By Guest Blogger Amanda Carter, Noble Academy Head of School
As this school year is winding down, it is incredible to look back and see how far we have come in the last 14 months. In May 2020 I had absolutely no idea if we would even have an in-person school year, much less what it would look like or how it would end. But now, as I look back I can find so many amazing lessons learned during this challenging time.
Students with Learning Differences Learn Best In Person
Students with learning differences need tactile, hands-on learning opportunities. Noble Academy is built on the idea that students should experience learning in the way that best suits their learning needs. That is incredibly difficult to do through a screen. This lesson was learned in the Spring of 2020 and led us to work diligently through the summer to ensure our students, who it was safe for, could walk through our doors in August. We were able to run our entire year, with only small disruptions, as the in-person learning environment we were meant to be. Though we continue to have a few students utilizing our Remote Attendance model, and our teachers and parents have done a phenomenal job meeting their needs alongside our in-person students, we truly learned that in-person instruction is what is best for our students.
The Student/Teacher Relationship is Built on Trust
This year we asked our students to do things that we have never asked of them before. They had high levels of responsibility as it related to the safety of our community, independence in their workspace, and engaging in their own education when the world sometimes felt topsy turvy. We have always prided ourselves on the relationships we build with students, but this year we really saw that trust was at the center of these relationships. Our students learn through their time with us that our teachers love them and genuinely want to see them succeed. Children can sense when an adult believes in them. Because our belief in our students is so central to our mission, our students were able to develop that trust in their teachers quickly. With that trust in place, our teachers were able to push our students to not only do their very best work, but also to see themselves as their teachers do and to believe in their own abilities and trust they can succeed.
Getting Outside is Imperative!
This is one of those silver linings from this school year. Our students constantly experienced outdoor breaks, outdoor lunch, and outdoor classes, in addition to our normal outdoor recess time for all grades we serve. Seeing our students walking outside after every single class, having an opportunity to make an intentional mental transition from one subject to the next, and having an opportunity for both physical activity and social interaction felt like a game changer for us. We know about the research relating to the benefits of outside time and physical activity, and always felt like we were doing a great job with this. However, this year showed us that scheduled breaks and more outside time resulted in higher levels of productivity and student engagement than we have ever seen. Next year we are losing a few of the breaks, but keeping most of them and will continue to utilize our outdoor spaces often for classes and other daily activities.
Mental Health Should Always be a Priority
Around the world children and adults are struggling with mental health. The pandemic has highlighted the need to have regular interactions with others and the toll isolation can have on us. In addition to our students’ academic needs, their mental health was the driving force behind us being laser focused on opening in person in August. Students with learning differences have higher rates of mental health issues and we learned during the lockdown period that isolation took a tremendous toll on our students. Entering this school year our two full-time counselors were prepared to work with students and families on any and all mental health needs. We already had a robust Mindfulness program, and this year we had teachers spending the first minute of every class doing Mindfulness. Our counselors spent time with students in groups and individually, as well as collaborated with families and therapists, to ensure we were doing everything we could to identify and address mental health concerns. Mental health has always been an area of focus at Noble, but this year we learned that if we do not prioritize a student’s mental health over all else, we will not see academic or social growth.
Noble Academy is a Very Special Place
I think this is something I have always believed, but this school year has made this a stone cold fact. Our teachers, staff, and administration stepped up to the plate in a big way and reinforced to all the members of our community why Noble is so special. We meet students where they are, we believe in them, we have the knowledge and skill set to teach them in the way they deserve to be taught, we understand learning differences, and we genuinely love these kids who struggle to learn in typical educational environments. In a year of masks, cleanings, and quarantines our students found success, friendship, and joy!
As we look to the next school year, we are holding these lessons learned close to our hearts. We are not planning to go “back to normal,” but instead are looking at how we jump from this school year to becoming better than what we were before the pandemic. Our plans are well underway and if you are interested in learning how your child could be a part of this compassionate and amazing learning community, please contact Christy Avent, Director of Enrollment Management, at email@example.com or simply visit nobleknights.org.
- Sponsored by Noble Academy