It is a time of year when we are looking for recipes that will fill our stomachs and warm our hearts. We are looking for traditional comfort that evokes 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 things to activate brains, develop new skills and prepare future leaders. Consider these ingredients for your 2022 recipe.
To last: Schools have been watching for a long time as budgets decrease, demands increase and teaching demands increase. This combination creates stress and strain on all learning systems. During these pandemic years, fragmented systems were discovered. Many schools now have funding that is close to what they need to succeed, but remember that a single dose of anything rarely repairs the system. Over time, we need money to buy the things needed for a great recipe.
Who is your recipe for? A great recipe for learning is aimed at those who manage and facilitate learning. Our teachers have allowed our system to survive in poor moments, but the depth of what we demand of them exceeds their abilities. Stressed out, tired and exhausted are as close as we can describe their current reality in words. Our training pipeline is being actively disrupted and will take decades to rebuild. The recipe for the future must begin by building something that honors and supports teachers.
Where you bake? Growing up, some amazing leaders taught me to cook on coals with a box covered in foil. It worked. Somehow. And this is how it has been with the infrastructure of school buildings 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 hinder learning and limit teaching. There is no recipe for building-free learning success that can reduce stress and anxiety while increasing the energy and joy of teachers and students. So many deliberately designed schools are being built or modernized to support modern learning, but these are still fading compared to the volume of buildings that suppress learning.
Use the right ingredients: This can be the hardest because everyone has a slightly different taste. The recipes we create are regional complexities and we should respect this reality. But there is a danger that we will go too far – it is seldom time to replace sugar with salt or curry with cinnamon. Let’s avoid low-hanging fruit. The learning of science is constantly evolving and should lead us from learning practices steeped in nostalgia to those that can actually feed more students. There are quality ingredients that are affordable and allow students to experience learning in an active and engaging way. These ingredients may have different labels depending on where you live, but they give us the best chance of creating a replicable recipe that promotes success over time.
Use the right tools: The fork is not a knife and the spoon is not a fork. We can’t just use the tools we know and feel good about. The last decade has introduced more technological tools that can positively influence the learning I have had throughout my career as a teacher. We are more efficient with the right tools. Thanks to the right tools, our recipe blends to perfection. Creating our recipe with the right tools allows us to be craftsmen who bring the best educational products.
The old recipe showed its deep flaws. Although tense for decades, it took a pandemic before they actually noticed it. We can change the recipe with a systemic approach that stays focused on what matters. We should all ask for a different recipe, because the end results will taste better than anything we have ever created, experienced or suggested for teachers and students.