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Education Trends, Podcast Articles   |   May 15, 2022

Envisioning what’s next for schools: Personal reflections & my hope for the future of education

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Envisioning what’s next for schools: Personal reflections & my hope for the future of education

By Angela Watson

Processing. Healing. Dreaming. Rebuilding. These are necessary elements for finding our path forward toward whatever is next for schools.

So in this unscripted episode, I share my broad observations, loosely-held conclusions, and partially-formulated ideas about what might be possible.

  • What is the future of public education?
  • How do we keep the dream alive with so many forces undermining, privatizing, and monetizing it?
  • In the midst of culture wars and opposing demands, can schools please all stakeholders?
  • How do we ensure that the responsibility for personalizing education for the preferences of each child/family does not fall solely on classroom teachers?

I’m talking from the heart about what I’m hopeful for right now, and why I’m choosing an optimistic take on the future of schools. I believe in public education, and the importance of not growing apathetic or hopeless about the state of education, our country, or our world.

I’ll end the episode by sharing a bit about my summer plans and how I’m creating space for dreaming and vision-building … and encourage you to do the same.

Listen to the audio below,
or subscribe in your podcast app

Sponsored by Invited MBA and 40 Hour

The Truth for Teachers podcast will be back in August. In the meantime, check out the summer blog post articles from our writer’s collective, our weekly email, and our posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

And, if you’ve enjoyed this season of the podcast, leave us a review on iTunes! Your feedback is so, so important.

Recap: 

  • Why we should hold on to bright spots even when not everything goes as well as we had hoped (3:15)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, some things in education got better and some have gotten worse. Some of my predictions about what could happen with schools didn’t happen on a wide scale. But I still believe that this is our opportunity to create change, and I want to offer an optimistic take for those who really need that right now. I still believe that there are bright spots. There are teachers who are thriving and students who have rebounded. We will still find our way through what to do next.

  • Pushing back against apathy and helplessness to reimagine school (8:00)

When we believe that the situation is hopeless and irreversibly declining, we begin to disengage. There are people right now who want to privatize and profit off public education. Just like in the prison industrial complex, apathy can create unbearable conditions in education. When large masses of people become indifferent, that’s when power-hungry and greedy people take over. We cannot allow bad actors to intentionally drive out our best teachers with fear-mongering and micromanaging, nor can we let those who only wish to profit off of schools take the reins. We can’t give up on our schools, teachers, or kids.

  • Why I refuse to give up on public education (14:20)

I support all educators, including private, charter, and homeschool teachers. But I believe deeply in public education because I know how hard-fought it was as a right that children in many countries still do not enjoy. And, I know how women, people of color, people who are neurodivergent, and people with disabilities did not have their needs centered in school throughout most of our country’s history. Public schools alone accept ALL students and attempt to meet EVERY single child where they’re at, and therefore, the success of public schools is vital to the success of our nation.

  • What I’m freedom-dreaming about (21:00)

Is there a way to offer more choice for students and families within the public school system? Can we expand the offerings of public schools so that privatization is not necessary, and the wellbeing of students is put first (rather than corporate profits)?

Imagine a school within a school, where one wing of a school is dedicated to a different type of education that kids need. Or multiple public school options within a community, each with with different teaching philosophies so parents can choose a school that’s right for them.

Instead of siphoning money away from public schools into the hands of for-profit companies who have the legal ability to discriminate in who they enroll…instead of forcing all public school teachers to teach the same way … instead of forcing all parents to be happy with whatever their local public school is doing … can we offer more choice within the schools we already have?

  • My hope and predictions for education (23:00)

Meeting the needs of families with opposing value systems is hard, and it’s going to get harder. The pressure on teachers will ease when we work through this tumultuous time in history. My hope is that we will get out on the other side with more options for families. I don’t think this is the only solution, but it is part of the solution.

I think our schools will continue to offer more choices to accommodate the different ways kids learn and the various ways parents raise their children. That sounds tough on teachers, but with more self-paced learning and mastery-based grading, it will ease a lot of the problems. It’s within the overlap of what’s good for students and what’s good for the teachers. If you want to hear more about this student-driven approach, you can listen to my interview with Kareem Farah about the Modern Classrooms Project here:

3 practices to give you more one-on-one time with students

  • We need to focus on building consensus for small wins together. (25:30)

What is the smallest thing in our local school community that we can agree we all want for children? Instead of trying to tackle a huge problem alongside people with opposing ideologies, can we look for something small that we have in common and build consensus from there?

There might be only something very minor that we want to change—maybe folks on opposing sides of curriculum issues all want to see their children have dedicated recess time on a daily basis. If you find this one thing you agree on, and you work together on that, it builds trust and creates a shared sense of accomplishment. It’s a powerful starting point, and gives us a chance to connect on a human level with people we might not understand very well.

I’m not saying that anyone needs to collaborate with a group of folks who are actively working to oppress and marginalize them. But I am saying that in instances in which we can extend ourselves to work together with other school stakeholders to accomplish something we both believe in, that opens the doors for more discussions and more progress.

Sometimes we need to start small and focus on small victories. I think that’s going to be increasingly true over the next few years at least in which our country is so divided on so many things. There’s not going to be a lot that happens that feels like a total win for anyone. There’s going to be a lot of push and pull, steps forward and steps back, and incremental change. We’ll get one thing done and people will say “Okay now we need to move on and do this next thing, take it even further.”

And just like I said to you in the episode called “What if we stopped moving goal posts and just enjoyed where we’re at?” I think that when we experience small wins and victories in our schools, we need to celebrate them. We need to focus on the things we do all want and agree on sometimes, work to accomplish those things.

What if we stop moving goal posts and enjoy where we’re at?

  • There is a hard road ahead, for our schools and for our country. (31:20)

In my interview with Jessica Kirkland — on the podcast episode called Are the Kids Alright — she said we’re not at the rebuilding stage yet. She said that we are at the stage where we should be envisioning what we want. We need to process the trauma of the last two years and heal first. After we process that, then we can rebuild. You can listen more to our conversation here:

Are the kids alright? A deep dive into the pandemic’s toll on students

  • What you can do this summer (34:30)

I encourage you to do the work this summer and process what you’ve been through and begin to heal from that. Use this summer for healing activities. Do things that restore your soul. Get out to nature. Spend time with people you love. Prioritize sleep. Only you know what’s doable and right for you.

  • What I’m doing this summer (36:20)

I’ll be traveling with groups of educators to both Egypt and Switzerland via Teach with Love and am looking forward to sharing what I learn and experience this summer on social media, then on the podcast this fall.

If you enjoyed this recap, listen to the full podcast ep below
or subscribe in your podcast app:

The Truth for Teachers podcast will be back in August. In the meantime, check out the summer blog post articles from our writer’s collective, our weekly email, and our posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

And, if you’ve enjoyed this season of the podcast, leave us a review on iTunes! Your feedback is so, so important.

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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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