On Moving Forward: Hope, Joy, Inspiration & Innovation

This past school year, thanks to our virtual PD, strategy, and certification programs, Future Design School met thousands of teachers working in public and independent schools in the U.S., Canada, and across the globe. Through cameras and screens, we connected with you and caught a glimpse of your world — and despite omnipresent hardships, what we saw was beautiful. Together, you swapped stories, shared ideas, and designed and built creative solutions to complex challenges. You iterated, communicated, and learned and relearned. You grew as professionals, evolved your understanding, and fostered empathy. You did it.

So, in the words of King George in Act II of Hamilton, the question remains: What comes next?

Embrace Hope.

Whether you’re reading this at the tail end of your school year or the beginning of your summer, your sense of hope is palpable. And though feeling hopeful is sometimes associated with being naive or audacious, in this case it is absolutely warranted. Increased funding from governments at multiple levels, new and improved educational technology resources, and changes to how time and space is used and valued in a school are promising developments, worthy of celebration. Preserving and protecting these hard-won victories will require some focused determination, but there’s reason for hope on that front as well. The ideas that worked, and the efforts to address the needs that were laid bare in the past year, represent significant steps forward — away from a past to which few, if any, wish to return. This is the season of hope.

Find Joy.

Our most sincere wish in this moment is that you are able to find time to experience joy. This starts by taking a deep, collective breath (and if you haven’t taken one today, let this be your reminder), and then refracts in all directions, like light through a prism: connections with family and friends; discovering new places and revisiting favourite destinations you haven’t seen for a while; recharging your heart and mind with the things you love. Teachers always earn their summers, but if this one feels particularly vital, well, know that you’re not alone. May it be joyful.

Seek Inspiration.

You may not yet be ready to reflect back on what you accomplished this past school year, but when you do, we think you’ll find many sources of inspiration. These moments deserve your focus, and have much to offer. Teachers are usually their own harshest critics, and often feel as though they should have done more for their students, or could have delivered an activity differently. There is a time and place for this kind of critique, but for now, we invite you to make it your goal to anchor your reflection on what went right, and be inspired by it. Perhaps you tried something new, and it went better than expected. Maybe you broke through a barrier with a challenging student, despite the circumstances. There’s restorative power in placing your focus on the positive — harness it.

Celebrate Innovation.

You probably heard many times that the last 18 months have served as a vital incubator for new ideas and seismic innovations — in education and beyond. And though it’s understandable to feel a bit cynical about this, the fact is that it’s absolutely true. If this excites you, then now is the time to prepare to take on a change leadership role and keep your school looking and moving forward. If the notion of innovation feels intimidating or worrisome, it’s worth considering some strategies to build and foster a growth mindset. The most promising experiments and pilot projects implemented in schools during the pandemic are poised to solidify and take hold, and as that happens, all members of your learning community will need to come together — not necessarily in total agreement, but unified by a desire to improve student outcomes. The right innovations, fulsomely implemented, will positively impact learning for years to come.

Despite the fact that you are interacting with others all day long, teaching at the best of times can sometimes be a very lonely profession. For many teachers, this past year compounded that sense of isolation. Whether or not that’s you, please know that we see you, and we are inspired every day by the incredible work you do. Here’s to days ahead filled with hope and joy, and plenty of moments to be inspired by what you’ve accomplished, and excited to continue to innovate as we build the future of education.

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