Hedreich Nichols

September 2021

I’ll Rise Up

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

Small Bites Friday Five 9-17-21:

Encouragement from @DorisASantoro – Rise up with strategies and information on burnout vs. teacher demoralization in this Edweek article that helps you understand what you’re dealing with and how to deal with it.

Encouragement from @PlanBookCom – Rise up, if you’ve decided that burnout is where you’re heading, with these strategies from PlanBook and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Encouragement from @Angela_Watson – Rise up and Say goodbye to Teacher Tired with this article and resources from Angela Watson. I learned about her 40 hour work week resources from Cult of Pedagogy. Some resources are paid, but even the free ones will revolutionize the way you spend your time.

Encouragement from @weareteachers – Rise up and giggle. Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine, and we teachers are a funny lot! Start here then follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Cause, when you run out of tears, sometimes all you can do is laugh.

Encouragement from M.L. Brown – If laughter and strategies no longer work, rise up with this Medium article from an educator who decided that enough was enough. For those who have made that decision, let’s be supportive, knowing that sometimes, enough really is enough.

Ever have one of those weeks where it seemed nothing you did made an impact? Welcome to my week.

Moving from guiding student learning in the classroom to impacting student learning district wide are two very different situations. The joy of watching students learn, achieve, grow, fail, fail again, then succeed; the joy that fuels you when the exhaustion kicks in, was missing. I felt it acutely.

I was not prepared for the long game that working at the district level is. Oh, I knew it, understood how it would be intellectually. But I was not prepared for a close up, personal view of the unyielding underbelly of this albatross we call an educational system. You’d think teaching about systemic inequities would have given me a clue, and it has –which only serves to add to the feeling of futility.

This week, I am humbled at how incremental the change is in the grand scheme of things. That humility makes me want to cry into a glass of milk. That humble place is also a place of remembering: “Define Your Why“, as author and educator Barbara Bray says. Either I believe that I can be an agent of change one small bite at a time, or I don’t. The system needs to change, that’s why I do what I do. And so, I’ll dry my tears and start over. Because futility and hopelessness are just not an option.

Note: This episode is dedicated to educator Sha’Lon Campbell, an inspiring administrator who this week, by sheer force of will, launched two virtual school options for our district. Mr. Rogers always said, look for the helpers. She was that heroic helper this week!

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SmallBites Lagniappe: Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?

Also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and wherever fine podcasts are heard.

This Monday’s Lagniappe episode continues to explore “learning loss” through an Education Week article by Mark Lieberman in which he cites instances of all the wraparound services provided, often as mandates without funding. He writes, “All the while, we’re asking schools to accomplish more than what their funding allows and their employees to do far more than they’ve been trained to do. And we’ve been doing it for a long time.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

How do we advocate for ourselves, our students and our schools in order to get what we need so that we, as educators can concentrate on teaching and learning? How do we look for more sensible ways to check for understanding (read: less time and money intensive) so that we can concentrate on teaching and learning? How do we ensure that students get “wraparound services” through appropriate channels so that we can concentrate on teaching and learning?

Beyond Buying Breakfast Bars

I am only just beginning my research on “learning gaps” as a societal problem rather than an educational one, and I look forward to your accompanying me on this journey. At this stage, I know that activism (advocacy + action) as well as community and industry partnerships need to be a part of the equation.Vote. Vote every time the polls open. The smaller the election, the better your chances are that the candidates have something to do with your community directly. That’s activism and it’s easy. If you’re feeling fancy, run for school board.

Let’s Do More Than #Clear the Lists

Go beyond #clearthelists. We support each other while buying supplies for our own classrooms. We ask and offer each other for favors and help. That’s community, but let’s tap into our local communities. Make parents a welcome part of campus life (once COVID is under control). Ask them to donate a dollar, a book, a bag of treats. Have them help with hall and carline monitoring. Parents are not the enemy and strong parental involvement is one metric that positively impacts student outcomes. Here are some examples of strong community programs. Build relationships with business owners. As it turns out, I’m late to the game, being aware of college industry partnerships but not K-12 partnerships. Here’s a start, with worksheets and resources you can adapt to help you get set up.

I will never let a student go hungry, and I do not know a teacher who would, even to support the longterm goal of not “propping up the system”. And yet, I am sure that schools are being asked to do too much. 

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Mi Forma de Sentir

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

Small Bites Friday Five 9-17-21:

Musicians – Check out this blog post from All Classical Portland to learn about well known classical composers of Hispanic heritage.

Mathematicians – Want to highlight Hispanic mathematical perspectives? Lathisms has a great collection of resources and podcasts– great for this month and next month. And the next…

Historians – There is an African proverb that says, “until the lion has his own scribe, he will always be the villain in the story”. The American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History online magazine offers an alternative to the perspectives we often see with articles about Hispanic and Latinx people by Hispanic and Latinx people.

Scientists – Postdoc fellow Christina Termini gets the win for her Cell Mentor article featuring 100 diverse Hispanic scientists. The article gets bonus points because they are all living! Alive means they can lead seminars or maybe that your students can follow them on social media. And maybe a couple of them would even have time to speak to your class.

Writers – The Palabras archive at the Library of Congress has a stellar collection of interview recordings and podcasts, as well as useful links like the Hispanic Reading Room. The Hispanic Reading Room provides resources from individual Afro Latinx countries. Diversity is better when it values and validates specificity.

Before the Pandemic, I was working intensively on my Spanish. Serving my student population well meant communicating directly with my families and that meant being able to talk to them. I already speak 2 languages and butcher a couple more, but this would be my first time learning a language outside of an immersion situation.

Learning Spanish made me see my students differently. It changed how they viewed me as well. When I responded to side conversations about “mi novio” or stopped to sing the chorus of a song they played at lunch, I was building a bridge, one that connected their home culture to the school culture. In me, they saw a teacher who cared enough to try–and fail.

Building that bridge allowed me to critically re-examine inclusion in my classroom. A 7 hour school day’s to do list holds a limited amount of time for good differentiation, even for the best teachers. Seeing ‘boys and girls’ or ‘Black and Brown’ kids helps teachers to file kids into groups in order to make academic and social sense of concepts like ‘differentiation’, ‘inclusion’, ‘diversity’ and ‘culturally responsive’. Teaching in a school with ‘Black and Brown’ kids is one thing. Teaching Black kids, Pakistani kids, Kenyan kids, Peruvian Kids, Mexican kids, etc., is different. That kind of “seeing” kids, means the difference between celebrating diversity and creating an inclusive learning environment.

Including monthly highlights is good. Integrating cultural differences and diverse stories all year is better. Remember the ‘all about me’ you did last month? How can you use that information to highlight diverse stories that are relevant to the kids you teach? How can you promote diverse heroes, scientists, mathematicians, writers, musicians, etc.? Hopefully the resources above will help.

I am glad that we highlight diverse contributions during #HispanicHeritageMonth and I will always be here for the resources. I will be, however, happy when the diverse greats are a part of our daily lessons so that the need to celebrate months slowly melts into the pot.

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If I Ever Lose My Faith in You

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

Small Bites Friday Five 9-10-21:

20-30m – Skim the 51 page Learning Loss handbook from the Human Restoration Project. If you have more time, read it in its entirety over the next few days and make an action plan for implementing your new knowledge.

15-20m – Read and reflect on the information and questions on pages 11-17 of the above mentioned Learning Loss Handbook. Consider whether or not your answers to the questions on page 17 are in alignment with your daily practice.

10-15m – Comb through the Brown Center report on American testing trends. Use the information to inform your practice–and your activism.

5-10m – Read this article from Augsburg professors Jennifer Diaz, Ph.D. and Joaquin Muñoz, Ph.D quoted in the blog below and follow the hyperlinks.

0-5m – Read this article from Americorp’s City Year on why “learning loss” is not the best term.

The Data Monster

This school year, and every one after it, comes down to what you believe. Either you believe that children are our future and that they will make their way in spite of , or maybe because of all that they have endured; of you believe the Data Monster who tells you that the ‘years of loss’ they have experienced during the pandemic must be caught up, or all will be lost. If you believe that, than you’ve lost faith in your kids. Worse, you’ve lost faith in humanity.

First, I assure you, I am not a naive optimist who believes that “learning loss” has no impact. I just know that norms on standardized tests is not the only measure of learning. The flexibility and life skills this generation has learned are unparalleled. And the skills they’ve learned surviving wildfires, insurrections, hurricanes and tundra like freezes without power will help them through life’s challenges like no amount of Algebra II would. Although, surprisingly, the pandemic even gave us some math gains.

Yes, there is impact, and yes, in some populations the numbers are terrifying. But how valid and reliable are the numbers?

Testing Reliability and Validity

Standardized tests designed for the learning achieved in 2019 are today neither reliable nor valid. Reliability refers to how dependably or consistently a test measures a characteristic. If a person takes the test again, will he or she get a similar test score, or a much different score? So, if a student from a similar demographic and a similar home and school environment with a similar IQ, with the same grades were to be taught by the same teacher today, chances are, that student would not score similarly on the test.

Further, test validity is the extent to which a test accurately measures what it is supposed to measure. SInce every educational testing instrument currently measures knowledge acquired during 187ish routine filled days balanced by consistent–or at least predictably inconsistent–home environments, they are not designed for measuring pandemic era learning. Why are we measuring what would have been as though we are measuring what is?

Look at it like a ruler with two sides. We are no longer measuring inches, it’s time to turn the ruler around and use another unit of measure. For educators and administrators that means pushing back against the narrative that says our students have lost something.

Augsburg professors Jennifer Diaz, Ph.D. and Joaquin Muñoz, Ph.D., put it this way, “Perhaps unintentionally, “learning loss” demonizes some family and community experiences, while maintaining oppressive, dominant race and class-based views of education. Could something other than school-based, oppressive structures (like testing, in particular) become indicative of students’ learning?”

New Measures for a New Day

It’s time to fight back. Think less about getting kids caught up to the 2019 standard and think more about giving them rich learning experiences today. I understand that our most vulnerable populations will not be where we expected them to be at graduation. But that expectation is from another time and the college and job market will be flooded with a global population in the same situation. We don’t need to catch our kids up, we need our testing developers to catch up. Or we need to find new measures altogether. And as we catch up and realize that there will be a new standard; that there is a new standard, we can begin to teach from the place where we realize how much our kids have gained. After all, they are surviving a Pandemic and I have faith that they will be ok.




Enjoy your coffee!

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