RL 2021: Education Day


By: Ashley Ayers (RL '21), Girl Scouts of Western New York

What opportunities are there within alternative education for students who opt not to take the path toward college or the military?

As most of us discussed in our reflection, trade skills were not a piece of conversation when it came to most of our class’s path after high school. What stood out most was the amount of resources available to students who embark on this career path. People who are interested in trade skills can take classes on landscape technician, iOS development, 3D printing and much more. The interesting part is with a 90% job security six months after graduation at Northland Workforce, they still help their students with transportation to get to their new job if need be. This hands on approach for each student creates a tailored experience which is very different than the traditional college experience. These jobs are needed more than ever and Northland gives students the tools to maneuver this changing job market.

What are the differences among private, public, and charter schools and how do these differences impact a student’s education?

The differences between private, public and charter schools was astonishing to our class. It was difficult to hear how different schools were adapting to the pandemic even though they taught the same school grades. Most would assume there would be a difference between the private and public sectors of education however, the most shocking was the difference between two public school districts. As the conversation continued, we noticed how the panel was learning more about the other school districts as well. One school district stood out, from its lack of PPE supplies to the long wait periods for IT help for students. On the other hand, there were schools that have stepped up during this pandemic. Our private school has given children the opportunity to learn outside the classroom by physically going outside when the weather was nice. Amherst School District has been instrumental on communication on safe practices as they work with parents and have allowed students to come back into the classroom for a hybrid model that has been working. Cohesively between all schools was the motivation the teachers have to continue to step up for their students. They all agree the struggle with virtual is the lack of social skills that children are exhibiting. As some kids are back in the classroom, they struggle to talk to classmates in a group setting. As for the virtual children, there is blocked off time for social and emotional learning on certain days of the week. The teachers are worried about long

term effects of this virtual model but it looks like the school districts are aware and making steps to combat this issue. Teachers have also started to engage with students like never before as they answer emails on off hours and have a glimpse into these children’s home life. They have adapted to their situation and are the true definition of “a heart of a teacher.”

What impact has increased school responsibilities and virtual learning had on high school students’ mental health?

This panel had four woman who spent the hour being honest and allowing our group to peek into a day in the life of a mental health professional interacting with high school students during a pandemic. Across the board, it seems schools are taking a closer look at, not only the student’s mental health, but also the teachers. Teachers are struggling with the competition of technology more than ever. They are competing with holding their students attention on top of teaching in the virtual world. They discussed the lack of social skills being formed at this age. High school students are fighting within their own social circle without a lack of face to face interaction which is causing more issues.

The panel discussed seeing more into a child’s life with the additional responsibility of child safety away from the classroom which has now been rested on these teachers shoulders. High school students are struggling socially with the lack of face to face interactions with classmates which is causing more issues between friends as context is taken different via phone or computer. Students are struggling mentally as they fall behind with IT issues or lack of disciple in their household. The panel discussed how difficult it is to teach students who have a completely different home life as the other students. There are high school students that are caring for their younger siblings and the priority isn’t their school work. With the end of the year approaching, the panel is hopeful this will be resolved for the upcoming school year.

What about this day affected you the most?

When time for reflection, most of us thought back to our own experiences in high school and realized we were never given a choice when looking into trade schools. It wasn’t easy to look back and think how things would have been different if we were asked about what we wanted to do. Also, when putting this day together, I do not believe any of us thought about the reaction to

the elementary school panel would have on us all. To hear how different all school districts are adapting to the pandemic has been shocking. From all different perspectives to experiences, it really showcases what school districts have stepped up during this challenging year and which ones are dropping the ball to only hurt their students.

How does the servant leadership trait of listening apply to this day session?

Throughout the year teachers have had to pivot their learning plans as they navigate this school year based on student’s wants and needs. This is a prime example of servant leadership as more than ever these teachers need to be responsive to a child’s need but, also incredibly flexible. This year, more than ever, they cannot just use the same lesson plan as in the past. After listening to the panels, there are students with great home lives that have stepped up to the challenge to the complete opposite. There are some children that struggle to learn virtually, as well as, students that home life isn’t conducive to the responsibility of the technology required to learn. This challenge has been put on teachers to find ways to engage students from all spectrums.