Try Again: Mercy is Necessary to Learner Safety

“Retesting clearly works, so I give endless chances. If you’re willing to work, there’s always mercy. You can try again.”

— Craig B. Smith

Craig invites students to learn without adding fear to a subject that already creates its own. He recognizes that students who are emotionally distressed—anxious, angry, or depressed—are cognitively impaired and don’t learn well, so he fosters a challenging and yet nurturing climate of learner safety to dramatically reduce learning risk.

Based on his extraordinary perceptive capacity and ability to ward off compassion fatigue, he has mastered the art of shaping the social, emotional, and cognitive context, in creating a figuratively “clean, well-lighted place” where the whole student can flourish. This is learner safety.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 50 – 52)

If you’re going to test, then retesting is essential to learner safety. Not offering retesting is ableist and exclusionary to those of us with spiky profiles.

Craig maintains that slow students are not less intelligent students. They simply assimilate at a slower pace, so his focus is on student effort rather than aptitude. That ability to resist making discriminating judgments of students’ abilities is a skill, but it’s also a moral capacity, and one that many teachers don’t have the discipline to develop.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 48)

Not offering retesting fails the imperative to encourage learning.

The moral imperative to grant learner safety is to act first by encouraging the learner to learn.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 45)

Learning is invited, not commanded.

We need to remind ourselves that we don’t command learning, we invite it. The climate we create feeds the desire and motivation to learn. In an ideal setting, learner safety is a mutual giving and receiving of ideas, observations, questions, and discussion. If leaders are to meet learners where they are, you may need to back up and begin by supplying the inclusion safety that’s been absent. I have yet to see learner safety where inclusion safety is absent. One builds on the other.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 46)

Testing creates a hostile, uninviting climate fraught with inequity and incompatible with many divergent bodyminds.

Standardized testing is a plague on the school system that does little to hit its intended goals. If we are to measure success of our students, then we’re on the wrong path. Traditional standardized testing simply reflects the inequities present in society.

If standardized testing must remain, why not cater it to the elements we need to promote in schools? Why not have standardized testing that measures students’ intrinsic motivation to learn?

Or how valued they feel as individuals in their classrooms?

Just as scientists measure soft skills in research studies, we could redefine the testing scenario to one that provides actual information that’s valuable to schools.

Source: Primer: A Guide to Human Centric Education

Don’t make testing more fearful and inequitable by not offering retesting.

In every learning context, consciously or not, we assess the level of interpersonal risk around us.

A hostile learning environment, whether at home, school, or work, is a place where fear elicits the self-censoring instinct and shuts down the learning process.

Learners rarely put forth the effort to learn unless learner safety is in place. It’s a “build it and they will come” principle. If you don’t build it, they may still come, but they won’t learn.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 44–47)

Contemporary Progressive Education with the Human Restoration Project

Students and teachers are human beings. Schools must bring this to light.

The HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT supports progressive educators in building systematic change within schools. By providing free resources, professional development, and materials, we can form a coalition of like-minded educators who can revolutionize the education system from the ground up.

This work doesn’t provide firm answers or simple solutions. These do not exist in solving the complex, nuanced issues of the education system which is rooted in inequity, lack of proper funding, and systemic racism, sexism, and greed. This primer outlines the philosophy of progressive education, which is the antithesis of the growing movement to test, retest, and dehumanize the education process.

It may challenge or conflict with one’s ideas – which is why this style of education is needed. Unless educators seek to deconstruct and rebuild the underlying systems of the system, little to no change will occur. Instead, we’ll see more and more educators become burnt out and demoralized as they continually try to make the broken systems work as promised.

A human-centered classroom is needed now more than ever. In a time of growing uncertainty, global challenges, and increased threats to democracy, children need space to question, reflect, and actualize a meaning to their lives. These young people, along with their educators, will build a new future of love, care, and respect for all.

Source: Primer: A Guide to Human Centric Education

The Human Restoration Project’s primer on human centric education outlines equity literate contemporary progressive education compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability.

A fantasy of ours at Stimpunks is to start a school for local neurodivergent and disabled people who are not served by public or private schools. “A human-centered classroom is needed now more than ever,” especially for those left out of “all means all”.

If there is ever a Stimpunks school, HRP’s Primer and Handbooks and the book “Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools” would be foundational. They recognize that “creating paths to equity and access for all children remains the grand challenge of public education…”

Creating paths to equity and access for all children remains the grand challenge of public education in America.

Equity provides resources so that educators can see all our children’s strengths. Access provides our children with the chance to show us who they are and what they can do. Empathy allows us to see children as children, even teens who may face all the challenges that poverty and other risk factors create. Inclusivity creates a welcoming culture of care so that no one feels outside the community.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 840-841, 878-881). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Human centric education is inclusive instead of eugenic.

Sadly though, the social, political, and economic narrative of schooling in the past has been grounded in a “soft eugenics” belief that while some children have the capacity to become whatever they choose to be in life, others do not. This plays out in the decisions that educators make, often based on decontextualized data and confirmation biases that stem from immersion in traditions of education that did the same to us. Even if lip service is given to words such as equity, accessibility, inclusivity, empathy, cultural responsiveness, and connected relationships, schooling today is still far more likely to support practices from the past that have created school cultures in which none ​of those words define who educators really are, no matter what they aspire to be.

Consider how the “habitable world” concept developed by Rosemarie Garland‐Thomson, Emory University researcher and professor, sits at the core of the philosophy of educators who developed and now sustain the structures and processes of schooling that impact young people such as Kolion (Garland‐Thomson 2017b). Garland‐Thomson views public, political, and organizational philosophy as representative of one of “two forms of world‐building, inclusive and eugenic” (Garland‐Thomson 2017a). Unfortunately, often it’s the soft educational eugenics philosophy that is most often expressed in practice, if not in words, across the nation’s schools rather than the creation of habitable worlds that are inclusive of all learners.

If we want our schools to be learning ​spaces that reveal the strengths of children to us, we have to create a bandwidth of opportunities that do so. That means making decisions differently, decisions driven from values that support equity, accessibility, inclusivity, empathy, cultural responsiveness, and connected relationships inside the ecosystem. Those are the words representative of habitable worlds, not words such as sort, select, remediate, suspend, or fail.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 908-920, 929-938). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

How do we get from eugenic to inclusive world building in our schools? HRP has a recipe that very much aligns with Stimpunks philosophy and experience.

HRP has identified twenty systems, summarized within 4 values statements, that must be changed for a human-centric, equitable system that creates a better future for all.

Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

  1. Map a Path to Purpose
  2. Learn Experientially
  3. Connect to the Community
  4. Promote Literacy
  5. Create Cross-Disciplinary Classrooms

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

  1. Support a Reflective Space
  2. Demand Inclusive Spaces
  3. Authenticate Student Voice
  4. Adopt Critical Pedagogy
  5. Utilize Restorative Justice

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

  1. Radically Reduce Homework
  2. Build Strong Relationships
  3. Eliminate Grading
  4. Redefine Assessment and End Testing
  5. Reform Food Systems

Learners are respectful toward each other’s innate human worth.

  1. Self-Direct Learning
  2. Support and Elevate Teachers
  3. Stay Buzzword Free
  4. Cooperate, Don’t Force Competition
  5. Support Multi-Age Classrooms

Source: The Need

A school run on such a philosophy would include us Stimpunks like no school has yet.

Stimpunks shouldn’t have to start our own school to access the inclusive world building of human centric, contemporary, progressive education. For the “all means all” promise of public education to include us, we need allies working “against rules and excuses – to convert an institution to a progressive model of education”.

We’re working – against rules and excuses – to convert an institution to a progressive model of education grounded in an “all means all” philosophy when it comes to every child participating in rich, experiential learning.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 1036-1052). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Stimpunks is happy to support the Human Restoration Project and its vision of contemporary progressive education.