A Collection of Pandemic-Catalyzed Freedom Dreams: Beacons to a Better New Normal

Today I read the article, What If We Radically Reimagined the New School Year? by fellow Chicago educator Ashley McCall, and thought: It’s wild that the only solutions that make total sense to me are considered radical. It shouldn’t be a radical shift to do any of these things. We should be caring for individuals and communities. We should be responding to crisis with recovery and healing. We should be listening to the people in our care, trusting them, honoring their agency. We should be integrating learning well with living well. We should be taking every opportunity to nourish and free our imaginations.

Thoughts like this have been turning in my mind and churning in my stomach for months now. In March, I was able to blurt out this idea, Take Care is the Curriculum, and since then most of my ruminations have been centered on it, my work permeated by it, my conversations infiltrated by it, my retweets hashtagged by it. Take care! A throw-away phrase, perhaps, at other times but in these times it feels like a mantra, a prayer, an urgent plea, a key. And then, Curriculum! Not a curriculum of textbooks and exams enacted in schooling structures. Curriculum as in the what, why, and how we need to learn. The worthy experiences we need and the meanings we need to co-construct from them. The who? All of us. Juntos. And the when of course is now.

You only need mere moments with any legit news feed to know how very very very much so many many many people need to learn. And unlearn. Everywhere there are stories of greed, cruelty, violence, injustice. These bring on the churning. And then next to the deep disgust, frustration, rage that is roused I find there is a surging of great gratitude. Because next to the horror stories, there are also so many songs of strength and stamina and strategy and light and liberation and love.

I am so thankful for Ashley McCall and all the other people like her who have found the wherewithall (because this business of weathering pandemics, reckoning with centuries of injustice, and reimagining the world is emotional, exhausting work) to share their instincts, insights, and imaginations, and whose ideas comfort me, reveal connections, spur me on, help me see a path.

So this afternoon I took myself on a tour through the March-July works of these songwriters… educators, authors, artists, architects…people whose ideas I hope will shape our New Normal for schools and society in general. In this list, you will find both well-known voices and less known like my own. I also want to acknowledge there are so many more people whose work on this topic I simply have not yet encountered or whose work is not documented in a way I could include it–but it is there and it is happening. That is to say, this list is not about the individuals listed but about the expanding collective it represents–each piece is compelling but the collection reminds me of what we can realize; reminds me que estamos aquí juntos, que somos muchos, and that indeed sí se puede.

Please read, be well, and take care.

A Collection of Pandemic-Catalyzed Freedom Dreams:

When I Say #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum Here’s What I Mean–A Thread

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about getting better at individualistic self-preservation. I am talking about the need for us to heal from and prevent harm & the need to learn to thrive in community.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about “taking care of yourself” unless you are defining taking care of self as inextricably linked with taking care of others and of Earth. I am talking about #UbuntuInAction #InLakEch #gotongroyong #everydayisearthday

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum I am not offering you a pretty chart to remember to pamper yourself. I’m offering you a pretty chart so you can reflect on how you are taking up the act of Care & how care for the body, mind, spirit, space, family and world are all connected.

A poster with the message: This is your homework: Take Care of Your Mind, Body, Spirit, Space, Family, World Everyday! & Flourish! Each of the 6 categories is symbolized with a photo of flowers and has examples of act of care.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about caring only for ppl who look or sound like you, but about solidarity with anyone who has been marginalized, toward all our liberation. #BlackLivesMatter #TransRightsAreHumanRights #DisabilityJustice #tuluchaesmilucha

Printed "Sanctuary for Our People" poster from Chicago ACT Collective with a collection of messages: Your Black Lives Matter; Immigrants, we have no walls; Women, your bodies are your own, Queer/Non-conforming/Trans people, you are seen and loved; Individuals with disabilities, you make us stronger (also depicted in ASL); Muslims, you are honored here; Young people, your voice is powerful. You Are Safe Here. You Belong.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about taking a class in “taking care.” I’m talking about taking up Care as our code. I’m talking about centering our learning on ideas like Love, Respect, Non-Quitting Spirit, Responsibility & Courage. (credit to @TWSeido)

Poster from Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self Defense Center, Code of Ethics: Love, Respect, Non-Quitting Spirit, Responsibility, Courage.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about just a set of lessons for teachers to “deliver” to students. I’m talking about the learning (& UNLEARNING) we ALL need to do, with & from our students. Adults & youth. In formal school contexts & in the world at large.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about adding extra “care” activities to math, reading, science, history lessons. I am talking about fundamentally reframing our categorization of “content” & looking at learning interdisciplinarily through the lens of Care.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about passive niceness. I am talking about active, fierce, loving work. I am talking about the sweat and blood and spirit of laboring, building, sheltering, cultivating, nourishing, gathering, sustaining, celebrating.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am not talking about just stepping up during this crisis. I am talking about recognizing the crisis we have been living since subjugation of others and plunder of the Earth became some people’s fucked up formula for personal prosperity.

When I say, #TakeCareIsTheCurriculum, I am talking about making individual and collective wellbeing intrinsic to how we define and measure success. I am inviting us to take a long look at the purpose of living & learning, reject harmful practices and systems & rebuild with care.

Infographic from claimed.blog with a visual theme of interlocking bricks, highlighting Redefinition of Success, Languages & Cultures, Scaffolding, Responsive Practices, Commitment to Equity as key "bricks"of "The School Systems I Want to Build."

Originally tweeted by Olivia Mulcahy (@MaestraOlivia) on May 29, 2020.

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