5 Resources for Back to School Preparation

Starting the Year With Students at the Center.

By Hana Beach

It’s that time of year again—back to school! We hope you found some much-needed time to recharge this summer. As this school year begins, we know that normal back-to-school jitters will be exacerbated by starting another year under tough circumstances. We know you share a commitment to giving students the attention they’re going to need to succeed during another covid-impacted school year.

Preparing to start the school year is always challenging, but this year may feel especially hard. In many ways, you’re preparing to rebuild students’ relationships to what school can be. A big challenge—but also an opportunity! Luckily, we have resources to help you start the school year strong, with student well-being at the center. Let’s get to it!

But first, be sure to check out the SXSW EDU 2021 panels featuring XQ schools and school design materials! Upvote XQ here to show the selection committee that you see the value in high school transformation: https://panelpicker.sxsw.com/

In the last two years at home, many students dealt with trauma. Educators need to keep this at the forefront as we welcome students back to the classroom. 

Why It Matters: 

This fall, expect that your typical social and emotional learning curriculum might not be enough to handle what students are bringing into the classroom. Considering implementing trauma-informed SEL, which anticipates students’ needs for intensive support. In practice, this looks like:  

  • Using asset-based language
  • Creating dependable classroom routine
  • Spotlighting student strength
  • Helping students set and pursue goals

Extra Credit: Rebuilding Relationships With Your Students Now and Post-COVID

Maybe you’re a fan of name games on the first day of school, or maybe you go all in on crafting community agreements. Whatever your style, lean into these rituals to build community this year. 

Why It Matters: The instability of school during the past year and half may have left your students feeling powerless and disconnected. Taking time to build community will give students security and agency. Facing History offers an amazing set of ideas for activities, including:

Extra Credit: Belonging and its critical impact on student mental health

The shift to remote learning was, to put it lightly, a challenge—but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bright spots we can carry with us into in-person learning.

Why It Matters: As we get back to the classroom, it’s important to remember that some students actually thrived during remote learning. This fall, use the lessons of remote learning to set up all learners to excel. Consider how you can:

  • Create opportunities for self-pacing during the school day
  • Support students experiencing social anxiety
  • Reduce high-stakes grading

Extra Credit: The Unexpected Benefits of Remote Learning for Neurodivergent Students

At this point, it’s clear: COVID-19 learning loss is real, and students of color have been hit the hardest. This year will be crucial in making up for lost time.

Why It Matters: There’s a lot at stake in using this year to support students who lost schooling opportunities during COVID. It is important to remember that unaddressed learning loss only compounds over time. Luckily, research supports several effective ways to make up lost ground, including:

  • Connecting students with resources to learn outside of school
  • Avoiding “remediation” thinking and sticking to grade-level content (with appropriate scaffolding) for all students
  • Leveraging school resources to provide high-intensity tutoring

Extra Credit: Does It Hurt Children to Measure Pandemic Learning Loss?

The possibility of getting closer to “normal” this year is exciting! At the same time, after everything students have experienced, a return to normal may trigger its own anxieties.

Why It Matters: At this stage of the pandemic, we’re all dealing with complicated emotions—hope, grief, anxiety. Your students are no exception. While there are no easy answers, you can guide students in healthy processing. Here are some places to start:

  • Validate the emotions you see in your students
  • Name hard dynamics and model positive coping skills
  • Bring mindfulness activities into the classroom (Our Teen Stress Badge is a great place to start!)

Extra Credit: Back to school: Healing students’ grief and anxiety

SXSW EDU 2022 is just around the corner and panel selection voting has started. Do you want educators and leaders at SX to access high school transformation materials from leaders who designed amazing high schools from scratch? Take a minute and upvote our sessions before 8/26.