August 2, 2021
Guest Post By Jenna Fournel, Communications Director
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.
In times of uncertainty, we cling to certainty. We want to know that vaccines protect us 100% of the time; that masks are always effective at preventing the spread of disease; that once we reach “herd immunity” life can go back to normal. But the unsettling truth in life is that very little is ever 100% certain. Fortunately, the human brain has developed incredibly complex structures and functions that allow us to adapt to the unexpected. We don’t like it. But we all have the capacity to do it.
That’s why Inspired Teaching focuses our professional development on building teachers’ improvisational skills. We help educators strengthen those mental muscles we all have that allow us to think on our toes, respond in the moment, pivot quickly, and seize opportunities as they arise.
In one of our core teacher development activities, participants write down a list of things that are absolutely true and then work together to think up situations in which the opposite might also be true. The room is often quiet and tense as participants begin to try and undo the first truths, but then things shift when they realize the secret is context and imagination. “The sun rises every morning,” seems like something you can never refute. But if you imagine flying in a plane that is fast enough to remain consistently on the dark side of the earth, well, the rest of the list becomes less daunting.
Part of growing up is learning that life doesn’t stick to the rules you once thought were set in stone, and part of good teaching is helping students to understand that that isn’t always a bad thing. Everything changes and our ability to be resilient is closely tied to how well we can manage change. Activities like the one described above help us build those resiliency muscles and remember that when we’re teetering on the edge of despair, imagination can be the rope that pulls us back to safety.
If the past week is any indication, the days leading up to the return to school will be filled with things that were once true, suddenly becoming not true. “Truths” about the need for masks, requirements for vaccines, the number of students who can be grouped together are all changing in real-time because the context is shifting.
- What if we begin the year with the “When the Opposite Is Also True” activity?
- What space can we create to talk through the uncertainty together?
- How might imagination fuel our resiliency?
This is the starting point for transforming mindsets. And transforming mindsets is the starting point for transforming how we deal with the world around us.
The rapidly evolving and often disruptive flow of vitally important news and events right now makes it clear that simply being an information-provider, and expecting our students to passively be information recipients, won’t work for their or our long-term success. Now is the time to lean into our role as Instigators of Thought, equipping our students, and ourselves, with the tools and experiences we need not only to survive but also to thrive in an uncertain world.