Almost all the parents I talk to these days have an edge in their voices, beneath the veneer of “I’m hanging in there” and “I feel grateful that we are safe and healthy.” Exhaustion? Uncertainty? Overwhelm? All understandable. We’re worried about our kids, our community, our country, our world. We’re experiencing a trifecta of trauma: COVID + anti-Black police brutality + wildfires. Even the skies have become one big distress signal. We all know, even if we don’t want to say it out loud, that things will never “go back to normal.”
For students, families and educators, the idea of “school” has been razed to the ground. What are we going to rebuild in its place? Could we create more compelling learning experiences for all, in ways that unwind generations of systemic racism? Could some of the stopgaps actually become the cornerstones of a better public education system? Intentionally laying the foundation today could lead to new routines when schools start to reopen, which could become the new standard once in-person learning becomes the norm again. If we start now, maybe we’ll be less likely to revert to our old habits that created the inequities that have persisted for generations
Here are three features that I hope will become part of our public school system as it evolves:
⇒ How we’ll support families: At Educate78, we have championed family voice and choice since inception. In 20-21 we will continue to do so by supporting families advocating for their students’ learning via the Oakland REACH and other parent groups. We are also excited to fund the aunties and grandmas and big siblings and neighbors who are leaning in to support children’s learning right now – via the People’s Literacy Fund, our newest initiative in partnership with Energy Convertors.
⇒ How we’ll strengthen the culture of learning: At Educate78 this year, we are pitching in: continuing to support school leaders of color through our Antiracist Collective and convening a new Literacy Learning Network. Both advance the professional development of our principals, teacher leaders, and principal supervisors.
⇒ How we’ll advance the science of learning: In addition to helping school teams improve instructional quality in our Antiracist Collective and Literacy Learning Network, we are proud to partner with the NAACP-Oakland’s FULCRUM (Full and Complete Reading is a Universal Mandate) initiative to get research-based literacy practices into all Oakland schools and with the Literacy for All coalition to raise awareness across the community.
Most of us working in urban public education have witnessed the ways in which systems have created inequities over generations for children of color. And many of us are also trying to undo these racialized outcomes. Building an antiracist future takes constant and deliberate effort because equitable systems don’t magically just appear and power does not naturally accrue to those deserving. There’s no silver bullet for creating great learning experiences for all students, but the 100% remote learning experience prompts a close examination of every aspect of how schools do teaching and learning: how time and space are deployed, what tools and materials are needed, who is doing what to support students. Let’s start a conversation about purposefully doing school in ways that will help everyone thrive, and work together this year to make them happen.
If you are a student, parent, educator or community leader – what are you seeing, hoping for, or trying to build into your new ways of teaching, learning & leading? We’d love to hear about your ideas, celebrate what’s working, and collaborate!