(August 4, 2020, New York, JNS Wire) As teachers across the world grapple with the challenges associated with distance learning and the possibility of beginning a new school year in virtual classrooms, nearly 100 teachers from Jewish day schools in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and Arizona joined together this week for a two-week summit to discuss the critical issues impacting their students following a disruptive spring semester. The event was hosted by Hidden Sparks, a nonprofit dedicated to training teachers and providing them with the tools to support struggling students in mainstream Jewish day schools. The summit was held in partnership with Bank Street School of Education.
Participants heard from top mainstream and special education specialists as well as Hidden Sparkscoaches on how best to ensure that virtual classrooms will be as engaging as possible for all students when they return this fall. Workshops focused on offering best practices for fostering social and emotional learning connections with students, even when teachers and students are not physically in the same classroom. The last semester was particularly challenging for children who struggle in the classroom and require individual attention and learning plans, according to the organization.
“One of the most important lessons emerging from this pandemic is the critical importance of classrooms that are socially and emotionally attuned. Though our teachers did a fantastic job pivoting in the spring, students have experienced loss, anxiety and disorientation and teachers will have to be equipped first and foremost with how to welcome students back in the fall – either onsite or remote, and how to support them,” said Hidden Sparks Executive Director Debbie Niderberg.
“Equally important to the academics and impactful teaching, teachers are going to have to nurture a feeling of belonging, connection and community in their classrooms and a safe place to connect to their emotions. This was always important, but especially so now,” added Niderberg. “Our summit is providing teachers and school leaders with valuable teaching tips, routines and strategies for helping children cope and succeed in these times and prepare for what may be another virtual semester. The support that the teachers are drawing from one another at this summit is very inspiring.”