Achieving the Impossible

Student writing

There is no shortage of stories about the tenuous state of schooling in this country. It’s safe to say that this year has been incredibly trying for both students and teachers alike. Educators are deeply concerned about how to connect with each and every one of their students and families. 

However, amidst the challenges, educators have achieved the impossible this school year. They are finding success as they collaborate with their colleagues to ensure every student is seen, heard, and most importantly, supported. Now, more than ever, strong relationships are essential to mitigate learning loss. 

BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) continues to help schools innovate like never before across the nation. As recently quoted in a USA TODAY article by BARR Founder and Executive Director Angela Jerabek, “If we can’t see the problem, we can’t solve the problem.” 

Leaders throughout the country are prioritizing relationships, innovation and collaboration to help remove barriers for students. At BARR school, Moreno Valley High School in California, teachers noticed that the greatest amount of learning loss for students was happening in the subject of math. Educators came up with the idea to record lessons for students so they can watch them at any time to help them avoid technological issues and move through the lessons at their own pace. These teachers transformed a challenge into an opportunity to serve students like never before. They united to help students improve in this subject by utilizing these pre-recorded lessons, while also providing more flexibility with work and office hours and being more accessible through email to help with various students’ needs.

The creative solutions to support students during this time spans across each and every state. Educators are innovating like never before to take tough moments and transform them into possibilities.

At Denfeld High School, a BARR school in Minnesota, educators had noticed there was poor attendance and engagement from students learning at home. They were determined to make a change and enhance the student experience. Educators created a “Canvas Rescue Mission” where teachers help students who are struggling with the school’s new learning management system, Canvas. Teachers met in-person and one-on-one with students in small groups to set them up for success with distance learning. More than 60 percent of students were invited to attend, and they saw their failure percentage drop 12%.

Additionally, Denfeld High School has had three separate supplies drops to students’ homes, including a visit to each incoming 9th grader’s home in the beginning of the school year. They have also had one-to-one contact with 97 percent of their ninth graders. Educators continue to prioritize helping students stay organized and connected, even when students are physically dispersed. School staff have created a weekly schedule, including hyperlinks to assignments, to ensure students have what they need to succeed in an online learning environment.

Elementary students and teachers are also embracing innovative solutions to improve learning experiences, as well. At Lake Elmo Elementary School in Minnesota, BARR educators are working together and discussing individual students in a comprehensive manner. Teachers are selecting a student to focus on during each of the meetings. This collaboration allows teachers to use a strength-based approach by focusing on students’ strengths and needs to create the best plan for them moving forward. 

“In order to address the pandemic-related learning loss, teachers are collaborating with one another to discuss individual students in a holistic manner. Working together by using the rigorous structures of the BARR approach has helped teachers implement targeted interventions to support each student,” said Lake Elmo Elementary Principal Stephen Gorde.

As we move into the new year, we should continue surging resources to the areas with the greatest need to improve students’ experiences. The continued collaboration between educators and students to remove barriers, embrace resiliency and provide innovative opportunities to students this year, has been truly inspirational. 

If 2020 proved anything, it was that we need each other now more than ever. In this new year, we look forward to seeing how educators continue innovating like never before to serve each and every student, as best as possible.