They aren’t bad students.

In talking with some teacher friends and colleagues, one thing is clear: these aren’t easy days for students. Let me provide some back story.

  • I met with a middle school teacher recently who told me that a third of the students in his school were failing one or more courses.
  • In a conversation with a high school counselor, she communicated that she sent out three times the number of failure letters that she’d usually send out in the first marking period. Additionally, most of the students were being notified that they were failing multiple classes.
  • Personally, I’ve had two students who withdrew from my class with an overall percentage less than 20%. As we enter the final weeks of the semester, at least a quarter of my students are at risk of failing for the semester.

The simple explanation would be to chalk it up to unmotivated individuals who haven’t developed the time management skills to be successful students. They’re simply bad students.

Except they’re not. In most of these cases, they’re just students who have been unexpectedly thrown into online/remote/hybrid learning. Despite their efforts, they’re struggling to keep things organized, to stay motivated and to learn. Add in a global pandemic and the isolation resulting from social distancing and you have a perfect storm for the large-scale academic struggles we’re witnessing. They’re not bad students. The perfect storm has created a bad environment for learning.

As we navigate this challenging time, it’s critical that we as educators try to focus on what’s important and that we work to find additional strategies and opportunities to support our students. Remember, they’re not bad students. The global pandemic has created a bad environment for learning. And that’s going to require some innovative approaches and solutions.

Luckily, I came across The Danielson Group’s Framework for Remote Teaching. If you’re not familiar with the original Danielson Framework of Teaching, it examined 22 different teaching components across four different domains: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities. The Danielson Framework is one of the most widely used tools for supporting teacher professional development nationally.

But the Framework for Remote Teaching is different than the original Danielson Framework. Instead of focusing on 22 components, the Framework for Remote Teaching only focuses on eight across three domains: knowing and valuing students, building responsive learning environments and engaging students in learning. The Framework for Remote Teaching even provides specific strategies to help teachers better support their students’ learning in these trying times. Besides offering some innovative solutions for engaging students in synchronous and asynchronous spaces, I think the Framework for Remote Teaching also communicates something really important. In this current environment, teachers may not be able to do it all.  Let’s focus on the most important aspects that foster student learning. This change in focus may not help every student be successful in this difficult environment for learning. But the strategies the Danielson Group offers may help us better support our students as they navigate the difficult waters ahead.

One thought on “They aren’t bad students.

  1. Dr. Biden also has some good suggestions in her dissertation, such as developing rapport with your students. It was not specific to online learning, but I think some of the ideas she suggested related to retention make sense during the uncertain times we now face.

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