Felicity Burgess: "This photo was taken back in October during an Askwith Forum on 'The Power of Playful Learning.' One of the things I’ve loved about my time at HGSE is the talks and discussions that fill the edges around class time."
Photo: Elio Pajares
The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Felicity "Flic" Burgess will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for International Education Policy (IEP) at HGSE's Virtual Commencement on May 28.
Professor Fernando Reimers, faculty director of IEP, comments on Burgess' selection: “Felicity ‘Flic’ Burgess is a generous and effective contributor to the intellectual community in the International Education Policy Program. In class, she is not only consistently engaged and well prepared to advance the conversation to greater levels of depth and complexity, she is also a great interlocutor, who knows how to listen deeply to the contributions of her classmates, and how to build on their ideas. Flic has also demonstrated that she understands that much of the intellectual community of the IEP happens in the interstices between courses, in informal conversations, in exchanges with guest speakers, in an impromptu talk in the Gutman café, or, more recently, in our regular check-in each Friday on Zoom. In all those environments, Flic is a dependable contributor and team member, who shows respect for the voices of her peers and creates ways to elevate them. She launched a magazine, an avenue to foster reflection and deep collective intelligence initially among students in the program, which she then opened to the entire HGSE community, as the events forcing us into physical distancing made community even more essential.”
We spoke to Burgess about her time at HGSE, her future plans, and what the new normal in education might look like:
What does the photo above mean to you?
Felicity "Flic" Burgess: This photo was taken back in October during an Askwith Forum on “The Power of Playful Learning.” One of the things I’ve loved about my time at HGSE is the talks and discussions that fill the edges around class time. Appian Way is full of events that can challenge you to shift your thinking and change the way you look at something. I also love the way you can sit next to someone in a lecture who then becomes someone you can grab coffee with to continue the conversation, and later becomes a great friend.
For me, this photo is a reminder that that play is messy, risky, timeless, and involves students being in charge and creating their own culture. I’m interested in how we hold these characteristics at the center of learning.
What are your post-HGSE plans?
FB: The pandemic has really forced me to practice holding uncertainty. Even the very notion of making a plan suddenly seems so divorced from our current reality. I’m not sure where I will be showing up over the coming weeks and months but I’m excited to bring some fresh energy to educators who have been working tirelessly through the initial emergency response phase.
My longer-term plan is to found a school which uses the power of learning to ignite imaginations, fuel connections, and champion love for ourselves and our world. It will be the most radically loving school you have ever visited — I can’t wait to invite you!
"As a student, we are given complete permission not to have the answers. We don’t have to pretend to know the answers. We are encouraged to challenge, to discuss, to question, to listen, to understand, to empathise, to hear, to hold, and to see. I really hope I can find the humility to hold on to all of these characteristics of a learner throughout my career in education." – Felicity "Flic" Burgess
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
FB: I hope I can carry with me the mindset of being a student. It has been a wonderful luxury to step out of work for nine months simply to learn — HGSE is a bit like decadent teacher rehab! As a student, we are given complete permission not to have the answers. We don’t have to pretend to know the answers. We are encouraged to challenge, to discuss, to question, to listen, to understand, to empathise, to hear, to hold, and to see. I really hope I can find the humility to hold on to all of these characteristics of a learner throughout my career in education.
Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
FB: I took Carrie Conaway’s spring course called Toward Organizations that Learn and LOVED it. I’ve always thought there is incredible irony in how bad school systems are at learning. If learning is our core business, then we should excel. Organizations from every sector should be looking to the teaching profession as a model of how to learn. The tragic irony is that they are not! Conversely, evidence shows that professional development often fails to impact student outcomes and that most teachers plateau after just three years in the classroom.
Carrie’s class allowed us to explore the challenges around integrating research and practice in education systems. We were also able to think about what it really means to be a learning organization. Learning is our superpower — so it was great to think more intentionally about how we use it.
How has the pandemic shifted your views of education?
FB: I’ve been in awe watching friends, colleagues, and leaders in education respond to the pandemic with a tone of love, grace, and courage. The work is hard and messy, yet they show up with the strength that our young people need right now, and they will continue to show up.
Right now, I have so many more questions than answers…. I’m wondering how we will resolve the severe challenges to equity heightened by the pandemic? How will we provide support for the collective trauma our students have experienced? How will we find the energy to capitalize on this opportunity to pause and rethink?
I’m reminded of something a classmate and friend said to me: “For most things, this is not a ‘the show must go on’ sort of moment. This is a moment to say maybe we meditate instead of the show, maybe we should be with loved ones instead of the show, maybe we should relax instead of the show, maybe we should grieve instead of the show.”
I believe it’s in this space that we will find the answers we need.