After pandemic challenges, behavior specialist hopeful this school year

As schools get back into gear, many are faced with not only meeting academic needs, but also the emotional needs of students – particularly after the pandemic.

Darrail Hughes, a behavior specialist in St. Paul, shared his thoughts going into the school year.

"My behavior and my body language has to be, 'Hey, I'm happy to see you! Let's do this. Let's wake up. Let's get going,'" said Hughes, a behavior intervention specialist in special education at LC Webster Elementary School. "That's kind of my personality, I love having fun. I love to see the kids enjoy walking into the room, into the school."

Hughes said it’s been a struggle working virtually over the past year or so.

"It's hard to get kids to be their authentic self behind a screen," he said. "Their ability to comprehend the content behind a screen was challenged."

Hughes also said the lack of socialization over the past year has been a challenge for students.

"Being used to being around kids their age and talking to each other, that part is missing. That is one of the strengths we don't hone in on," he said. "We talk about reading, math and other criteria, but social engagement - talking to others, holding a conversation - that unfortunately feels like it was left behind. COVID had an effect.  It was an invisible beast."

Now, Hughes said he’s hopeful for the road ahead.

"We are all in this," he said. "We have to work together to process this out at this point with the rough two years we've had with social unrest or injustice and COVID. We need to bond on a whole different level now. We just have to."