It’s that time of year when we look for recipes that can fill our stomachs and warm our hearts. We are looking for traditional comforts that evoke memories of the past, and we are looking for something new to add to our tables. For schools, we also need a recipe full of old and new to activate minds, develop new skills, and prepare future leaders. Consider these ingredients for your recipe in 2022.
make it lastFor a long time, schools have seen reduced budgets, increased demands, and increased learning complexity. This combination puts stress and strain on all learning systems. The worn out systems were exposed during these pandemic years. Many schools now have funding close to what they need to succeed, but remember that a single dose of anything rarely fixes the system. We need funding over time to purchase the ingredients for a great recipe.
Who did you describe? A great recipe for learning focused on those who coordinate and facilitate learning. Our teachers have allowed our system to survive in the lean moments, but the depth of what we ask of them is beyond their ability. Stress, fatigue and exhaustion are as close as possible to words to describe their current reality. Our teaching pipeline has been effectively broken and it will take decades to rebuild it. The recipe for the future must begin with building something that honors and supports teachers.
Where do you bake? Growing up, some great leaders taught me how to cook over charcoal using a tin foil box. It worked. Somewhat. This has been the case with school building infrastructure for decades. It’s a recipe for disaster. Lead pipes, lead paint, asbestos, poor ventilation, lack of natural light and many other factors make our school buildings places that prevent learning and limit teaching. There is no recipe for success in learning without buildings that can reduce stress and anxiety while increasing energy and fun for teachers and students. Many schools intentionally designed to support modern learning are being built or modified, but these still pale in comparison to the scale of the buildings that stifle learning.
Use the right ingredients: This might be the hardest because everyone has a slightly different taste. There are regional complexities to the recipes we create, and we have to respect that reality. But there is a danger of overdoing it – there is rarely time to replace salt with sugar or with cinnamon for curry. Let’s avoid low hanging fruit. Learning science continues to evolve, and it should steer us away from nostalgic learning practices to those that can truly nurture more students. There are high-quality components at affordable prices that allow students to experience learning in active and engaging ways. These ingredients may have different labels depending on where you live, but they give us the best chance of creating a repeatable recipe that enhances success over time.
Use the right toolsA fork is not a knife, and a spoon is not a fork. We can’t use tools we know and feel comfortable with. The past decade has provided more and more technological tools that can positively impact the learning I have had throughout my entire career as an educator. Having the right tools makes us more efficient. Having the right tools blends our recipe to perfection. Creating our recipe with the right tools allows us to be artisans who bring the best educational product forward.
The old recipe has shown its deepest flaws. Despite being under stress for decades, it took an epidemic to really notice. We can change the recipe with a methodical approach that stays focused on what matters. We should all order a different recipe because the end results will taste better than anything we’ve created, tested or designed for teachers and students.