Hedreich Nichols

September 2020

Take Me to Church

Small Bites Friday Five 09-25-20:

PE – Listen to this Pushing The Edge podcast about how to make sports more welcoming to the LGBTQ community.

Math – Listen to 2 of my favorite neighbors to the north, Chey and Pav as they explore Math through an SEL lens on the Staff Room Podcast. SEL is ALWAYS at the heart of any culturally responsive teaching.

Film/Photography or Fine Arts – Explore the beautifully crafted visual stories from the Global Oneness Project.org. Thanks to Jennifer Gonzales and Cult of Pedagogy for this one.

K-3 generalists – Look no further than Ki Gross’ Woke Kindergarten site. They specialize in teaching big concepts to little people.

Tech Help your students go from empathy to action with this edtech tip sheet from CommonSense.org.

When I was born, it was in vogue for new mothers to stay home 6 weeks with their new bundles of joy. After that 6 weeks, the first place I was taken was to church. I am the 4th generation church musician in a line of 5 church musicians. Before that, my great-great-grandfather was a Louisiana pastor and circuit preacher. I have inherited a culture of faith that binds me to my God as intrinsically as melanin binds me to the Black community.

And yet…when I consider my identity, I have to swallow hard when I use the term Christian. Identifying as a Christian meant that Britain could claim Virginia in 1606 because the “heathens” found there were not Christian. Colonization was built on Christianity. The slave trade was upheld by Christianity. Bombing of abortion clinics and LG clubs were praised by the Christian community. Not all certainly but too many. Our identity is suffering and the cross is often too much to bear.

Now, to be sure, none of these things have anything at all to do with Jesus. He was known for hanging with all sorts of people. The question is, are we? If we have a student who falls outside of some “Christian ideal”, do we embrace them or do we leave them by the side of the road? Does our love extend to those most unlike us or do we keep our praise and encouragement for only those who espouse our own values and viewpoints?

Our educational system should be a place where every student feels welcome. Instead, on our watch, students represent the largest group commiting suicides in the country. Among those, students whose sexuality does not fall within traditional Christian ideals are killing themselves at an even higher rate.

I KNOW this is not a popular “Christian” view. But the God I serve says that we should be doers of the law and not judges. He also says that love is the fulfilling of the law. So unless you are ok with children dying on your watch, and unless you think GOD is ok with children dying on your watch, it’s time to think about how you can be equally accepting of all your students. That sounds dramatic for sure, but the fact is, once educators hit campus, our duty is to do the best by every child.

The question is, is that a cross you can take up? If your job is to teach and your Christian duty is to love and not judge, so it seems that the answer is a simple one.

I hope that instead of reading this and writing me off as some liberal who doesn’t understand God’s law, that you will see me through God’s eyes, as a person sure of her calling. I am called to do my best for every student, for every human. I hope, as you read this, you will consider that every student and family you serve is deserving of your human love and respect; as my students would say, periodttt.

Take Me to Church Read More »

Uptown Girl

Small Bites Friday Five 09-18-20:

PE – Read this article that talks about a Black American PE teacher talking, much like me tonight, about her privilege.  Then reflect with your students on how— and why— privilege affects the opportunity to play, or even watch sports.

Math – Investigate this overview on how to “find an issue that fits the math, not the other way around”, from Radical Math.

ELL – Tolerance.org for the win again with ELL/ESL lessons on identity exploration.

ELA – Watch this Ted video from the passionate, ‘articulate’, spoken word “tri-tongued” artist, Jamila Lyiscott to get perspective on the different ways we English. Then reflect with your students on the different ways we talk to different audiences.

STEM Get the curriculum from the underrepresentation project designed to examine and address inequities and inclusion in science.

My son and I have a family culture of helping. We volunteer, help out at missions and food banks, build houses (him, not me), work telephone banks (me not him) and do other things that are all about serving others. That’s important to us and it goes back for generations, if the stories my great grandmother told are to be believed.

We are able to do those things because we are privileged. Not a lot of little girls from my South Park neighborhood in Houston grew up and spent half their adult life in the Alps teaching and performing. Living in the middle of Europe as a Black musician, I was privileged to know life as an American, not a hyphen-American. That privilege and the achievement that comes along with it, has given me blind spots. My talent made room for me. My mother’s reputation as a singer and composer opened doors for me. I may have worked hard to make something of all that, but I earned none of it.

My son has inherited that privilege and then some. He is a generous spirited human who allows his momma to tell his stories. Even in his generosity, he has blind spots. So do I, and my guess is, if you are here, you do too.

This year, we can’t afford to ignore our blind spots. We can assume nothing. We talk about devices and meal service for our students, but do we really know if they are hungry? Are they are sharing a phone at a cousin’s house to do assignments? Are they not answering emails because they lost their home and phone service?

As you read this article, I am simply asking that you remember, your normal may not be everyone’s. Your students may have needs that you could never imagine. “No, everyone has not gone to the orchestra, son”. And no, every one of your kids may not have even their most basic needs met.

As you go through this year, pay special attention. If you sense a need, see how you might help. Find the services in your area that your students might need or get together with a group of friends to provide your own set of resources.

Yes, we are taxed beyond measure this year, but remember your why. One less grade in the gradebook won’t make a difference, but the time you take to notice and help fulfill a child’s basic needs will.

Uptown Girl Read More »

Peaceable Kingdom

Small Bites Friday Five 09-11-20

20-30m – Listen to the podcast Whiteness Visible part 2 from the Teaching While White website to gain perspective on various stories and viewpoints taught as history.

15-20m – Read how our country’s reckoning with race affects students—in their own words, also from the TWW website.  

10-15m – Comb through the Center For Restorative Practice resources for a rich selection of materials for SEL and culturally responsive culture building.   

5-10m – Watch this PBS Black Folks Don’t episode to find out about the complicated history of Black people and the medical community.

0-5m – Watch students talk about their first experiences with racism and reflect on what you can do to make sure other children don’t keep having those experiences.  

BONUS: If you are looking for an excellent set of quality resources on the manifold, oft untold stories of Americans, visit the Pulitzer Center’s educational programming page.

On the anniversary of one of the most devastating attacks on American soil, I cannot help but think about how hatred causes so much pain. I can’t help but think about the loss that mothers, husbands and children endured because of hatred. I can’t help but think that even though we know that nothing good comes of it, we so often choose to hate.

Love and hate are not feelings, they are verbs. If you say you feel love but your actions don’t back that up, it’s not love. If you say you hate no one but spend your time relentlessly attacking those who think, believe or look differently, you may want to redefine what hatred really means.

The destructive forces of overt and covert hatred are ripping our nation apart because of our refusal to reckon with our origin story. Our nation is great but our greatness is in peril because we refuse to confront our flaws in order to fully realize that greatness.

Some of the the saddest moments for me in recent history have been watching our nation’s status as a full democracy erode when our country was downgraded to a flawed democracy. The UN has warned us about racist rhetoric and admonished us about criminal justice reform.

My patriotic soul wails. WE are the protectors of democracy. WE are the ones who issue human rights sanctions and warnings. And now, WE are the nation being warned. We don’t need foreign terrorists to destroy us. Our hatred is as powerful and destructive as any terrorist act.

This morning, I had the honor of speaking for the New York Public Library’s back to school kickoff. I was asked what we should do in our libraries, classrooms, lives, to dismantle systematic racism. My reply was simply that we can’t–unless we do it one brick at a time. We can’t change the system until we change ourselves, our families, our own spheres of influence. We can’t do it until we confront our flaws with the purpose of being better.

As we remember the incredible loss at the hands of terrorists, the best possible way to honor loss of life, whether through wars or acts of terrorism, is to finally reckon with the hatred and incongruence woven through our nation’s fabric.

In support of our nation’s greatness, we have to confront our past together, no matter how painful. As Benjamin Franklin said, we must “join or die”. If we don’t, we won’t need outsiders to bring destruction.

Peaceable Kingdom Read More »


Catch up on the latest episodes of Small Bites!

Small Bites Friday Five 09-04-20

20-30m – Listen to Howard University Alumnus Chadwick Boseman address the 2018 graduating class in the HBCU’s 150th commencement address.

15-20m – Listen to 1st and 2nd person stories on this set of podcasts from Historically Black.

10-15m –Listen to the first person stories of people who survived the Tulsa Black Wallstreet Bombing.

5-10m – Read this Smithsonian Mag article on looking back honestly at our founding fathers, judging neither by the imagined whole, nor ugly part.

0-5m – Read about racism and immigration history in the US which highlights important stories of many peoples afflicted by racist policies.

In a year in which

  • COVID-19 has killed over 13,000 to date;
  • thousands of students cannot access learning;
  • almost 3 million people have filed for unemployment and
  • homelessness is so rampant that even the government created homeless camps–already an ignominy–cannot house them;

police funding outpaces every other budget item in Texas major cities. Think about that for a minute. In a year in which local shelters, schools, food pantries, social services and mental health support organizations are struggling to meet the needs of our communities, we believe that policing is the number one concern. And communities like Austin who are reallocating a small portion of funding into proactive community programming are being threatened with sanctions.

What would happen if more money was poured into education than policing? What if money was poured into eradicating hunger and mental health issues instead of funding prisons? What would happen if we valued humanity by investing in humanity?

Defund the police was the most ridiculous slogan I heard this year–until I realized how much more money we put into policing than into preventing the need for policing.

Before you believe the false narrative that we need protection because “some people just want to live like animals” let me ask you: How many generations out of slavery is your family? How many generations out of Jim Crow is your family?

My great grandmother was born in 1892, one generation out of slavery. She lived her life, until her 80s, under the Jim Crow laws of the south. She helped raise me and lived long enough to see me through high school graduation and my first year in college. The stories I heard about the Jim Crow south are first hand, the stories of field work still fresh in the minds of Mommie’s friends who came to visit in my early childhood.

I represent the first post Jim Crow generation in my family.

Does that put criminality and poverty in perspective? Lack of education, access and opportunity has plagued the black community since we were forced on to slave ships.

I represent the first post Jim Crow generation in my family: the first generation in which the law has supported my choice of school, neighborhood, job, bank and hospital–as long as I can pay for access. And therein lies the problem. The Black community on the whole has not had generations to build, to stand on the shoulders of parents who achieved in the generations before. That’s why talking about slavery or Jim Crow isn’t divisive, it’s simply the connection between poverty and crime, between education and lack, between generations of wealth building and generations of fighting to be twice as good to get half as much.

Before you decide what is divisive, ask yourself if you would rather look away than see that the problem lies not with one community of “thugs and criminals” it lies with the vestiges of what a community has lived through.

And before you decry that connection as divisive, please, consider whether your own upbringing gave you opportunities that others did not have. I know mine did, one of them being the divisive language my great grandmother used in telling me her first person stories so that I would know the truth.

Divide Read More »