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A hopeful perspective: As cracks in our education system are revealed, we need to dream about what’s possible

Image courtesy Michigan Virtual

The cracks in our education system are showing, and educators everywhere are feeling it.

In times like these, it’s perhaps temptingly easy to point fingers and allocate blame for the systemic inequities in education that are becoming more apparent by the day and our collective lack of preparedness to adapt to flexible learning models.

But with the stress of a global pandemic bearing down on everyone, it may be better to give one another grace and instead seek to foster the growth mindset we so desperately wish to instill in our students.

It might as well be the motto of 2020:

Things aren’t going quite the way that we had hoped . . . All right. Now, what can we learn from it? How can we do better in the future?

Taking a moment to dream: How can we reimagine what ‘school’ looks like?

We interviewed several innovative educators from around the country and asked them to dream about what a better system of schooling might look like. You can see some of their responses in the video below:

A common thread among responses was a desire to question the efficacy of a one-size-fits-all model of education in which all students are in the same room learning the same content at the same time.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education,” says Amy Gwizdz, a technology coach at Dearborn Public Schools. “Education is messy. All students are not created equal. Our kids are the ones who we fail when we try to impose any clear-cut, standardized, or one-size-fits-all on them.”

“As we move forward, I hope our biggest question is,” poses Tanya Leon, an English teacher at Richards Middle School, “are we doing things because it’s the way we’ve always done it? Or because it’s what’s best for kids? If we move toward that second question, I think we will realize that for a large part of the population, the traditional model doesn’t work. If we’re missing one kid, we’re missing one kid too many.”

But how exactly do we do this? How do we move away from a one-size-fits-all model to something more personalized to each student’s unique needs?

Student-centered learning as the horizon

Many educational leaders believe that the future lies in pushing toward student-centered learning models.

Of course, it’s not news to any seasoned educator that personalization matters in learning. Historically, however, the problem has been that it’s difficult to personalize learning for students at scale.

In most classrooms, there’s a ratio of one teacher per 20-30 students. Before recent advancements in technology, tailoring each student’s learning to their unique needs was near impossible.

Good teachers have always made adjustments to accommodate individual students where needed, but a truly student-centered approach to learning is exceedingly difficult to implement without access to digital tools and digital content.

To make it feasible requires significant rethinking of the traditional classroom as we understand it.

“It’s a different type of classroom. It functions differently at its core,” explains Dr. Chris Harrington, director of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our in-depth article that takes a deeper dive into what this classroom looks like and what it will take for us to get there at scale.

The long road ahead isn’t possible without hope

Change is rarely easy.

It’s hard work to reimagine what school looks like, especially when the traditional model of schooling is one in which most of us were raised during the formative years of our lives.

COVID-19 has been an incredibly challenging time for many. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we give one another grace. We can’t expect change to happen overnight, nor in a single summer in the midst of a global pandemic.

But we can dream of a better system and begin asking our communities to dream alongside us.


Chalkbeat’s editorial staff had no role in writing or preparing this paid content. Learn about our sponsored content policy.