How do you open a school for the third year in the shadow of an epidemic? How do school leaders create a welcoming community when there is fear and sadness and disagreement in some places? How did teachers, who have been in need of contacting young people who have been away from school for the past several months, balance the need to identify and address important incomplete learning from the previous year?
A good place to start is to talk to students and teachers.
Over the past six months, we’ve invited teachers from across the United States, across all grades and subjects, to interview their students and ask them five questions: What should we take next year? What hasn’t worked in the past that we should leave behind? What should adults do to make this year as good as possible? What do you think you have lost in the last 18 months? And what are you most proud of?
Between April and May this year, more than 200 teachers interviewed 4,000 students and sent us their thoughts – and more are joining each week. (You can view our slides with five key questions for students Here.)
It turned out that they have very different views than what is being discussed in the national policy dialogue. For example, in all of our data from more than 200 teachers, we have not heard of teachers evaluating missing lessons and describing them as their top priority for the coming year through targeted measures. Some teachers explicitly discussed the “disadvantages of learning” – but only to explicitly reject it as a useful frame. Some students expressed concern that their new teachers would not understand what subjects they missed, but many students vehemently rejected the idea that they would lose education in a year when they worked so hard in such a challenging situation.
Despite persistent reluctance in the media and policy makers, the “learning disadvantages” and declining test scores are the signature challenges for students and schools, the closest people in the classroom – at least we talked to – just don’t see it that way. Perhaps this helps explain why schools and districts offer educational summer programs or tutorials The response was overwhelming For the past few months – these programs have been addressing issues that many students and families do not face the most.
Interestingly, the description of their most important challenges by the students is not due to covid, but to the already unequal inequality in schools. For many students, long-term neglect and persistent inequality are more serious problems than the immediate challenges of Covid-1. If racism and the coronavirus were last year’s “twin epidemics,” for some young people, the former demanded more attention and action.
Overall, if the two stories that emerged in the media about K-12 education were “loss of learning” and “return to normal”, our respondents offered a third option, focusing on increased regeneration and healing, humanity and community.
Students and teachers tell us that the best things about peer years are when there are opportunities to reduce and build real relationships between teachers and students and their families, and when students are given more freedom to be in charge of their education, their bodies, and their development.
When we asked them what problems in school education, they hoped that next year policymakers would solve them, students and teachers talk less about Kovid-1 and more about long-term problems in school buildings and classrooms that are unhealthy to learn, extremist curricula that limit opportunities human relationships And interest-based exploration, overzealous policing of body and behavior, early times inconsistent with adolescent biology, and more.
We provide slides and guides for five The idea of September The questions we listed above. We developed an initiative called Raise-Dharamshala-Build, Where teachers and students think about what methods they want to create over the years, what could be a sunset to create space for new change, and what needs to be created to meet the needs in schools. Whose problem? It’s an approach-taking action that makes people think about how this year’s challenges look different for students, families, teachers and school leaders. Finally, Metaphors as tents The protocol asks people to look at the day-to-day logistical challenges of the past and to think holistically about the types of schools that are able to meet the demands of students and teachers in developing epidemics.
Whether you use this conversation startup or develop your own, you need to listen carefully to the people closest to its challenges to navigate the epidemic. The best solutions, including the best take-ups, will emerge from the efforts of people who learn and work in the classroom every day to see how they understand the next best way.
As devastating as the epidemic is – in many ways, for many people – it has increased our sense of what is possible in schools. As one high school teacher in Milwaukee told us, “We know how to change.”
Every few weeks a year, teachers develop new relaxation and skills with flexibility and adaptability. During the epidemic, we learned that many of the features of schools that seem fixed and immovable are actually casual and plastic. Of course, at the beginning of a year plagued by the third epidemic, people are tired and no one is going to rediscover education this September. But the challenge for the coming months and years will be for teachers to use the energy and potential of change found in crisis and apply the same resolve to the long-term challenge of rethinking what is possible in our schools.
Justin, Water, and Boston Public School teacher Neema Avashia are hosting a free, recorded webinar on the report on September 16 at 3 p.m., ET. You can sign up Here.