Building for the Future

by Dr. Katherine Bihr


An unprecedented year, time, era… How many times have we heard that phrase? A reflective sentiment for a global pandemic but also cause to acknowledge our diversity, ensure equity and seek inclusivity individually and collectively. An unprecedented time? Well, yes – but this is also an extraordinary opportunity for growth and renewal.

Individuals have learned a lot about themselves throughout these past two years but those discoveries didn’t come about in a deliberate manner, rather as a result of realizing the status quo is not an option. In the world of education, youth are struggling academically; teachers worldwide have been stuck, questioning their past work and desperately seeking support to meet new and future challenges. How we continue to focus on the promise of young people is imperative. Programs no longer need to be tethered to geographic locations; continuing to engage in the digital space will make the difference in how we productively innovate and create our future.

While it is good to be proud of how we have advanced our individual work, we must take some steps to ensure those of us in education continue to move forward collectively. Below are a few imperatives for us all to consider:

Prioritizing Diversity Equity and Inclusion – A holistic approach to teaching and learning allows us to see students beyond academic performance and confirms that essential needs are met so they are fully

engaged in learning, both in and outside of the classroom. Keeping students and learning at the center is critical to ensure every child has the opportunities and support needed to thrive.

Embracing technology – How organizations leverage technology will continue to create opportunity for the communities they serve. The potential to increase reach, share resources and work smarter as youth-serving organizations has never been more clear.

Investing in internal talent – Professional learning is often pushed to the side for front-line workers. We must realize that annual investments in our teams allow us to strengthen our work and build the infrastructure needed when there are unexpected interruptions to our normal course of business.

Developing true partnerships – Now more than ever, educational organizations must set aside ego and refocus efforts on the mission we stand behind. We just will not make progress without actively seeking partners in our work. To be a leader in education, we cannot solely focus on our own existence. When we work together, everyone wins. Seek partnerships in your local community but also within your personal and professional networks. School and extended learning agencies should be working together to meet the achievement gaps that our myopic 18th-century model has created.

I continue to learn the importance of staying true to my values – believing in collaboration, maintaining a focus on growth, not only for myself but for others around me. Now is the time to help one another realize our greatest potential. As we move forward through 2022 and beyond, we must activate, think newly and work together to create success for our students and our communities.