A Tale of Two Institutes
This month we return to school another year older, and certainly more experienced – if not wiser. The familiar rituals of starting the new school year are punctuated with reminders that we’ve redefined normal and that many of us don’t take things for granted any more: like a hug or handshake. Some schools will return with masks on, most will have plenty of sanitizer on hand. All of them will have teachers, students, families coming together, eager to focus on learning. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that schools are essential: to help young people develop the capacity to engage with each other and with the world – to be simultaneously critical, courageous and compassionate.
This summer, we hosted a group of global educators on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for our first in-person WIDA Institute in more than two years. Considering how we might accommodate ongoing health concerns along with individual learners’ different approaches and needs, has become part of the new learning ecosystem. Rethinking how we teach and how we design learning activities has helped us develop a fresh perspective on our classrooms, and our students. This renewed vision of what it means to teach has by necessity re-centered our learners and reframed our role as educators.
During the WIDA Institute, the Early Career Teaching Institute also took place on the UW-Madison campus, “as a collaborative community committed to advancing justice in the classroom, deepening content knowledge, improving instruction, and sharing habits and practices for thriving in the teaching profession.” Through this work, the School of Education is helping to prepare the next generation of educators to face challenges ahead by posing two key questions:
- How does/can our teaching deepen students’ sense of belonging?
- How can we deepen our own sense of belonging in the teaching profession, and in our professional contexts/communities?
These are questions we can all ask as we look ahead with a sense of hope to the new school year, recognizing that hope is not blind but in fact rooted in deep honesty and compassion for ourselves, our colleagues and our students.
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Programs director
* Guaraní (indigenous language of Paraguay): farewell