Educator Voice Is Essential to Meeting Today’s Challenges. Here’s How We’re Highlighting It.

Earlier this month, two education researchers revealed an unsettling (though perhaps unsurprising) truth about today’s educators in an article here on EdSurge. During a professional-development project designed to address complex trauma in students, every participating educator said they’ve experienced secondary traumatic stress as a result of the pandemic. Months later, the same educators continue to report high levels of traumatic stress.

It’s no secret that the past year has been filled with challenges. When schools shut down, educators rose to the occasion by quickly changing their teaching and learning practices. More than ever teachers and school leaders are pushing themselves to their limits to address students' social-emotional wellbeing outside of academics. And they’re having difficult but necessary conversations about race, equity and safety in a volatile time. Often, that means trying new and innovative approaches quickly, meeting students where they are.

In February, instructional coach Jacquelyn Whiting shared how she helped a math teacher at her school modify a remote lesson about building and measuring blanket forts into one that celebrated giving students a safe, personal space to learn that restored a little bit of agency after a year when they had lost so much. That same month, we heard from two directors of an alternative education program who started a safe two-way dialogue between police officers and students they’ve had run-ins with in the past.

These are stories we at EdSurge have been proud to feature. They’re also the first of a new series we’re running called Voices of Change, which aims to chronicle educator experiences as they face the 2021-22 school year. We want to understand how students and educators are feeling, how their mental health is being impacted and how school communities are supporting resilience and reconnection in this isolating age.

As longtime readers may know, we’ve run similar series in the past, and like those, Voices of Change is being produced with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. As always, EdSurge maintains editorial independence over all of our journalism, following our ethics statement.

Throughout the next year, we’ll be highlighting diverse voices from across the country and featuring more first-person essays from educators and researchers tackling timely and relevant challenges with real solutions. (If you’d like to submit an idea for a story, check out our brief pitch form.) And EdSurge reporters will be covering topics such as whole child development, the evolution of the education workforce and how educators are putting research into action, producing the same award-winning journalism readers have come to expect.

We’ll also be trying a few new things. For one, we’ll be engaging with a range of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) experts to make sure that our coverage is as thoughtful, comprehensive and accessible as possible. And for the first time we’ll be launching a new EdSurge writing fellowship, recruiting a cohort of diverse P-12 educators who will share multiple stories over several months. We’ll be looking for fellows from all walks of life—and all types of school settings—to share a little about their own experiences and the diverse communities they serve. (More details on the application process to come—subscribe to our K-12 newsletter for the latest.)

Throughout the year, we’ll be hosting a number of research and community engagement events. We’ll investigate the impact of articles in our series through online focus groups and structured research interviews. Through these activities, we’ll ask educators to reflect on which resources and supports surrounding EdSurge articles can spur deeper engagement and action. We’ll also offer a series of Virtual Learning Circles, which are structured discussion groups where educators can connect with one another while developing action plans for integrating learnings from articles into their practice.

Above all, we want to give educators space to reflect, share and learn about relevant educational research, pedagogical approaches and technological resources that can make their practices more effective to meet the needs of every learner. This has become part of the fabric of what we do at EdSurge, and we’re excited to be embarking on this work. We’re also grateful to the education community for reading, sharing and contributing to these efforts—so please let us know if you have any thoughts to share at feedback@edsurge.com.

Meeting these challenges won’t be easy, but we’ll be here to shine a spotlight on the inspiring work educators everywhere are doing every day.

—Stephen Noonoo, K-12 editor

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