Education Trends Every Curriculum Director Should Know About

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Education Trends Every Curriculum Director Should Know About
When you take the time to learn more about the latest trends in education, it can help inform and improve your own classroom instruction. Maybe you've got a challenging group of kids who aren't responding to the lesson plans your teachers are using. Or perhaps you're counseling a group of teachers who feel like their school district doesn't value them enough to improve their facilities or provide them with a much-needed pay raise. Understanding how other teachers are adapting their teaching styles and advocating for themselves and their students can be encouraging and helpful as you look for ways to improve your own situation. As a curriculum director, your days are crammed full of instruction time, staff meetings, phone calls with parents, planning and more. It's challenging to find time to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in K-12 education around the country. But understanding how education is growing and changing is vital to student success. Luckily, we're here to help. In this guide, we'll discuss some current trends in education, as well as a few ideas for implementing these in your own classroom.

1. Trauma-Sensitive Education

Also referred to as "trauma-informed education," this new trend in recognizes that trauma has a big impact on how students learn in school. When a student experiences violence, hunger, homelessness or another traumatic event — or series of events — at home, their brain rewires itself to cope with their experience. When this happens, students often struggle to learn and behave in a traditional classroom environment. This trend is doing two things:
  1. First, it recognizes that this happens. Before you can adapt your classroom and instruction to deal with student trauma, you first have to understand what it is and how it impacts children. It's also important to do everything you can to know what's going on with your students. If you teach in an area with a high poverty rate or where a large percentage of parents are incarcerated, identify students who may have experienced trauma and be on the lookout for situations as they arise.
  2. The second part of this trend goes beyond recognizing the impact of trauma and figuring out how to work with it. There's no way to erase what a child has experienced — although sometimes we wish we could — so the challenge is learning how to teach children to cope with it while still engaging in the classroom.
In 2017, the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) received a grant from the National Education Association to implement coping mechanisms and ideas for trauma-sensitive education in some of its schools and classrooms. Under the grant, teachers have implemented low-light classrooms, cool-down corners where students can go when they become upset or anxious, and additional instruction centered around emotional and social learning, such as teaching children how to identify and process their feelings and emotions in a healthy, constructive manner.

2. Educator Self-Care

Whenever you get on a plane, the flight attendants always instruct you to put on your own oxygen masks before helping others — the same applies to educators. If educators aren't addressing their own trauma or struggles, they won't be as effective in helping their students.

educator self-care

Traditionally, teachers have looked to summer break as their time to step back and indulge in self-care, whether it's exercise, counseling, pursuing a hobby or spending time with friends. But when these basic human needs are set aside for an extended period of time, they can't be cured and addressed in just a couple of months. This has sparked an increased push for teacher wellness, meaning educators are being encouraged to take care of themselves as part of their strategy for becoming better educators. This means encouraging your teachers toward physical health — not putting off important doctors' appointments, eating healthy, getting the exercise and sleep their bodies need, etc. It may also mean encouraging them to seek help if they themselves are dealing with trauma — recent or past. Encouraging continued learning is also a great way to keep teachers engaged and interested in the world around them. And no, we aren't talking about in-services and teacher conferences. Encourage teachers to pursue learning in a topic outside of their classroom — it could be something as simple as organizing quarterly wine and paint nights for staff members. Artistic expression and learning about something different are both great ways to relax and refresh a teacher's mind.

3. Activism and Education

As a curriculum director, you play a large role in helping teachers understand the implications of an election on their jobs and their students. Answer questions — without becoming political — and provide information that will help teachers make informed choices before they hit the polls. Many day-to-day decisions about education are made at the state level. In recent years, several teachers' unions have gone on strike demanding their state provide better pay, better facilities and altogether better situations for teachers and students. State-level advocacy is seeing some great results, but teachers need to understand what those results have been in other places and what their district is facing. It's important to understand that education-focused voting is about more than voting for the candidate who wants to give teachers pay raises. It's about addressing school violence, privatization, standards of learning and college debt. It's about understanding how federal programs are implemented on the state and local levels. It's about understanding where school funding comes from — and how to get more of it. That being said, don't miss out on the opportunity to incorporate the elections into your school's curriculum too. The elections are a practical tool for teaching students about how our government works, how elections work and what founding principles our country operates on. These applications go beyond a social studies curriculum and can be addressed in English and math curriculums as well.

4. Social Media and the Educator's Tool Kit

Kids are spending more time than ever on the Internet, specifically social media. So harness that and use it for good. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are great platforms for finding and sharing information. When students are taught how to identify legitimate information — and how to weed out prank sites and fake news — they'll be better researchers and better equipped to use these platforms in the future. Social media can also offer students and teachers the opportunity to interact outside the classroom.

online tools for educators

However, we're not suggesting educators share their personal information with students. Teachers who form a separate "work" identity online can hold virtual "office hours" to discuss homework and help students on projects they may be struggling with. Teachers can also set up classroom group pages and threads for students to work together on projects. The collaborative nature of social media lends itself to great classroom applications, but there's more to it than that. By teaching students the positive power of social media, you can also include instruction and guidance toward avoiding the negative aspects of social media, such as cyberbullying.

5. Impact of Facilities on Learning

There is a direct connection between the condition of a school building and student absenteeism, especially among younger students and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The quality of the building, as well as how current facilities and resources are, impacts learning. When students attend clean, modern schools, there are also fewer behavioral problems and higher test scores. But it's not just students who respond well to newer, cleaner facilities — teacher behavior and instruction also improve when the conditions they're teaching in are better. This is a tricky topic because most school districts can't afford to tear everything down and start over. However, it's important to understand the correlation between the building and the teaching. Look around your school and take stock of what's there. Then, work with the administration and local school district to identify areas of improvement and the funding needed to accomplish them. Include teacher input where you can — teachers should be encouraged to advocate for themselves and their students at all levels.

6. Providing Individualized Attention

This one can be tricky in areas where class sizes are particularly large. We aren't saying a teacher should provide each student with an individualized lesson plan and daily one-on-one tutoring, but rather that they need to recognize that their students are individuals. As individuals, they will naturally have different ways of learning, different barriers to success and different measures of achievement. For example, some students may thrive in a classroom where a teacher lectures for 10 minutes each day. Others may struggle to keep up with lectures but thrive during hands-on assignments or in group project settings.

providing individualized attention

Encouraging teachers to step back and evaluate each child allows them to plan lessons that will reach a mixture of learning styles in a "something-for-everyone" approach. It will allow them to identify potential problem areas for students before they arise and develop ways to help those students overcome challenges. By thinking of students as individuals and refusing to follow a one-size-fits-all teaching method, teachers are better equipped to help their students succeed — both in the short-term and later on in life.

7. Student Educators

In the past, educators believed setting rules and guidelines for their class, and then enforcing them was the most effective way to run a classroom. In more recent years, there has been a push to revise that belief and allow students to contribute to classroom governance. By encouraging students — yes, even elementary school-aged students — to contribute to classroom rules and consequences, students have an increased interest in abiding by them. For example, at the beginning of the year, a teacher could sit down with their students and invite 10 to 15 minutes of organized brainstorming. At the end of the session, the class will create a list of 10 rules they agree to follow throughout the year. The rules are clearly posted in the classroom, and students are also asked to sign a "contract" agreeing to abide by the rules they developed. By giving students the chance to contribute to what goes on in the classroom, teachers are finding that students are more likely to follow the rules and feel invested in maintaining a good classroom atmosphere.

8. Virtual Reality Inside the Classroom

VR in the classroom

Virtual reality is exploding, and its impact on education is already being realized. As more schools and classrooms get access to VR tools, students can use these to supplement classroom instruction by "traveling" to places they're learning about in geography or inserting themselves into a novel they're reading in English class. VR is also being used to guide students through social situations they may face and help them build social and academic skills they need to succeed. Although the VR in education trend is increasing, educators should still beware of the pitfalls of this technology in the classroom. Because the content is designed to mirror "real life," be sensitive to what material students are permitted to experience, choosing age-appropriate and content-relative experiences for them to engage in. Also, don't rely solely on VR experiences to provide content. Even if the content is in there, students will naturally be distracted by the experience itself and can miss out on important information. Use VR as a supplement to other classroom instruction so students can fully grasp the material.

Promote Student Planning and Organization With Success By Design

Of course, all the trends and tips in the world are no substitute for smart planning and organization. As an educator, you've been taught all about lesson planning and how to do that using modern technology. But research still shows that writing down plans and assignments has a direct and profound impact on learning. When you incorporate traditional paper planners into your classroom, research shows these tools enhance cognitive and language development, help students remember their assignments and improve in both letter recognition and handwriting. At Success By Design, our goal is to help educators and administrators succeed, so their students can succeed too. We know there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the "paperless classroom" and a commitment to green practices. Our eco-friendly agendas and recycling practices are designed to help your school keep its commitment to green practices, as well as make more efficient use of the paper that you do go through. Let us help your students reach their full potential. Browse our wide selection of customizable paper planners today or call our friendly customer service team to find the right planner for your students.

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