This blog found its roots when seemingly unconnected resources in my “to read list” connected with the designing and coaching work I am doing with schools in varied locations around the world and in differing situations regarding students returning to school.
Adam Fishman, a friend, and the founder of Onora, an organization created with the goal of “fixing the climate crisis and helping build a better future we can all smile at”, shared this post, “Reframing the climate problem: addressing the root of the issue.”
He wrote, “Through a long process of emotional turmoil, reflection, education, and wise counsel, we’ve learned that we must reframe the climate problem if we wish to truly address the root cause of our ailments (instead of just temporarily “dealing with” some presenting symptoms). In short, we learned that we must look at the problem from a different angle and challenge our assumptions to make sure we’re actually fixing the core problem.”
Adam describes a shift from leading with fear to leading with love. Instead of focusing on the fear (greenhouse gas) focusing on a deeper connection (connectedness with the sources of the things we value). He suggests a mindset shift from trying to do less harm to maximizing good and leaving things better than we found them.
My Ponder: As students return to classrooms in schools and educators discuss “learning loss” are we leading from fear rather than love? How do our choices and decisions change with a shift from minimizing harm from the pandemic to maximizing our students’ opportunities? Not going back to normal but ahead to creating things better than we had.
Sam Chaltain’s thoughts in New Rules for New Schools: Post- Covid, we must not “return to normal” connected similar elements regarding our mindsets. He suggested metaphors of seeing school as an ecosystem and as an acorn.
As an ecosystem, school is seen as a living system, rather than as an assembly line. I am old enough to have worked on an assembly line to earn my college tuition. On the assembly line, people are replaceable parts. When I was a “catcher” in the cardboard factory, a tap on my shoulder told me my replacement was ready to step in. There were no adjustments made regarding my replacement. I stepped out and he stepped in. Kind of like bells ringing, and the classroom seats are emptied and filled with replacements and instruction moves on. COVID was a major disrupter; schedules, pacing guides, content, assessments, instruction, dress codes, etc. A central lesson of an ecosystem is that anything that disturbs a living system is also what helps it self-organize into a new form of order.
My Ponder: Is the focus on “learning loss” an indicator that we need to “catch up” so that we can start the assembly line again. Do we believe the 5th-grade teacher needs the “right” students delivered by the line in order to do her teaching? Do we need 120 hours of seat time to award our Carnegie Units for graduation or college acceptance?
Chaltain’s metaphor of school as an acorn is taken from Roman Krznaric’s work The Good Ancestor, How to Think Long-term In a Short-term World. Krznaric labels our short-term marshmallow brain (think of the marshmallow experiment with preschoolers) and our long-term acorn brain (think, plan, and dream into the distant future) Here is a great, short, visual video explanation. How has the pandemic’s disruptions created an opportunity to rethink our focus points for learning outcomes?
My Ponder: What have our students learned and gained as survivors of the COVID Pandemic? How will they impact the schools of tomorrow to best serve that future generation? As summer school programs and school year 21-22 begins how best do we think like good ancestors?
As soon as I read Fishman’s statement about the value of deeper connections, I was reminded of Neeva Avashia’s message “Take the proximity you have to young people and use it” (Earlier blog) She references Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, “If you want to understand the world, get closer. If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.”
My ponder: Did virtual learning in some cases increase proximity? Have teachers seen students’ families, pets, homes, and study areas? Have parents observed teachers’ instruction and interactions with learners? How will we deepen connections and proximity to create a future we all can smile at?