Preparing for What Comes Next: Back to School!
As summer draws to a close, those of us who work year-round in schools are eagerly anticipating the return of children's voices down the hallway and in our classrooms. To prepare for the moment when schools come to life again, we have spent much of the summer envisioning optimal learning environments for our students as well as the best possible community for our faculty, staff, and others in the coming year. Yet, as we reflect on achieving this goal over the summer, it can sometimes feel like a moving target. With so many changes in our world and how we have come to understand the inner workings of the human brain, now is a unique time in the field of education. One day historians of our educational system may even look back and consider the early twenty-first century as a period that experienced an educational renaissance driven by a convergence of new discoveries in neuroscience and the implementation of more effective pedagogical practices. How else could teachers and schools prepare students for a future when we don’t really know what the major jobs are going to be five years from now?
To respond to these challenges, I’ve seen and read about great things happening in classrooms across the country, inspired by models that foster students' engagement in deep thinking and learning. In these environments, teachers are reinventing themselves and creating a culture of discovery where the intrinsic motivation to learn is palpable.
And that brings us back to the way schools can set the stage for this to happen over the summer. Educators who have spent the last few months preparing for the academic year need to remember it is not the actual ideas or innovations that are the drivers for these changes, but instead, the cultures of the schools themselves. Schools need to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive environments that can help teachers rise to the unique challenges of this time. And once they do, they should have all the resources and tools available for teachers to create the curriculum and implement the pedagogy that will drive these long-range lessons home.