By: Christopher Habetler
Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB), a group of public charter schools in downtown Brooklyn, New York, is releasing today a new guide offering schools across America practical strategies and insights to address the ongoing realities of COVID-19 and systemic racism—and to rebuild school culture to be more effective, equitable, and joyful for students and educators.
As schools begin to open for the 2021-22 year, educators across the country are looking for new ways to meet students’ complex and evolving needs. Many educators are placing a special focus on how to help students cope with the effects of COVID-19, racial oppression, and economic inequalities, and how to help students struggling with these challenges learn and thrive.
LAB’s new “Building Culture Back Better Guide”—published with the EquityByDesign.org initiative—provides actionable resources that any school can use to generate and modify relevant, evidence-based solutions to longstanding challenges in education that have been amplified by the pandemic. These include social-emotional learning techniques, success coaching, and more practices that can help schools create a learning environment where every student can thrive.
The guide includes insights from numerous education innovators:
- Benjamin Ure, dean of students at Excel Academy in Boston;
- Jerel Bryant, school leader at Collegiate Academies in New Orleans and 2021 Louisiana High School Principal of the Year;
- Stuart Warshawer, program officer with ArtistYear, which provides artist-teachers to Title I schools;
- Yukata Tamura, founder of nXu, a nonprofit that helps youth and adults find their purpose;
- Chuck Jones, middle school director at Brooklyn LAB;
- Dave Stuart Jr., author and teacher;
- Chris Bostock, co-founder of Bostock Education Consulting, Inc.. and managing director of high schools at KIPP New Orleans Schools; and
- Geoffrey Fenelus, founder and executive director of Promise Prep in Indianapolis.
The “Building Culture Back Better Guide” distills these insights into eight recommendations aimed at helping schools serve their students, staff, and families after a difficult year:
- Strengthen connections with a safe, predictable, and joyful return to school.
- Establish and support adult culture in schools.
- Design for belonging to create an equitable school culture.
- Rebuild connections to yourself and others to cultivate belonging and purpose.
- Support psychological safety at school.
- Transform school culture to center positivity.
- Reestablish an ethic of excellence.
- Create a thriving school culture through vision, empathy, and effort.
This school year presents an opportunity for schools to reinvent themselves, setting high expectations for students and recommitting to equity, inclusiveness, and a thriving school culture. With the tools in this guide, schools can address the myriad needs within their community of students, families, and staff. When students and staff feel safe and known, they can engage productively in their own growth, and school becomes a place of growth, healing, and community.
Learn more about Brooklyn LAB’s equitable reopening initiative at EquitybyDesign.org.
For more, see:
- Meeting the Challenge of Reopening: How Laboratory School Communities Can Power Human-Centered Design and Inclusive Innovation
- Schools Need a Success Coach for Every Learner
Christopher Habetler is Chief Culture Officer and Deputy Superintendent at Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools.
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