6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

MCS Educators Present at Progressive Education Network Conference

MCS Educators Present at Progressive Education Network Conference

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Upper School Director Maiya Jackson and Upper School teacher Nassim Zerriffi attended and led workshops at the Progressive Education Network (PEN) National Conference in Minneapolist/St. Paul, Minnesota the first weekend in October. The conference takes place every two years and is a diverse gathering of educators from around the country. The theme of the PEN Conference 2019 was Educating for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education.

Maiya led a conference titled Progressive Leadership: Building School and Cross-Sector Partnerships that Educate for Democracy. The main question she focused on in her workshop was: how do the leaders of progressive schools support, protect, and celebrate progressive philosophy and teaching?

"We feel a sense of urgency in both teaching children about social justice and democracy and engaging in the practice of education as an act of social justice," Maiya said in her presentation. "With current systematic changes in both independent and public sectors we are particularly attuned to the need for joining together to uphold our values and practice.  As school leaders, we must find a balance between daily support and decision making, larger questions about the culture and inclusivity of our schools, and even broader discussions about our schools in the context of politics, districts, communities, activism and more."

Participants in the workshop worked in small groups to learn about practices of school leaders from various sectors that are working to lead and build schools centered around democratic progressive education, even as we all may define that differently within the context of our communities and schools. Maiya challenged those who attended to "reflect on their own practice as school leaders and how their educational philosophy shapes their work and future goals for their communities."

Nassim hosted a workshop titled Activism as Essential Pedagogy. The workshop explored ways to engage youth in activism and advocacy and include strategies for integrating activism into the curriculum. He also discussed how to build a stand-alone activism program, from designing the program and elements of a successful program to potential challenges and opportunities. 

Nassim described the goals of his workshop as follows: "Activism provides youth with an opportunity to be involved in their community, the political process, and is academically rich while being practical and speaking to their needs. It provides opportunities for youth to step into leadership, and develop a sense of agency. The experience of having a voice in the issues that affect their lives and their world can be an empowering and life-changing experience.  This kind of empowering program can also be transformative for school culture in general as it fundamentally shifts the adult-youth dynamic, shows high expectations and trust, and makes school a “real life” experience. Furthermore, young people are feeling, and correctly assessing, high risk of multiple crisis including ecological collapse, the erosion of democracy, unstable inequality, the resurgence of white supremacy, and even fascism globally. Given the recent examples of powerful youth activism from the anti-gun violence students to the school strike movement, can we afford not to prepare our young people for powerful civic engagement?"

 Manhattan Country School educators have long since been models of teaching progressive education. In addition to educating children, our skilled and dedicated teachers take opportunities to share their knowledge with other educators.