Prepping for Re-Opening: A Conversation with Lizzette Reynolds


Hear Lizzette Reynolds, Vice President of Policy for ExcelinEd, an organization focused on supporting leaders in transforming education to unlock opportunity and lifelong success for every child, as she highlights the significance of educators connecting with each student as a means of mitigating shared trauma from the COVID pandemic.

Q: The lessons from the science of learning and development are inherently hopeful. What are the strengths that young people and their communities are bringing to this crisis?

Kids are very resilient and very strong humans. We don’t give them enough credit. I think it’s really important for us as a community of educators and leaders in this space to understand that there is this level of maturity, even with young children, that if we don’t put high expectations in front of them, if you don’t really help them understand their place in society, then you’re going to shortchange them for the rest of their lives. They’re going to grow up insecure, unhappy and feeling as if they have no significant value to this world. We need to recognize that our young adults truly are our future leaders and that we have an obligation to support them and their social and emotional growth.

Q: What’s one piece of concrete advice drawing from the science of learning and development that you would elevate for every educator or other adult supporting young people?

It’s really about the educators in the system making deliberate efforts and deliberate choices to fully understand the psychology of kids. Really understanding where they are in their stages of who they are as humans and then being able to apply the science of learning.

Especially with COVID, all kids are going to be coming back to school in some capacity or another with some level of social emotional disconnect and/or trauma. We need to figure out a way to support teachers so that they can be more relevant and more connected to their kids.

It is important that our state leaders support teachers in their individual state’s reopenings and be intentional about preparing both our family community and our educator community to be able to address both the academic and social and emotional needs of their students. So, why not take advantage of the resiliency of both communities to best support kids when they show up for school – in person, online or a hybrid of both.

Q: What is the education issue that is around the corner that you hope people start addressing now? How would knowledge from the science of learning and development help us advance equity as we take it on?

I think people need to start bringing the research that we know works into practice. We’ve been talking about this for years. I think we need to take advantage of what we know and figure out how to integrate it into teaching and learning. There are leaders out there who want to do this. They just don’t know how. So, it’s how you utilize that research around the science of learning and actually embed it in the instructional strategies so that you don’t abandon the academics. But it’s equally important that you’re not ignoring the social emotional impacts this disruption brought to everyone, including parents, who are all feeling their inadequacies as teachers.

It’s going to be different for a very long time. Never mind the budget crisis we’re going to see in January when legislatures start getting back together. But, if we can figure out how to integrate the research on the science of learning into the daily operations of the classroom, particular efficiencies may come to light — as in, educators learn how to use the science to motivate and engage kids to want to be deeper learners thereby establishing a natural yet strong foundation for academic learning.

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