Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Curriculum Ideas, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: All Posts































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 #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: Educators Part 1: Doing the Work(16)

We can’t do this work alone. And I’ve recognized that if I’m not “the” teacher that connects with a student, I know that there will be one for them along the way. I don’t want to be “the one” anyway — truly. I want all of us to provide each child we teach and in our care to be respected, model self-respect, and supported. And just like children need different supports, so do adults. How one colleague begins their anti-racism work and their place on the journey toward an equitable, just society may look different for each of us. This is Part 1 of some of the educators who’ve influenced, inspired, and become an integral part of my community.

Here are some of the educators doing this work, and they can help you on your journey:

Jess Lifshitz approaches anti-racism work with humility and great love. And don’t be fooled; she is a powerful and amazing educator.

John Spencer has been a friend of mine for years. I trust his voice and his work.

Tom Rademacher is direct, no-nonsense and will help you with direct, honest conversation about anti-racism work. I cannot recommend his book, It Won’t Be Easy, enough.

Mrs. LaQuisha Hall — it would be a challenge to find an educator as generous as she.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, Communication, Creativity, Culturally Responsive Teaching, ELL, Equity & Cultural Competency, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: Let’s talk (15)

In a Facebook group whose mission is to discuss anti-racism and equity issues (one of about a thousand of these groups) a member asked if it’s “okay to compliment an accent.”

My short answer was “no.” She was not satisfied with this. I told her I would research it further, but my first response comes from being an ELA/ELL teacher, and complimenting someone’s accent or dialect may make them feel singled out, “other” ness. It may discourage students who speak one or more languages other than English, and while they’re working on English will feel self-conscious.

And I am wondering why I am still so irked. Why wasn’t it enough for me to say “no?” The reason is because when a white person doesn’t get the answer they want, it takes a trajectory of time (confirmation bias strength) and friction (cognitive dissonance). She wanted to continue her behavior. I get it. I still like to tell students they’re amazing, beautiful, smart, loyal friends, courageous, and creative. When we’ve done pop-up toasts as a class and they need to speak to/about other students, it’s my honor to help them find ways to compliment one another that’s healthy, loving and profound.

Further Reading:

Note: even the word “microaggression” sounds like “small racism.” They’re aggressions.

What exactly is a microaggression?

This is from a person who works as a dialect coach:

“And maybe, just maybe I don’t want to tell you where I’m from because I might look at this country as being my home. I’ve worked hard to become part of your world. And I love it here.”

Please Know This Before You Comment on My Accent

Micro-aggressions in the Classroom:


Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Argumentative Reading and Writing, being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Close Reading, Communication, Culturally Responsive Teaching, ELA, ELL, Equity & Cultural Competency, Series: White People Homework, Writing

Series: White People Homework- What’s in a name? (14) (Updated)

We’re not a football family in our house. And like many areas of fandom, it’s okay–no judgment on those who love football, and as far as we know we aren’t judged by others. Wouldn’t matter. So forgive me for not knowing who Emmanuel Acho is. Turns out, he’s pretty amazing! And I am so grateful for other media formats who bring people such as him into my life and help me learn.

And I am an ELA/ELL teacher; however, full disclosure, I was not an English major in college. Most of what I learned about mechanics, style guides, and conventions I relearned and created lessons while teaching. My next question is what are the current grammarians and style guide writers determining about the capitalization of Black and White. Here’s what I’ve found:

Black should be capitalized. “White” — not as clear. From the Diversity Style Guide, they link further articles. The consensus isn’t clear (as are many grammatical discussions).

The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. Many of the terms related to Black and White people in The Diversity Style Guide come from 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. The team that put together that guide decided to capitalize Black and White, according to editor Joe Grimm. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it’s not incorrect to lowercase those words.
This article was written in 2011: When referring to race, should ‘black’ and ‘white’ be capitalized?
Original Post:

However, when words labeling an entire people are at the root of a language dispute, that’s reason enough to seek direction outside of our usual resources, especially if the resources are outdated. If your editorial directive is to call people what they want to be called—including names, pronouns, and labels—then look to Black media outlets like Ebony and Essence for accepted usage and avoid overriding their terminology. By capitalizing black and white, we also make necessary distinctions between color and race—black hair and Black hair—similar to distinguishing between native and Native. Don’t wait for your style guide to catch up, because it’s waiting for you to demonstrate sufficient usage.


This article lead me to this page: Center for the Study of Social Policy:

This is the dilemma we need to address:

We believe that it is important to call attention to White as a race as a way to understand and give voice to how Whiteness functions in our social and political institutions and our communities. Moreover, the detachment of “White” as a proper noun allows White people to sit out of conversations about race and removes accountability from White people’s and White institutions’ involvement in racism. We are also reckoning with the threatening implications of capitalizing “W” in “White,” often used by White supremacists, to establish White racial dominance. The violence of capitalizing White in this context makes us grapple with the history of how Whiteness has functioned and thrived in the United States; acknowledging that, yes, White people have had power and still hold power in this country. While we condemn those who capitalize “W” for the sake of evoking violence, we intentionally capitalize “White” in part to invite people, and ourselves, to think deeply about the ways Whiteness survives—and is supported both explicitly and implicitly.

Language is powerful, and oftentimes I think ELA teachers don’t teach the true power of capitalization, punctuation and syntax. Because it “wasn’t on the test” we spent the past 14 years teaching to a test that uses excerpts like out-of-context entrails on an autopsy slab. I am going to call on my other experts on history and language to ask their thoughts. I will and do capitalize Black when referring to race, and have been using lower case “w” for white people. My instinctual response was because capitalizing the “w” felt like a nod for white supremacy. However, CSSP makes a strong case. (No pun intended.) Language is ever-evolving and shifting, sometimes for honest, descriptive and precise communication and sometimes for nefarious and subtextual racist communication. This article was written in 2015 by the Columbia Journalism Review: I think we can all agree that we need to be mindful of language and do our best to stay current and mind the impact.

And also, ELA teachers, be especially mindful of your use of Martin Luther King’s, Jr. works.


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.