The closure of schools in 2020 due to COVID-19 illustrated something many teachers already knew: schools only work when they are open. The wishful thinking that many educational processes could be carried out remotely, in the early stages at least, was shattered not only by the digital divide, but also the shortcomings of online environments and their inability to recreate the wealth of diverse interactions offered by in-person education.
Months later, children, young people and teachers returned to the classroom but in a situation clouded by uncertainty, with the threat of fresh closures, either partial or full, like the sword of Damocles. The return has been marked by the use of masks, swarmed by polarising debates and countless restrictions, and also fuelled by the need and desire to come back into contact with and feel the presence of others, and to transmit knowledge between generations and among peers beyond the family unit.
The Listening School — a teacher training programme which seeks to give a voice and prominence to all participants from the Education Community — aims, during this school year, to open up a space of reflection and a series of conversations with myriad agents. The Present School kicks off the series, starting from the current situation, by raising questions around how debates on schools, old and new, have taken on renewed urgency: What is learned at school that is not learned in other places? Why is in-person attendance so important? How can a school be made for everyone in such universally uncertain times? What is so integral that it cannot be lost? What do we need to maintain it?
The conversation will take place in a hybrid format, combining in-person and online participation, and will feature the on-site presence in the Museo of Nelly Alfandari, María Filigrana and Marta Malo, and a virtual connection with Isabel Bueno and Janna Graham.
Nelly Alfandari is a specialist in critical pedagogies, participatory theatre and inclusive classrooms in the United Kingdom and a member of the Radical Education Forum. Currently, she activates and enlivens a children’s club in Barcelona’s Sants neighbourhood.
Isabel Bueno Lara is head of studies at CEIP Manuel Núñez de Arenas, located in Madrid’s Vallecas neighbourhood, and a member of the Popular School Cooperative Movement (MCEP).
María Filigrana García is a psychologist, school mediator and gypsy activist. Co-founder of Amuradi (the Association of Gypsy Female University Students) and vice-president of Fakali (the Federation of Associations for Gypsy Women).
Janna Graham is a researcher, educator and curator. A member of the collectives Ultra-Red and Micropolitics Research Group, she has worked as an initiator and curator of the project The Centre for Possible Studies, associated with the Serpentine Gallery, and is a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Marta Malo is a translator, researcher and activist. She plays an active role in the education community CEIP Manuel Núñez de Arenas and has been involved in different collective initiatives of militant research that aim to activate communities, combatting inequalities and defending the commons.