Big Questions Inspired by SXSWEDU | Hooray For Monday

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. Prefer audio? Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast! Available on your favorite platforms here.

March 11, 2024

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President

This past week Jenna, Cosby, and I attended SXSWEDU, an energetic, engaging education conference in Austin, Texas that brings together educators around the world. I had the opportunity to serve as a mentor, engage with friends old and new, and attend sessions on topics ranging from extremism in public education to science and comedy. Our team spent the whole conference gathering takeaways we want to share with you, our Hooray For Monday community.

Read on for our reflections (gathered as we awaited our flight back to DC), and listen to this week’s Hooray For Monday podcast for more in-depth analysis.

Aleta on “thinking big”

How do you think big, imagine big, and look at big issues to solve big problems when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed?

I’m pondering this question because we know it’s when we are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed that we most need to be able to engage our imaginations and think big. But the systems and structures in place in schools aren’t doing that for teachers right now.

At a session led by EducationWeek, presenters shared data from a new survey of teachers and school leaders which asked teachers to choose the top five kinds of professional development they need most. The top answer was, “None.”

We know that’s because the professional development most educators encounter isn’t meaningful, relevant, or engaging. This makes me all the more eager to share our approach which is meaningful, relevant and builds on the expertise and knowledge of participating teachers with more educators around the country and the world!

Cosby on AI and creatives

What is the “what” in our classes?

Ahead of this trip, my principal at Roosevelt High School in Washington, DC tasked me with going to sessions that I would normally never go to. As a guy with a flip phone, I wouldn’t normally attend a session on artificial intelligence in the classroom, but I did. The session that I attended talked about how artificial intelligence is not only going to force us to change how we teach but also what we teach. In a world where AI is ubiquitous and fundamentally changes how we do things, it’s time for us as teachers to get serious about what our students need to learn in order to thrive in that kind of future.

Right away I’m thinking of putting more emphasis the stories of anyone who creates. So that might be an artist, that might be an inventor, or that might be a titan of industry. But maybe part of my job now is to help students constantly see examples of, and then imagine themselves as creatives.

Jenna on connections and student expertise

How can we seek our students’ expertise to improve our teaching and build their expertise in making connections?

Two particular sessions made me think about this. One focused on the importance of social capital, and, in the context of making that term relevant to the lives of students, calling it “connections.” We don’t really think about teaching students how to network and build a web of relationships – which is separate from the very important concept of school connectedness we teach about at Inspired Teaching — as part of our task in school.

Some of us are born into circumstances where that kind of learning is just part of what we grow up with in our homes or our communities. But many students are born into circumstances where that’s not a natural part of their daily experience in a way that might propel them in terms of access to higher education or jobs.

The other session that I attended was highlighting the role that young people can play in helping us rethink how we’re doing education right now. What feedback can they offer us on how we are thinking about changing our teaching and whether or not those changes are relevant to their lives?

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

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