Hedreich Nichols

December 2020

Good Riddance

Replay the NYD live broadcast featuring original music from @SwissChrisOnBass and me!

Small Bites Friday Five NYE20:

To close out the year, here’s a look back at 5 of my favorite guest appearances;

Are Your Diversity Strategies Missing the Mark? Nine Ways to Get it Right with Cult of Pedagogy’s Jennifer Gonzalez (60m listen/5m read)

Where are you on your journey in understanding systemic racism? with Barbara Bray (25m listen).

Journeys to Belonging with Ilene Winokur (34 minutes).

Lesson Impossible with Aviva Levin (29 minute listen)

Make Learning Addictive with Brian Romero Smith Jr. (45 minute listen)

And some #SmallBites lagniappe: A Guide to Equity and Antiracism for Educators for Edutopia (4 minute read)

On New Year’s Eve, just after I turned 29, I married the love of my life and moved to Switzerland to begin a beautiful new adventure. Ten months later, I was choosing his tombstone as I tried to grasp the fact that there would be no 1st anniversary, no trip to the South Pacific, no growing old together.

I still remember the first NYE without him, the day that should have been our first anniversary. I knew then that the clock wasn’t counting down on my pain to provide me with a midnight balloon drop of shiny new feelings. “Joy comes in the morning” was not going to magically be my reality, not yet.

The dawn of 2021 is not going to be a magic panacea either.

Depressed yet? Don’t be. While that first New Year’s Day after an incredible loss did not kiss away all my boo boos, it kicked off a year that turned out to be one of the most incredible years of my life.

  • I learned that support comes from people and places I hadn’t even known were there.
  • I discovered that I really was stronger and more capable than I knew.
  • I found out that surviving loss is an incredible confidence builder.
  • I realized that there is joy to be found in even the most devastating times.

I also learned that tears are a renewable resource; I cried a lot that year. But in spring I planted fresh flowers on a grave in an Alpine village and as those flowers grew, so did I. I learned to be flexible, to ride the waves, sometimes crashing to shore. I learned to get up and try again. And again. I learned preparedness in a country where stores were only open a human 8 hours a day. I learned how to back up 250 feet down a mountain and how to survive in an avalanche. I learned that you have to use clothespins when you hang clothes on a line. I learned how to write lesson plans and design courses in German. I learned so many valuable things. In time, I learned how to use all those things to help others.

Tonight when the ball drops, not a lot will change. We take ourselves with us wherever we go. Education will still be inequitable, and politics will still be deeply flawed; people will still live with food and housing insecurity; COVID won’t disappear, the 2 million graves that the Coronavirus filled will still need flowers in the spring.

What can change is how we all approach this new year. Instead of celebrating the coming return to “normalcy”, let’s celebrate the opportunities we have to help others, learn new things, develop new skills; to survive hard times and help others to do the same.

This year won’t be easy, but we can one day look back on it–even the bad parts–and celebrate how much we grew. En guete Rutsch und Happy New Year.

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Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Even though this year has been filled with trauma, loss and uncertainty for many, I want to take today just to stop and be grateful, to spend time with my family and do some drive-by and wave check-ins. I hope you will unplug and do the same.

If you have a hankering to learn, catch up on a few older episodes of Small Bites until January. Next week, episode 30, I will be live and on location for a special 2021 kickoff. Meanwhile, I wish you comfort in times of strife and the quiet confidence that comes in knowing that ‘trouble don’t last always’.

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Just Breathe

If you have ever spoken to me, you will know that I discovered Grey’s Anatomy way late, but I fell HARD! Just Breathe, one of the episode themes, comes to mind this year. I will not give you much to think about, reflect on or learn, other than this:

How can you be better? Not what can you do, not who can you serve with increasing data based efficacy, but how can you be better? Do you need to do less? Ask for more help? Be more self aware and intentional? What will bring you more joy? Being better should bring you more joy and hopefully you’ll have one of those end of year epiphanies about what brings you more joy.

Here are a couple of fun things I’ve discovered that bring me joy–I play Among Us. My students and personal kid love it, and playing with them is a great way to bond. If you like plain old silliness, this is my new fave, https://findtheinvisiblecow.com/. Of course, if you need a bit of philanthropy, Free Rice is a great go to. It’s great for those SDG fans!

If, however, your mind is too clogged because you worry about your kids, here are some answers and resources, reposted from March:

Finally for some, no matter how great your virtual teaching is, this time will be a nightmare. Consider using your resources to help those who may need more than just an internet connection. Here are some national links that connect you to resources in local communities, I’m sure there are many others.








You may be the first person to sense that something is wrong and that’s a big responsibility. But I think most of us signed up because we genuinely care so let’s move from empathy to action when we see students in need.

Now, once you’ve done all you can do, just breathe. Take care of you so you can pour from a full cup. Stay safe and I will see you in the new year.

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Say My Name

Small Bites Friday Five 12-11-20:

20-30m – Visit the website Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade to get a deeper feel for the faces and places of the slave trade.

15-20m – Read this HuffPost article on the “depressing truth about names and racial bias” then head down the rabbit hole with the hyperlinks.

10-15m – Read the story of enslaved rape victim Celia who was hanged for killing her master and rapist because according to the courts “a slave woman had no virtue that the law would protect against a master’s lust” .

5-10m – Keep challenging your thinking and biases. Here are a few more examples of biases from Practical Psychology to guard against.

0-5m – Use this form to let me know what issues of racism and bias you are struggling with as you work to become a more inclusive educator and let’s start a dialogue. I will be opening up a cohort in January so that we can talk more in depth about HOW to make small changes with big impact.

Sometimes, the smallest, most insignificant thing can be filled with such great humanity. Mr. C., this is for you:

As with many employee groups, my grade level team has a group chat. We trade important information throughout the day, send each other reminders and engage in witticism that only an educator would find funny. Two weeks ago, one text came through, unremarkable, yet significant. A teacher, White, male, needed to communicate about a student. He wrote her first name only, also not remarkable. What was remarkable, for me anyway, was that her name was spelled perfectly. I will call her Sha’ Niqua. As I write this, my computer underlines it in red, denoting an error. But there is no error. The apostrophe, spacing and capitalization all meant something to parents who were excited about the birth of their child. They mean something to the creative, smart 7th grader whose name I see displayed on my screen each class because her camera doesn’t work.

This teacher didn’t write “Shaniqua” or “ShaNiqua”. He didn’t write “S.P.”, convincing himself that it was better for FERPA, but really writing it because he couldn’t be bothered to remember where all the spaces and apostrophes go.

Her name is Sha’Niqua and this teacher, in the midst of all the 2020 craziness, took time to write it correctly. He doesn’t know that it moved me to tears. He just did his job. But I have been in rooms in which teachers roll their eyes or say some not-even-close moniker because they forget that addressing a student correctly by name is basic to connection, which influences learning outcomes.

I have been in rooms in which the refusal to learn a name sprang from glaring biases that associate “Black sounding” names with low socio-economic status and other negative stereotypes. Did you know that students with Black sounding names are more likely to be labeled troublemakers? Did you know that Black jobseekers and Asians who “whiten” their resumes get more interviews? Names play a big part in who we are and who we become. It’s time to examine some of the unconscious biases we carry when encountering names that are unfamiliar, “non-traditional” or “foreign-sounding”. This article on name bias might be a good starting point.

Bias often plays a part in our reluctance to embrace the unfamiliar. But sometimes, we may be unsure of how to be less than the all-knowing authority. If that’s the case, here are some words you can use, especially when encountering a name unfamiliar to you for the first (or second or third) time:

  • “I have never come across that name. Can you help me pronounce it please?”
  • “I am not very good with languages, you may need to help me say your name correctly more than once.
  • “Hey class, if I mispronounce your name, make sure you correct me. Your name is an important part of who you are and I want to get it right.”

A name is an important part of someone’s identity and children deserve to feel seen and valued. Mr. C. will probably read this, and I hope he knows how a little thing he doesn’t know he did made a big difference. And I hope you’ll make that same difference in your classrooms, on your school boards, when hiring babysitters or employees for your side businesses or when running into someone new in your community.

True, a rose by any other name may be just as sweet, but roll over and call your partner by any other name, see how far it’ll get ya.

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Who Are You

Small Bites Friday Five 12-04-20:

20-30m – Watch the election episode of ABC’s Blackish, it’s chock full of context for this year’s election. Did you know that Black people were not officially given the right to vote until 1965?

15-20m – Spend some time reflecting on what has changed since the death of George Floyd and Brionna Taylor, and what still needs to change. Think about who in your community has the power to make that change and join me for #TeacherTurnout Tuesday. Use your Twitter, IG, fb, email or phone to let them know what you, your students and your district need, especially now.

10-15m – Move. Like…stop the video and move. Check out this TikTok video from Dr. Burt (and the one on Small Bites) for inspiration!

5-10m – Look at the graphic in this article on confirmation bias and other types of bias. See if you can find yourself. Reflect on how you form your opinions on the world around you and whether or not you need to make some changes.

0-5m – Use this form to let me know what you are struggling with as you work to become a more inclusive educator and let’s start a dialogue. I will be opening up a cohort in 2021 so that we can talk more in depth about HOW to make small changes with big impact.

Much of what I talk and write about is deeply intertwined with identity. Our thoughts and preferences are often a part of our armor, the thought walls we put up between us and them. Think you’re ‘woke’? Mebbe…but even if you are, your us, them and everything in between is held together by some kind of bias. Bias for things that validate us, bias against things that make us feel insecure or threatened.

When we begin to reflect on how we can create more equitable classrooms and campuses, we often begin with divorcing ourselves from some train of thought and espousing another.

What is your process? How do you know what to leave in and what to leave out? My humble advice is to have you begin by examining your own preferences, and as author Barbara Bray says, define your why. Why do you want to help these students? Do they remind you of your younger self, untarnished by life’s rough spots? Do they remind you of the bits about yourself that you still struggle with? Does helping to level the playing field in education make you feel noble or help you atone for some middle school gym class evils?

Are you doing right because it’s right to do? The answer probably is, partially. Even when we have the purest motives, there is always something self-serving in our ways (Terry Heick has about 180 ways our thinking can go wrong in his article on bias). That’s no indictment, it’s just humanity. But realizing that as fact can help us to make sure that there is nothing odoriferous in our well intended deeds.

Is there a likert scale to help you figure this out? A weighted scale? A chart with four color coded quadrants? Nope. There is only you, a pen, some paper, maybe some sun and fresh air, or perhaps a cuppa in your favorite spot.

As you make changes, look not only outward for new stories to provide context for your students, but look inside yourself as well. The best answers are always there. Find your blind spots, your biases, maybe even turn on a new light or heal a few old wounds with Traci Nicole Smith.

I am excited for you and your willingness to learn how to be a more culturally responsive teacher, but I am even more excited about the opportunity this gives you to be an even better human being.

Who are you? What are your biases? It's one of the things we will explore as we talk about how to implement change in our classrooms and on our campuses. Join us for the #SmallBites cohort next year. Fill out this form  and let's start a conversation!

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