination. Intensity can generate laser focus.
Distractibility can lead to sudden bursts of insight.
It's not easy to take risks. All sorts of things can
get in the way. But when we lean into discomfort and
act with intentionality, we get to narrate our own
story. And isn't that what we want to be modeling for
Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC is the school counselor at Sheridan School in Washington, D.C., a therapist at the Chrysalis Group in Bethesda, MD, and the author of Middle School Matters (Hachette Book Group, 2019). Phyllis also writes The Kappan's weekly Career Confidential column and tweets.
Tools for rehearsing responses to expressions of bias and racism in ourselves and others
Martin Luther King, Jr reminds us that, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” George Floyd’s death, along with so many other individuals of color, pierced something deeper this time, with despair and anger swelling with each passing day. Those of us claiming to teach all students and seeing each of them as infinitely valuable, yet cocooned in unrecognized bias, racism, and indifference, wonder at our own role - and competence - in what comes next. It’s time to do the unsafe thing, educators: To join those already doing the heavy lifting, to humble ourselves in the service of remedying injustice, to put ourselves and political expediencies on the line: to confront and dismantle racism both personal and systemic. We’ll need tools to start, however. Here are a few. – Rick Wormeli, June 2020
An hour later, I had a list of all the things I should
have said but didn’t. My colleague had failed to notice
racist elements in her comments in the department
meeting. In the moment, though, I was stunned,
then angry: How could she not see it? How could she
perpetuate the very thing we promised to eliminate?
With rising adrenaline, I knew if I spoke, I’d stammer,
my eyes watering a bit, and it would be an incoherent
spew creating defensiveness from the offending
colleague. So, I bit my tongue, wallowed in self righteousness,
and promised myself to vent with a
trusted colleague in another department. I heard and
processed nothing else during the meeting.
It was not a proud moment.
We navigate many constituencies in our education
lives: our students, their parents, administration,
public opinion, researchers, political expediency,
social media, and our own moral compasses. As
a result, our world is full of regretted instants of
would’ve-could’ve-should’ve. Sometimes, or a lot of
times, we succumb to self-preservation at the expense
of professionalism and students’ rights. T.S. Eliot
captures it in, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
…But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat,
And in short, I was afraid.
— Collected Poems 1909-1962 (1963),
To say the right thing at the right time, especially
with something so urgent and affecting as bias and
racism, is on conscientious educators’ daily radar, but
it can be difficult without rehearsal or versatility. So,
let’s rehearse our responses to expressions of bias
and racism in ourselves and others so those responses
are at our mental fingertips in the moment when
they are needed. And let’s build that wide collection
of constructive responses so we are flexible and
strategic in our statements. Consider the following as
a starting point:
Invite Deeper Conversations
- “Some people would see that as a racist comment.
Is that what you intended?”
- Play “innocent” and ask, “I don’t get it. How is that
- As needed, give people the benefit of the doubt
- Maybe you heard it differently or just didn’t
understand: “I’m sorry. Can you say that again? I
may have misheard you.”
- “Is this something you would have said to a white/
- “It’s been my experience that… Is this something
- “Tell me more about that.”
- Ask questions of integrity and authenticity:
- “Where does that thinking come from? Is that an
unrecognized, inherited narrative?”
- “Does that comment come from a place of nurture
and support, or something else?”
- “How does that align with your school/family/
- Paraphrase — When responding to someone who
questions our ideas or believes differently than we
do, it helps to start with a clarifying question, not a
re-defense of our opinion:
- What I hear you saying is…
- Let me make sure I have this correct…
- In sum, then, you are worried that…
- Do I have that right?
- Did I hear that correctly?
- It sounds like you’re saying that…
- Change the frame/box/reality the biased/racist/
sexist person assumes is in play: “There are
more elements here that take the issue beyond a
binary classification: liberal/progressive, male/
female, black/white, Christian/Muslim, affluent/
impoverished, heterosexual/homosexual. It’s an
intersection of at least four factors…”
- Connect the offensive comments to larger, systemic
causes of racism:
“[After seeing a racial slur used by a teacher on
Facebook] This behavior is linked to the increased
suspension, expulsion, and detention of Hispanic
youth in our schools and sets a bad example of
behavior for the children witnessing the teacher’s
racism that will influence the way these children
are treated by their peers, and how they are treated
as adults,” [and,] “That’s racist and it contributes to
false beliefs about black workers that keeps them
from even being interviewed for jobs…”
— p. 34-35, Oluo
- Raise bias awareness, suggest a change of wording:
“How would that perspective be different if we used
different words? For example, “What if we said,
‘our employees,’ instead of, “the Chinese in our
company? How about, “retired veterans” instead of,
“old geezers?” or, “our software engineer” instead
of, “that autistic hire?”
- Start with common ground: “Most of us want to
feel like we have something to contribute, that
we belong, would you agree?” “Neither one of us
wants to be diminished by the other…” “What’s our
goal here – to be heard? To vent and move on? Our
- If it’s easier, start with discussions of the challenges
with gender and religious discrimination, then move
to racial discrimination.
- Ask permission:
- Would you mind if I shared an idea that comes to mind?
- May I ask a question that may seem off topic but
that may be helpful?
- Would you care to work together to solve that
- I’d like to ask a someone else about how she
handles such situations. Would that be okay with
you? (based on – Toll, p. 75)
- Give testimonials about what you believe. Choose
not to remain indifferent. Realize you are modeling
for others how to demonstrate courage of conviction,
standing up for what you believe is morally right.
- Borrow from educational coaching questions as you
work through a concern with a colleague:
- How do you feel the conversation went?
- Would you have said anything differently?
- What was your goal there?
- What do you mean by….?
- Are we diminished or threatened in some way by
the elevation of someone else’s priorities/religion/
- Is there another way to…?
- How does that further your goal?
- Describe a time when this was successful for you.
- Let’s consider the situation from his/her point of
- What does that tell you?
- Is there anything to that?
- Can you give an example of….?
- Can you describe that further?
- Let’s rehearse that moment
- What do you recall about your own behavior
during the conversation/lesson?
- And what else?
- How could we re-phrase that to better
communicate your intent?
- What did you do/decide that added to—or
- “If this problem were solved what would it look
like?” (Toll, p. 32)
- What would a respected colleague do in this
- Let’s brainstorm some possibilities together.
- Challenge statements of, “I’m colorblind,” and,
“I don’t see race.” Start the conversation with,
“You may not be aware of this, but such a mindset
actually is a form of oppression of students of color.
Could we talk about that for a moment?” Later,
you may want to add, “When these statements are
made by those in power, usually white teachers,
they immediately diminish any student of color,
declaring that their full identities and all that
shapes them isn’t worth perceiving. I get that you’re
trying to demonstrate that you see your students as
individuals separate from any racial generalizations
and stereotypes and thereby, you think you are not
biased, but this very sentiment, let alone the act,
comes from a place of privilege, being the majority
race in power. It denies all that makes students of
color full individuals. I wonder if we could use our
privilege to confront and dismantle such thinking
In February 2020, high school teacher, author,
and Education Week blogger, Larry Ferlazzo posed
the question, “What are the best ways to respond
to educators who say they don’t see race when
they teach?” He invited experts and classroom
practitioners to weigh in on the constructive
responses. You can find the full, five-part series of
blogs with dozens of responses at Larry’s Education
Week blog site listed in the citing sources below.
Here are a few of the compelling responses that
have considerable power to spark conversation and
How can you (an educator) have a relationship with
me (a student) if you do not acknowledge all that
makes me who I am? Diverse relationships should
be sought out with the intention to honor one's
— Makeda Brome, instructional math coach at
Fort Pierce Westwood Academy in Fort Pierce,
Florida, St. Lucie Public Schools Teacher of the
The impetus to pretend that one is colorblind when
it comes to race is a misguided attempt to treat all students the same, when all students, even within
any racial group, are different. The impetus to
pretend that one is colorblind is essentially racist.
It is wielding the power to erase the identity of
students. To refuse to see.
— Jamila Lyiscott, co-founder/director of the
Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged
Research, author of Black Appetite. White Food:
Issues of Race, Voice, and Justice Within and
Beyond the Classroom
“Not seeing race” is an easy way out because if
those educators saw race, they would see how
systemic racism has affected every aspect of the
education system. When educators tell me that
race doesn't matter, I say that they've erased an
opportunity to be anti-racist. They've squandered
the moment and made it about them and their so called
forward way of thinking instead of actually
doing what's best for their students…
— Julie Jee teaches 12 Advanced Placement
English Literature and Composition and
The statement, “I don't see race,” represents the
height of selfishness particularly when made by
an educator. It says essentially, “I don't see your
entire-life perspective as meriting my consideration.
I will tell you how I think you should experience
your existence.” …[It] is a selfish sentiment because
it requires that students suspend their worldview
in favor of vantage points that are more consistent
with your own. It says, I will value your perspective
given the extent to which it agrees with mine….
This is…a form of cultural imperialism.
— Adeyemi Stembridge, Ph.D., works with
districts around the country to identify root
causes of achievement gaps and formulate
pedagogy and policy-based efforts to redress
the under performance of vulnerable student
[A]n important part of my response is to feel
where I myself am still shaky as I engage with this
person…Do I stumble or hedge when I…need to
respond to an argument that blames marginalized people for their own marginalization? …So much
of what I encounter every day as a white person
will lead me to think that I am what's normal, and
things are essentially as they should be. In the face
of that, it is hard and sometimes lonely work to
acknowledge that the world is wrong.
— Sarah Norris works with educators across the
country to create more equitable spaces for
teaching and learning
Racial history emerges as a source of pride when
seen through the lens of resistance and survival
against difficult odds…. Research shows that
avoiding the topic with children serves to create
racist mindsets, while investigating race correlates
to higher self-esteem, increased self-confidence,
academic achievement, and ethical leadership…
Until racism can be seen, it can't be addressed.
Until it is addressed, it can't be undone.
— Martha Caldwell and Oman Frame, authors
of Let's Get Real: Exploring Race, Class, and
Gender Identities in the Classroom, and co founders
of iChange Collaborative
Express Direct Desists
- Stay silent, make steady eye contact.
- Be direct: “I find that racist, and I’m not okay with
that. It’s inappropriate.”
- “You may not have meant to offend me, but you did.
And this happens to people of color all the time. If
you do not mean to offend, you will stop doing this.”
- P. 173, Oluo
- “You just assumed that without evidence. Let’s take
a look at the evidence and correct that perspective.”
- Explain that your being upset at the racist/
prejudicial comment or joke is not a matter of
political correctness. It’s an indication that society
has evolved and what was once funny or acceptable,
is no longer so.
- Walk away. Wait 24 hours. If possible, and no one
will be harmed, wait one day, think clearly, then
bring up the subject again with the offending person.
Avoid Blaming, Deflecting, Generalizing,
or Being Dismissive
Examples of these unhelpful statements include:
- “It’s your fault because you’re a racist.”
- “No, it’s your fault because you expect something
- “If __ people weren’t so self-centered…”
- “If __ people weren’t so crime prone…”
- “They can just get used to using the bathroom
associated with their birth gender. It’s not the end
of the world.”
- “I didn’t intend it as a racist comment, they just
took it that way.”
- “This is just more liberal clamoring from Political
- “There are already enough books on LGBTQ
students. You’re just pushing your social agenda.”
- “But these white, male authors are canon. To not
teach them is not preparing them for society.”
- “You’re such a conservative, you have no heart for
the struggles of these people.”
- “I can’t be racist: I don’t hate any people of color,
I’m not in a white supremacist group, I don’t read
those webpages, nor do I do any act of prejudice
or racism with anyone I know.”
Helpful Dispositions During the
- Give every clue that you value time with those of
other cultures/orientations/faiths/politics as well
as those with whom you disagree. Honor what the
other person brings to the conversation. Make that
- Avoid publicly searching for a diplomatic way to
word something before saying it: “Let me put this
in a way you’d understand….” “How shall I put
this?” This is demeaning of the other person, like
he’s simplistic and incapable of understanding
- If giving feedback in the moment, comment on
decisions made and their outcomes: “I noticed you…
As a result, we… Is that what you wanted?”
- White silence in racist or biased situations or
policies is consent. Say or do something if at all
possible. It’s the same with other situations of bias/
prejudice against certain religions, gender, sexual
orientation, or socio-economic class.
- Avoid backing people into a corner unless their
statements were unusually egregious. People don’t
hear the message when they have to protect their
honor or status. Help them find a road back to respect.
- Speak in such a way as to continue thoughtful
dialog, not prove that you are right or the problem is
solved. It’s not about you providing the solution, it’s
about the person arriving there.
- Accept the fact that these conversations rarely tie
up into a nice, neat bow where everyone sees the
light and has come to their senses. We’ll have to be
tolerant, at least at first, of messy human progress,
ambiguity, unseen changes in perspective, irritation/pushback as a way to sort one’s thinking, and
unresolved issues from the other person’s past—and
our own!—affecting the current conversation.
- Sit or stand next to the victim of someone being
attacked for his or her race, gender, politics, or socioeconomic
standing to assure them that they are not
alone, and to communicate clearly to the offending
person where you stand on the issue.
- When considering whether or not to come to the aid
of a person of color receiving racist or discriminatory
comments, take the lead of that person and do it
only if they are already engaged in it. (based on an
idea in Oluo, p. 174)
- Ask yourself if you’re deflecting to another topic
rather than hearing and addressing the one raised
by the other person.
- “If you’re white and being called a racist, remember
that you are not the only one being hurt.” p. 222,
- We fight systemic racism not because we’re doing
people of color a favor, but because this is what
decent people do. “[We] are not owed gratitude or
friendship from people of color for [our] efforts. We
are not thanked for cleaning our own houses.” p.
- Not everyone in our place of employment shares our
views regarding politics or race. Avoid assuming
they do simply because they are members of this
same group as you.
- Use the first person, plural, we, not I or you as you
can. It’s more inclusive, like we’re in this together.
- Use tentative language (seems, might) and open ended
questions that come across as a mutual
partner in resolving the problem.
- Breathe several times before responding.
- Forgive yourself and others for making mistakes
in these conversations, including inexact wording,
unintended use of stereotypes, muddled thinking,
and outright offending others.
- Discuss systemic racism with people of our own
color, and not just when there’s an upsetting racial
incident. We’re able to respond more constructively
when there is a racial/homophobic/religion-phobic
incident when we already have the tools and
perspective for the conversation.
With Prufrock, T.S Eliot had us sincerely wonder
who we were to disturb the universe. Dylan Thomas
admonished us to not, “go gentle into that good
night,” and to instead, “rage, rage against the dying of
the light.” Let’s draw from this welling moral outrage
and our all-consuming desire for a just world and find
the courage to react in a timely and effective manner
to bias and racism, whether it be subtle or overt. Let’s
care enough about our students and our colleagues to
extend candor and to walk with them –and our own
limitations—as we share the path ahead. This courage
comes more readily when we have specific and
practiced tools, so to simply read a few paragraphs of
an article and promise to do better doesn’t cut it. Let’s
say these challenging statements aloud and in front of
colleagues in rehearsal and in real use, making them
our own. Let’s find meaning in those conversations,
and with that, the stamina to dismantle our own biases, and the strength to confront that which
would oppress another. No more, would’ve-could’ve-should’ve
– we’re ready to respond.
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations
to Restore Hope to the Future, Second Edition
by Margaret Wheatley, Berrett-Koehler
The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies
for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar,
Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach
to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight, Corwin
Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law
Mayorga, Edwin; Picower, Bree. What’s Race
Got to Do With It? How Current School Reform
Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequity,
Peter Lang Publishers, 2015
Pollock, Mica; SchoolTalk: Rethinking What
We Say About – And To – Students Every Day
(Laying a Foundation for Equity), The New
Press, New York, 2017
Stevenson, Howard C. Promoting Racial Literacy
in Schools: Differences That Make a Difference,
Teachers College, 2014
Tatum, Alfred W. Reading for Their Life (Re)
Building the Textual Lineages of African
American Adolescent Males, Heinemann, 2009
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and
the Rest of Y’all, Too: Reality Pedagogy and
Urban Education by Christopher Emdin, Beacon
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White
People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo,
Beacon Press, 2018
Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty:
Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap,
Second Edition, by Paul C. Gorski, Teachers
College Press, 2017
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates,
Spiegel & Grau, 2015
Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About
Race and How to Do It, Second Edition by Shelly
Tochluk, R&L Education, 2010
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, One
Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and
the End of Public Education by Noliwe Rooks,
The New Press, 2017
Culture, Class, and Race: Constructive
Conversations That Unite and Energize your
School and Community by Brenda Campbell
Jones, Shannon Keeny, and Franklin
CampbellJones, ASCD , 2020
Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence:
Understanding and Facilitating Difficult
Dialogues on Race, Sue, Derald Wing, Wiley,
Ferlazzo, Larry – Blog, “Saying 'I Don't See Color'
Denies the Racial Identity of Students, “February 2,
2020 10:34 PM, https://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2020/02
/saying_i_dont_see_color_denies_the_racial_identity_of_students.html, Twitter: @Larryferlazzo.
Oluo, Ijeoma; So You Want to Talk about Race, Seal
Press (Hachette Book Group), 2018
Toll, Cathy A. Educational Coaching: A Partnership for
Problem Solving. ASCD. 2018.
Rick Wormeli is a long-time teacher, consultant, and
author living in Herndon, Virginia. His book, The Collected
Writings (So Far) of Rick Wormeli: Crazy, Good Stuff
I Learned about Teaching Along the Way, is available
from www.amle.org/store. His book, Fair Isn't Always Equal
(second edition) (Stenhouse Publishers), was released in
2018, and his latest book, Summarization in any Subject:
60 Innovative, Tech-Infused Strategies for Deeper Student
Learning, (second edition) (ASCD), co-authored with Dedra
Stafford, was just released.
Published in AMLE Magazine
, April 2020.
Physical movement helps students engage in, investigate, and understand mathematics concepts
Young adolescents undergo more rapid and
profound changes than at any other time in their
development (NMSA, 2010). Adolescence is a pivotal
stage for cognitive, social-emotional, and physical
development. Middle school educators understand
the developmental uniqueness of this age group and
seek to provide activities that fully engage the young
adolescent. One way to accomplish this is through
kinesthetic learning. We define kinesthetic learning
as an instructional strategy that connects physical
movement and social interaction with academic
content. Kinesthetic activities incorporate physical
exercise, stretching, and cross-body movements and
are specifically connected to subject matter. The goal
is to get students actively engaged and “learning by doing” as they investigate mathematics concepts
through physical movement.
The Importance of Physical Activity
According to the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (2018), adolescence “is a critical
period for developing movement skills, learning
healthy habits, and establishing a firm foundation
for lifelong health and well-being” (p. 47). Regular
physical activity in children and adolescents
promotes health and fitness, and the beneficial
effects of exercise on learning are well documented.
Movement increases the heart rate and stimulates
brain function, which facilitates a child’s ability to
learn. The U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services specifically advocates physical activity for
brain health. They state that regular physical activity
“results in improved cognition including performance
on academic achievement tests, executive function,
processing speed, and memory” (p. 40) as well as a
reduced risk of depression. The cognitive benefits of
physical activity apply to all students, including those
with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity
Numerous studies support the conclusion that
physical activity has a positive influence on memory,
concentration, and classroom behavior. These studies
indicate a significant positive correlation between
fitness and standardized test scores in math.
Furthermore, students who are more physically fit
have fewer absences and fewer disciplinary referrals.
These findings remain statistically significant when
controlling for race, socioeconomic status, and gender.
There are many ways to actively engage students in
learning mathematics content. Students “learn by
doing” when they use their hands, arms, legs, and
bodies as tools for learning. We advocate the use of
purposeful movement that is directly connected to
the content being taught. This is very different than
asking students to recite multiplication tables while
doing jumping jacks. We argue that many students
have procedural knowledge but lack conceptual
Instead of asking students to memorize isolated facts
and algorithms, consider asking students to dramatize
mathematics concepts through motion. For example,
students can act out points on a Cartesian coordinate
system and walk through shifting and stretching
functions. A Twister mat can be used to introduce the
concept to younger students. Other kinesthetic activities might include acting out operations on a number
line; teaching translations, rotations, and reflections
by dancing the Electric Slide; and finding the mean,
median, and mode of a data set after constructing a
human graph. What follows are descriptions of three
kinesthetic activities that can be used to support and
extend specific mathematics concepts.
The Metric Handshake/Metric Salute
Many students in the U.S. struggle to associate
benchmarks to metric units of length. In order to
strengthen their knowledge, hands-on measuring is
beneficial. Estimating using familiar body measures
can assist with foundational understanding. For
example, for a young adolescent, the distance
between one shoulder bone and the length of the
other arm with fingers extended is about one meter.
The distance between the space from the thumb and
pinky is approximately one decimeter. The distance
across the tip of the pinky is approximately one
centimeter. The thickness of a fingernail is about
one millimeter. This leads to a fun, cool handshake
students can use to greet one another.
Listed here are step-by-step motions for practicing
four basic benchmark measures of length.
- While holding your right hand with fingers
extended to your left shoulder in a saluting
formation, call out “Salute.”
- Extend your right hand, palm down with fingers
straight, from the left shoulder position to fully
extended to the right. Say, “meter.”
- Move palm up and extend thumb and pinky finger
(pointer, tall man, and ring man fingers curled
down into palm). Say, “decimeter.”
- Hold the pinky in a vertical position while folding
in all other fingers. Call out, “centimeter.”
- Rotate the pinky a quarter turn to display the
thickness of the fingernail. Call out, “millimeter.”
- For additional cool factor and pizzazz, students
can join pinkies to finalize the metric signals in a
Angle exercises utilize the arms as the rays of an
angle. While everyone is standing, the leader calls
a type of angle while the others attempt to model
it. To model a right angle, for example, hold one arm
parallel to the floor in a horizontal direction and the
other in a vertical direction. To model an acute angle,
position the arms closer together with a narrow space
between them. Modeling an obtuse angle moves the
arms wider. Arms extended in opposite directions
represents a straight angle of 180°. To challenge
students and accelerate the pace, gradually increase
the call rate of the angle types. If space is limited, it
may be necessary to use fingers instead of arms to
demonstrate the angles.
Once the basic angle concepts are introduced,
prompt students to consider other measurements. If
a right angle is 90°, what is the measure of half that
angle? What type of angle is it? What if an angle is
exactly halfway between a right angle and a straight
angle? What type of angle is it? What is its measure?
Discuss that an acute angle is between 0° and 90°.
Discuss characteristics of obtuse angles and the
measures between 90° and 180°. Progress to calling
more complex angles using specific measurements. The students’ performance with the arm motions can
provide valuable formative assessment opportunities.
Angle exercises establish benchmark
measurements and set the foundation for students’
progression to measuring angles with a protractor.
We can then connect their arm motions with the
procedure for precision measuring with the protractor.
Help your students learn the characteristics of
quadrilaterals. Students often find it difficult to
classify quadrilaterals and distinguish between the
categories. Is a square a rectangle? Is a rectangle a
square? Are all rectangles squares? Are rectangles
parallelograms? Some rectangles are rhombi. All
squares are rhombi, rectangles, and parallelograms.
Quadrilateral stretches will give students the
opportunity to model quadrilaterals and explore
how small changes impact their similarities and
- With a little stretch of the imagination and the
arms, students can make air figures modeling
quadrilaterals. Start by demonstrating a common
quadrilateral. To model a square, hold both arms
up in front of your body and bent at the elbows.
With forearms straight up and equidistant, the
width represents congruent sides. Imagine the top
and bottom sides. With all sides equal and right
angles, the quadrilateral is a square.
- From this position, stretch the square by
sliding the forearms to the right (and/or left).
The quadrilateral changes to a rectangle (and
technically a parallelogram). Lean both forearms to
the right to transform the rectangle into a unique parallelogram. This demonstrates a lazy, leaning
parallelogram by holding both arms up bent at
the elbows, shoulder length apart, and tilted in
the same direction. The arms represent the width.
Imagine the top and bottom sides as the length.
In a parallelogram, opposite sides are congruent
and parallel. Keeping the forearms tilted, slide the
arms toward each other until the width aligns with
the height. The parallelogram has now achieved
another title, transforming into a rhombus.
Straighten the shape with vertical forearms again
and re-make the square.
- Vary the order of the quadrilateral stretches and
discuss how stretching and tilting, widening,
narrowing, transforms the shape and changes its
properties. Slide the forearms back together and
upright to re-create the square. Discuss the various
names of the figure. Tilt the square to create a
rhombus. Stretch the square to create a rectangle.
- Start with a leaning parallelogram. Slide the
forearms in to make a rhombus. Stand it upright
to make a square. Stretch the square to make
a rectangle. All squares are parallelograms,
rectangles, and rhombi. Some rhombi are squares,
but only when they have right angles.
- Be sure to emphasize that there are several ways
to model parallelograms. All square, rectangles,
and rhombi are classified as parallelograms.
- Create a trapezoid by collapsing one vertical side
of a square or rectangle. Identify the stretch as
modeling a “right trapezoid.” What figure can be
demonstrated by collapsing both vertical sides—an
- To challenge students and accelerate the pace,
gradually increase the call rate of the types of
Middle level educators value young adolescents
and understand the complex developmental needs
of this age group. Kinesthetic learning facilitates
students’ physical development by providing more
opportunities for movement; social development
with more interaction; emotional development with
more engagement; and cognitive development
with active learning. Kinesthetic strategies offer purposeful learning experiences and provide
alternatives to whole-class lecture. Students learn
by doing as they move their bodies to investigate
mathematics concepts. We all want our students to
be active learners rather than passively receiving
information. We argue that physical movement and
social interaction are essential in the middle school
classroom. In this way, teachers can meet the unique
developmental needs of young adolescents while
effectively teaching mathematics content.
National Middle School Association. (2010). This we
believe: Keys to educating young adolescents.
Westerville, OH: Author.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018).
Physical activity guidelines for Americans (2nd
ed.). Washington, DC. Retrieved from: https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Deborah McMurtrie, PH.D. is an assistant professor
and middle level education coordinator /program director
for South Carolina’s Center of Excellence in Middle-level
Interdisciplinary Strategies for Teaching (CEMIST) at the
University of South Carolina, Aiken.
Bridget Coleman, PH.D. is an assistant professor and
leads the Secondary Mathematics Education program
at the University of South Carolina, Aiken. She’s also the
past president of the South Carolina Professors of Middle
Level Education (SC-PoMLE).
Published in AMLE Magazine
, April 2020.