Lately I’ve been listening to a podcast about a group of well-meaning people who tried to make schools more equitable and ended up making things worse. The show is well-made, and the story is important, but it’s got me thinking about how much of my media diet consists of stories of either “well-intentioned people who ended up making things worse for interesting reasons,” or “ill-intentioned people who made things worse for predictable reasons,” and how little time I spend with stories of people succeeding at making some bit of the world a bit more fair, humane, and livable for everybody in it.
Stories of interesting failure and ubiquitous oppression are important, but they aren’t the only stories, and they tend to make me feel comfortable with doing nothing, because while I may not be HELPING anyone, at least I’m not making things worse like those people did! There’s also a danger that studying failure and oppression can feel like its own form of action.
So here’s a story about a success that you may not know about: in 2020, a high school student in St. Paul, Minnesota started a group that got the state supreme court to overturn the state’s ban on high schoolers receiving unemployment benefits, and got academic credit from his school for doing it. You can find out how he did it in this issue.
In fact, this issue is full of inspiration: Ben Sanoff explains how a group of educators helped more students get into college by designing tracking software, even though none of them knew how to code; Western Carolina Associate Professor of Educational Research Brandi Hinnant-Crawford tells Stacey Caillier about how she uses improvement science to “dismantle [the] structures that keep so many of us down”; and Joanna Collazo writes about how she helped a kid get up again after everything went wrong in his project.
As well as stories to inspire you, we have expert advice to help you get where you want to go! Michelle Pledger shares how to liberate your curriculum; Randy Scherer unpacks what we mean when we say “project-based learning”; veteran teachers Britt Shirk and Ted Cuevas share their (very different) approaches to grouping students in projects; Jen Roberts helps you make good choices about what tech to bring into your classroom; Max Cady explains what teachers can learn from game designers; and Ben Daley makes a case for “Planned Experiments” as a way for teachers to do collaborative inquiry in continuous improvement.
Thanks for joining us!
(Cover image: A cardboard car created by a tenth grade student for the Lowrider project, an investigation into San Diego history led by humanities teacher Celina Rodriguez at High Tech High Chula Vista)