Hedreich Nichols

March 2022

Twice as Good

Seeing the highlight clips of the Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmation Hearings morph into full blown defamation and attacks from pundits on the right made me wonder if indeed, Judge Jackson was singled out. This was, of course, due to the popular assertion that “we” think everything revolves around race. The “we” happens to be any Black or Brown person that made a statement about the fact that much of the questioning bore little resemblance to that of previous nominees. Do “we” still think that this hearing showed that we have to be twice as good to get half as much, like our grandparents taught us? I know it made me think so, and it was uncomfortable to watch. Unless Judge Brown was running for school board, or unless she had passed some ruling or sentencing protocol down on the use of Antiracist Baby–which was also sorely misrepresented–this was at best a political stunt, at worst, slanderous denigration.

Girls Are People Too

Sadly, this lack of respect for the record and qualifications has also been overlooked before. Think Amy Coney Barrett. Ted Cruz asked her about piano lessons and distance learning for her 7 children. While not as glaringly antagonistic—nor as dangerous—as his line of questioning with Judge Jackson, the subtle mommy track questions were just as insulting. In both lines of questions, the nominee was little more than a trope, a 2- dimensional caricature. Neither woman was considered worthy of questions befitting accomplished legal scholars.

Who Are ‘Those People’?

Why is this type of thinking dangerous and how does this apply to you? In your mind’s eye, when you see your students and staff, how many of them are archetypes? Do you see the ‘coach’ the ‘theater teacher’ or the ‘TA’ as representations of ‘their kind’? How about your students. Do you see the emo kid and the SPED kid as monolithic representations? Chances are, in some cases, that you do. Knowing that is half the battle.

How can you better connect with students whose characterizations you need to round out? Whether it’s having a lunch date or making it a point to listen better, recognizing that no-one is just one thing can help you avoid pigeonholing your students in the way that Ted Cruz  pigeonholed the SCOTUS nominees. #RelationshipsMatter

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War–What is it Good For

NOTE: The first two people to email me at 5SmallBites@gmail.com with the correct answers to the middle school questions will win a copy of Finding Your Blind Spots, available on Amazon and SolutionTree.com

I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand war. ‘Let’s just all point guns at each others heads so you won’t get more than I have’ seems frightfully ineffective. Oh, and actually, ‘let’s send my kids to fight your kids to solve the disputes of wealthy, power hungry regimes’ makes even more sense. If this doesn’t make sense to you, it may be hard to answer questions about a war in a far off land, especially when you’re a couple of your students say they missed school yesterday because momma couldn’t afford to put gas in the car. 

We’d love to think that our kids are too self involved to pay attention to the newscast running in the background, but they aren’t. Further, they have their own news sources in the form of reels and Tiktok posts. How do we answer their questions when we have so many of our own?

As I pondered Russia’s attack on the Ukraine and the world’s response to that attack, I came up with more questions than answers. My research led me back to WWII, the formation of NATO and the varying success and ineffectiveness of sanctions on a global level. I gathered a lot of information but nothing that made me see the logic of land power grabs.

If you, like me, tend to have difficulty seeing the logic of fighting  ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶y̶s̶ wars over borders, hopefully this allegory will help you to at least make peace with it. Moreover, it is a read-aloud that you can play for students of every age. Below are also reflection questions you can use for class discussion or journaling. 

Questions for littles:

How did Jenna, Natalie and Natasha feel when they heard things about the war they didn’t understand?

Do you hear things about fighting that you don’t understand? Where do you hear it, on the radio in the car? TV? Adults talking?

Who do you talk to when you feel afraid or confused?

What could countries do to solve conflicts, besides go to war?

Questions for middles:

What is this story a metaphor for?

Why are the names Natalie and Natasha used? Who might those names represent?

Why the name Stoli and who might that name represent?

Who do you think is represented by “the small group of families” who watch out for each other?

What could countries do to solve conflicts, besides go to war?

Questions for older students (in addition to the questions above):

What is this story a metaphor for?

Why do the people on the south side of the sea need to be concerned about what happens on the north side of the sea?

What are the economic ramifications for independent homeowners if the Rich Family begins an unchecked practice of taking over the homes of others?

What could countries do to solve conflicts, besides go to war?

If you would like to deepen your knowledge and provide your students with further context, here is a comprehensive resource from Albuquerque schools on all things pertinent to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

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Many who think of gender equality think of Women’s Suffrage and perhaps yesteryear’s fight for equal pay. One little known fact is that gender equality in the workplace is still an issue, with women earning, in some cases just over half of what White males earn. 

As we highlight diverse stories for Women’s History Month, it’s important to discuss with your students why we have the need for a Women’s History month at all. It is also important to highlight not only the strides women have made, but also the gains still needed, particularly economic and career gains. 

While I am not a fan of cultural and heritage months, they offer an immense opportunity to open discourse with your students on cultural and gender norms. There is history and then there is African American History, Women’s History, Native American History, Asian American History, all as seeming adjuncts to just plain old, regular history, which continues to be largely dominated by figures who are male and of British and Middle European descent (White).

This month–and during every cultural month–be sure to discuss the need for such months and why multiperspectivity is not the norm and why everyone’s stories are not woven into one great big beautiful tapestry called history.

For classroom resources and lessons on the world’s global goals for gender equality, visit the World’s Largest Lesson.

For Census Bureau stats and facts on women in STEM, click here.

To read the good news on home ownership by women from Urban Wire, click here. 

Get a gender wage gap overview from the Center for American Progress here. 

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Heiweh Nach de Bärge

This week, I got to speak with educators in my second home and was reminded that people are interested to know what I do now. So I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled programming to have a conversation with 3 friends and educators about my work as a writer and consultant. The podcast is in two languages and describes my work as a consultant and author seeking to give every student a voice and create change one small bite at a time. 

In case you don’t know, SmallBites is important because it gives educators a context for the devisiveness around identity politics in the country and across the globe. It helps others recognize that everyone’s journey is not the same and that prejudicial treatment because of color, culture and identity still exists, especially in classrooms. My work through SmallBites, in particular Finding Your Blind Spots, provides educators with a framework to mitigate the behaviors and biases that creep into our work, making us less effective at building the kinds of relationships that improve academic and mental health outcomes for our students. 

Diese Woche habe ich mit Pädagogen in meiner zweiten Heimat gesprochen und wurde daran erinnert, dass einige Leute in der Schweiz daran interessiert sind, zu erfahren, was ich jetzt mache. Also unterbreche ich das regelmäßig geplante Programm, um mich mit 3 Freunden und Pädagogen über meine Arbeit als Autor und Berater zu unterhalten. Der Podcast ist in zwei Sprachen und beschreibt meine Arbeit als Berater und Autor, der versucht, jedem Studenten eine Stimme zu geben und einen kleinen Bissen nach dem anderen zu verändern.

Falls Sie es nicht wissen, SmallBites ist wichtig, weil es Pädagogen einen Kontext für die Abwege in der Identitätspolitik im Land und auf der ganzen Welt gibt. Es hilft anderen zu erkennen, dass die Reise nicht für alle gleich ist und dass es immer noch Vorurteile aufgrund von Hautfarbe, Kultur und Identität gibt, insbesondere in Klassenzimmern. Meine Arbeit durch SmallBites, insbesondere Finding Your Blind Spots, bietet Pädagogen einen Rahmen, um die Verhaltensweisen und Vorurteile zu mildern, die sich in unsere Arbeit einschleichen und uns weniger effektiv beim Aufbau von Beziehungen machen, die die schulischen und psychischen Ergebnisse unserer Schüler verbessern.

Special thanks to Monika Burges, Simon Gisler and Irene Siegrist for taking out time from their schedules to conduct this interview. 

Besonderer Dank gilt Monika Burges, Simon Gisler und Irene Siegrist, die sich die Zeit genommen haben, dieses Interview zu führen.

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It’s Black, It’s White

Black History Month is over, but the need to elevate the stories and achievements of Black Americans to their rightful place in American history books and curricula is still in its infancy. In actuality, history has been dominated by the achievements of White Males to the exclusion of many other important voices, stories and heroes.

Remember the old adage, know better, do better? When I found out butter was better than margarine and olive oil was better than both, I began to use my oils in different settings, but all have a place in my cupboard. Likewise, now that we know Beethoven and Bach are not the only classical composers, van Gogh and Dali are not the only famous artists and Newton and Einstein weren’t the only scientists, I can go looking for the achievements of people from diverse communities so that my students who are not white or male can see themselves reflected and know that the world is theirs for the taking.

Representation Matters

It’s important for my Black kids to know they can be more than rappers and athletes, so I make sure they see Mae Jemison and Bryan Williams. My Hispanic kids may not see themselves as artists so I make sure they know Frieda Kahlo—and that Picasso was Spanish. My White kids may also not know that Newton, Einstein, Beethoven and Bach all had countries and heritages that may be similar or dissimilar to their own. Newton was English, Einstein Jewish, Beethoven and Bach German. Side by side, Germans, Jews and the English may all have similar amounts of melanin, but culturally they are quite different, even having fought on different sides of great wars.

Since navigating teaching truth in schools these days is akin to navigating a minefield, perhaps we should instead look at Google and ask our students why the representation of any search for famous_____ yields largely males of European descent. Their answers might surprise you.

Why is “White” “White”?

We can also ask them how WWII enemies came to be one cultural group. If we’re going to amplify diverse voices, let’s have a talk about what diversity really means, whose narratives are missing and whose narratives continue to play a starring role. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask you why everyone’s story should not be told.

Goodbye Black History, Hello History

Meanwhile, as we close out one more Black History Month, remember that stories matter, representation matters. Do what you can to make sure your kids learn truth. Unlike Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who were deemed subversive in their day but proclaimed heroes by history, those who seek to silence truth may not be remembered so kindly. As much as you can, be on the right side of history.

For a look at ‘whiteness’ and ethnic groups in America, go here.

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Baby Baby Sweet Baby

If I babysat a math PhD who married a Math PhD, one of 4 Black Math PhD graduates from University of Mississippi, I will do well on the GRE when it’s time to get my own PhD, right?

Probably not. But am I honored to know young math movers and shakers who can be role models for my students? AB SO LUTELY.

A lot of the Black History resources I have shared this month point us not so much to a sepia past, but a bright and colorful future, with more young people from the Black community making great strides in maths and sciences. Exposing your students and children to these role models will broaden their horizons in a way that no look at the past can. While knowing our past is hugely important, people doing great things now will give them templates to reach new heights in the future.

Here are the latest role models in this series:

Bryan WIlliams

Carla Cotwright-Williams

Here are more on the website mentioned:

Mathematically Gifted and Black

Here are the playwright and singer mentioned in the podcast:

Lorraine Hansberry

Nina Simone

And here is the song Nina Simone wrote with poet Weldon Irvine honoring Lorraine Hansberry. This version is by Donny Hathaway.

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Did You Ever Know You’re My Hero?

I actually planned to talk about entertainer extraordinaire, Cab Calloway, but a little thing like my low-key childhood shero got in the way. 

I remembered the name of the first Black female writer, Ida B. Wells from my childhood. I decidedly did not remember that she was so much more than just a journalist! She was a teacher, an advocate, a fierce leader who refused to be content with the status quo. I think of women like Patrisse Cullors, Sara Parker Remond and others like them; women who at great personal cost have advocated for civil rights only to be misunderstood and vilified. You see, Harriet Tubman did not have a cheering fan club either. 

Only when we look back in time, when we see our mistakes and inhumanity towards others, do we set those powerful women in their rightful place as civil rights leaders, as leaders for all of us, who push us toward the as yet elusive ‘liberty and justice for all’. 

As I read more of Ida’s story, I thought about my books on Krause’s banned book list. Is that my cross? Will there be more indignities to bear? Will more people write that “there is a place in hell for people like me” because I try to ensure a more inclusive society in my small way? 

I’m sure that Ida only did what was in her heart. She sought a fair and free society for people who looked like her. Now, 130 years on, her vision is still in danger, the stories of Ida and women like her, being erased. While that makes me sad, it also emboldens me. Although there are those who want to turn back the clock to a time when diverse stories were yet unknown, you can’t put the cat back in the bag. I’m heartened to know that

if Ida did it;

if Sara did it;

if Patrisse did it;

I can do it too. Teachers, we can do it too. #TeachTruth

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