As educators everywhere collectively scramble to prepare plans for a safe and meaningful return to school amid the mounting challenges of a global pandemic, I’m proud of the groundwork Holy Family has laid to prepare our students for any eventuality.
Children today are growing up in a rapidly changing world. They will meet head-on with challenges, the likes of which we are only beginning to conceive. They will enter a workforce with demands we cannot even imagine. They will need to be responsive, resilient, and ready to face adversity. So, how do we prepare 21st-century students?
At Holy Family, we are entering our fourth year of personalized learning, and we find our experience couldn’t be more relevant given the current circumstances. This past spring was the ultimate test of our personalized learning model, and it has proven its worth. When schools were forced to close, Holy Family students transitioned with fluidity. They had already been working on habits that support academic achievement and wellbeing – such as stress-management, executive function, resilience, and self-direction. Leveraging technology, they had access to exceptional resources and a spirit of any time/anywhere learning. Not least of all, students had established one-to-one mentor relationships to help support their overall emotional wellness. Our students’ success this spring was no accident.
When they return in the fall, we know children may be uneasy entering buildings they haven’t set foot in for nearly six months. As educators, we must recognize the diverse backgrounds from which our students come and strive to understand their unique needs. Our personalized approach to knowing every student will ready our teachers to meet them where they are academically, emotionally, and spiritually.
At Holy Family, we believe children deserve an education where they are encouraged to take risks, challenged to do more, and can experience failure and how to recover from it in a safe and secure environment. Under these circumstances, children are empowered to grow and become the best versions of themselves, as God has intended them to be.
Our students continue to demonstrate curriculum mastery at a high level, and while this will always be important, it cannot be our only measure of success. Students must also establish a solid social-emotional foundation to actualize their goals and aspirations. They need to practice and develop the cognitive skills that will set them apart in college, career, and life. These benefits are woven into every lesson, in every class, at every level in personalized learning – whether we’re teaching in-person or virtually.
Our curriculum leverages the collective expertise of educators and nationally-acclaimed researchers around the country – all contributing to the real-world project-based learning opportunities our students receive. These resources give teachers the power and flexibility to reach all students with the highest possible fidelity and tailor learning opportunities like never before. Our teachers support students who have historically struggled to keep up with their peers to find new confidence in themselves and their skills. On the opposite end, students who have sat through years of learning and never been challenged or had the opportunity to experience productive struggle can finally demonstrate their competencies and re-engaged in learning on a whole new level.
There is no question, the obstacles we will face this fall are unprecedented, and we will be challenged. But I am heartened knowing our students and teachers are equipped with the tools needed to meet the challenge head-on. I invite the community to learn more about personalized learning at Holy Family by exploring our website: holyfamilydbq.org/personalizedlearning.
June 28, 2020, Telegraph Herald Op-Ed