“And finally the tables are starting to turn, talking about a revolution“. Tracy Chapman.
In my adult lifetime, I cannot imagine a moment in time where all social & cultural roads lead to institutional change: No matter where you look, as “Black Lives Matters” plays out nightly on our television news, as the Covid 19 outbreak continues throughout our communities, one cannot avoid the truth; we are in the midst of a true revolution.
So what are we going to do about it as educators? Certainly, as the uncertainty of Fall 2020 unfolds before our eyes, we can spend our energy wondering about covid second waves, schedules, social distancing, PPE, and remote learning. Then again, as we watch the scenes of civil unrest, and protest continue, the underlying message of change and evolution outweighs and over shadows anything else on television. Seriously, can I really give a &^% about tonight’s Wheel of Fortune winner or the Bachelor loser when there is such transformation unfolding in the streets every night? NO WAY.
As our brothers and sisters, many of them much younger that me, take to the streets to express their version of change, I must state what appears to be so obvious: Whether it be black lives, students of any skin color, or those who come from privilege, almost all K-12 students between 5 years old and 18 years old, spend 180 days, 7 plus hours each day, and for 12 long years in school. And what do we have to show for this? Let’s be real:
“In a nationwide survey of 21,678 U.S. high school students, researchers from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center found that nearly 75% of the students’ self-reported feelings related to school were negative.”
In light of current times, we are in the midst of a revolution and our education system must respond accordingly as well. Fortunately, throughout the country, and WA State, we are guided with clear direction as we reopen schools this Fall:
“The impacts of fear, hatred, and systemic and structural racism within institutions cannot be ignored, and they yield tragic outcomes. Wahington’s public education system must engage in anti-racist capacity building, leadership, and resource allocation. Dismantling systemically racist structures will make progress on inclusivity and will better serve students of color, students with disabilities, students who are English learners, students who are migratory, students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, students experiencing intergenerational poverty, and students who identify as LGBTQ+. The work of Washington public schools is to prepare students for postsecondary pathways, careers, and civic engagement. Washington must create the conditions for each student to be educated in
racially literate, culturally sustaining, positive, and predictable environments that intentionally prioritize the instruction and development of social-emotional skills, and mental health in addition to our primary focus on academic content.
Building anti-racist school cultures requires educators to shift the way they plan, instruct, and assess student learning; build the climate to accelerate student progress rather than remediate; utilize authentic, productive diagnostic assessments to guide and engage learners; and employ Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which embeds Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Culturally Responsive (CRE) practices to support students both virtually and in person. Educators must prioritize enduring concepts of content by narrowing standards to those most critical for student success in the next skill, course, or grade.” [Reopening Schools: 2020-2021].
Specifically, we are called upon to:
- Dismantle structures and systems which reinforce exclusivity; we want to reinforce and affirm inclusivity.
- Prioritize social – emotional learning and wellness in addition to academic content
- Shift the way we plan, instruct, and assess learning and ….
- Employ Universal Design for Learning [UDL]
I believe in these four shifts wholeheartedly. For I have seen our educational system move through one school reform after another, with fits and starts, but rarely has anything been sustainable. So now …
It’s time for us all to address the social issues which we all are responsible for in some way or another: Either as a part of the solution or as part of the problem. It’s that simple.
Again, if not now, when?