Hedreich Nichols

July 2020

Brothers in Arms

Visit my YouTube channel for previous Small Bites episodes.

Small Bites Friday Five 07-31-20:

20-30m – Watch the next 30 minutes of Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise on PBS.

15-20m – Research the qualified immunity police laws in your city.

10-15m –Review Kahn Academy’s lesson on Richard Nixon employing the Southern Strategy in 1968 and explore the hyperlinked resources.

5-10m – Review the 5Ds of bystander intervention; Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. You can even take a training and download an infrographic to share.

0-5m – Drop “late to the party” from your vocabulary. Shaming someone for arriving whenever they arrive is not cool. Take zero minutes and stop.

“Teaching, for me, has always been a vehicle. A vehicle for freedom…Teaching is great power” — Jamilah Pitts

If you never read Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care, now is the time to read it. With so many of us feeling helpless in the face of tsunami sized waves of a politicized pandemic, protests and schools reopening, teaching can be the place where we can remember how powerful we really are.

Watching the footage of John Lewis on Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965 and then similar violent footage of protests this year have caused me to think about my own role in creating change. Yes, there is Small Bites. Yes, I am raising a son to be respectful and also vocal in the face of injustice. But knowing that my son could be hurt or killed for using his voice, even respectfully, causes me to want to do more.

Am I intentional in my classroom? Am I using the opportunities presented in curriculum to teach my students to connect learning to the larger issues of health, welfare and social justice? Probably not as much as I could.

Whether online or face to face, we have the ability to help our students to think about the happenings around them. We have the ability to let them know that their voices are valuable now, that they can act now. Tilly Krishna is acting now with her antiracism calendar on Instagram. Gabby and Gigi are acting now, already releasing their third book. Global Youth Media is acting now modeling ethical journalism.

We can use our classrooms to help students think critically and disagree civilly. We can let them tell us what they want to do now to make a difference and let them learn 21st century competencies along the way.

There are many ways to make a difference, to be an activist. You can write letters or even send social media posts to the appropriate elected officials. Students who can’t yet vote already have this power. Teachers can teach through the lens of social justice.

You don’t have to march to protest. Learning about different perspectives on history and sharing those with your students is a way to say that silencing voices is not ok.

You don’t have to march to protest. Telling a colleague that you acknowledge his struggle is powerful. Telling a peer that her comments don’t leave room for other perspectives is critical.

You don’t have to march to protest. But like we tell our students, if you see something say something. Use the links above to do just that and click on the last 3 posts on the right to go back and delve into the resources and strategies that Small Bites offers.

You don’t have to march to protest, but you do have to use your voice for good. It’s activism, it’s care, it’s good teaching.

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If A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Visit my YouTube channel for previous Small Bites episodes.

Small Bites Friday Five 07-24-20:

20-30m – Watch 30 minutes of Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise.

15-20m – Visit Yaritza Villalba’s website with history, engagement and equity resources.

10-15m –Review Kahn Academy’s lesson on Richard Nixon employing the ‘Southern Strategy’ in 1968 and explore the hyperlinked resources.

5-10m – Buy a mask, support a cause. You’ll find several companies designing tons of styles to support various causes.

0-5m – Follow Antiracism Calendar on Instagram from 16 year old Tilly Krishna out of Vermont.

When John Lewis died last week, I realized that I, like most Americans, knew very little about the man, the civil rights icon who organized with Martin Luther King, won a Freedom Medal from President Obama and fought for human rights, from the marches on Washington to the congressional halls of Washington.

I knew we’d lost someone important but I didn’t realize the depth of his lived experience. If a picture paints a thousand words, then video footage speaks volumes. John Lewis’ life is a testament to tenacity and a deep well of hope; hope, not as a strategy, but hope that breathed life into decades of fighting and winning in a system stacked against people who looked like him.

Through reading John Lewis’ stories, I found raw footage of the civil rights protests. The brutality of the attacks against the marchers in Selma, the Little Rock Nine or even the threats against a 6 year old Ruby Bridges made my heart hurt. Looking at the ugliness just below the surface of our founding principles of freedom is difficult, painful.

When we look back on the protests of the 1960s now, we use words like powerful, world changing, heroic, but those were not the words being used then. They are often not the words used now, as protests against police brutality and systemic racism continue.

Much has changed since the 1960s but too much hasn’t. Now that we are beginning to understand that racism is about a system built on stacked inequities, I hope that we, as a nation, won’t look away.

My question to you is, what side of history will you be on? Will you turn away or start your own journey to help realize the dream of equality still deferred for so many?

Even if you have been a supporter of racially divisive rhetoric until now, it’s never too late to change. Big steps and baby steps, just keep moving forward. Our communities depend on it, our future as a great country depends on it. And whether you believe it or not, your children’s future depends on us owning our wrongs and righting them so we can move forward.

We are in the middle of a movement and everyone is welcome to the party, late or not.

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I’m Not Your Super(wo)man

Visit my YouTube channel for previous Small Bites episodes.

Small Bites Friday Five 07-17-20:

20-30m – Delve into Jorge Valenzuela’s SEL strategy article from Teacher2Teacher.

15-20m – Visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website and choose resources you can use to support students in the coming months.

10-15m – Have conversations with colleagues and admin to figure out about how you can best support each other.

5-10m – Read Why Are Blacks Dying at Higher Rates From Covid to get an idea of how lack of equity means more than just gaps in education and income.

0-5m – Wear a mask, wash your hands and refrain from gathering in crowds, especially if you are in an area where COVID cases are spiking.

Most teachers I know are not in education for the paycheck. They are not in it for the summers folks think they have off and they certainly don’t do it for the prestige. The teachers that I know are dedicated, capable and will leave it all on the field for their kids.

Sadly, these same dedicated professionals are being cast as not only unwilling to work, but they are also seen as unworthy of consideration as plans are being made to reopen schools.

In Texas and many other states, not only teachers, but also districts have been emasculated and left out of the decision making process.

The response from teachers across the country has been colossal. Teachers used to “doing it for the kids” recognize that this is not about the kids and no amount of guilt is making us believe that it is. We are not willing to watch even one of our students or colleagues die, and we are certainly not willing to sacrifice the health of our families to do it, not if we have any say in the matter.

What does this mean for us? It means that each of us has to decide if we risk lives or livelihood. Or it means we risk the health and welfare of our communities because losing our income or our educational funding is simply not an option. Maybe it means asking for a leave, taking a paycut and dealing with the personal economic consequences. Maybe, for some, it means not understanding what the fuss is all about and being at odds with teachers who are expressing fear for their safety and the safety of others around them. Whatever your stance right now, it is bound together with anxiety, stress and possibly fear.

Our students will also return full of anxiety and fear. Between COVID exposed inequities, loss, economic distress and the protests, we are experiencing trauma as a nation and that trauma will show up in our f2f or virtual classes in a few short weeks. Unlike loss, our trauma is ongoing and our most vulnerable students will need us even more. Students will need us to be aware of signals for help and even codes like posts about pasta on social media. SEL will have to be a priority and if your school isn’t yet equipped, Casel has excellent SEL resources for helping students during the COVID crisis.

What are you doing to prepare personally? Are you bingeing on news and COVID statistics or are you being mindful? Are you staying awake late mulling over possible scenarios or are you practicing wellness in in a way that brings you peace? Summer will be over soon and we will have to be prepared to meet our students where they are.

You can’t pour from an empty cup so I implore you, as you go through the resources to help your students learn while they manage grief, anxiety and traumatic experiences, make sure that you are practicing self-care. As much as we say teaching is our superpower, we can’t take it all on. The best way for you to take care of your students is for you to take care of yourself.

I’m Not Your Super(wo)man Read More »

New Rules

Small Bites Friday Five 07-10-20:

20-30m – Listen to a conversation between Barbara Bray and I on embarking on the journey to create more equity in your classroom and community.

15-20m – Go to Openculture.com and sign up for free courses on “Black history” from Yale and Stanford.

10-15m – Buy a book, toy or doll that represents a culture other than your own.

5-10m – Read the doc that accompanies the reflection at Bbray.net for some hands-on try this, not that resources.

0-5m – Send whenweallvote.org to 5 people, tell them to check their registration status and remind them to vote in upcoming local elections.

If you are a white person born in the early 80s or before, I can only imagine that the world looks a little different today than the world you grew up in. And if you were born even earlier and were raised in a That 70s Show southern or heartland community, it must look downright crazy.

It must be difficult to understand that Mt. Rushmore and confederate flags aren’t just symbols of American pride or why “10 Little Indians” or “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” might be fine for history books but not university football fields or primary classrooms.

It must be hard to understand why there is protesting when the blacks have come so far and when there was even a black president. (Or, why you don’t say “the blacks”).

I can imagine that it hurts having your character impugned because your thoughts and opinions don’t line up with those on “the other side”. All of the new rules must be confusing and it can’t be easy to see the need for change when things have been chugging along just fine within your circle.

On the flip side, it must be difficult for people not satisfied with just drinking at the same fountains or going to the same schools. Maybe it’s exhausting pushing a train uphill all day, every day because job and economic opportunities are still too often just out of reach.

Perhaps it’s defeating for people to know that their sacred land was stolen under the harshest of conditions, but to still see how people flock to those lands, many unknowingly, to celebrate the American Heroes who perpetuated and sanctioned the violence.

If you are an American, it must be unthinkable to hear calls for shooting and tear gassing instead of calls for unity, especially when you grew up pledging allegiance to “one nation, under God, indivisible“.

Fact; if you are white, you may have a hard time “getting” what all the fuss is about and you may feel defensive when you hear words and phrases like Black lives matter, racism or white privilege.

Fact; if you are black, you likely can’t imagine why people don’t understand that you just want your life to matter as much as the next guy’s and that black communities are still playing catch up in every way. (FYI, Indigenous people, females and other minority groups, with the exception of some Asian males, likewise.)

Now that we know how hard it is for everybody these days, how about we talk about how we will handle those facts as teachers on one side or the other? If we are spending hours on Facebook ranting about “the other side” as portrayed by our favorite news outlet, we are all in for an even worse school re-opening than we fear.

Now that we know how hard it is for everybody, what will you do between now and August to make sure you can do your best for each and every one of your students?

New Rules Read More »

Guide Her Through the Night

Small Bites Friday Five 07-03-20:

20-30m – Research at least one issue that directly affects your community and customize the template you set up last week to send an email to your elected officials.

15-20m – Watch a couple of mini episodes of the PBS series Traitors and Patriots.

10-15m – Listen to ‘White Fragility’ author Robin Diangelo on How To Start Anti-Racist Work in an 11+ minute interview with NPR. 

5-10m – Remember last week’s conversation you had with a young person on race? This week, reflect on the information you gathered. Do the people you talked to think like you? Is there room for expanding your opinions or your circle?

0-5m – Google #blackAtAndover or #BlackAt(enter institution name here), to find a rising number of social media accounts exposing racism at elite academic institutions.

If only, in honor of this 4th of July, we could end politically charged Covid and racial discrimination to rise from the ashes of this year and fly full staff in a glorious post-virus, post-racial time where we find America to be a land of liberty and justice for all.

It should be easy, at least the post racial part. Ending discrimination should be as easy as following the golden rule or loving thy neighbor as thyself (which, btw, includes wearing a mask). But somehow, something akin to self-preservation blocks us from delving into the possibility of complicity so that we have to work especially hard to face the fact that we’ve historically not treated others as we’d like to be treated. It seems too, that many are having great difficulty recognizing that this historical inhumanity is as American as apple pie.

A conversation with my friend Kellie made me see American self-preservation for the gaslighting it is. Why did it take a white educator to get me to even consider that the American practice of creating false historical narratives that selectively glorify some and diminish others as gaslighting? How could I have missed that? Because we in the Black community have also been fed the same narratives. We are taught to love our country in it’s whiteness which means we are taught disdain and disregard for our own culture by default; American history vs. Black history; Hulu’s movies vs. Hulu’s Black Stories; The Civil War vs. The Civil Rights Riots.

Every time our nation comes to a point of reckoning with race, white America is ripped apart, some taking stock but others digging in, refusing to see that the land grants and Jim Crow laws intentionally kept black families and communities from flourishing. Black Americans take stock as well, often grieving as we feel yet another seismic shift in the careful construct of the Black and American compartments of our psyche.

I have been taught to love and honor my country. I grew up a proud southerner and it hurts to think of my homeland as perpetuator of atrocities. But enslaving humans, Jim Crow laws and a for-profit prison system, well, there is nothing free or brave or even honorable about any of that.

As one nation under God, we are unwilling to reckon with the fact that we have not loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have not and do not treat others as we want to be treated, and as a nation, we have not embraced the Black community as the widows and fatherless we have made them to be, beginning with the middle passage and continuing through 401 years of systemic inequities that put the black community at a disadvantage.

The country that I love has the potential to become far greater than she has ever been, but only if we acknowledge the reality of our past. Beginning now, as we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence that did not include the independence of my forebears (well, most of my forebears, because, you know, #metoo was not a thing for enslaved girls and women), we have an opportunity. Instead of pretending that we should work to be as great as we once were in some imagined era of glory, let’s confront our past and make necessary changes within ourselves and our communities to make good on the promise of liberty and justice for all.

Happy 4th of July.

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