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It’s been about a year since the spread of the COVID virus was declared to be a pandemic and the overly-large school district (and many others) sent everyone home to prepare for the sudden shift to online schooling. Not really an anniversary to celebrate.

Now, as they haltingly move kids and students back into physical classrooms (something I don’t expect to be complete until the fall at the earliest), there’s lots of hopeful talk about returning to “normal”. No matter how crappy that idea is.

In a recent keynote talk, Will Richardson does a great job explaining how normal in most schools wasn’t that great to begin with. Especially for the kids.

As part of his presentation, Will offers a long list of items that we considered “normal” before the pandemic, including a largely forgettable curriculum that lacks relevance to the real world and an emphasis on getting good grades over actual learning. Not to mention the same social justice issues that have been laid bare in the rest of society.

However, if we’re serious about confronting the cracks in our educational foundation that have been exposed by the pandemic, he says it will “require us to leave many of our old ideas about school behind”.

To facilitate that process, Will offers nine big questions that everyone involved in the learning process must ask of themselves. Basic but complex concepts like “What is learning?”, as well as questions that are not considered often enough like “Who is unheard?”

The whole video is worth 40 minutes of your time.

If you’d like to explore these ideas in more depth, Will and his partner in their Big Questions Institute, Homa Tavangar, offer a free book, “9 Big Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going ‘Back to Normal’”.

For each question, they also offer some activities and additional questions that could be used in staff development activities.

But whether you consider these questions on your own on or with colleagues, it’s vital that we avoid simply taking the schooling process back to the way things were before the seismic shift that occurred one year ago.

The picture is a display in front of the elementary school around the corner.