Hedreich Nichols

January 2021

Words Get in the Way

Watch on YouTube or listen on Anchor, or wherever podcasts are heard.

Small Bites Friday Five 1-29-21

20-30m – Go to Project Implicit and pick a test or two. Use the insights to guide you in mitigating behaviors grounded in bias.

15-20m – Explore this PBS site on American Eugenics. The ‘biological improvement of the German people’ was not as rare as we would like to think.

10-15m – Continue exploring the hyperlinks from the above site.  

5-10m – Read this American Bar Association article on bias in healthcare in the Black community. This is a good example of how systems are often biased (‘systemic racism’; ‘systemic inequity’).

0-5m – Just sit. The late poet laureate Maya Angelou advocated for a national day to just be. You might not be able to take the day but surely you can give yourself just 5 minutes to do absolutely nothing

Sometimes, we get so caught up in labels that we fail to tackle the actual issues. Words like White fragility or White supremacy are inflammatory and maybe even hurtful. I can understand that. Feeling accused never feels good, and it takes a big person to to take critique and look inward to see if there is some validity, and even more, some opportunity for growth.

If we can, let’s remove, for a moment, the tendency to bristle at words and phrases like racist, institutionalized racism, collusion, microaggression, white privilege, multiperspectivity or other terms that seek to address the deep and abiding problems in our country. What if we, instead, consider that institutions in America are designed to favor Whites.

There is compelling evidence that this is truth. The fact that only White males could vote for hundreds of years after our inception is one fact that supports the assertion that the country was not designed with equity for all in mind. Slavery and Jim Crow laws additionally point to the fact that only certain populations were included in the “all men are created equal” phrase. There is also the Manifest Destiny, the widely held cultural belief from the mid 1800s that White settlers were destined by God to take over all of North America. Never mind that there were many nations already inhabiting the land.

Colonization was big then, not only in America. But was it right? Was it just for the humans it has adversely impacted? Anti-racist “buzzwords” like those mentioned above can be painful to hear. But is that pain greater than the pain of those disenfranchised for centuries by the systems our country is built on?

Consider this: The US GDP is 21.43 trillion dollars, almost 10 trillion more than China, the country coming in second. How did we get to be that rich? Was it because we took land from others? Was it because Americans enslaved and trafficked humans to build wealth? In order to cause that kind of trauma to other humans, did we convince ourselves that they were less human than us, less capable of feeling pain? Less intelligent? Could it be possible, in the same way that we esteem our families over others, that we have allowed that devaluation of people who are not in ‘our group’ to continue?

I don’t have any answers. But I am asking you to stop and consider whether or not any of the above assertions might be grounded in truth. And if they are, how might that affect your classroom, campus or community?

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Easier Said Than Done

Watch on YouTube or listen on Anchor or wherever podcasts are heard.

Small Bites Friday Five 1-22-21

20-30m – Watch this Anand Giridharadas Ted talk in which he calls us, “An America whose two halves learn again to strive, to plow, to forge, to dare together.”

15-20m – Listen to this podcast about the psychology behind belief in conspiracy theories and one man’s struggle with his own beliefs since 9/11.

10-15m – Listen to this NPR podcast about a boy whose family is being destroyed because of their divergent beliefs in conspiracy theories, and then reflect on how you, as an educator, could help him and others like him. Jot down or even post any good ideas you come up with.

5-10m – Read this End Slavery Now post about conspiracy theories and how they harm efforts to really save the children. Then read this Wired article from 17-year-old Sofia Barnett about her own experience.

0-5m – Read these 13 tips from the MIT Technology Review to help you meet your students—or even other adults—where they are. If you yourself have a strange feeling about something you believe, these strategies are also good to help you confront your own beliefs and biases.

Scroll through teacher Pinterests or walk through Back to School Classroom deco aisles and you will find them all: Kindness matters; In this classroom we laugh often, love hard; Choose kindness; Respect others; and on and on. As educators and as human beings we say we want kindness and respect above all else, but do our Pinterest feeds align with our social media feeds? Are you drawn to the posts bashing the idiocy of those who don’t believe what you believe?

If not, I hope January 6th was a wake up call. Wanting kindness is not enough. Posting pithy sayings and attending SEL PDs is not going to make for better classroom culture unless you decide to (here’s another pithy saying) be the change.

Your words build or your words destroy.

What did the words you said or wrote do today? Yes, it’s easier said, but it has to be done. Unless we are willing to change our thoughts and words, we have no hope of changing our class culture, and certainly no hope of leaving the world in better shape than we found it.

As you wonder how to broach sensitive subjects in your classroom, think about the basics. Have you made it a priority in your classroom to create a culture of belonging? Do your students know that intolerance and belittling one another will not be tolerated? Those conversations should be had during the first weeks of school, then spiraled back to often. What if every teacher made SEL not something to check off a list, but a real, daily priority? Would suicide rates go down? Would there be less bullying? Less truancy? My guess is yes to all of the above.

Yes, it is easier said than done. But if we explicitly teach kindness and respect, discussing what that looks like in diverse situations, we will begin to see a citizenry that knows how to disagree civilly.

One last pithy saying; The future of our world is in your classroom today. What an honor, what a responsibility. Now, what will you do with that power?

Easier Said Than Done Read More »

Who Are You?

Or, to listen to SmallBites as a podcast during drivetime, click here.

Small Bites Friday Five 1-15-20:

20-30m – Listen to NYT The Daily’s reporter talk about the resurgence of white nationalist violence—violence that really never went away.

15-20m – Watch Grey’s anatomy and Station 19, both Shonda Rhimes shows, explore issues of race, bias and survival in the face of them. Both shows are on ABC, ABC Go and Hulu. Here’s an article on their relevance.

10-15m – Read Marcus Lu’s article on 50 categorized cognitive biases. Pay special attention to the one called “moral luck”. Reflect to see if you’ve been guilty of that, or any others.

5-10m – Read this Common Sense Media article about talking to students of all ages about recent current events. If you’re a fast reader, explore the comments and practice not getting angry. There is practice for both “sides”.

0-5m – Use this form to let me know what you are struggling with in trying to become a more inclusive educator and let’s start a dialogue. The cohort starts this month and there are a few spots left.

This week was supposed to be all about how to talk to children in times of civil unrest. Those of you who watch SmallBites know that I firmly believe we should strive to be one nation under God. However, I forgot that there are some folks, as much as I hate to admit it, who want that one nation to be a nation of Whites only. Many, who won’t quite go that far, believe that the nation should be at least whites only in power. That is, I’m sure, as difficult to read as it is for me to write.

In addition to my own son’s run-ins with White men who want him to go back to where he came from, I have seen people in power aid and abet insurrection and move us toward civil war. I have seen this country go from something I wanted to believe in to something I am almost afraid of. I know that as a Black person there is a certain lack of safety for me just by the virtue of my skin color. Did you know, for instance that Black and indigenous females are more likely to be targeted by human traffickers?

Still, I have been indoctrinated enough to believe that I’ll be ok. This is a democracy, and I will be OK. But is it? We’re no longer considered a full democracy, and there is evil in high places. Online spaces like Gab, Signal, Telegram and others are now quiet hubs for people who hate me to congregate and plan my demise. Sound dramatic? It might be. But– it may not be. I drove to Arkansas 2 years ago past a field where they were burning crosses. School districts have beefed up security because their students have been threatened on social media with kidnappings and lynchings. This is not a movie, this is America.

What does any of this have to do with teaching and learning? Everything.

If you believe that all your students have equitable opportunities for learning–and even for safety– you are misguided. Learn, read, research to find out whether your students really are safe. And if they feel unsafe, please, don’t try to convince them otherwise. You can, however, remind them that safety is a luxury but not a condition of success or even wellbeing. Read them the words of Maya Angelou. Let them know that there is a resilience in our spirit and that we will continue to rise. Tell that to your Black students, your Brown and indigenous students, students from sexual minorities and any other students who don’t fit the mold of insurrectionists. Mostly, tell them that you stand by them and that, although you may not know what it’s like to be in their shoes, you will walk beside them.

Who Are You? Read More »

Things’ll All Blow Over

AP Photo of Capitol Siege on January 6th, 2021.

SmallBites Friday Five 1-08-21

Remember the Oklahoma Bombing.

Read about the escalating domestic terrorism problem.

Don’t forget to compare your news media and monitor bias with a site like All Sides Media.

Compare police response in summer Civil Rights protests to police response on January 6th. (Note: police response is the only comparison. Treasonous insurrection CANNOT be compared to civil rights protest.)

Did you know that, by all international standards, democracy is on the decline in the US?

I am supposed to be off this week, preparing to launch SmallBites into the Podcast sphere. But this week needs my presence:

The outrage over the recent insurrection on Capitol Hill has taken over every news cycle, every conversation. For now.

Monday, you will go back to school and concentrate on content, because, well, STAAR.

Soon, you will visit friends on relatives on Zoom, or maybe even in person.

You’ll grocery shop, clean your home, brush your teeth and plan your lessons. You’ll drink your favorite cuppa as this red hot memory cools.

The memories of what you’ve seen will fade; this will all blow over UNLESS you decide finally that enough is enough. If something in the news cycle outrages you, do something about it. Start a Twitter/Email campaign, donate, volunteer. But mostly, stop living from newscycle to newscycle. The issues do not go away just because nobody just died.

Whatever your role is in making the world a better place, step up and stay stepped up. You don’t have to do everything but you need to do something.

One way you can step up and be accountable is to come and learn with us. Join the SmallBites Interactive cohort to learn more about how this moment has been in the making for a while now, and how you can make small changes with big impact.

Things’ll All Blow Over Read More »