Posted in burning questions


“We are all the heroes of our own stories, and on of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you, and to see your power, to make your life, to make others, or break them, to tell stories rather that be told by them.”

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

It’s been almost two months since my last post, and that just proves writing is challenging for me right now. There are many things that require reflection and thought, and my hollowed out self is busy restoring itself.

But something happened and I must address it, confront it, and name it, and that is the nature and narrative of betrayal. It’s about opportunities and unfairness, and how we little souls reconcile our sins.

Some of this might not strike the right tone. Another sin.

A brief history:

In first grade, in the spring, I was asked to be the lead in the spring concert/pageant. This is after a stunning performance as the Christmas Fairy for the Christmas pageant; I knew not only my lines but everyone else’s, and managed to be both stage manager, director, and star. That’s a lot for a 6 year old. I didn’t ask for greatness, it was thrusted upon me. So when I was tapped on the shoulder for the springtime theatrical extravaganza, I was in the middle of a painting, and I swear I asked them to wait until I finished, but the teacher only heard dismissal and disinterest. I remember lying in bed crying after the show telling my mom about the tragic misunderstanding.

Fast forward to seventh grade: I was new to the school, having moved from overseas, and it was MIDDLE SCHOOL. In my previous school, I had at least 3 boyfriends and was the siren of sixth grade: in my new school, not so much. But one boy did like me, Joel D. And one of my few girlfriends at the time (can’t remember her name…Ch**l?) confessed how much she liked him, too. Being a strong, albeit misplaced, feminist, I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ and compete for a boy’s affections, so I told Joel that C like him, too, and…you know what happened. It wasn’t a cute, romantic Austen-esque farce of undying romance and revealed truths: he hated me, she hated me, and my middle school life became one of shunning and treachery. No one wins. He never spoke to me again except to talk trash about me. (But that has more to do with toxic masculinity: hope he’s grown up since then.)

More seriously, in our professional lives, my husband: 1. Was unjustly fired from a company but his brother (whom he got on board) stayed on and went onto thrive 2. Hired one of his best friends at a company, and then the best friend was promoted over him (there is more to the story: the friendship survived because his friend is a mensch and so is my husband). 3. I was in a toxic work environment for about two years (yes, I need to write that novel) and long story short: felt completely betrayed (there’s that word again) by my friends and colleagues who continued to cuddle up with and embrace some, well, pretty yucky folks. Those folks almost cost us everything, but fortunately, I had some great champions in my corner, and moved on.

That was one truncated paragraph summarizing years of pain, disappointment, and coming to terms with my own failings, life isn’t fair, shit luck, and survival. And it takes time to heal, and there are scars. That’s it. When asking my husband for advice today, and recounting some of these memories he visibly shrank and his body language asked me to stop talking before he could get out the words. He then said he didn’t want to go through thinking about it again. (I am not being hyperbolic when I say: it was horrible.) Recounting past trauma of betrayal, redemption, forgiveness, and rebuilding takes…courage? Safety? I have no answers. I thought I was okay. I mean, between the pandemic, worrying about my students, their families, and the omnipresent existential crisis, and possible destruction of the US democracy, things were looking up, right?

Currently I am on the other side of this. I won’t go into the details. But it’s weird. When the catalyst occurred, my husband’s advice was ‘you don’t turn down opportunities, because they might not come your way again.’ It was the spring pageant all over again. This situation is fraught with another’s grief and tragedy. Nothing is equal. I can’t take my PTSD and experiences and say they are worth less or more than another’s. There is no value here. And the ethics are muddy.

Maybe that is truly the essence of equality: if opportunities and love are shared, are they provided for all?

I have been told by a friend I betrayed her. And I’m just going to have to sit with that for a while.

*just can’t find the right words

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, burning questions

Moving on.

Yesterday was a terrible day. Nothing in particular happened to me or mine personally, and maybe it was just the last seven months, inside of four years, and the lack of healthy spiritual oxygen to my brain and soul. Our country is in its most precarious place now, and maybe I’m just sick with anger. Anger poisons, doesn’t it? A caustic oxidation process that burns away hope.

But that was yesterday. I turned things off for a bit, watched The Queen’s Gambit (saved the last episode for tonight)! The anger, though, is still there, like a feral cat who demands food but accepts no love or comfort. What do I crave, what will I be denied?

I want an apology.

I want an apology from colleagues who use their power and privilege to stop conversations and dialogue that seems to threaten them. And I want an apology from every teacher who voted for Trump.

I want an apology from parents and teachers who don’t “believe” their children should be allowed to read “that book” (but never seem to have an issue with white authors/protagonists). Teachers who use the word “indoctrination” in social media groups. I want an apology from 57% of white women voters in this nation for confusing fear with male gaze. My dears: they are looking right past you, and stepping on your Botox to get to their true prize: patriarchal power.

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

And for pity’s sake, people, WE KNOW:

I want us to create a mandate.

To not accept less for our students and their families.

We understand and teach science, evolution, anti-racist practices, know how to dismantle conspiracy theorists, teach culturally relevant and responsive practices, use Zinn Education, Teaching Tolerance, Facing History, #DisruptTexts, ProjectLit, #1619Project, and parents are not allowed to censor texts wholesale, we listen to BIPOC parents and students when they bring attention to texts that harm, are racist, bigoted and of poor scholarly quality. We support teachers and students who want to read a wide variety of texts and decolonize curriculum. We teach civics, political discourse, the consequences of platforms and policies, the mechanics of power. We teach consent and healthy views of our bodies, our lives, and our communities.

Oh, and those apologies? Keep ’em. And if you can’t come up with one, get out of the way, please. I’m not waiting. We’ve got work to do.

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, burning questions


I look under rocks so you don’t have to.

If you saw what some Libertarians, White Supremacists, Trolls, write about teachers–that their jobs are ridiculous, outdated, and students can learn everything they need to know from Khan Academy and YouTube, and that our professional expertise and ability to find relevancy and context with our students, help them understand and apply the process of critical thinking skills, weigh facts, opinions, truth and biases to draw their own conclusions based on logic and personal values. When we do this well, it’s powerful. And perhaps it is that expertise and knowledge that frightens many, including some teachers. Unfortunately, many teachers still uphold white supremacy, colonialism, and other harmful, violent practices. And, though I will never understand it fully, many voted for the current president and would do so again. But at this writing he’s in the hospital right now, Sunday, October 4, 2020, with the virus he called a hoax.

But this is about teaching Ayn Rand’s works Whatever you may think about her writing, her opinions, etc., I ask: please do the background knowledge and current scholarly research into the consequences of her work. I provide a few articles to read and consider.

Ayn Rand

The new age of Ayn Rand: how she won over Trump and Silicon Valley

It is a timely decision because Rand, who died in 1982 and was alternately ridiculed and revered throughout her lifetime, is having a moment. Long the poster girl of a particularly hardcore brand of free-market fundamentalism – the advocate of a philosophy she called “the virtue of selfishness” – Rand has always had acolytes in the conservative political classes. The Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, is so committed a Randian, he was famous for giving every new member of his staff a copy of Rand’s gargantuan novel, Atlas Shrugged (along with Freidrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom). The story, oft-repeated, that his colleague in the US Senate, Rand Paul, owes his first name to his father Ron’s adulation of Ayn (it rhymes with “mine”) turns out to be apocryphal, but Paul describes himself as a fan all the same.

The Fountainhead was serially rejected and published to ambivalent reviews, but it became a word-of-mouth hit. Over the coming years, a cult following arose around Rand (as well as something very close to an actual cult among her inner circle, known, no doubt ironically, as the Collective). Her works struck a chord with a particular kind of reader: adolescent, male and thirsting for an ideology brimming with moral certainty. As the New Yorker said in 2009: “Most readers make their first and last trip to Galt’s Gulch – the hidden-valley paradise of born-again capitalists featured in Atlas Shrugged, its solid-gold dollar sign standing like a maypole – sometime between leaving Middle-earth and packing for college.”

What Happens When You Take Ayn Rand Seriously?

The core of Rand’s philosophy — which also constitutes the overarching theme of her novels — is that unfettered self-interest is good and altruism is destructive. This, she believed, is the ultimate expression of human nature, the guiding principle by which one ought to live one’s life. The fly in the ointment of Rand’s philosophical “objectivism” is the plain fact that humans have a tendency to cooperate and to look out for each other, as noted by many anthropologists who study hunter-gatherers.

In other words, we are more social and connected than some would like to believe.

The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise

The city’s experiment was fascinating because it offered a chance to observe some of the most extreme conservative principles in action in a real-world laboratory. Producers from “60 Minutes” flew out to talk with the town’s leaders. The New York Times found a woman in a dark trailer park pawning her flat screen TV to buy a shotgun for protection. “This American Life” did a segment portraying Springs citizens as the ultimate anti-tax zealots, willing to pay $125 in a new “Adopt a Streetlight” program to illuminate their own neighborhoods, but not willing to spend the same to do so for the entire city. “I’ll take care of mine” was the gist of what one council member heard from a resident when she confronted him with this fact.

This is a long piece, and requires a few readings to reach its conclusions, mainly because it’s muddy (like most human endeavors). But it does illustrate an experiment of Libertarian ideals that would make Ayn Rand rise from the grave, and then go back in again when she sees what a failure it is.

Libertarianism, in my husband’s words, doesn’t scale. That’s it. And my words: it produces an immaturity and failure to actualize into adulthood. And if we teachers want this for our students, and insist on teaching Ayn Rand, please provide multiple viewpoints that demonstrate how it doesn’t work. Everyone of us likes to think we’re the hero of our own story, we’re in control, and we are independent. And there’s nothing wrong that until we forget there are 8 billion others. It’s misspent energy at best, and destruction at worst.

Posted in burning questions

We failed.

Remember that big push for #STEM a few years ago? I do. And I thought it was okay, I mean, I read what other countries did, and remembered my own gendered education, and memories of being made fun of for having a wide vocabulary and being “smart.” Because being pretty is/was valued over being intelligent. For STEM, targeting girls especially because science and math are ‘for boys’ and we wanted to show girls that science and math are cool, that it’s okay to be smart. There is a YouTube Channel called “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” too. I even participated in the WABS Fellowship program, and am still friends with a Boeing engineer I can call on anytime to speak to my students. I have worked for years to bring project-based learning through a Humanities’ lens to my students, a bigger picture, big, burning question excitement and engagement. Curiosity is love. Biology is poetry, and physics is art in motion.

I am going to use ‘we’ here, but it’s clumsy. Of course it wasn’t all of us.

My question this morning, and it must be asked, what are we really teaching children now? What values do we hold as a nation, and what do we build together? As I look at crowded hallways and teachers around the nation who are planning face to face instruction during COVID19, I am frozen in my tracks at the sheer audacity of arrogance, greed, complicity, and the nightmare unfolding in front of us. I want to scream at them all, what are you doing? To parents who are “anxious” but send their children to school anyway?* To teachers who are trapped by their right-to-work states? In this purgatory of forever quarantine, losing our rights, written in headlines on the hour?

Yes: I know if Texas teachers, for example, strike they lose their retirement savings. Just like that. For decades the GOP has worked, infiltrated systems and institutions to undermine social protections at every level. And every time we fight back, it feels like we have ten other people screaming at us, supporting these actions, loving the “game” and “winning” because that’s all we are now. A binary system of winners and losers. And the irony is, we’re all losing.

Yes, I know many parents are working two jobs to make meager ends meet. This is also by design.

Yes, I know many parents identify with their white supremacy and the current president, and think not only is he a good person, but he’s done well by them.

What I don’t know, and I don’t know how we can find out, is what children are learning right now? If children learn what they live, are they the current manifestation of conspiracy theories, lack of facts, and are they lost forever? And I mean…lost. Truly. My sons know what’s what. Their friends, do, too. And probably your school-aged children. But they are about to face the biggest battle, the one in preparations now–there is no more science. There is no more curiosity. And there is no more love of intelligence. It’s been murdered and no one cares to solve the crime.

Most of us are jealous and discouraged about countries who have cornered the outbreak and kept it under control. I for one wish I was a Hobbit right now and lived in New Zealand (well, I did before this, and now more than ever). Other countries have taken the lead, and not had the cultish devotion of an unintelligent man as their leader. My husband read Denial of Death by Ernest Becker years ago and like a Nostradamus of Washington he laid out the entire next four years for me. But being warned is not the same as being prepared: I should have known that my fellow citizens would pull us into this hell of ignorance and magical thinking. But children, however, that’s a different matter. We have never loved children in our nation, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Down the street from me a neighbor who flies both a US flag, his Marine Corp flag, and has a Culp sign in his front yard. Culp doesn’t believe in wearing masks. I don’t dare put out an Inslee yard sign, because last time I put out an Obama yard sign it was stolen and swastikas were painted on my fence. This was 2008. I don’t have the money to fix a graffitied fence. And I am a coward. I am afraid of them, the white supremacists in my neighborhood who don’t understand science, or care to know. They are satisfied in their ignorance and think magic will protect them, or it was magic’s will.

Children are learning now how little we value their lives. They may not be able to articulate it, because they trust us. Those same kids who shouted “build the wall!” when Trump was elected trust their parents. They trust their teachers who are coming back to school to teach them, with clear shower curtains, hand sanitizer and masks. Sometimes.

And when I say their lives their lives not only include their mortal coils, but those of their families. Get ready to collectively mourn the children who bring home COVID19 and harm their families. I have relatives and though three of four of them came down with COVID19 brought home by their 19 year old daughter, they dismissed it like a bad cold. They’re Trump supporters. And maybe for them it wasn’t bad or life-altering, or they will have any long-term health effects.

I don’t have any answers for my question right now. I’m watching, waiting, and thinking. But I do hope, and wish, all teachers right now, would start the year with facts and how science works. How getting new information and adjusting approaches works. How they can prepare and make decisions for themselves and their families. This is a natural disaster and must be treated as such.

Do we love children or not? Do we love them enough to teach them facts and critical thinking skills?

Posted in burning questions

The Exploding Mitten, Part 2

Parents and caregivers: I have grown sons, and I’m going to do that annoying thing where an older woman shares an anecdote. I’ve noticed that when young mothers ask for advice they don’t seek me out. I get it. I’m pushy and opinionated. All good. I’ve watched enough episodes of ‘Jane the Virgin’ to understand generational dynamics of motherhood.

Here’s my story: when we bought our first home, and the house we still live in today, my older boy was 3 and the baby 3 months. We had been renting a house in Ballard (a neighborhood in Seattle) and I was in young mom heaven. We gave up a lot for me to be a stay at home mom, and it wasn’t easy. Those financial sacrifices affect us to this day. We’ve never been ‘caught up’ or had any savings (that’s not the only reason, but one of them). Understand, when I had my sons I didn’t have maternity leave for the first one. (But that’s another story for another day. We have never loved children or parents in this country.)

Having a small child in Seattle is a joy–the Woodland Park Zoo was a frequent place for us, and I would take my son to Greenlake for the five-mile walk, and I was in much better shape than I am now. Our landlord was selling the house, and though we made a huge financial blunder by not buying it, we decided we were be better if we bought a house in the suburbs for the same cost. Off we went. I went from mommy playgroups, trips to the zoo, a dear friend up the street with a daughter and son the same ages of my boys, (we’re still friends), and lots of fun things to do to a Wasteland of Mommydom. My parents don’t live nearby, and my in-laws lived about an hour away for a time, but had other things to do. I had no close family or friends. I saw some neighbors walking their kids to the bus stop, and they had children about the same age as my sons. I asked the mom if there were any mommy-baby playgroups available and she said yes. I then asked if I could join. She said no, there wasn’t any room. (I want to name drop at this point because the dad of this family is a famous sportscaster for a local, “regal” news station.)

Think about that for a minute: no room in a mom group.


Most families in our nation either are single parent households or two parents who work.

If you want to find the number of working parents just go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was from 2019, and I am not sure of what the current situation is. The unemployment numbers have exploded, and any financial gains made from Obama’s tenure as President have been destroyed in 3.5 years of our current corrupt “president.”

“The labor force participation rate–the percent of the population working or looking for work–for all women with children under age 18 was 72.3 percent in 2019, up from 71.5 percent in the prior year. Married mothers remained less likely to participate in the labor force, at 69.9 percent, than mothers with other marital statuses, at 77.6 percent. (Other marital status includes persons who are never married; widowed; divorced; separated; and married, spouse absent; as well as persons in same-sex marriages.) The unemployment rate for married mothers was also considerably lower than for mothers with other marital statuses–2.3 percent, compared with 5.9 percent. (See table 5.) “

Both parents employed: over 60%

Now, I don’t belong to a church, and since my neighbors were less than helpful when it came to sharing and supporting me, some of the reasons I became a teacher was because 1. we needed one of us to have a stable income 2. I would use the summer breaks to spend time with my sons. There are other reasons, too, but yes, between my husband and I, and then preschool and school we patched together supervision and care for our children. And I will stand here today and say if we were in the situation many families are facing now I would be turning myself inside out. My parents were still working with the boys were little, and my in-laws had other things going on. Unlike Jane the Virgin, I don’t have the option of three generations under one roof caring and juggling for one another.

I told my husband about my ideas for this post: that parents should start banding together, form guilds, form unions, reach out to their own churches and demand support (I mean, the Catholic Church just received 1.4B, and is BILLION, dollars), that parents should go on strike until there are better solutions for child care and schools opening (or not) during COVID19, and he said, “Honey, that’s socialism–” Oh. Oh yeah. That’s why I wanted Bernie, or Warren. Oh yeah.

And yes, we’ll vote for Biden. But inauguration day is a long way off.

BUT: these things aren’t going to change. Parents: you have the economic power to insist that schools cannot be your daycare. I am urging you to use your voice, contact your neighbors, your friends, your families, and form a coalition. You are the workforce of this nation. You deserve to have safe, affordable or free childcare for your children. This “it takes a village” is just words on the wind. Contact your senators and representatives, even if you live in the reddest of red states. Especially then. Because this can’t stand. I can still recall the pain of my episiotomy stitches when I had to go back to work after have a 12.1lb baby after one month. ONE MONTH.

It is easy for me to say these words, easy like it was for Hillary to say the ‘village’ thing. I’ve spent money on other people’s children, not because I’m a savior or out of the goodness of my heart. I do it because I know what it’s like not to have anyone help. In the moment. In the urgent, needful moment. And yes, occasionally, sometimes I write these posts and I cry while writing. This is one of those times. We’re the richest nation of the world because the rich got the way from all the free labor. We know this. Parents: the wealthy are building their wealth out of your children, out of you. When will it stop? They won’t. Hold your employers accountable. Hold your politicians accountable. Hold your churches and places of worship accountable. You’ve built their wealth. Now it’s time for them to do the same.

Postscript: I watched a few moments of the NEA’s webinar on what next year might look like. The speaker mentioned the FFCRA

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements

It’s never enough, and it’s never sustained.

Let’s change that.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, burning questions, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Equity & Cultural Competency, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (28) Money: support the work

This is what I wrote in 2018, and my question ‘is this the best we can hope for?’ lacked in hope and vision. But thank goodness others have taken up the work, and helped us (teachers) continue to grow and learn.

My inadequate hope.

Fortunately, Shea Martin, Lizzie Fortin, and many others keep sharing their thinking.

And it’s almost payday: donate to this, even if they’ve exceeded their goal:

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, book recommendations, Books, burning questions, Burning Questions Book Lists, Classics, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Curriculum Ideas, ELA, ELL, Equity & Cultural Competency, Genre Studies, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (22) ‘Canon’ Fodder

I’m going into year 15 next school year, and during this time I can vouch that I continue to seek answers and strive to be a better teacher for my students. This is built on my master’s thesis, which was using engaging children’s literature–I contend this was a solid foundation for my practice. But I’m out of patience waiting for others to catch up. And I’ve encountered this request and steerage multiple times. I’m not a patient person by nature anyway, or so I’ve been told by a friend. It would be my life lesson. I’m beginning to think patience, when it comes to children and education, is highly overrated and is not, as painted, a virtue, but a sin.

And I saw this:

And this:

I would add that I am here for any conversation about books, novels, problematic texts, and the approved “canon.” Districts and district leadership: I beseech you: do not make it so difficult to get great literature written by BIPOC writers in our classrooms. We don’t have time to wait.

Book Recommendations for my current teaching position: link here.

This is a screenshot from a recent Webinar sponsored by the International Reading Association
Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, burning questions, changing the world, Creativity, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Equity & Cultural Competency, History, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: Statues (13)

Bree Newsome climbed up a flagpole and took down the racist, Confederate flag of South Carolina in 2015. I was teaching 7th grade Humanities that year, and her actions were shared with my students.

Newsome’s move, for many, was nothing short of cathartic. Weeks before, white supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine parishioners and injured three more during Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The day before Newsome climbed the flagpole, former President Barack Obama gave a moving eulogy for South Carolina state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the shooting’s victims, in which he called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, describing it as “a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”

Bree Newsome reflects on taking down South Carolina’s Confederate flag 2 years ago

The debate over whether or not to take down statues of the Confederacy began to heat up, and information and background history of when and why those statues were erected shared, but still the debate waged on. And nothing was done. We forgot about this work.

Just this past week, a mother of one of my favorite people, and she is a loving, Christian woman who is on his side, loves his bravery and voice, and shares his convictions, stepped out in one way –she believes the taking down of the statues is a form of censorship. Now, I am sensitive to the word ‘censorship.’ (This morning a colleague said, unequivocally, that “racist texts need and should be burned.” She didn’t cite specific works. She said it would be an anti-fa act. I said it is also a fascist act. One of the paradoxes of our times. But the book burning post is for another day.)

Instead of debating or making a case whether or not taking down statues is censorship, I had this epiphany this morning, and I am going to explore further. It came to me while listening to the news about Britain putting barricades around statues to protect them from protestors:

Statue Of Winston Churchill Is Covered Up In London

I do not know everything about history. I know quite little, actually, and this lack of knowledge affords me this opportunity to think about the statues and monuments I’ve encountered. If I see a statue of a man on horseback dressed in military gear, I assume he’s a famous person who has performed some act of bravery. The statue is shorthand and communicates an agreed-upon statement. If there is a statue of someone that means they did something worth getting a statue for. Right? I mean, we don’t honor horrible people, do we? We honor brave, kind, intelligent, worthy people who save lives, heal others, tell stories, or share a greater gift with the rest of humanity, right? There are statues that are works of art, fountains, monuments, that bring beauty and joy. But think: when looking at them, what assumptions do we make?

When we see Confederate military statues, or statues such as James Marion Sims, we assume heroic deeds. And that is where the true censorship happens. It happens when the voices of those enslaved, tortured, harmed, killed and exploited are silenced. The censorship happens when we don’t know whose land we’re on. And in the cruel legacy of Sims, medical students still think BIPOC don’t feel pain the same way white people do. Still. To THIS DAY. Or what treacherous and heinous acts they performed. If we do keep colonizers, slave owners, and religious zealots statues present, why not put up a huge sign that tells the whole story? Would you have known what Sims did if you just walked through the park, saw his statue, and went about your merry way? Or Columbus? Would you have known about the Taino he slaughtered? If we’re going to keep Christopher Columbus status should we put the hands of the slaughtered around his neck? And how is Georgia planning on blasting off Stone Mountain? (Look it up.) Because that one is large and horrifying.

Now, of course, I would prefer that the statues just come down. Go in a museum basement somewhere. Or melted down and made into beautiful bells and chimes. For every statue that’s taken down, if we need to replace them we have thousands waiting who truly did do wonderful things. Brave things. Acts of courage and generosity. People half-joke about putting up statues of Dolly Parton. What about Harriet Tubman? What about Ida B. Wells?

And I wouldn’t mind seeing his work in every city across this nation:

For further reading:

Monumental Error: Will New York City finally tear down a statue?

How the US Got So Many Confederate Monuments

What should replace Confederate monuments? See 4 ideas from New Orleans students

People Are In Love With These Kids’ Ideas For What To Replace Confederate Monuments With

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, burning questions, Critical Thinking, Culturally Responsive Teaching, History, PBIS, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (12) Bad Behaviors

Our current institutions are in dire need of systemic overhauls, and education top of the list. Please read and keep Ilana Horn’s thread and work close to your work and research. I am. If you’re a teacher who’s work in a school during the past ten years you may have heard or read, or even supported some of the behavioral management programs. And the trend is to have a white man create, package and sell these programs. This post is going to upset some educators and colleagues, but the intent is to provide information and background, with the hope of impact being you change and help change your own classroom policies, know how to push back, and keep districts accountable.

Here are some I’ve encountered, and others I’ve read:

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I read this book on my own a few years ago, and it didn’t sit right with me. I am already a creative teacher, and I found the ‘pirate’ thing gimmicky. He also fan-boy’d Tony Robbins, and yeah. No. Thanks. So, I put it aside, and moved on. I am kind of repulsed by a grown man who wears a pirate-style bandana on his head and a black t-shirt. I tried to go through the #TLAP hashtag on Twitter and can’t find precise criticisms, but a whole lot of fans who gush over this work. But the criticisms tend to run toward this: It’s teacher-centered. And since 80% of teachers are white women, that’s problematic.

PBIS: PBIS stands for “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.” It’s based on a Tier System. Every school I’ve worked in (now at three) has used PBIS, or when I’ve gone in for interviews have been asked about my knowledge and expertise with this system.

It’s a glorified “Change your clip” chart. And these are only my observations, because life at school goes so fast, any chance to discuss and create a sustainable method falls apart. The problems with PBIS is it’s a token economy: it rarely gets to the place for students to get to internalized positive behavior motivation. I have witnessed years of students ‘gaming’ the token system, too. One year in particular, kids kept the tickets that were intended to be traded for prizes and snacks, hoarding them as the treasure or trading them on the open market. It was actually quite genius. Students know inauthentic, tokenized systems of oppression. And the more important factor which lead to lack of success and meaningful change: there wasn’t the support for students. The physical, real-time qualified adult bodies to support students. My dream: instead of school safety officers we have a counselor and adult support for every 30-50 kids, including classroom teaches, counselors, and administration. We don’t overcrowd schools in the first place. We don’t use harmful, hateful violent curriculum (looking at you, programs that use racist, colonized canon). And we stop the systems that promote meritocracy. PBIS is that.

Teach Like a Champion: see the above thread for #TLAC. Also: these articles, please:By Layla Treuhaftali, The Power of Pedagogy: Why We Shouldn’t Teach Like Champions

This School Year, Don’t Teach Like a Champion by Ray Salazar

“To some white eduinfluencers who are starting to speak up” by Benjamin Doxtdador

“To be honest, after reading over 100 pages of the book (there will be a follow-up blog when I finish reading the entire book), I have to say it’s incredibly shallow and simplistic – yet the scary part is the dictatorial demand to keep everything shallow, uniform and simplistic. And as mentioned above, Lemov’s beliefs about “teaching like a champion” are beginning to co-opt what true educators really understand about teaching, child development, and engaging learners. This book is a great primer for reducing learning to uniform and robotic student behavior which is easy to “track” (Lemov’s word – not mine) and manage, in order to get the results that you want. And the results that they want are high test scores. Lemov is clear in stating that this work is gauged via state test scores.

“Fast LLama” by Doug Curry – sat in on his trainings. Cute, and he’s congenial, but same stuff.

Second Step: I’ve been through two districts with this and both times they don’t have the money to purchase the support materials. And it’s hokey.

So what to do instead?


Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond

Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby

Article about Troublemakers:

Work with experts on understanding ACES, trauma-informed teaching, etc.

The End of Police in Schools

What do you think of some of these ideas?

What are the goals?

Every parent want their child to be able to go to school and feel free to learn, free from obstructions, bullying, racism, distractions, and fear. They want to know when their child comes home after the school day they have friends, healthy relationships based on mutual respect from adults, have grown their brains, bodies, and joy. And we humans are messy. We have bad days. We experience grief, anger, frustration, and a hundred ways to express these emotions based on our upbringing, context, culture, and desires. We get stuck with labels. I don’t have the answers. Every year I’ve made mistakes. I do know there are better ways to do this. I was a troublemaker in school.

And I still am.