January 25, 2021
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
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.
We want our students to feel excited about going to school on Mondays and every day, not only because we love our young people, though that alone is reason enough, but also because when students are excited to be in school, they are motivated and eager, and they learn more. And we want our teachers to wake up on Monday mornings, just as excited as their students to go to school.
On this first Monday of our country’s new administration, we at Inspired Teaching are submitting our recommendations to our leaders, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Biden’s Education Secretary Nominee Miguel Cardona. You can read the document in full here, but these are the 7 key recommendations in brief:
1. Champion Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity.
In an era where virtually any information can be gleaned from the internet or smart speakers, a well-informed and strong-minded citizenry requires schooling in much more than facts and figures.
2. Adopt an Anti-Racist Approach to Teaching All Subjects and All Students.
It’s time for schools to rethink and redesign their practices and procedures in order to root out racial bias.
3. Prioritize the Teaching of Social Studies.
By challenging young people to connect past and present, and delve deeply into the difficult issues that affect their lives, schools can equip them with the tools to face these issues head-on and lead us wisely into a better future.
4. Bolster Science Instruction.
This past year our country has been ravaged by Covid. Yet the debate about whether or not masks are needed and whether or not to listen to scientists rages on. Many of us have even felt the need to post yard signs proclaiming “Science is Real!” This state of affairs is powerful evidence of the need to rethink the teaching of science in our schools.
5. Increase Mental Health Supports for Students and Teachers.
The stress and isolation brought on by Covid and online learning have increased the already serious mental health problems experienced by young people and adults across our country. We won’t know until school resumes in-person how serious and far-reaching these issues are, but we do know that schools and teachers will need significantly increased support in dealing with them.
6. Focus on Universal Teaching Excellence.
A true democracy requires a high-quality education for every child regardless of where they are born. Every school should be excellent. Every teacher should be excellent. And this is possible if we focus on the root cause of the problem.
7. Collect better data.
We need an effective way of assessing whether all schools are providing all students with a high-quality education. We’ve relied on standardized tests for decades, but time and research have revealed the tremendous flaws of that approach. The current halt in the use of these assessments due to Covid should not be a pause before a return to what didn’t work. Rather, it must be an opportunity to rethink how we evaluate the efficacy of our schools.
We have reason to be optimistic that this administration will make education a priority. In one of his first acts as President, Biden has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars for K-12 education in an effort to address the impact Covid-19 has wrought on our schools. The day after the inauguration First Lady Dr. Jill Biden met with the leaders of Teachers’ Unions. We know that most changes in education must happen at the local level, but it has been a long time since we’ve seen the work we do as educators championed and recognized at the federal level. May the weeks and months ahead continue to shine a light on your vital work.