The hope of brighter days ahead

By Suzanne Bouffard
February 2021

When designer Kitty Black showed me a draft of this issue’s cover, I couldn’t look away. Over the past year, there have been many images from which I couldn’t turn my eyes, or my thoughts late at night. But this was different. I kept looking at the image of this effervescent young girl because it’s filled with hope.

This issue of The Learning Professional is about possibility and the hope of brighter days ahead. This is not to deny the many struggles we continue to face. But as authors in this issue point out, there is also opportunity in crisis, opportunity that can galvanize us now that there are some lights in the darkness.

For example, Linda Darling-Hammond, founding president of the Learning Policy Institute and leader of President Biden’s education transition team, points out that educators have been innovating in extraordinary ways (see article, “An extraordinary time for innovation”). We can leverage these developments to transform teaching, she says — if we provide ample opportunity for educators to learn from one another.

Jal Mehta, professor at Harvard and an expert on deeper learning, finds potential in the way teachers have quickly become comfortable with new teaching methods they were reluctant to try before (see article, “Crisis creates opportunity. Will we seize it?). He shares reflection questions to help you leverage those kinds of shifts as you move forward.

Mary Antón, Lee Teitel, and Tamisha Williams (see article, “Virtual networks follow paths to equity”) write about a hope “rooted in the power of what the collective can do” to change the status quo and disrupt inequities. They share examples of how virtual learning networks are providing new opportunities to focus on race and equity.

Plus, Melinda George and Denise Glyn Borders share Learning Forward’s hopes for more professional learning investment at the federal level and our requests of the new U.S. presidential administration. And (see article, “A new network for a changed world”) Learning Forward team members share what they’ve been learning from our newest professional learning network, Design Professional Learning for a Virtual World, which is helping districts optimize new learning environments in equitable ways.

In this issue, I am thrilled to introduce three columnists who will share their insights with you throughout 2021. Jim Knight, senior partner at the Instructional Coaching Group, writes the new Keep Growing column. Sharron Helmke, Learning Forward senior consultant, continues the Coaches Corner column. Angela Ward, founder and CEO of 2ward Equity Consulting, pioneers the Equity in Focus column. Ward is also hosting a special members-only discussion of this month’s column and the reflection tool she created here for details.

Of course, to achieve the potential this issue’s authors envision, educators need support more than ever before. The Ideas section homes in on a crucial but often overlooked area of support: social and emotional well-being. The authors encourage us to attend to the needs of the whole educator as we do the whole child and address the needs and unique stresses for teachers of color.

As you read through this issue, we think you’ll be drawn to many images beyond the one on the cover, as we feature original art that is integral to its creators’ learning processes and professional growth. See articles, “A picture of learning,” and “Drawn to learning,” by Chelyse Stefanik-Miller shares her journey with sketchnoting, describing how visual notetaking has changed her approach to learning. See “Virtual networks follow paths to equity,” by Tamisha Williams, she shares how she uses drawing when she facilitates professional learning.

What really makes us at Learning Forward optimistic about the future is all of you and your students. What about you? Share with us what makes you hopeful. You can send us your art or poetry, post a photo, or leave us a comment. Tag us on Twitter and Facebook with #LearnTwdTLP.

Keep up the great work, and keep the faith.

Vice President, Publications | + posts

Suzanne Bouffard is vice president, publications at Learning Forward. She is the editor of The Learning Professional, Learning Forward’s flagship publication. She also contributes to the Learning Forward blog and webinars. With a background in child development, she has a passion for making research and best practices accessible to educators, policymakers, and families. She has written for many national publications including The New York Times and the Atlantic, and previously worked as a writer and researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Duke University and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. She loves working with authors to help them develop their ideas and voices for publication.

The Learning Professional

Published Date


  • Recent Issues

    April 2022

    This issue celebrates the many ways coaches are helping schools thrive in...

    February 2022

    Collaboration and trust are essential to high-quality professional...

    December 2021

    Building equity takes leadership at every level – in classrooms,...

    October 2021

    How do you lead in times of crisis? It starts with openness to learning...