This past weekend celebrated another successful Educon, the annual conference hosted by Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. As usual, the conversations were inspiring calls to action that focused on many of the topics covered in SLA founding principal Chris Lehman’s new book, “Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need” (co-authored with Zac Chase), which asks schools to move beyond a basic examination of using tech in instruction and focus instead on the cultural shifts that need to happen for real school change.
I had the pleasure of moderating the Sunday morning panel discussion, “What Conditions are Necessary for Empowerment in Schools?” The panel included Carlos Moreno, Executive Director, Big Picture Learning, Laura Shubilla, Co-Founder, Building 21, and Matt Kay, a founding English teacher at SLA. The panel discussed the many challenges standing in the way of true empowerment—especially for students—and concluded that this change can’t happen without building an empowered community of students, teachers, parents, and school leaders. “Schools need to make sure teachers & students are known,” said Shubilla. “One of the most disempowering things is invisibility.” When I turned to the audience and asked, “Do you feel you work in a school that empowers students?”, I was surprised by how few hands went up. Kay asked the question, “How many opportunities are you giving your students to be heard if you say you believe in their power?” What would your answer be? – Christine Weiser, Executive Editor