Schools closed their doors and families quarantined at home. Calls for equity echoed across the nation. A monumental presidential election loomed. Throughout these and other challenges of 2020, educators responded, quickly and in real time. What new ideas and tried-and-true practices were they turning to? And how were they finding ways to support one another, their students, and their communities during an unprecedented year?
Across topics ranging from safe school reopening to keeping students motivated, our Education Now series sought to highlight opportunities to reimagine and reshape education.
Here are a few takeaways from our conversations this year.
Connections Always Matter
EdNow’s very first episode, steered by frequent host, Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, struck a chord that has resonated throughout the pandemic: the importance of connecting with even just one other person. Senior Lecturer Junlei Li and Dana Winters from the Fred Rogers Center inspired us to think about the importance of small, intentional moments of connection — checking with a student, being silly with your child, or calling a loved one.
Stay True to Your Priorities, but Embrace Flexibility
To help leaders at all levels navigate uncertainty, Baltimore Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises and Anu Ebbe, principal in Madison, Wisconsin, reminded us that what works one day may not work the next. To stay open to new ideas and provide the right support, leaders always need to listen.
More on Leading Through Crisis
Professor Deborah Jewell-Sherman spoke to New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza as the school year ended last June, reflecting on how to rebuild, restore, and develop the social-emotional resources to address trauma and bolster resilience.
And three more superintendents — Brenda Casselius (Boston), Joseph Davis (Ferguson-Florissant, Missouri), and Janice Jackson (Chicago) — spoke with Senior Lecturer Jennifer Cheatham about leading for equity amid a pandemic with vastly unequal burdens.
Teachers Are a Source of Stability — Even Amid Uncertainty
Teachers, too, continue to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. As they reconsider the ways in which they build communities, they should focus on maintaining relationships with families and students and setting realistic expectations to provide a sense of stability, said Associate Professor Sarah Dryden-Peterson and Ana Tavares of Boston Public Schools.
Ask Yourself: Who Benefits, and Who Is Harmed?
The pandemic and a summer of protest against police violence highlighted existing inequities in education, prompting educators to take explicitly anti-racist action. HGSE's Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Tracie Jones and Lecturer Christina Villarreal spoke with teacher and activist José Vilson and student Jamarria Hall about how to challenge unjust systems.
Lean on Families — and Support Them
Families across the country assumed an active role in their child’s education as instruction went remote. Senior Lecturer Karen Mapp, New York City teacher Svati Mariam Lelyveld, and Rhode Island school leader Sarah Friedman called for new family engagement practices that celebrate families as co-creators and co-producers of student outcomes, to recognize their resilience, and to become their allies.