Originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Equity & Access Pre K-12
That about covers the conference Magnet Schools of America (MSA) put on this past October. For those wondering, MSA represents the4340 magnet schools throughout the country. These are all public schools under the same school board as other public schools in the school district. Where magnet schools may differ is their focus on racial diversity, and their application of themes — like STEM, IB, and performing arts — to draw students from anywhere in the school district.
Last fall, MSA held its annual fall conference, virtually this time. There were heightened and trenchant presentations on equity and access to equity. These topics are, quite simply, top of mind. Additionally, MSA held roundtables of attendees, with the sole purpose of having discussions on how equity and equitable access was working in practice at schools. I “hopped” from one virtual table to the next, and I will tell you that it has been a while since I have seen such active engagement.
Given the nature of MSA’s members, it is not surprising for the topic of equity to resonate so much. But our lens was more razor sharp than usual. The attendees were all zeroed-in more than usual. The attendees were signaling a need for change at all levels, and it was great to witness that.
Now, for the reality check. A portion of the conference was devoted both to effectiveness in teaching and reaching students remotely, and the challenges involved. Some sessions stood out: the ones which focused on social and emotional learning, and in particular, one which talked about teacher self-care.
It’s very clear that teaching students remotely is extremely taxing. Even in the early stages of the school year, teachers have noted that they are wearing out sooner. The load feels greater. The session I singled out reminded teachers that caring for themselves is paramount for them to be able to care for, and give needed attention to, their students. We have to prop up our teachers and give them the support they need. This session gave teachers self-help tools to ensure that they stay self-aware of how they are holding up, and how to maintain and sustain themselves.
I was very pleased with this conference. Not only did we draw eight times the usual number of attendees, we were able to focus on those things that matter the most, equity and sustaining remote learning.