Gains, Losses, and Longing for Cacophony

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, 120 Education Consultancy, Belmont, MA

"Time to Power-Up Teaching Practice" by Jill Harrison Berg
Educational Leadership, September, 2020

 "6 Lessons Learned About Better Teaching During the Pandemic" by Madeline Will,
Ed Week, November 4, 2020

"I'm Mourning the Sounds of Kids Arguing in My Classroom" by David L. Ryan
Boston Globe, November 11, 2020

Pandemic teaching is nothing if not a suitable challenge for challenging times, and after months of trial and error, new pedagogies and practices have begun to emerge. In "Time to Power-Up Teaching Practice," Jill Harrison Berg employs a systems approach to respond to the question, "What is the essence of powerful teaching?" She cites the Five Core Propositions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards of 2016 that specify what, exactly, powerful teaching entails: teacher commitment to students and student learning; pedagogical and content knowledge; collaborative assessment and monitoring of student learning; systems thinking about pedagogy; and teacher engagement in learning communities. Interviewing a number of teachers in public, charter, and magnet schools, Madeline Will, of Education Week, likewise collates "6 Lessons Learned About Better Teaching During the Pandemic," including the importance of teacher flexibility; using personalized learning pedagogies; and providing guidance for students about how to manage their schedules and complete their work. Even with these positive shifts to teaching and learning amid the pandemic, as Josh Benjamin captures so beautifully in his Boston Globe article, physical distance, and the quiet that comes with it, can not only challenge social learning theory, but also make us sad. "It is dystopically silent," Benjamin says of his classroom, "as if it is awaiting a future team of archaeologists to draw conclusions about a past civilization of small people who struggled to add and whose pencils often broke." Muting ourselves and others over Zoom creates eerie pockets of silence and disassociation where cacophony and connection was once a norm. Benjamin misses not just the joyful noises of learning, but the arguments too: "When children argue, they learn about themselves and the people around them." For Benjamin and many other teachers, despite many pedagogical gains, the silence of learning this fall has been deafening.

Teaching Practice