As part of my duties for the Small Schools Coalition, I am grateful for my unfettered access to voluminous data and global authorities, like Dr. Stuart Grauer, that make such a solid case for the Small Schools Movement. I am also privileged to see firsthand the enormous impacts these intimate learning communities have in the lives of their students.

However, like many people of my generation (later Gen X’er here), I never had the opportunity to step foot in a small school, or even inside a unique educational environment once I left preschool. After that, and no matter which side of the country I lived on, or what grade I was in K-12, every school I attended and class I took was pretty much the same. The schools themselves were tough, impersonal and at times, flat-out dangerous places. The best I could hope for most of the time was to virtually disappear, because it seemed like whenever I was recognized things never turned out well for me. …


This article was originally published in The Journal of Folklore and Education, by our partners at Local Learning.

Latin@ heritage language learners (HLL) carry with them a wealth of experiences related to race, immigration, and language. The use of ethnography and oral history with heritage learners of Spanish allows educators to create opportunities for engaged teaching and learning practices when students invite their families into classrooms as knowledge producers, fostering creativity and self-confidence. This article builds on the foundation of the importance of using students’ voices and experiences in heritage language instruction (Carreira and Beeman 2014; Roca 2000), but we also look at how HLL are rarely asked to consider their lived experiences as rich cultural and historical knowledge outside the HLL classroom. Furthermore, in our work as educators and teachers of HLL, we have the opportunity to model inclusion and engagement of students’ literacy pluralities centered on their families’ heritage and also their own experiences as Latin@s. …


For a middle-school student who is just starting to learn English in the United States, myriad factors can contribute to a sense that one is beginning an insurmountable task. Not only is the English language unwieldy, wild, and unknown, but many students in the Stars Program at the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) in Philadelphia also come with limited schooling, traumatic experiences — or both — in their past or their present. They are not just learning grade-level reading, writing, math, science, and social studies in a brand-new language, they are also learning to navigate and interact with an educational system and peers in a new culture. The prevailing atmosphere of xenophobia, racism, and white supremacy demand a particularly meaningful education for these marginalized students, one that will strengthen and empower them. …


Our purpose in this piece is to go “behind the scenes” of the ethnographic interview to illuminate some of its distinctive features, as well as its value as a tool for learning about shared human knowledges, expressions, and experiences of today and the past. Although, it cannot be denied that conducting ethnographic interviews–and ethnography in general–can be daunting, especially for those new to cultural research and documentation, but even for the most experienced. When undertaking ethnographic projects, we typically are talking with and learning from people we do not know, or do not know that well–whether during casual conversation or in more formal, prearranged interviews. …


The successful models gleaned from a long-term endeavor can stimulate and support educators’ interests in exploring community while meaningfully connecting to curricula.

Student: Is there anything you miss from the bad old days of the neighborhood?

“I now own a business on Seventh Avenue and when I moved here, Seventh Avenue was filled with businesses like mine, mom-and-pop stores. There were wonderful diners and butcher shops and bakeries and card shops and candy stores and almost all of them are gone because it’s become so expensive, so expensive to live in this neighborhood and to run a business in this neighborhood.” …


Naomi is an alumna of CWI’s Summer Institute on Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability. She is Dean of Environmental Learning at Prairie Crossing Charter School, in Illinois.

I spent an intensive week this summer with a group of K-16 and community based educators at CWI’s Summer Institute. And, OK, I have to admit that right now — after spending over 2 weeks hiking in the English countryside — The Institute seemed like another lifetime and another world. But that, in some ways, is a benefit. …


Regina is a Lower School Science Teacher and the Sustainability Coordinator for the Hackley School, in Tarrytown, New York. She participated in CWI’s Institute on Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability.

I am always looking for ways to make learning more relevant and impactful for my students. As a science teacher, I try to find ways to connect what we are learning to my students’ lives outside of my class and beyond school. I would also like to empower my students to become change makers within their communities. Additionally, I worry that my students rarely see beyond the privileged bubble we have created for them within our school community. …


I am a high school art teacher and artist. I recently attended CWI’s Summer WEST Institute at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles (I am also a graduate of Otis College’s MFA program). Over the course of the week, the most significant way in which my thinking changed because of my experience at CWI’s Institute is that education can and should be a collaborative process. …


Resentment (noun) — bitter indignation at being treated unfairly.

The two central public education trends in my lifetime have been the rejection of racial desegregation as a worthy democratic policy goal and the gutting of school funding for our nation’s poorest urban and rural communities. Alternatively, elite leaders in both parties with ties to industry have focused instead on radical privatization, dismantling the teaching profession, raising the personal burden and opportunity cost of obtaining a college degree, and celebrating a small number of well-marketed success stories designed to disprove this chaos.

You’ve seen those sentimental viral videos emphasizing the poor kid who learned coding online or graduated from a “break-the-mold” charter school with a celebrity founder and donations from Walmart and who got into Harvard, right? …

Director of IT and Innovation at International School of Curitiba

I have had the privilege of walking into many many schools over my career, all over the world, and in a variety of capacities. If there is one constant that I know to be true is the end of the year burnout and the overwhelming feeling that educators experience. No matter what the role, I have heard educators say “I am feeling so tired” when it comes to the last few weeks. From moving up ceremonies, to celebrations, to graduations, to summatives, to grading, to reports, just writing this is enough to send me burying in my shell. I will admit, I am no expert myself at pacing. I often come in the start of the year firing on all cylinders, and by the end am barely puttering across the finish line. I recently asked a teacher from our school who is retiring for some advice around this, and she commented to me that in over 30 years in education, she did not have a magic solution, and always felt tired at this time of year. So upon reflection, I have come to determine that yes, we may always have the feeling of being tired at this time of year, but there are definitely ways to make the end of year a positive and rewarding experience. …


Joe Brooks

Founder of Community Works Institute (CWI), leader, and advocate for a community focused approach to education.

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