Professionally and personally, one of the highlights of my year is Teach For All’s annual conference that brings together leaders from partner organizations around the world. It’s pretty inspiring to sit among representatives from India and Pakistan, Lebanon and Israel, all over Latin America and Europe, all of whom are working to build in their respective countries a movement of leaders with the convictions and insights to ensure that one day all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
I just returned from this year’s conference in Santiago. It was one of those powerfully provocative experiences that will no doubt shape my questions and reflection for a long while. In a nutshell, the experience reminded me just how powerful these international collaborations can be, and just how far we have to go to realize the full potential of this growing global movement.
I’d love to hear from folks who attended what they’re thinking about as they return to their home countries. Among the highlights (for me) were:
Connecting and reconnecting with the inspiring social entrepreneurs, teachers, and leaders from twenty-seven countries (welcome Bangladesh!) who are building movements to end educational inequity in their countries.
Visiting with children and teachers in low-income communities in Santiago—and especially spending time in Gustavo’s transformative classroom.
A discussion with Andreas Schleicher (mastermind behind the international PISA benchmarks (video explanation of those here), the “world’s school master” according to the Atlantic Monthley, and new Teach For All board member) about what we can learn from countries most successfully building education systems that prepare children for success in the next century.
No country, the data tells us, achieves excellence without addressing its internal disparities in performance among children from high- and low-income communities.
Reflecting on the universal nature, and solutions, of educational inequity—especially on our collective efforts to build leaders with the conviction and insights to change education systems to ensure all children fulfill their potential. [I just can't get over the rapid proliferation of whole schools led by programs' alumni that are proving that with innovative approaches children in low-income communities can succeed. See King Solomon's Academy (in the UK), and 3-2-1 (in India), for example.]
Hearing some of the innovation frontiers across this network of organizations, including how some (Teach For Bulgaria, Teach For China, TeachFirst in the UK) are “concretizing” their visions of path-broadening success with the children they work with, how alumni of these organizations can coordinate to work for systemic change (we used an exploration of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to push our thinking there), and how we all can better build leadership mindsets and skills in ourselves and our teachers.
For me, this was a simultaneously energizing and exhausting, and inspiring and troubling, week. Educational equity for children in low-income communities is possible. We heard and saw wonderful signs of progress.
We also heard and saw that this pursuit will be long and difficult.
In the words of Mike Johnston, who virtually challenged us with his inspiring call to action, it was a week of Truth and Hope.
P.S. If any of you attendees want a copy of our group photo from above, you can download it from here.