After a challenging year of online learning, it’s no secret that the education system and its students are suffering. In response, Dallas’ Building Solutions launched a year-long campaign called “Building Solutions for Brighter Futures.” As part of the campaign’s initiative, members of Building’s Solutions Advocacy Committee dove into rebuilding educational equity around North Dallas during a recent fireside chat.
The panelists included Building Solutions CEO Bill Keslar; Dr. Sherril English, a clinical associate professor at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development; and Dr. Terry Flowers, the Perot family headmaster of St. Philip’s School and Community Center. Building Solutions Vice President Dennis Palmer moderated.
As each panelist plays a big role in community education, the talk delved into their takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on students’ academic and mental health. Building Solutions plans to continue hosting a series of community conversations from here, inviting education, business, and industry leaders to discuss topics related to educational equity that can empower and inform the community.
Here’s what they had to say.
1. Environments are everything
As a part of Building Solution’s team for more than 30 years, Keslar dedicates his time to ensuring every project has an adequate amount of resources in order to meet its objectives. After looking at countless campuses, Kesler stresses the importance of positive learning and believes “facilities exist to facilitate, they are not an end in themselves, but they are a means.”
Learning is stressful enough as it is for both students and teachers, especially in this post-pandemic environment. So it is crucial that schools have facilities that accommodate both teachers and learners comfortably with clean, orderly, and engaging classrooms. This means discarding things such as drab colors, worn out furniture, arms that are falling off chairs, and so on, he says.
But because maintenance budgets are the easiest to cut and hardest to raise, unfortunately this is not as easy as it may sound.
Negative environments lead to both student and teacher not understanding the importance of what’s going on in the space. Keslar says, “it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is if the student’s can’t focus.”
2. Rely on research
When it comes to education and student’s development, there’s a lot of research out there. But Dr. English believes the best research is getting to know your students.
Because campuses have varying populations and locations, it is imperative that teachers do their own individual research. English says that “students are the expert of their own lives”—by talking to each student, asking them questions, and analyzing their strengths and weakness, teachers can create a challenging curriculum that cultivates creativity.
Research has revealed that more than half of U.S. students have experienced summer learning losses five years in a row, she notes. For this reason, schools must focus on building positive learning environments that allow teachers to immerse themselves in building a positive learning experience for all students.
3. Parents play a role in recovery
Though students’ summer slide was pre-existent, Dr. Flowers stresses the need for additional support for students, both in the classroom and outside.
With the exacerbation of the summer slide, parents are urged to take a hands-on approach in their children’s education experience. Whether it be by reading to your kids at night or taking them to learning experiences around the city, “kids can’t be what they cant see,” he says. Because of the pandemic, children have been stripped away from social interactions that are vital for growth.
While many after school and summer programs are slowly reopening, in order to ramp up the road to recovery parents must work to ensure their child is in an uplifting environment pivots to be “more welcoming and inclusive” than ever before.
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