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A Look Towards the Future!

By Andrea Nelson, Director Impacting Teaching Transforming Learning (ITTL)

Happy New Year! As you and I consider our successes, failures, and challenges of the previous year, let’s also ponder in what ways we can envision and design education appropriate for the 21st century. The education system has the potential to create an enriched future through the transfer of knowledge, the training of valuable skills, and the instillation of attitudes and ethical standards. It is critical to recognize that school is not neutral. Despite the contradictions in society, schools' function and serve society. We know the past. We can prepare for that. We do not know the future. However, the children we taught in 2022 will live their adult lives from 2030 to 2070 – under very different circumstances from the ones we experience today.

The pandemic shone a spotlight on the existing inequities of race and economics. According to Paul Reville, founder, and director of the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE), before the pandemic, marginalized children and families lived under challenging conditions. This made it difficult for them to get a high-quality education (Simon, 2021). Frederick M Hess’s 2022 article, Education After the Pandemic states:

Until March 2020, American schooling looked much like it had in 1920. Despite new technologies, ever-increasing outlays, and wave after wave of reform, the rhythms and routines of America’s schools were little changed. Students set out from their homes to school in the early morning, sat in front of a learning advisor in primary school or a series of learning advisors in secondary school, sporadically used the latest technologies, and then headed home. Dress codes, popular pedagogies, the number of adults in the building, and the technology may have changed, but what students and teachers do have not.

As human societies and our planet undergo rapid changes, we live in a time characterized by rapid change. In contrast to centuries ago changes now happen within a decade or even a year. Life on Earth is experiencing a change in environmental conditions. There is a rise in global temperatures, disruption of life's ecological cycles, and many species' extinction. We must have generations capable of developing human societies for the common good while protecting life on our planet both now and in the future. Advancing technologies for information and communication enable us to access new types of information, but they can also spread misinformation, slander, and confusion.

Let's spend a few moments considering how education could be different. The Rensselaerville Institute has a two-stranded hybrid model that provides executive coaching to principals and instructional support to campus instructional teams and teachers. Our forward-thinking Turn Around School Model provides administrators, teachers, students, and the community the ability to adapt to the many inevitable changes and allow the changes to be directed towards the common good for all students. Structured Leadership opportunities empower all staff, parents, and students to collaboratively and deliberately use data to support every student's academic, social, and emotional growth. Our Turnaround Specialist coaches leaders to create, lead, and sustain an entrepreneurial culture that engages the school and community to remove barriers and maximizes resources for student success. Furthermore, it provides support to ensure the 21st-century school leader effectively demonstrates a shared collaborative vision committed to the vigorous pursuit of high student performance.

Our second strand, Impacting Teaching, Transforming Learning, for which I am the director, provides instructional leadership grounded in student-centered pedagogy that nurtures innovative learning experiences for all students. Impact Teaching, Transforming Learning Program (ITTL) reinforces the six Turn-Around Schools core elements of diagnosis, targets, message, data use, alignment, and successful classrooms. ITTL intentionally emphasizes the last three elements to provide a symbiotic turnaround approach that targets both principal and teacher moves which enhances data use, alignment of data to pedagogical practice, and standardized percepts of successful classrooms that impact student achievement.

Our Turnaround School model helps leaders develop customized shared leadership models in which other campus team members assume responsibilities traditionally assigned to the campus leader. Our model suggests that the dialectical interaction between all the component parts is a precondition for acting out one's ideas in concert with others. It is essential that the Turnaround teams we coach and serve learn how to act within changing circumstances - not only adapting to the new reality but also contributing to and helping shape it.

The enterprise of Education in the twenty-first century should transcend all differences regardless of race, class, or culture. The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround Model and Impacting Teaching Transforming Learning involves assisting its participants in the paradigm shift of a new kind of “systemic” thinking regarding relationships, connectedness, and context.

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