Molly McMahon: Back to School

For the fifth part of this series, we asked our experts to reflect upon the things we need to consider as we prepare to reopen schools this fall. “What human, organizational, and/or technological infrastructures do we need to put into place to support sustained periods of learning at home and/or more frequent handoffs between teachers and caregivers over the course of the school year? To what or whom do we need to pay closer attention as we plan for the reopening of schools? What might we be overlooking?”

Designing for dignity and justice at the forefront of schools reopening

Molly McMahon

Molly McMahon is Director for Teachers Guild x School Retool, a nonprofit initiative of PLUSSED at Riverdale Country School and incubated by the global design firm IDEO.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made racial inequities across health, the economy, and education impossible to ignore. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many of the public services we take for granted—schools included—were designed for segregation. While some progress has been made, this is a moment to remember the work we have yet to do. Here are the troubling realities schools must face as they reopen: 

While educators scramble to return to normal, this is a moment to ask: Why would we revert to a broken normal? We have an opportunity to dismantle those inequities by keeping dignity and justice for students and families at the forefront. It’s people, not policies, who will redesign our schools.  

To surface the needs of those who seek change within our school communities, The Teachers Guild X School Retool conducted listening circles and partnered with OpenIDEO to invite educators, students and families to reimagine equity in education. Here are some favorite ideas:

No one wanted this pandemic, but now that we have it, let’s not squander an opportunity for real change. It starts in our schools.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Akimi Gibson | Elisha Smith Arrillaga | Esther Wojcicki | Gregg Behr
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin | Molly McMahon | Robert Tom Kalinowski | Tom Liam Lynch