By Eileen Carr

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I live on a remote island in Hawai’i. We have one gas station and zero stoplights, Starbucks or skyscrapers. Teaching on a remote island in Hawai’i has its benefits, even now. Fresh breezes blow through from the mountains, our open campus provides plentiful options for nature breaks, and most importantly, our isolated island has maintained an incredibly low case count (at the time of writing, four total since March).

All of our state’s public schools started the school year virtually, except for my island’s (and two on Maui). My school, because it’s public charter, started before anyone else.

My school officially reopened its physical doors at the beginning of August. I’m the full day teacher for all in-person 4th graders. We are one of five DOE schools in the entire state that are open for live instruction. There are nearly 300 schools in the Hawai’i DOE, and every other school has been ordered to close its doors and provide distance learning until October. …


colorful graphic of different arms and hands holding different colored books
colorful graphic of different arms and hands holding different colored books

By Sunday Cummins

Like many of us, in the past few months, I have found a greater and greater need to read more than one source on a topic, whether it’s a topic related to COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests, or how schools will re-open in the near future. A range of sources has helped me make sense of a turbulent world and informed important decisions I am making. This begs the question: Who would make a big decision based on just one piece of information?

Yet, in classrooms — whether they are face to face or virtual, it’s not unusual to see students reading and learning in informational silos: today they might read an article about alligators and tomorrow they read a text about blizzards. In other words, they are primarily reading a single source on a topic and then moving onto a different topic with a different source for the next lesson. In our current world, this is a dangerous context for learning: it limits not only our k-12 students’ understanding of the world, but also their capacity for comprehending and thinking critically about an overwhelming number of sources on various topics. …


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by Monique Marshall

Eager to tell his story, Paul rushed into our second-grade classroom from recess. “He called me dirty!” Paul, a typically introverted, quiet, light-skinned Black boy was incensed and hurt. Josh, an often impulsive, excitable white boy was one of Paul’s friends but had chosen to use racially charged words as a weapon. Or had he?

As so happens in the heat of teaching, I was caught off guard and found myself hopeful that this incident was about something other than race. I scanned Paul’s body for signs of “dirty” — maybe the boys had been digging in the mud? My veteran teacher-of-color self quickly caught on to my own habitual wishing away of the realities of the impact of race in America, even on our most innocent youth. A welcoming, progressive school community is not an effective shield from the racist pollution we all inhale. In fact, the more confident we are that our institutions are places where children are accepted and differences are celebrated, the less able we typically become to see inequity staring us in the face. We become convinced that a racial incident couldn’t possibly happen in this lovely school community. I turned decisively away from the harmful fantasy of “colorblindness” and my responsive-teacher identity clicked in. I reminded myself to breathe. …


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By Tiffany Palmatier

In my teacher training program, my professors emphasized the importance of selecting diverse books for our future classroom libraries. In one class we created a list of thirty titles by having each student share one “diverse” book. I remember scribbling down each title, planning to feature all of them in my classroom library, but that book list got lost. When I (excitedly) entered my own classroom, I spent countless hours trying to assemble a new list of diverse titles for my classroom library — books that showcased children from different parts of the world, children who looked like the kids in my room and some who didn’t, books about morals, books about different family makeups, books about families with varying socioeconomic statuses, etc. I made the best of the resources that I could find in my school and then supplemented that with finds from local garage sales and thrift stores. There were many groups underrepresented. My library, for the most part, only contained preselected books that I’d decided on before my students arrived and they didn’t really change from year to year. Deep down I knew I had to do something different, but I couldn’t yet articulate it. …


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by Kassandra Minor

As a white educator who works to build inclusive spaces with many teachers, students, parents, and school leaders, I grapple with the concept of critical humility: the paradox of knowing and not knowing at the same time (European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness 2005). I accept that my knowledge is partial but continue moving forward with the body of information and experience around teaching and learning that has carried me where I am today. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be critical and humble when the kinds of systemic change our students need is urgent. It’s hard when the folks I am coaching, teaching, and learning within the realm of equity and inclusion are trusting me, a white woman, to guide them toward affinity, understanding, and actionable steps. I’m supposed to . . .


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My Italian mother has been known to denounce, fervently, any recipe that claims to have a “special twist.” She prefers dishes that are simple and straightforward, that get out of the way of the main ingredient and let it shine. In response to dinner party guests oohing and aahing over a bowl of pasta, she shrugs. “It’s just four ingredients.”

Recently, I’ve adopted my mother’s way of thinking in my own work designing a novel-based curriculum. I’ve come to think that a unit of study should get out of the way of the novel so that kids can experience it in all of its rich specificity. When I feel the urge to put my own special twist on a unit or a lesson, I pause myself. Will my twist create an opportunity for young people to more fully experience the text, or will it be an unnecessary complication? Reading a novel is a practice of imagination, intellect, and heart, and layering our lessons with graphic organizers, text-dependent questions, and teaching points can threaten that practice. …


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Xicana, Not Mexican-American, Latina, or Hispanic

I am Xicana. If you press me, I will admit I am a mixed-race Xicana, but I am Xicana. It’s taken me forty-four years to be able to say that and unapologetically claim my identity, because for too long my identity was labeled for me by peers, family members, and teachers. My teachers saw me as another brown kid; there was no nuance or mixed-race identity acknowledged by my teachers. I was brown. My peers also saw me as a Mexican-American peer until they found out I didn’t speak Spanish. …


Making Math Worksheets Worthwhile

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A few months ago, I asked people on Twitter, When you think of math worksheets, what word or words come to mind? The results are represented below.

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[via https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/]

Negative views of math worksheets (boring, busywork, and torture) outnumbered more positive views (problem solving, application, and supportive). What surprised me was the number of people who responded with something akin to “it depends.” I like this perspective because I tend to agree with Hamlet when he says, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” In other words, it’s why and how we use math worksheets that make them good or bad, not necessarily the worksheets themselves. …


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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

By Melissa Adams Corral

While looping with students from third to fifth grade, I realized their parents were not represented in our school’s PTA or any other school-wide decision-making body. Our school had been gentrifying rapidly, and as it did, many parents of color began to feel actively excluded. After trying to attend PTA meetings with parents from my classroom and seeing firsthand that those spaces were not welcoming, I realized there needed to be space where Spanish-speaking parents could meet comfortably. I decided to hold monthly parent meetings for our classroom. …


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Photo credit: Dingzeyu Li

By Christina Torres

Print rosters. Decorate classroom. Send follow-up emails. Update class website. Email tech about getting access . . .

It is the day before school and, looking at my to-do list and everything else in my life, I am overwhelmed. My chest flutters and I have a hard time seeing straight. I know this feeling — panic. I’ve been managing anxiety since I was a kid and I’ve learned the warning signs. I stop what I’m doing, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths, counting to four each time. …

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