Part II of “Our Unpleasant Truths” — How Do Educators Get Unstuck? | Will Richardson | 3 Min Read

Read Part I of Our Unpleasant Truths – Where Have They Delivered Us?

If you want a clear sense of just how deeply wedded we are to the traditional rhythms and practices of school, even in the middle of an incredibly disruptive pandemic, the “home virtual lockdown” has to win “best of show.”

As Dan Kois writes in Slate, his daughter was expected to practice hiding under her own desk, in her own bedroom, “to prepare for the possibility that someone might try to shoot her, someday later, at her school.” His reaction is not surprising:

“I thought the virtual shooting drill was totally bizarre and wanted to know why it happened. After all, the only upside to this otherwise disastrous period of remote education is that at least there is a zero percent chance that my kid will be shot in school, a possibility that usually preoccupies me, and her, way more than is healthy. So why wouldn’t schools take the opportunity to just … not … bring it up for a while?”

Dan Kois

Great question, isn’t it?

This strange anecdote aside, there’s a legit incentive to ask that same question of much of what we do in school, whether in a pandemic-induced remote setting or face to face. Especially if we situate that question deeply in the idea of what is supposedly school’s number one purpose: helping students learn. 

Why would we force kids to sit in online class sessions hour after hour, mimicking the in school bell schedule, complete, in some cases, with virtual “bells” to signal a change in Zoom rooms? 

Why would we collectively spend millions on “online proctoring software” to monitor tests, adding another layer of surveillance to our students’ lives with embedded messages about how they can’t be trusted?

And why would we try to “deliver” the full scope of the curriculum, the full slate of homework, and the full accounting of grades in a moment of abject chaos and emotional distress on the part of both students and teachers?

I mean, really, just how stuck are we?

No doubt, 2020 taught us that we can change the window display of school if we have to. We can go remote, or hybrid or whatever other adjective is in vogue. But while we may be able to make…

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Will Richardson

A former public school educator of 22 years, Will Richardson has spent the past 15 years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systemic change. Most recently, Will is a co-founder of The Big Questions Institute which was created to help educators use “fearless inquiry” to make sense of this complex moment and an uncertain future. In 2017, Will was named one of 100 global “Changemakers in Education” by the Finnish site HundrED, and was named one of the Top 5 “Edupreneurs to Follow” by Forbes. He has given keynote speeches, lead breakout sessions, and provided coaching services in over 30 countries on 6 continents. He has also authored six books, and given TEDx Talks in New York, Melbourne, and Vancouver.