Running a learning pod turned out to be a transformative experience for Samantha. “This is probably the most professionally satisfied I’ve ever been in my entire career,” she said. And she felt there was no turning back: “[After] this experience, I’m not going back to formal K–12 education. I can’t. You can’t. I want to be able to replicate what I had here. You can’t do that in public school.”

Samantha was not alone in her sentiment. This spring, when CRPE researchers surveyed and interviewed teachers who worked in learning pods, we were struck by how many preferred these learning environments over their prior schools.

The learning pods that proliferated during the 2020–21 school year were unplanned educational experiments that often looked far different than a standard school. They took place in living rooms, community centers, and even neighborhood parks. Many were started by parents who either hired professional educators or took on the role of teacher themselves, often as a complement to their regular school’s remote instruction.

Learning pods were generally small, with most averaging about six students, though they could still be logistically complicated to run. Along with her daughter, Samantha hosted four other elementary schoolers ranging from first to fourth grade and juggled their remote schedules, which shifted throughout the year between synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid in-person varieties. “We’ve literally been on nine different schedules since we started,” she said during our interview last March.

Despite their complexity and untested nature, instructors found a lot to like about learning pods. According to a majority of the thirty-five pod instructors we interviewed, teaching in pods was emotionally fulfilling and intellectually satisfying. Like Samantha, many explicitly said that they were not interested in returning to a traditional school setting or—if they did not have previous teaching experience—pursuing a career in formal education.

What made their experiences in learning pods so positive and their take on traditional education so pessimistic? The answers could point the way toward a more humane and sustainable teaching profession.

Read the full article about learning pods by Steven Weiner at The 74.