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Curmudgucation: What Can Schools Learn From Learning Pods

This is not hard. Really. Not hard at all.

But Lisa Chu somehow dances around it. She's writing for the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), an advocacy group for charter-flavored ed reform. Founded by Paul Hill and now headed by Robin Lake, who was heavily invested in the push for Washington state charters and who at one point rejected the mantle of reformer even as she continued to embrace reformster policies.

In other news, sun expected to rise in East tomorrow

Anyway, it may just be the CRPE way of things to scoot past an obvious lesson about public schools here.

Lu is not wrong about the power of the useful things she sees in pandemic pods, those groups of parents, students and educators who came together in small groups to get some pandemic learning done. CRPE surveyed 253 pod parents and educators (I know--that sounds awful). Over half of the teachers had previously taught in some kind of classroom (and the rest were classified as teachers because...?)

In interviews, parents and teachers said the combination of small group sizes and flexibility to shape the learning experience enabled educators to form strong relationships with their students and ensure students felt seen, known, and heard, which, in turn, helped them support students’ learning and well-being.

Learning was more based on student interests. The teacher-student relationships were stronger; trust was greater. Deeper connections led to social and emotional development. Better communication skills. 

Here's the list of lessons Chu offers:

Parents and community organizations know the students' needs best.

Students form strong relationships outside of core classes, like in band or sports. Schools ought to figure out how to do that in core classes. 

Measure students feelings about safety and belonging to tell how you're doing.

Overall--shape the learning environment around student needs rather than "assumptions about how the school day should look."

Now, these are mostly correct (some day we'll talk about how to make English class like band). And at a couple of points, Chu acknowledges what makes these easier in pods, but somehow never adds this simple conclusion to her list:

Smaller class sizes are better. All these magical things, like students building relationships instead of getting lost in a crowd, depend on small class sizes. All of them. The key to every lesson here is to reduce class size so that all of these things can more easily happen. Teachers have more time to address and be guided by the interests and needs of students. Relationships and trust are built. 

There is another lesson here--something about parents who can afford to hire a teacher and provide necessary supplies. But the big lesson from learning pods? Smaller is better. 

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Peter Greene

Peter Greene has been a high school English teacher in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He blogs at Curmudgucation. ...