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How Might We Remake Learning? The Influence of Fred Rogers Shared by Keynoter at AASA’s Concluding General Session.

Gregg Behr was the keynote speaker at the closing session. Photo by Howard Lipin.

What would it take to remake learning? That was the question that inspired Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation, to create Remake Learning, a professional network that ignites engaging, relevant and equitable learning for every young person.

With a focus on all of the places where kids might learn in and out of school, Behr looked for allies, starting in Pittsburgh, Pa., and spawning alliances across the globe.

Behr, along with colleague Ryan Rydzewski who joined him onstage, was heavily influenced by the teaching and lessons of Fred Rogers. They co-authored When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Creative, Curious, Caring Kids. Their work is guided by the question “How might we …?”

Behr posed questions such as “How might we think differently about schools, accountability and ever-changing technology?” He highlighted one of Mr. Rogers’ principles, which is to make lots of little bets, by trying new things and taking risks. For superintendents, he encouraged focusing across the entire learning landscape, where little bets can add up to something extraordinary.  

Gregg Behr was the keynote speaker at the closing session. Photo by Howard Lipin.

Behr highlighted numerous school districts that are connecting students’ interests and passions to their future. In one school district, students study agricultural-based learning as a way to address food insecurity. In another, they study the Holocaust to open doors to possible future professions that promote acceptance. In California, Pa., they use solar-powered scooters to get across campus, create 3D printed string instruments for $50 so that more students can be part of their school’s music program, develop algorithms for raising bees, and more to enhance learning in their district.

Behr noted that Fred Rogers said his work was to create an atmosphere in which children can learn and thrive, adding that it’s what superintendents do as school leaders. Why? Because learning isn’t possible without connections and love. School leaders and their staff are the caring adults who can help children find their place in the world.

How best to end a session inspired by Fred Rogers? With a favorite Rogers quote and reflection of course:

“From the time you were very little, you've had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving. So, on this extra special day, let's take some time to think of those extra special people. Some of them may be right here, some may be far away. Some may even be in heaven. No matter where they are, deep down you know they've always wanted what was best for you. They've always cared about you beyond measure and have encouraged you to be true to the best within you.”

Joanne Rogers, Fred’s wife, said anyone can do this. Behr and Rydzewski agree.

(Rebecca Salon is a consultant from Silver Spring, Md. and a reporter for Conference Daily Online.)

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