We had a fantastic Game Changer conversation in the What School Could Be Community that inspired us and challenged us. Dr. Amber Strong Makaiau University of Hawaii and Hanahauoli School), Dr. Andrew Ho (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and Mari Jones (High Tech High Graduate School), engaged with audience questions and dug deep into surviving, and potentially thriving, through this COVID pandemic.
Beginning with the premise from recently completed research with teachers and students (Article and Study) that: (1) “learning loss” is not and should not be the dominant narrative of the pandemic, and (2) we shouldn’t go back to a normal that clearly was not working well, the panelists shared research and practice to support a shift in the purpose of school, address equity disparities, and provide concrete small steps we can do now.
Here are the highlights of the conversation and the insights into what’s working, what we’re learning, and how to forge ahead with joy and purpose:
Shifting our Thinking about the Purpose of School
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to confront a truth: that the current purpose of school lies somewhere between unclear or outdated. The panelists asked us to focus on the humanity of our learners and teachers. They also asserted that school does not just prepare students to be part of society, but that our schools are part of our communities now, and that human development is a goal of schooling.
COVID and (in)Equity
The COVID pandemic has lifted the veil and exposed many pre-existing inequities in education. It has further exacerbated others. Access to whole-child, student-centered education is more important than ever, and those approaches are oftentimes out of reach in many communities. Access to adequate resources for even traditional learning models are inequitably distributed in the United States. The panelists encouraged us to use what has come to light during the past 18 months to inspire action towards equity in education. They highlighted the positive changes that have emerged in the past two years and implored us to use assets-based frames, and to make sure we hold democracy at our core, to best serve all of our learners.
Small Steps and Big Joy
The happiest takeaway from the hour-long conversation was a focus on joy. All three panelists encouraged us to create joy where we could. From focusing on what is core to our teaching and asking ourselves “is adding this going to add or detract from joy?”, to creating mandala art projects in faculty meetings, all three panelists shared small steps to big payoffs.
Resources mentioned in this conversation are linked below as well as a video recap of entire conversation. Share your thoughts and favorite takeaways in the comments!
- The Hanahau’oli School Professional Development Center
- The Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education
- University of Hawai‘i Mānoa, College of Education Progressive Philosophy and Pedagogy MEd Interdisciplinary Education, Curriculum Studies
- Human Restoration Project Learning Loss Handbook
- The Power of Our Words
- Questions to ask about educational tests