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At the beginning of the pandemic, schools reacted to the needs of communities in much the same way as other institutions: by building a plane in mid-flight whose purpose was to navigate us to a post-pandemic normalcy. Teachers leaned into new dual roles as viral mitigators and classroom educators, preparing safe learning environments for kids attending in-person instruction and navigating new remote learning environments, often simultaneously.
But as one headline observed in June 2020, "The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken." As we saw how the impact of the pandemic fell hardest on communities of color, disabled people, and children ineligible for vaccinations, so, too, did the coronavirus reveal the same disparities in accessibility and sustainability of our instructional models of school. This temporary, on-the-fly response to the pandemic, characterized by hours of camera-on Zoom lectures, breakout rooms, and lockdown browsers, has now incorrectly become solidified as our mental model for "remote school" that was exhausting and dehumanizing for students and teachers alike.
But the early lockdowns forced another realization: "With millions under lockdown, many non-disabled people are experiencing, for the first time, how it feels to have external barriers preventing you from participating in everyday life." Public and private spaces overcame years of unresponsiveness to disabled people to broadly and quickly accommodate pandemic life. Tens of millions of workers transitioned to work-from-home, with 91% wanting to retain remote flexibility. Online shopping options proliferated to support local businesses. Telehealth visits safely aided overburdened health systems. And entertainment moved in-home, as Broadway stage shows, musical acts, and Hollywood blockbusters streamed online to support artists and performers. There's even evidence that reduced travel temporarily curbed carbon emissions and reduced air pollution in early 2020.
Now we have the opportunity and understanding to move from emergency pandemic remote school and its pantomime of learning to purposefully designed online education spaces that are accessible, sustainable, and representative of the communities they serve. It's time for the academic conference model to respond accordingly.
Conference to Restore Humanity is an invitation for K-12 and college educators to engage in a human-centered system reboot: centering the needs of students and educators toward a praxis of social justice. The traditional conference format is costly to attend, environmentally unfriendly, and it doesn't allow everyone to engage or have a voice in the learning community.
Our conference is designed purposefully around the accessibility and sustainability of virtual learning, while engaging participants in a classroom environment that models the same progressive pedagogy we value for our students. Instead of long Zoom presentations with a brief Q&A, keynotes are flipped, and attendees will have the opportunity for extended conversation with our speakers:
🔺Dr. Henry Giroux, the founding theorist of critical pedagogy;
🔺Dr. Denisha Jones, educator, activist, and co-editor of Black Lives Matter at School; and the
🔺Circle Keepers from Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City, a student collective focused on social justice.
And instead of back-to-back online workshops, we are offering asynchronous learning tracks where you can engage with the content and the community at any time on topics like anti-carceral pedagogy, disrupting linguistic discrimination, designing for neurodivergence, promoting childism in the classroom, and supporting feedback over grades.
The Conference to Restore Humanity is July 25th trough the 28th. It’s $150 for 4 days, with discounts available for individuals from historically marginalized communities, as well as group rates. Plus, we’ll award certificates for teacher training and continuing education credits. See our website, humanrestorationproject.org, for more information, and let’s restore humanity together. 🚀