November 10, 2020

Roads to Reinventing: What is now more possible than ever?

Hello! I’m Jenee Henry Wood, and I head up learning for Transcend. For the coming weeks, I’ll be our “narrator,” sharing the latest insights, discoveries, and light bulb moments from the incredible work happening across our network. Last month, we shared the launch of “Roads to Reinventing,” which focuses on communities who are responding to crises in ways that lay the groundwork for making leaps towards far better, more equitable, more liberatory learning experiences.  

We began by listening. We huddled members of the Transcend Design Community — school leaders, educators, parents, and other experts. We had discussions with Transcend staff who work alongside school communities everywhere. We listened to experiences of young people, who serve as Enduring Ideas Fellows. We surveyed you. We ended with one question:

WHAT NOW FEELS POSSIBLE THAT DIDN’T BEFORE THIS MASSIVE DISRUPTION? 

No one is confused about how rough and inequitable remote learning has been for millions of children. But we also heard important possibilities:  

  • “School” no longer has to be confined to a singular site inside a zip code. Young people can draw from a wide ecosystem of outstanding and rich opportunities. While there’s little evidence that remote learning has been a knockout success for American schools, it has been surprisingly powerful for some students, teachers, and families. The experiences of meaningful community-building and rigorous small group work on Zoom, the role played by community centers and neighborhood experts when school buildings closed, and new configurations of teacher and parent teams all challenge the idea that learning must happen in a classroom, where everyone learns the same thing at the same time. If we extrapolate this further, this means that schooling doesn’t have to be confined to a geographical location. What would it take to expand these bright spots to the majority of students during and after COVID? Read more, here.
  • Parents, caregivers, and other loved ones can play meaningful roles in shaping and supporting young people’s learning, far more than the traditional model allows. So, so, so many of you told us that never before in your experience had parents and caregivers have been so centrally connected to learning. Again, we won’t pretend that this has been a faultless transition. However, parents and caregivers are being engaged by schools in ways that are giving them deep proximity to the experiences of their children. How might we reimagine school where caregivers are no longer “passive consumers,” but connected community partners? Read more, here.
  • Learners can be dramatically more self-directed, and learning more customized, enabled by models with skillful educators and thoughtfully integrated tech. In the best-case remote learning scenarios, educators are truly leveraging tech platforms to maximize asynchronous, passion-led, project-based learning. What can we learn from innovative educators who have given students agency in decision-making and chances to foster their interests despite – and because of – virtual or hybrid environments? Read more, here.
  • Emotional and mental well-being can be a core outcome for young people and the adults who serve them. In the Spring, many of you reflected on how jarring the transition from in-person to virtual could be without purposeful systems and rituals for connection, care, and community-building. Schools who tackled the loss of physical proximity and daily, impromptu social connections by investing in virtual culture-building found this to be a lynchpin of successful remote learning. How might we retain this care for and investment in social, mental, and emotional well-being as a foundation for learning and community? Read more, here.
  • Schooling can be a vehicle to interrupt (vs. perpetuate) oppression by modeling the kinds of equitable communities that our country desperately needs. We heard loud and clear that this moment of dual crises (COVID and our ongoing fight for racial justice) is prompting new questions about how young people learn, from whom they learn it, and what they are learning. In some communities, learning environments are running towards more thoughtful, inclusive, multi-faceted content, especially as the testing regime recedes from the center stage. How can we maintain this momentum and honor what we’ve learned about where we are and how far we have yet to go? Read more, here.

It can feel naive to scrape for positivity in a year like 2020. Our aim is to share all that we’re learning, hearing, and seeing from communities across the country that might shed light on a path forward for education. Please join me and all of Transcend in the coming weeks as we lift up real stories that illuminate bridges from the industrial model to equitable, 21st century experiences that ALL young people deserve.

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