Prepping for Back to School

Where did the summer go?!

The past few years have been anything but ordinary, and wrapping your head around a whole new school year can be… a lot. It’s important to take the time to look back on the last year, recognize challenges faced and lessons learned, and incorporate those experiences into prepping for this back-to-school season. And DEN member Melinda McCleskey has done just that.  

The biggest challenges I faced last school year were related to the many unknowns in how I would be teaching my students in relation to the pandemic. Being a gifted enrichment teacher, I teach a small population of students identified as gifted and some students identified as twice-exceptional (students with autism and/or ADHD, and giftedness). Many of my students with dual exceptionalities benefit from more than just academic instruction.

We started the school year with full safety precautions in place, although we did still have in-person teaching, but fully masked and with limited interactions. I was challenged to design and incorporate lessons that encouraged collaboration through project-based learning. But these also needed to be accomplished with social distancing and the flexibility of virtual learning for students in quarantine. 

Navigating Challenges & Change

The key to navigating these challenges was actively listening to my students and their families as they shared concerns and goals. As their gifted teacher, I worked to establish a safe space for social-emotional learning to help these students feel comfortable sharing their struggles with fitting in with their peers and working together to develop solutions and healthy ways to build their self-confidence both in the gifted setting and in the regular classroom.

My students, their families, and I worked together to create positive solutions to meet students’ needs both inside and outside the classroom. As difficult as the pandemic has been, it has really helped me build relationships with the families of my students because we were in constant contact with one another.  

Onward & Upward!

This school year, I am looking forward to continuing to foster positive, impactful SEL and encourage my students to make real-world connections, like building financial literacy skills through DE’s fin-lit resources and adaptable activities and participating in The Stock Market Game. I am also looking forward to continuing to build positive family and community connections with my students and their families as we embark on a new school year—one where we have the ability for families to once again visit students on campus and share their learning experiences with their families firsthand. 

About the Author

Melinda McCleskey, M.Ed, is a Gifted and Talented (TAG) teacher for Galvez Primary, Lake Elementary, and Bullion Primary in Louisiana, as well as a valued member of our DEN Community. Mindy is also a Teacher Leader Advisor and Coastal Fellow with the Louisiana Department of Education, and enjoys collaborating with teachers from across the state. Read more >

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