Without hope for the future, students have nothing

Originally published by Albuquerque Journal - November 10, 2020

As educators, it is our responsibility to give students hope and inspiration for the future.

Amid a global health crisis, this is increasingly difficult but more important than ever. Students need something to look forward to. They need someone to show them what’s possible, and how to get there. This is where educators come in. And as an educator for eight years, this is a role I take seriously. But all educators, here in New Mexico and across the country, need support to carry out this role.

As educators, it is our responsibility to give students hope and inspiration for the future. Amid a global health crisis, this is increasingly difficult but more important than ever. Students need something to look forward to. They need someone to show them what’s possible, and how to get there.

This is where educators come in. And as an educator for eight years, this is a role I take seriously. But all educators, here in New Mexico and across the country, need support to carry out this role. I got into education to give back to my community. As one of the lowest ranked states in the nation for education, I wanted to help improve the lives of the next generation. Because by improving education, we can improve quality of life.

Then COVID-19 struck. The virus quickly swept across the world and here in New Mexico. … The pandemic is changing many aspects of our lives. With the number of cases continuing to rise across the state, it is clear we will be dealing with this for a long time. COVID-19 is completely disrupting our education system. The brick-and-mortar model of students being required to attend a physical building for hours a day is being replaced with online learning accessed from home. Education systems must meet students where they are and ensure that every student has access to a quality education where they will not fall behind.

When building online school solutions there are many considerations, we must take into account to meet the needs of our students and communities. Here are the three things I am keeping in mind and that all of our school districts should consider.

Ensure that the program is open and accessible.

For online schools to work, we need to ensure that the program is open and accessible for all. This cannot be limited to those in densely populated, urban areas. Equitable access must be achieved for all, no matter their ZIP code.

We need to work together to get students online. New Mexico is one of the least internet-connected states in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Districts must come up with unique solutions. Whether that’s partnering with internet providers or providing families with hot spot access or even satellite internet, all options must be explored to get and keep students connected to learning.

Create a culturally and linguistically responsive curriculum.

Once we get students online, we need to lead them with a curriculum that is culturally and linguistically responsive. New Mexico is a state where 11% of the population is Native American. When students enter their classroom, in person or online, we need to acknowledge their heritage. They need to know that they are being recognized by their educators, and that their education is designed with all of them in mind. This includes re-examining our lessons and our approach in the classroom, being mindful of the rich history of our state and the language we use with our colleagues and students. We need to break down barriers to truly form an effective learning environment.

Foster connections and an online community.

In the online classroom, students and teachers are not meeting face to face each day. But that doesn’t mean that relationships cannot be formed. In fact, they are even more important when your school goes virtual. Through competency and relationship-building, teachers can really get to know their students. Having some knowledge and background on their lives and circumstances helps to better serve these students and to help them be the best they can be, and builds an educational community based on trust and respect.

Without access to a quality education, students have limited opportunity for growth. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to re-imagine education and remove barriers to make it a more accessible and inclusive environment.

Lorraine Nobes has served as an educator for eight years. As the director of school operations for Destinations Career Academy of New Mexico, she is leading a team to establish a full-time online school for students statewide.

To learn more about Destinations Career Academy of New Mexico visit, https://nmdca.k12.com/

KEYWORDS: Destinations Career Academy of New Mexico, New Mexico

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