This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Autumn Troullos and Jessica Kaminsky
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” - Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca)
These past few months have revealed how broken our systems are. Over 100,000 people have died from Coronavirus, and our healthcare system cannot provide them care and comfort. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many others have been killed by racism and police brutality. Hundreds of thousands of students are living in homes where there is not enough money to cover food, bills, and internet, yet schools are still marking them absent and they’re taking exams from un-air conditioned cars in parking lots.
This is not the world we want to live in. We must do better.
We are choosing to see this moment as an opportunity, as a portal. We can use this to let go of the policies and practices that never served humanity anyways, and build something on the other side that transforms the way we relate as humans. As Toni Morrison said, “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.” Teachers and schools hold trust and power, so it is our obligation to use this time to dream a little as we move through this portal.
Dreaming is not easy work, so we created a set of questions for ourselves to answer in the hope that it would help us dream more precisely. Our driving questions were: What are we happy to let go of? In the space where we have let go, what can we now embrace? These questions were inspired by our Fluency cohort colleagues and a conversation with Tamara Pearson, whose work as the Assoc. Director, School and Community Engagement at CEISMC (https://www.ceismc.gatech.edu/about/staffdirectory/tamara-pearson) and the founder of the Practice Freedom Project (https://www.practicefreedomproject.org/) is inspiriting.
Through this process, we began dreaming of #TheNewHomeroom. Homeroom became a grounding place for us to begin this visioning because 1) homeroom, at its best, is a place to build community, where you can prioritize your own needs (catching up on work, catching up with friends, taking a few moments of rest before the next class) and 2) our homes are our homerooms right now.
THIS BLOG IS ALSO A REQUEST:
Join us in dreaming and building the other side of the portal. Share in the comments or on twitter your vision for #TheNewHomeroom. This will be built together!
As we moved to social distancing, there was a lot we could not (or did not want to) do. What are you happy to let go?
J: Traffic, most shoes (I’m only sneakers and slippers now), a shared refrigerator (grad students are great, but their eating habits leave something to be desired), projects that drained my energy or I didn’t share goals on, separation by geography or brick and mortar
A: Makeup and clothes that button or zip, having a schedule dictate when to eat or even go to the restroom! Obligatory meetings, assigned parking places...as I think about it, I can easily sum up what I am happy to let go of: RIGID STRUCTURE. I have always been a rule follower, but now I wonder if some of them are actually needed? I get it--there must be some sort of structure in order for systems to work, but must everything be scheduled and spelled out? Don’t most things work themselves out? Does society truly need that much guidance?
What are we happy to have gained? What did we make space to embrace?
J: Slow walks in the woods and through my neighborhood, setting explicit boundaries for levels of engagement and intimacy in meetings (when I have my video vs when I don’t), joining new projects and partnerships that bring me energy and share my goals, connecting with my colleagues across districts and states (writing this blog with Autumn probably wouldn’t have happened if not for these circumstances!) and getting to introduce them to each other (the coalition of equity-oriented, future-thinking educators is growing)
A: 100% agreement on the slowing down of life and having choice in what receives my energy! Without the daily demands weighing down my brain, I have become so much more mindful and present. (I noticed it with my son Lucca also. He was completing a year end reflection this morning and answered the prompt “What challenges have you faced during this time and how are you overcoming them?” He said that he has a harder time focusing and to help redirect his attention he mentally notes what he is doing, for example “I am watching the flag wave in the wind--oops! Should be reading this book!”
I am taking the time to pursue anything that interests me: daily exercise, reading time, writing, partnering with new people because of shared interests (hey Jess!), cooking new foods, creating art, taking classes, growing myself!
We believe in the values of Agency - Compassion - Authenticity - Equity. Starting with our values, what do we believe and what will our beliefs look like in #TheNewHomeroom?
Have you slowed down? What are YOU relieved to no longer do? What have you done with this newfound space? What beliefs do you have that are non-negotiable, no matter what the learning environment looks like? How will you carry this into the new school year?
Join us in building #TheNewHomeroom. Moving to the other side of the portal is going to take all of us!
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” - Margaret Wheatley
Autumn Troullos graduated from Ohio University’s Eastern campus in 2002 with a major in Middle Childhood Education (concentration in Math and Social Studies) and a minor in Mathematics. Her Master’s degree in Instructional Communication was earned at WVU. She earned National Board Certification in 2013. Autumn began her career as a teacher at St. Mary Central. From there she taught at Warwood School and Bridge Street Middle School in Ohio County. Currently she is teaching 8th grade Math and Mindfulness at St. Clairsville Middle School. Autumn has been engaged in researching mindfulness and its benefits and incorporating mindfulness into the classroom. She has joined a National Board cohort as a mentor. Autumn currently is a member of Cohort 4 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Her special interests include yoga, reading, plants, learning, and her family.
Jessica Kaminsky is the Director of the Fluency Project of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab. Jessica received her Master in the Arts of Teaching from University of Pittsburgh, before beginning her work in youth voice and media making. After designing and implementing dozens of youth-led media campaigns, her focus on youth voice continues as a foundational element in the design of the Fluency project. Her work emphasizes youth-adult partnerships and collaborative learning inside school systems, and mindful approaches for examining the impact of technology on learning.