We cannot innovate if we’re tied to yesterday’s “normal”

Not even 24 hours into his summer break, Brooklyn-based educator and author Cornelius Minor opened ISTELive 21 with a brutally honest assessment of what it means to inspire educators–and the communities that support schools–to innovate and do better for children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, for students of all abilities, and for students of all gender identities.

“I just said goodbye to the most resilient cohort of kids I’ve ever met,” Minor said. “Fatigue is my new housemate, and I don’t know what’s heavier–my shoulders, or my heart. I know you feel it, too. I see you. You are powerful, and brilliant, and you are tired,” he told the virtual audience of educators.

Minor is a Brooklyn-based educator who works with teachers, school leaders, and leaders of community-based organizations to support equitable literacy reform. His latest book, We Got This, explores how the work of creating more equitable school spaces is embedded in our everyday choices–specifically in the choice to really listen to kids.

Being tasked with inspiring conference attendees who have just closed the door on perhaps the toughest school year in recent memory is no small task. But Minor delivered with honesty and passion.

“What is inspiration to the group of people who just kept the world from falling apart? What is inspiration to the people who are first to show up when a kid needs support, or food, or love? We are the people who knew navigating this year was about more than just ensuring every kid had a computer. We spent the year seeing past the surface and living in the nuance of authentically caring for children,” he said.

Talks of learning loss have peppered conversations for the better part of the past 15 months, with some predictions and assessments more alarmist than others. And while some worry about learning loss, other educators wonder if, just maybe, students have learned different–and possibly more important–lessons this year.

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