In This Issue:
Quotes of the Week
“Our actions in our schools, especially in schools without a single student of color, should be guided by our desire to allow our students to build a more racially just society. Silence robs our students of a better future. To all of my fellow educators, please read, learn, do better.”
Tracey Benson in “What Educators Should – and Should Not Do – in Response to George Floyd’s Death” in Education Week Teacher, June 2, 2020
“It’s hard because as a teacher, you’re not a therapist, you’re not a social worker, you’re not a doctor or a nurse – but those are all roles we take on when we become a teacher.”
Evin Shinn, Seattle high-school teacher, quoted in “‘Teachers Cannot Be Silent’: How Educators Are Showing Up for Black Students Following Protests” by Madeline Will in Education Week Teacher, June 1, 2020
“If we do not take steps to actively shape our virtual school climate, it will be shaped for us.”
Jessica Hoffman, Marc Brackett, and Scott Levy (see item #6)
“Regardless of the pedagogical approach, at some point every teacher assigns work to students. This serves as the task, and it presents the best opportunity for deeper learning.”
Jason Glass, superintendent in Jefferson County, Colorado, on the district’s “Transform
the Task” initiative, aiming to make every task in every classroom challenging,
engaging, and relevant, in “Our Actionable Routes to Deeper Learning,” also
“Powerful Learning at the Periphery” by Jal Mehta, both in School Administrator, June 2020 (Vol. 6, #677, pp. 24-27); Glass can be reached at JasonGlass@jeffco.k12.co.us, Mehta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As assistant principals, we may have made 500 decisions by the time we arrive home, and when the ‘What’s for dinner?’ question comes, decision paralysis can kick in.”
Sarah Infante in “Changing the Focus” in Principal Leadership, May 2020 (Vol. 20,
#9, pp. 46-49); Infante can be reached at email@example.com.
1. It’s Not Enough to Teach Students to Be Nice
“As we think about the next generation of adults we are influencing, particularly our white students, now more than ever, we need to teach more than kindness,” says Sheldon Eakins in this Cult of Pedagogy article. Even in schools that have no black students, he believes multicultural and social justice content is a vital part of the curriculum. Why? Because “whiteness” is complex, says Eakins. Within an all-white group, there’s variation by socioeconomic status, age, religion, ancestral heritage, cultural traditions, disability, gender and sexual orientation, and more.
So what can multicultural and social justice curriculum content teach white children? Eakins suggests the following:
• Understanding their own cultural and ethnic background – This includes learning that their ethnic or religious group may have been an underdog in an earlier era.
• Studying implicit bias in common parlance – “The words we use daily are influenced by how we were raised, our social circle, and the media,” says Eakins. “We may not notice how some of the words we use may have adverse effects on particular groups of people.” For example, alien and immigrant may have a particular valence in contemporary America, and saying to an Asian American, “You should speak up more, you’re so quiet,” may give offense.
• Examining representation in curriculum and beyond – Students can be quite perceptive if asked to do a critical scan, looking for underrepresentation and blind spots – for example, leaving out people with disabilities. And in popular culture, how are various groups represented in the news, music, movies, and social media?
• Understanding and recognizing privilege – It’s a breakthrough for some students to recognize that even when they’re not doing anything racist, they are benefiting from the legacy of racism. “Starting at a young age, we can help our students learn to understand that not everyone has access to the same opportunities as others,” says Eakins. “Teaching white students about power and privilege may be a touchy subject for some, as white guilt and fragility may seep into the mindsets of white teachers and students. However, we must learn to ‘disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.’”
• Dismantling racism – For elementary students, this might involve getting students to do more than refraining from bullying or laughing at others; they might commit to stepping up and taking a stand when peers are mistreated, as well as not mistreating others. For secondary students, it might be writing to the school board or challenging institutional practices that are unjust to certain groups – perhaps becoming antiracist warriors.
“Why White Students Need Multicultural and Social Justice Education” by Sheldon Eakins in Cult of Pedagogy, June 7, 2020
2. The Impact of African-American Teachers in Advanced Courses
In this article in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Cassandra Hart (University of California/Davis) reports on her study of whether having African-American teachers in advanced-level high-school courses made a difference in black students enrolling in those courses – and whether it affected those students’ achievement. Hart found that the presence of at least one black instructor in advanced courses was associated with a seven percent increase over previous rates of course-taking by African-American students. There was also an increase in advanced course taking by students in other racial groups. But there wasn’t an improvement in the grades and AP scores of black students who enrolled.
“Nonetheless,” Hart concludes, “given the value of more advanced coursework for students’ college-going outcomes, boosting contemporaneous likelihood of taking and passing advanced-track courses is an important benefit.”
“An Honors Teacher Like Me: Effects of Access to Same-Race Teachers on Black Students’ Advanced-Track Enrollment and Performance” by Cassandra Hart in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2020 (Vol. 42, #2, pp. 163-187); Hart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Books to Help Understand the Nation’s Racial Crisis
In this Buzzfeed News article, Arianna Rebolini gives capsule reviews of books she considers must reading, especially right now:
– How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi
– Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram Kendi
– White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
– Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
– American Lynching by Ashraf Rushdy
– Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt
– White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DeAngelo
– Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Recreate Race in the Twenty-First Century by Dorothy Roberts
– The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward
– The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
– So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
– White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by Kevin Kruse
– This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
– The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
– Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
– Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
– The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics by George Lipsitz
– Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
– Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins
– When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson
– Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney López
– Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
– Habits of Whiteness: A Pragmatist Reconstruction by Terrance MacMullan
– The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
– Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
– Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
– Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
– Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
“An Essential Guide to Fighting Racism” by Arianna Rebolini in Buzzfeed News, May 29, 2020
4. Building All Students’ Brainpower During Remote Learning
In this Mind/Shift article, Amielle Major draws on the work of Zaretta Hammond to suggest ways educators can meet students’ needs during a period of online learning – especially those with disadvantages. For starters, Major broadens the definition of culturally responsive instruction: it’s not just teaching multicultural content and addressing historical inequities, she says. At its core, it’s about helping students become independent learners, addressing both the affective and cognitive, and building an academic mindset by pushing back on dominant narratives about students who aren’t doing as well.
How can teachers accomplish this as schools work remotely? Hammond believes it means borrowing the best practices of Montessori and project-based learning in a way that repositions students as leaders of their own learning. “By giving students more agency,” says Major, “the idea is to disrupt old routines around teaching and learning that make the student dependent on the teacher for receiving knowledge.” Three specific strategies:
• Deepen background knowledge. Always connect it with students’ prior knowledge and interests and have them put new knowledge and skills to work in meaningful projects;
• Cultivate cognitive routines. “Be the personal trainer of their cognitive development,” says Hammond, by including a routine set of prompts with each assignment. Possible questions: How does this part fit into the whole? What are the parts of this whole?
• Increase word wealth. “Building a student’s vocabulary is a key tool in equity strategies for schools,” says Major. Students should connect with their interests, engage in word play, and use games like Scrabble, Heads Up, Taboo, and even word searches.
“How to Develop Culturally Responsive Teaching for Distance Learning” by Amielle Major in Mind/Shift, May 20, 2020
5. Using Videos for Remote Teacher Coaching
In this Learning Forward article, Laura Baecher (Hunter College/CUNY) suggests that while instruction is taking place online, lesson videos may be the best way for supervisors to observe and coach teachers. “Video observation may be particularly useful now,” she says, “since many educators are on a steep learning curve figuring out new tools, technologies, and techniques for the distance learning context.”
But how it’s handled is important; being filmed can make teachers feel exposed and vulnerable, and anything that adds to teachers’ stress level during the Covid-19 crisis is not helpful. Baecher has the following suggestions:
• Take advantage of the benefits of video. When teachers can watch a classroom video with a supervisor or instructional coach, they may notice, comment on, and dissect a lesson in a way that’s not possible when they’re a passive recipient of the observer’s feedback. In addition, the video can be replayed (perhaps more than once) to look more carefully at a teaching move or a student’s comment, or to rethink an erroneous impression.
• Leverage the features of remote learning. All that’s required to record a synchronous lesson is to hit the Record button in the videoconferencing program (compare this to the work of setting up a video camera in an in-person classroom). An added advantage is that recorded lessons can be shared later with students who were absent. Asynchronous slides and thumbnail videos can also be viewed together with supervisors and instructional coaches. It’s possible for observers to “drop in” on synchronous lessons with none of the steps involved in a brick-and-mortar school. And observations aren’t limited to a school building, says Baecher: “A chemistry teacher in California can peer-observe, coach, or be coached by another chemistry teacher in New York, or even in Vietnam or Brazil.”
• Keep it low-stakes. Conducting formal observations while teachers navigate uncharted waters can raise the anxiety level. Baecher suggests a more low-key, non-evaluative approach:
– Invite teachers to review a recorded lesson and materials using a self-reflection tool, reflecting on student engagement and whether this might be a model lesson for the 2020-21 school year.
– Invite peers, coaches, and supervisors to reflect. A videoed lesson and accompanying artifacts can be the jumping-off point for an informal discussion of what worked and what might be changed.
– Invite teachers to share their classroom sites. Using tools like Screencastify, teachers can give a virtual tour of their asynchronous materials and invite comments. “In many instances,” says Baecher, “teachers who are comfortable and skilled in digital tools are better ‘staff developers’ than instructional technologists who may not be currently teaching in this stressful period.”
“When Learning Online, Leverage the Power of Video Observation to Improve Practice” by Laura Baecher in Learning Forward, May 26, 2020; Baecher can be reached at email@example.com.
6. Nurturing School Climate in a Virtual World
“Although leaders, teachers, and students are not together physically, the climate and culture of the school community continue to exist,” say Jessica Hoffman, Marc Brackett, and Scott Levy (Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence) in this article in EdSurge News. “If we do not take steps to actively shape our virtual school climate, it will be shaped for us… Now more than ever, a positive school climate is necessary to help us maintain a school community that supports the wellbeing of faculty, staff, and students and the continuation of high-quality instruction that is paramount to achieving educational goals.”
An organization’s culture is often defined as “the way we do things around here.” In a school, this includes norms and values, the quality of relationships, respect and trust, supportive leadership, celebration of diversity, physical and emotional safety, and effective teaching practices. “You may feel like you have too much on your plate to worry about school climate right now,” say the authors. “But the truth is, school climate is the plate. More than 25 years of research tells us that the climate of a school matters; it literally guides how well almost everything gets done.” Schools with a positive culture have better academic and non-academic results.
The pandemic has taken a major physical and emotional toll on educators and students, with anxiety the most frequently mentioned emotion. A positive culture is like a healthy immune system, mitigating the harm that occurs. Negative external forces may expose pre-existing weaknesses in a school’s culture. Given the uncertainty of the months ahead, it’s vital to understand weak points in the culture and build on strengths so adults and students can thrive and be stronger by the time schools reopen. Hoffman, Brackett, and Levy offer these suggestions in several school culture areas:
• Physical and emotional safety:
– Require password protection for online communities.
– Promulgate a code of conduct for remote learning, including chat boxes and screenshots of meetings.
– Regularly check in with students before launching into academic content.
– Suggest using virtual backgrounds for student and staff privacy.
– Give students easy access to counselors and psychologists.
• Respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion:
– Understand that students’ work environments will vary widely.
– Be sensitive to financial and health disparities, including Covid-19 cases.
– Pace academic work to avoid overload.
– Assign work in a variety of formats.
– Leverage individual students’ tech and design skills.
– Reach out to family and community resources to enrich the curriculum.
– Regularly use synchronous learning to maintain group culture.
– Orchestrate regular group learning time.
– Facilitate communication among students’ friendship groups.
– Continue virtual department and faculty meetings and maximize participation in decision making.
– Do individual check-ins to stay connected with students and colleagues.
• Supportive teaching practices:
– Set realistic expectations and model patience and compassion.
– Support educators with PD on remote learning.
– Give students choice and voice in their learning assignments.
– Have the curriculum include empathy, responsible decision-making, emotional regulation, conflict resolution, ethics, and citizenship.
• Sense of community:
– Maintain rituals and routines like morning announcements and a weekly newsletter.
– Encourage students to share films, speeches, and performances.
– Use social media to highlight exemplary work by students and staff.
– Actively communicate with families.
“How to Foster a Positive School Climate in a Virtual World” by Jessica Hoffman, Marc Brackett, and Scott Levy in EdSurge News, May 21, 2020; the authors are at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Finely Balanced Leadership
In her recently published book, former superintendent Pia Durkin suggests five “dynamic tensions” that educational leaders are constantly balancing:
• Pressure versus support – “Too much pressure, without the right blend of supports, will lead to compliance with new practices conducted only superficially, having little impact on student learning,” says Durkin. “Too much support, without a sense of urgency, mitigates the fact that students are counting on us to conduct our best work every day in every classroom.”
• Leading from the front versus leading from the rear – Certain situations call for out-front leadership – managing a crisis or dealing with employee discipline, for example. Less-directive leadership is appropriate when there is broad support for the mission and credibility has been established. “A hesitancy to lead from the front can result in staff not sure what to expect, leaving parameters unclear,” says Durkin. “Leading from the back involves asking the right questions and seeking input that will build the capacity in others to change their own behavior and that of their peers.”
• On the balcony versus on the field – “Part of being a leader is actually showing up,” says Durkin. But spending too much time in the trenches can result in getting bogged down in details and losing the big picture. At the other extreme, too much time in the office and on e-mail leads to chatter about an aloof and clueless leader. Credibility and trust come from knowing what’s happening in classrooms and having a clear sense of mission and direction.
• Direct versus indirect support – Rookies may need lots of hand-holding to build habits, structures, and systems, says Durkin, but “too much direct support for too long does not build critical problem-solving will and skill.” There’s a delicate balance between over- and under-directing.
• Loose versus tight – Leaders need to find the Goldilocks level of autonomy. What are the guardrails? Where is the safety net? Can subordinates be trusted to do the right thing, drawing on the best research? And by what measures will they ultimately be accountable?
The Superintendent’s Work with Principals by Pia Durkin (Research for Better Teaching, 2020); Durkin can be reached at email@example.com.
8. Advice for Juniors Worrying About College
In this New York Times article, author Jeffrey Selingo has suggestions for juniors gearing up to apply to college in this very disrupted year:
• Control what you can. “Students can’t do anything this year about canceled tests, or how their high school is treating grades, or a missed track season,” says Hanna Wolff, a Virginia college and career specialist. “But they can get started on writing essays or compiling information for their applications.” Wolff also advises applying to a broader range of colleges, possibly including some located closer to home.
• Consider skipping the ACT or SAT. It’s not clear that major tests will be given in the fall, and because a number of colleges no longer require the ACT or SAT, it might be a good idea to not take these tests and apply to test-optional schools.
• Go beyond the virtual campus tour. It may not be possible to visit a campus in person, but Selingo advises delving deeply into websites, YouTube videos, and other sources to get past the façade.
• Don’t goof off this summer. “In a sea of applications that often look numbingly similar,” says Selingo, “admissions officers often look for something that stands out – an eclectic combination of classes, for instance, or an activity that has meaning rather than just another sign-up club.” Do something different, something useful.
• Make senior year more relevant. Again, college admissions officers might look at senior year courses to see whether students challenged themselves.
• Maybe write about the coronavirus. The common application used by nearly 900 colleges has added a question allowing students to explain how the pandemic affected them educationally or personally. Essays on this should be detailed and include what students missed in regular high school, says Selingo – though he’s found that essays are not a major determining factor in college admissions.
“How to Normalize the College Search Process for Juniors” by Jeffrey Selingo in The New York Times, June 3, 2020
9. Recommended Nonfiction Books for Children
In this Language Arts feature, Grace Enriquez and Rika Thulin Dawes (Lesley University), Gilberto Lara (University of Texas/San Antonio), Mollie Welsh Kruger (Bank Street College of Education), and Ted Kesler (Queens College CUNY) recommend and review 15 outstanding nonfiction books (descriptions and color images of each book’s cover are at the link below):
– Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim (HarperCollins, 2019)
– The Lost Forest by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen (University of Michigan, 2019)
– Liberty Arrives! How America’s Grandest Statue Found Her Home by Robert Byrd (Dial, 2019)
– ENOUGH! 20 Protesters Who Changed America by Emily Easton, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (Random House, 2018)
– The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy (Maverick, 2019)
– Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright (Page Street, 2019)
– It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni (Henry Holt, 2019)
– Two Brothers, Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper (Neal Porter, 2019)
– The Boy Who Touched the Stars/El Niño Que Alcanzó las Estrellas by Jose Hernandez, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio (Arte Público, 2019)
– Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams, 2019)
– I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib (Clarkson Potter, 2019)
– Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel by Carl Safina (Roaring Books, 2019)
– They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker (Top Shelf, 2019)
– Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul Janeczko (Candlewick, 2019)
– Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine Johnson (Atheneum, 2019)
“Nonfiction Titles to Ignite Minds Toward Inquiry” Grace Enriquez, Rika Thulin Dawes, Gilberto Lara, Mollie Welsh Kruger, and Ted Kesler in Language Arts, May 2020 (Vol. 97, #5, pp. 330-339), Enriquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. Short Items:
a. Working for Racial Justice – This site suggests 75 ways white Americans can contribute to racial justice – including advocating for police body cameras, training in de-escalation, watching the documentary 13th, reading the 1619 Project, not tolerating racist jokes, and examining how slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow are taught in your school.
“75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” by Corinne Shutack in Medium, August 13, 2017
b. Online Writing Ideas – The 826 website has free resources focused on getting students to write well.
“A Good Time to Write” from 826 National
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