Hedreich Nichols

October 2021

You Could Get With This– or You Could Get With That

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

Small Bites Friday Five 10-29-21:

20-30m – Hang out on the National Park Service’s Telling All Americans’ Stories website (although you could spend hours on NPS.gov going on history adventures). Afraid of pushback for telling diverse stories? Consider having your classes do research on the history of regions, cities or even neighborhoods.

15-20m – If you think teaching about places is a more neutral way to enrich curriculum, mine the nps.gov site on “National Historic Landmarks in your community and across the nation” for content and context.

10-15m – If you are reading online publications with your classes, consider magazines like the Smithsonian’s “American Indian” which build present day context and cultural literacy. (Note, the moniker ‘American Indian’ is still an official US designation in legal documents and is used in certain settings. In the classroom setting, acknowledge national heritage–Cree, Choctaw, Caddo, etc.– when referring to your students)

5-10m – If you only have 5-10 minutes, look through “American Indian” and bookmark 2 or 3 articles to explore with your classes during November, Indigenous Peoples month.

0-5m – If you don’t have much time, take a couple of minutes to think about what you might not know and how you can make time to keep building cultural literacy when you are busy.

Every time I thought about the “SohCahToa” teacher in California who has sadly been vilified and shamed by her peers all across the country, I wondered how she must be getting along. This was not ‘Karen’ and the Scary Black Man birdwatcher in Central Park. This was someone who made a mistake–a very insensitive, unlearned mistake. And she won’t be the last to do so.

Learning gaps

We’ve all been taught a one-sided version of history and that’s a problem. The things I teach on through my work I have learned mostly through extensive research as an adult. Once I realized that there was more to the story, I began to dig. But like that teacher, I didn’t always know what I didn’t know. I was 16 and a high school senior before I realized that the Confederate army was not fighting for me.

While riding home from school one day when I was a young girl, our car
stopped next to a truck at the traffic light. The truck was standard issue
for the area—big mud terrain tires, a gun rack, and a red flag with white stars and
crossed blue bars in the window. I said to my mom that I wanted one of those flags
for my room. She and a friend from work who was also in the car laughed. I pressed
on, insisting that the flag was cool and would match my Americana theme. They
froze, exchanging a look of incredulity. They asked me one question: “Do you know
what that is?”

-Finding Your Blind Spots, Hedreich Nichols

Now, if I, a Black person, born in a Negro hospital, missed the fact that the Stars and Bars were not flying for me and that in actuality it was them “D*mn Yankees” who were fighting for my freedom, how can we expect someone who probably has not been touched by racism to get how wrong the whole SohCahToa thing was?


That teacher is a symptom, not the problem. What she did and didn’t learn–what we all did and did not learn–is the problem.

Look through your social media pages. How many of our friends regularly post pictures of diverse groups of friends? Further, churches, schools and neighborhoods are still often segregated. Lastly, what we are fed online ensures that our filter bubbles are pretty air tight. Don’t see this as an accusation. It’s simply our harsh, segregated reality.

Making Way for Change

So what’s the plan? What do we change to move toward real integration (because we want to, not because we have to)? How do we keep learning when our plates are already overflowing? What educational and legislative shifts are needed to keep these incidents from happening time and time again?

  • Diversify your own circle.
  • Don’t stop learning. Use the resources here and on reputable sites to broaden your cultural knowledge base.
  • Ask your students whose narratives are centered and whose stories are missing. Ask them if they know why certain stories might be missing. STAY NEUTRAL. Let student led discussions land where they may.
  • Use your voice to advocate for legislative change–or to fight against it.

It’s easy to look at someone else’s behavior and see how bad it is. It’s much harder to change our own behavior. Again, let’s do the hard thing–one small bite at a time.

NOTE: If you are enjoying the preview of Finding Your Blind Spots, please join me for my birthday bash and book launch on December 3rd. RSVP below.

You Could Get With This– or You Could Get With That Read More »

SmallBites Lagniappe: SohCahToa and THAT Teacher

Oh so NOW you’re mad? You want to try, judge and jail a teacher for being ‘racist’? You want to say with surety she did all that stuff we saw in the video with malicious intent? 

Was it bad? Yes. Was it an offensive and insensitive display mocking the sacred traditions of a community this country has already taken from over and over again? Yes. But before we go casting stones:

Could we have made the same mistake?

Have you ever watched a Western?

Did you watch Pocahontas without having conversations about the real daughter of chief Wahunsenacawh? 

Have you ever celebrated Columbus Day or Thanksgiving without telling your children and students the truth about the Taino and Powhatan?

On the flip side, have you ever organized or even participated in a protest against legislation that restricts multiperspectivity in classrooms?

Have you voted in every local election and researched stances of the candidates who sit on your school boards?

Are you willing to teach truth even if it means losing your job?

Between ignorance and appropriation

The teacher in California made a really bad mistake, one I wish she’d had the education not to make. But: let he who never celebrated Halloween with a “hula girl”, an “Indian”, a “hobo”, or a “gypsy” cast the first stone (fyi, all inappropriate terms and costumes). As an applied researcher, I spend countless hours learning things I should have learned in 18 years of schooling. Unfortunately, like this teacher, the education I got did not arm me with the cultural capital and historical truths to be knowledgeable and empathetic towards diverse populations.

It’s easy to feel self-righteous because you know how wrong and hurtful this is; but it’s much harder to do the work to ensure that everyone in this country understands that this is wrong and hurtful. 

Now’s the time to do the hard work and leave the stone casting to those pretending to care.

What you can do

Find out about your local politics here.

Find out how to contact your elected officials here.

Find an organization and get involved here.

SmallBites Lagniappe: SohCahToa and THAT Teacher Read More »

I Call Your Name

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

This week’s Friday Five comes in the form of another adapted chart from Finding Your Blind Spots.

Say ThisNot This
Chair, mail carrier, fire fighter, flight attendant, nurse, congressional representative, human beingsChairman, mailman, fireman, stewardess, male nurse, congressman, mankind
Student in a wheelchair, student with a learning disability, students who are neurodiverseHandicapped student, learning disability student, special education students
African American, Black, BIPOC, POCNegro, colored, black, Afro-American
Mexican American, Cuban American, Latinx, Chinese American, Congolese AmericanHispanics (when the culture is known), Latino or Latina, Asians, Africans
Native American or specific tribe name, Indigenous peoples of North America, Inuit, Pacific Islander, AIAN (American Indian and Alaskan Native), API (Asian and Pacific Islander), the term someone self-identifies as (just ask them!)Indian, Eskimo, Hawaiian, Chinese
The full chart can be found in Finding Your Blind Spots, available for preorder now.
Teach me how to say that, please.

Whenever I struggled to read the surname of a student on my roster, I always squealed with delight and asked “Ooohh, where’s your name from??” Teaching middle school, I mostly got the “why you puttin’ me on blast” look. But I usually pressed on and was rewarded, as their voices rose in pride and excitement to meet my own.

Because we live in a world that still prizes assimilation over diversity, it’s important that educators use culturally affirming language as they build relationships with individual students. ‘Labeling’ students in the most celebratory and specific way possible is one way to embrace them.

For example, Wanyepreye would have been ‘Pat’ had he insisted. But, I asked him to teach me how to say his name properly. It wasn’t hard. I also asked which he preferred. He said both. When I asked if I could call him Wanyepreye, he said ‘yeah’.

You see, Wanyepreye is Nigerian American. He is not ‘African’ anymore than Canadians–or us, for that matter, are ‘North Americans’.

Go deeper.

How much do you know about your Hispanic students, your Asian students, your Native American students, your Black students or your students from the LGBTQ community? Culture is not only skin deep. Wanyepreye and I are both Black. But his grandma and my grandma cooked differently, spoke differently, had different cultural experiences growing up. His grandma is Nigerian. Mine was Opelousian, from Louisiana. Those labels convey something unique about each woman that the term Black does not. Mexican or El Salvadorian descriptors mean more than Latinx or Hispanic. How deep do you go when getting to know your students–and coworkers–for that matter?

Don’t just read the label.
  • The student with autism wants to be a lemur scientist in Virginia, and he’s working toward that goal.
  • The student working toward their Eagle in Scouts is hosting a rally for the LG community.
  • The student from Tibet is a part of a local circle dance group that performs nationally.

These kids might just be the Sped kid, the gay guy and the Asian girl. But those are labels that don’t even scratch the surface of who they are.

If you are honest with yourself, how many times in a week do you hear “the gay kid”, “the SpEd kid”, “the African kid”, “the Hispanic kid”, etc.? How often do you label kids that way yourself? How much about those kids do you know, beyond those labels? What about when you read the above labels and think about your own language use. Is it common for you to assign monolithic terms to groups of students (i.e. Blacks and Browns) without considering the cultures of the groups represented? Is it the norm on your campus to assign class jobs and talk about certain community heroes along gender lines?

Person first. Gender neutral. Culture affirming.

Luckily, Purdue Owl‘s writing lab keeps up with person-first, gender neutral, culture affirming terminology. And when Finding Your Blind Spots comes out, you can learn even more. But for now, recognize that our language and labels should always be person first, specific, gender neutral and culture affirming. Choosing a specific, rather than broad, ‘label’ starts you on the road to learning more about your students. And when you show nurses and cowhands of all genders, you open up a world of possibilities for your students.

I have one ask this week. Reflect on what you’ve learned and rethink how labels influence what you think about students. And, to practice here’s a 1 question quiz:

Use the chart and the Purdue resources above to rewrite the following sentence in the most inclusive, specific and affirming terms possible:

The American Indian SpEd kid plays basketball when he doesn’t have tutoring. FYI, the student is non-binary, identifies as “they”, is Chickasaw and has autism.

Feel free to practice for yourself or to answer on the thread on Twitter.

I Call Your Name Read More »

A Spoonful of Sugar

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

This week’s Friday Five comes in the form of a chart with activities to help you make a difference.

Trade Guilt for Action

Littles (preK–grade 3)Have students pair up and make Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting themselves and their partner.  Have them talk about the ways they are the same  and how they are different. Ask students why differences are important and how they enrich a group. Make a class pledge to be kind and inclusive.
Middles (grades 4–7)Have students make the same kind of Venn diagram but extend choices to more complex ones like identity, beliefs, and favorite music genres. Ask students why choices and identities should all be valued equally. Stress the importance of respecting one another and have them create a poster or digital flyer campaign to be a visual reminder of what they learned.
SecondaryHave groups research divergent ideological profiles like Christian and Muslim; Republican and Democrat; socialist and capitalist, etc. Have them examine the similarities between the divergent pairs and discuss why they think there is often such strife between groups. Have students pose solutions and create a “say this, not that” chart to help students respond more respectfully to those with whom they disagree.
StaffHave staff complete the high school activity and discuss how talking about divergent ideologies impacts their teaching. Have educators role play to come up with ways to ensure respectful, civil disagreements in the classroom.
Parents and CommunitySend student exemplars of the various activities home in a newsletter. Offer prizes for students and families who come up with their own activities to become more mindful of biases and “othering”.

When talking about creating more equitable systems in education and beyond, there are so many triggering phrases. “White fragility, White supremacy, White guilt, White privilege…it’s understandable that districts and politicians fight against the propagation of curriculum the feel includes language that makes students feel guilty for being White.

What Do You Hope to Achieve?

What do those phrases achieve? Do they cause good guilt, the kind that moves people to moral action? Or do they just make people feel bad and shut down? My guess is, the latter. When we use language that causes people to turn away before looking critically at why they feel bad, we miss the mark. The goal of talking about systemic inequities is to create more equitable systems. That can only happen when we use persuasion. Yes, guilt works (helLO, how many of us never miss gatherings and events out of a sense of guilt and obligation). But while guilt and obligation sometimes get compliance, they don’t produce change.

In Finding Your Blind Spots, I talk about going for less guilt and more accountability. What can you be accountable for TODAY that will take a small bite out of inequities that you see in the world? What can you learn today that will impact your students positively, especially those who may lack equal access and opportunities? Most of all, what guilt can you let go of? When you look critically at the systems that marginalize and disenfranchise some, what actions can you take to make them better?

Action and Accountability

The best anecdote for guilt is action. Feel bad about not going to the gym? Go to the gym. Feel bad about eating too much junk food? Eat salad. Feel bad that so many stories are missing in current curricula? Find additional stories or teach your kids research and media literacy skills and let them find stories.

I understand that those words and terms have validity, but so does knowing that ‘these jeans really do make my butt look big’. Depending on how I feel about my butt and who tells me that it looks big, that phrase just might make me give up jeans to hide under mumus and big roomy tops. What is our purpose in using terms like White guilt and White fragility? Who is the audience? Where are they on their journey and what action will those words cause them to take? Will using those phrases help or hinder?

Go for the Goal

I don’t advocate tiptoeing around feelings or helping people to keep blinders on. There are inequities baked into our systems that we need to change; and that’s not comfortable to talk about. However, when we talk about the changes that need to take place, let’s do so in a way that makes a positive difference. If that means we use a spoonful of sugar to get the medicine to go down, so be it. Keep the end goal in view.

And if you need some sugar, let me know. I have extra.

A Spoonful of Sugar Read More »

Indigenous Peoples Day vs. Columbus Day

Who are our heroes? What do we celebrate? Why do we celebrate them? And if it’s still Hispanic Heritage month, do we have to deal with it at all? So many questions. I have no answers. Except, decide to look beyond the surface.

It seems Columbus day was not all about Columbus after all. The holiday was always embroiled in turmoil and oppression. Now, this day means “see me” to Native American tribes. An acknowledgement of the decimation, genocide, sexual abuse and other crimes committed against indigenous peoples is what the day is about. As a start. So, let’s start. Read up on the early colonial lack of regard for life of non-Christian, non-western European people. And tomorrow, reflect and remember. And mostly, share this perspective.

Voices that have been silenced should be silenced no more.

Indigenous Peoples Day vs. Columbus Day Read More »

…Do I Fit In?

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

Small Bites Friday Five 10-8-21:

20-30m – Visit the University of California San Francisco’s Youtube page for a phenomenal selection of videos on belonging, diversity and inclusivity. Start with the “Faces of…” series, featuring diverse student stories in their own words.

15-20m – Listen to this Journey to Belonging podcast with Ilene Winokur entitled “Belonging Before Blooms”. As a matter of fact, bookmark the podcast. She explores the theme of belonging and it’s importance with a variety of inspiring educators from across the globe.

10-15m – Visit the University of California San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ YouTube resource center. The 7 minute introduction video is especially helpful for explaining diverse terms and definitions.

5-10m – Read this “Toolkit for ‘You Belong Here’ article from Learning for Justice” (formerly Teaching Tolerance) on the impact of the student-teacher diversity gap in our nation. Helping diverse students feel a sense of belonging means ensuring that diverse teachers feel a sense of belonging too.

0-5m – The stigma around mental health issues impact how we “other”, so once again, visit the UCSF’s Youtube page to listen to Kristin’s story, a story about anxiety and depression. Reflect on how to better include students struggling with mental health issues, both the readily visible and the invisible ones.

“My Kids”

If you listen to teachers talk about their students, they often refer to “my kids”. I too have often said “my personal kid” to ensure that people know which “my kids” I was talking about. I don’t have any research, but I am willing to bet that not caring if kids fit in or don’t fit in is not common in this profession. Still, when kids are asked whether or not they fit in or not, the answers are all too often less than positive. How can we turn that around?

In Finding Your Blind Spots, the first chapter talks all about how we “other”. “Othering” is what we do when we categorize people as different, as the “them” to our “us”. Othering is not Black or White. It’s not male, female or non-binary. It’s what we do when we come across someone who looks, behaves, thinks or even ‘feels’ different. We other the mom that dresses “too sexy”. We other the guy who doesn’t like sports. We other the person who doesn’t get our jokes. And even though we don’t mean to, we other students in our class who are unlike us (or maybe too much like us) every day.

Be Intentional

I can use all the Big Bad Diversity Words and talk about DEI, the ‘isms”, CRT, race politics, or even a “gay agenda”. Those words usually send people off to rantville in all sorts of political directions. But this space is for educators. And teachers, well, we believe that our kids should feel like they belong, full stop. So when some inflammatory headline threatens to pull you in one direction or another, I am asking you to remember that they are all “your kids”.

Creating classroom and campus spaces that welcome every student every day should be the goal. But like with any goal, reaching it takes intentionality. Besides using the resources above, do the following:

  • Consider taking a few of the Harvard Implicit Bias gamified tests to find your own blind spots.
  • Use the above information to make an action plan based on your personal hidden biases (i.e., refer fewer BIPOC students to the office; learn more about the LGBTQ+ community; make more opportunities for non-male students in STEM courses and clubs, etc.)
  • Look at your roster and pick 2 students with whom your relationship could be better. Have a transparent conversation with them, letting them know that you feel you could get to know each other better. Then, make time to get to know them better. Let them get to know you better as well.
Lead the Way

I am well aware that sometimes, it’s not teachers but students who often make other students feel “othered”. Explicit teaching on kindness and humanity are as necessary as lessons in reading and math. Our kids are watching us. They hear what we say and feel what we don’t say. Your disdain for “the bad kid” becomes theirs. Your barely perceptible annoyance comes across loud and clear to a kid already struggling to fit in. Make it a point to check in with yourself. Admit to yourself how you feel about your kids. Then be intentional about changing anything that might cause a child to feel othered.

When you are intentional about creating a sense of belonging for all your kids, when you teach your kids to do the same for each other, you’ll have a foundational culture shift that changes trajectories for your students. Let’s be intentional about creating a sense of belonging for all our kids.

As Ilene says, belonging before blooms.

…Do I Fit In? Read More »

Redlining, Redistricting and Learning Loss

No Man is an Island

If ‘no man is an island, no man stands alone’, then the same is probably true of schools. A school is not an island, separate from the community it supports. As we look for ways to close ‘learning gaps’ and combat ‘learning loss’, let’s first remember that until the 70s, this country was still legally legally non-White student access to the same education it provided White students. That means that 50-something Gen Xers–especially in the south– were just beginning to go to integrated schools. It also means that many teachers had to teach children they grew up believing were inferior.

Separate was never equal, but integration came with its own problems. The educational gaps we talk about began when it was illegal for my forebears to learn to read. And the great-grandmother who helped raise me was born only one generation out of slavery, so that was not so long ago.The disparities were always there, COVID has not unearthed something new. However, how can we acknowledge what the pandemic has highlighted and use that knowledge to make our educational system better for all students? 

I See, I Wonder…

This week, start with a little research. Archie Bunker, famed protagonist of Norman Lear’s All in the Family,  thought the playing field was level and that “Spics and Spooks” were just too lazy to get their piece of the American Dream. Let’s see if that holds true, or if there is inequity baked into the systems. Do some research on redlining, redistricting and gentrification. Oh, and here is a recent article about redistricting in my home state of Texas. As you read, make a few notes. What do you notice? What do you wonder? How is what you read related to ‘learning gaps’?Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or IG and let me know your thoughts. Knowledge is power, and learning about the roots of educational gaps will help us become real change makers. 

Additional resources:

The Counter Narrative Podcast on Redlining

All in the Family S1E1

Redlining, Redistricting and Learning Loss Read More »

Don’t Stop Believin’

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

Small Bites Friday Five 10-1-21:

20-30m – Pull out your college reading skills and read pp. 1-20 of “Academic Discourse and the Formation of an Academic Identity: Minority College Students and the Hidden Curriculum” from John W. White of the University of North Florida and Patrick R. Lowenthal of the University of Colorado at Denver to gain context for and understanding of hidden curriculum.

15-20m – Familiarize yourself with the trauma experienced by community members of the non-dominant culture with this research article, “Challenging Definitions of Psychological Trauma: Connecting Racial Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress” from Kevin Nadal and Tanya Erazo and Rukiya King. Can you empathize?

10-15m – Explore terms and inclusive language in GLAAD’s reference guide, intended for journalists, useful for all. Chances are, if you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community or someone who keeps up with race and gender linguistic changes, you may not be as sensitive to inclusive language standards as you should be.

5-10m – Use the above link and scroll down to the glossary of terms. An inclusive classroom begins with inclusive, validating language.

0-5m – Read Douglas Starr’s take on scientist Jennifer Eberhardt’s work on implicit bias. As the article’s pullquote says, “She is taking this world that black people have always known about and translating it into the principles and building blocks of universal human psychology”.

Archie Bunker, All American Hero

This week, I watched “All in the Family“, a sitcom from the early 1970’s (start at 8:30 and watch, if you have Amazon). I played a portion of it for my son and he had to ask, what year that was. When I told him, he wanted to know how it could seem so current? As the protagonist used degrading terms towards women, Blacks, Hispanics and liberals, it all sounded so familiar.

Sadly, half a century later, the arguments and issues are the same. The group with power and privilege is trying to hang on to that power and privilege. Before you click away, let me explain. Archie Bunker, a working class White male, really believed that America was for him and those who looked like him. Anyone else was seen as an interloper. Personally, being neither White nor male, this often feels like my world.

Equity and Access

Watching the news of redlining and redistricting reminds me that systems still hinder equitable access to wealth and education. Reading about voter legislation that makes voting harder for disenfranchised populations in many ways feels more like the 1960s than the 2020s. In short, there is still much work to do at the individual, community and systemic levels in and beyond our classrooms. How can we make the American Dream is accessible for all?

Make that Change

For those still trying to tackle the hard work we do in creating access and equity on our campuses, Finding Your Blind Spots, my upcoming Solution Tree book, can help. Before the December 3rd release, I will be going through each of the book’s guiding principles to help you transform your campus one small bite at a time.

Begin by using the resources above to create a learning environment that welcomes and validates every student. I’ll see you next week with more.

Don’t Stop Believin’ Read More »