One More Time: Let’s Not Go Back to Normal

This post provides a window into the inspiration we expect to hear from Will Richardson, co-founder of The BIG Questions Institute and keynote for the ATLIS 2021: Undaunted Annual Conference on April 13. Spend some time with the new BQI ebook 9 BIG Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going "Back to Normal" (*Because Normal Wasn't That Great to Begin With) before the virtual conference on April 12-13 and you'll be even more prepared to dig into the questions that matter for our community as we address how we can sustain innovations achieved in the past year and look ahead to plan the kinds of schools we hope to create for post-pandemic learners. -- SD [10-minute read]

coverGuest Blogger: Will Richardson
Co-founder, The BIG Questions Institute
Keynote: ATLIS 2021: Undaunted Annual Conference

I know there’s been a lot of talk of late about getting back to “normal” and the quest to regain some of our old rhythms in life. Everyone is exhausted. We just want to stop having to think about all of this and find some predictability.  

Well, truth is, we may have to get used to the unpredictability of this moment and the future. In her great essay “Willing to Be Disturbed,” Margaret Wheatley writes:

“The world now is quite perplexing. We no longer live in those sweet, slow days when life felt predictable, when we actually  knew what to do next. We live in a complex world, we often don’t know what’s going on, and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time in not knowing.”

So maybe if we can take the stance of “not knowing” when it comes to thinking about what schools might look like when the disruption recedes, we can be open to what can happen that is best for students in the long run

  • Not a highly forgettable curriculum of cherished minutiae, but a deep learning experience that lasts a lifetime.
  • Not a siloed lesson, but a discovery of global interconnectedness. 
  • Not technology for its own sake, but as a tool for making meaning of the modern world.
  • Not a divided community, but a community willing to confront injustice and challenge misinformation.

Which begs the question, what do we want to go “back” to exactly?

I know that it’s comfortable. I know it’s hard to push back on what parents and policy makers and others expect the experience of school to be like. The status quo is always the path of least resistance. 

But is it the path to powerful learning? Especially in this time of uncertainty and change?

It’s time to dream a bit, even if you might not be able to implement things right away. Let your imagination flow. 

Despite the deep-seated narratives and experiences and expectations, we owe it to our students to ask with all seriousness whether or not the current normal is what we seek to return to after the pandemic abates. And we owe it to everyone to act to change it if the honest answer we arrive at is a “no.” 

headshotA former public school educator of 22 years, Will Richardson has spent the last 15 years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systemic change. Most recently, Will is a co-founder of The BIG Questions Institute which was created to help educators use "fearless inquiry" to make sense of this complex moment and an uncertain future. In 2017, Will was named one of 100 global "Changemakers in Education" by the Finnish site HundrED, and was named one of the Top 5 "Edupreneurs to Follow" by Forbes. He has given keynote speeches, lead breakout sessions, and provided coaching services in over 30 countries on 6 continents. (Come on Antarctica!) He has also authored six books, and given TEDx Talks in New York, Melbourne, and Vancouver. Will has two adult children, Tess and Tucker, and lives in rural New Jersey with his wife.

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