Hedreich Nichols

Talk It Out Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a 3 part series.

It’s easy to say “we are not suspending our kids”, knowing that the number of suspensions directly correlates to the number of incarcerations. But without a plan for transformative discipline, the ensuing chaos disrupts learning. We can impact whole communities by ensuring that our discipline protocols keep our kids on campus, and empower students to own and manage their own behavior with strategic, caring guidance. When we take ‘not suspending kids’ seriously, we provide them with the tools they need to be successful members of the learning community and of society.

From last week: A Whole Child Framework

Restorative practice is a holistic framework for comprehensive culture shifts that impacts students, staff, parents and every member of the learning community in and beyond the school walls. This holistic approach takes what we know from SEL and trauma informed practices and puts stakeholders in the driver’s seat. In the classroom that means respecting and valuing each community member and centering dignity and respect to help everyone think about how their actions affects others. This kind of #bettertogether approach, when consistently implemented, impacts the ‘whole child’.

In order to keep each child and the learning community healthy as a whole, those who engage in what is known as harm causing behaviors have a function, as do those who have been affected. Start with the student who caused harm and depending on the level of harm and the class climate, have the discussion in class with a talking stick or piece. (The practice of talking circles originates with indigenous peoples and you can watch this video to learn more about its history and how not to venture into the waters of cultural appropriation.) I didn’t use a centerpiece or a stick but I did use a ball made of tape. The understanding was, as with a talking stick, that the holder of the ball deserved the absolute attention of everyone else in the circle. I found that students liked to catch the ball, so they volunteered to talk. 

Restorative Practice Questions

Why did you think that was a good choice/Why did you make that decision? How did that choice affect others? Who did it affect? How can you provide scaffolding and sentence stems to help the person who caused harm to take ownership of their choice? By having intentional conversations, either one on one or with other students, those who cause harm can begin to see themselves as empowered rather than seeing themselves as “the bad kid”. 

Join #SmallBites next week for part 3 when we’ll delve into more questions and scenarios to help with the uptick of “behaviors” educators have seen this year.

Learn More:

Everyday building blocks of transformative justice

Talk It Out

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This is part 1 of a 3 part series.

Across the country teachers are being squeezed between data deep dives on one side and recurrent student behavioral issues on the other. The caught- in-the-middle pressure is putting a squeeze on teachers that is sending them out of the educational sector in droves. While the academic disparities are real, doubling down on looking at data and more testing will not make an impact with our most vulnerable students as long as teachers struggle with repetitive classroom disruptions with little or no strategic support from admin.

SEL vs. Exclusionary Discipline Practices

I say strategic support because increasingly I hear that districts are against exclusionary discipline but have no practices in place to support teachers increasingly overwhelmed by violence and threats. As the National Educational Policy Center puts is, a “sole focus on a reduction in suspensions and expulsions will not address the systemic and structural inequalities that impact students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being”. In short, being against something without defining what you are for, especially when it comes to school culture, negatively impacts teaching and learning. Restorative Practices provide structure to culture building and can keep students on campus while also respecting the need to maintain a safe, non-threatening learning environment.

A Whole Child Framework

Restorative practice is a holistic framework for comprehensive culture shifts that impacts students, staff, parents and every member of the learning community in and beyond the school walls. This holistic approach takes what we know from SEL and trauma informed practices and puts stakeholders in the driver’s seat. In the classroom that means respecting and valuing each community member and centering dignity and respect to help everyone think about how their actions affects others. This kind of #bettertogether approach, when consistently implemented, impacts the ‘whole child’, that person schools say they teach. Consistency can mean the difference between success and failure. Failure, at its worst, leaves teachers and students who “just want to learn” feeling unprotected with their needs often being unmet. It means schools lose good teachers and good students. 

Next week, I’ll be covering more about RJ practices and how to implement it on a classroom, campus and district level, but for now, here are 5 questions you can use in your classroom today when someone makes a less than optimal choice:

Helping Students Think About Their Choices

  • Why did you think that was a good choice/Why did you make that decision?
  • How did that choice affect others?
  • Who did it affect?
  • How are you affected by the choice?
  • What do you think you can do to make amends and give back to the learning community?

When students know they are valued members of a community who will need own up to their choices and make amends for any harm caused, they think differently about the choices they make and grow; both individually and as a part of the learning community. That deeper sense of belonging is what augments academic outcomes. 

Learn More:

National Educational Policy Center, Meta-analysis of belonging and academic outcomes.

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-evident

Did you ever stop to think that Christopher is an anglified name? An Italian explorer would have been named Cristoforo Colombo, in Spanish he would have been called Cristóbal Colón. That’s the funny thing about the truth. Depending on your perspective, it might be different. Not more or less true, just different. Europeans called this side of the Atlantic the “New World”. But in fact, when looking at a timeline of civilization, Europe itself was once the new world. 

Vacation Education

As I lay on the beach on the island Columbus named Hispaniola, when his ship sunk, I looked at the people there. The Dominican people look like me, like my son. People spoke Spanish to us there. But the Arawakan, or Lokono, language, the Taino people, what had they been like before the European invasion and enslavement? What would the island be like today if the Taino had been able to keep their resources and flourish as a people? The Yale Genocide Project gave me some answers, but not all. I only knew that I was in the place where European conquest changed changed the trajectory of nations. As I stared out over the ocean Columbus once sailed across, it made me sad.

The Taino Discovered a Shipwrecked Columbus on Their Island

What would the Taino have told of that fateful landing in 1492? Would they be grateful to have been “discovered”? Taino Leader Jorge Estevez provides perspective on a missing side of the story in this National Geographic article. What do we tell our students when teaching about 1492 and the discovery of America? How do we advocate for the integration of truth when the fables we learned as children have become our national narrative? For this and any other historical facts taught from only one perspective, we can ask our students the following:

1. Whose stories are centered?

2. Whose stories are missing?

3. Who is telling the story?

Every author has a perspective and a purpose, and by examining varied perspectives, we can get a fuller picture of the truth. Just as a doctor listens to your lungs and gets and xray to make a diagnosis, all of the pieces are needed to see the whole picture. #TeachTruth

Further reading:

Edmund S Morgan setting the record straight

Columbus simplified

Judge Ye Not

SmallBites is taking a short break this week for the Easter holiday and will return next week. Meanwhile, as you celebrate your faith, if you do, reflect over whether or not you may be judging others for being different in their expression of faith or identity. Let’s make faith count!

It Starts With Me

If you have not yet found your way to Jennifer Gonzales’ Cult of Pedagogy, please use this as your gateway. In this small bite of our interview, you’ll hear one of the 8 questions below that you can use to challenge yourself on your way to becoming a more empathetic, inclusive educator. For the entire podcast and show notes, please visit https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/blindspots/. While you’re there, click around. I know you’ll find resources you can use to better your practice. For additional resources, or to get your copy of Finding Your Blind Spots, please visit Hedreich.com/resources.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. How diverse is your personal circle and why does it look like it does? While not having a diverse circle doesn’t mean you are racist, elitist or any other -ist, it probably does mean that you don’t have much experience with people unlike you.
  2. Who are the ‘others’ in your life? Make a list of 10 people you consider “us” and 10 people you consider “them.” These could be family members, work colleagues, neighbors, students, or anyone with whom you have fairly regular contact. In what ways are the people on your “us” list different from you? How are they similar? What about your ‘others’—how are they different? How are they the same? You can make lists, Venn diagrams, sketchnotes or any other representation to show differences and similarities.
  3. How often do you use generalizations? Take a week and intentionally keep track of the times you use “they” to describe people of a certain color, culture, identity, gender, etc. One common campus generalization is “the Special Ed kids,” as though students under this umbrella are homogenous. Another is the admin/central office “they.”  Teachers often see admin as others. Keep track of “harmless” generalizations as well–”the students,” “the neighbors,” “the football team,” etc.
  4. What is your initial perception when you talk to someone with an accent different from yours, for instance, a customer service rep, parent, or even a student?
  5. Do you consider the integration of diverse historical perspectives best practice or divisive politics? One example of multiperspectivity is looking at different narratives between the European settlers and Indigenous people in the colonial U.S. For instance, the Thanksgiving story is usually told from the perspectives of the Pilgrims and mainly portrays their struggles for survival. Rarely do we hear of the hardships that the Wampanoag Indians endured or how they were holding feasts of thanks years before the Pilgrims even arrived. Another example of a lesser-known narrative is that of the Powhatan confederation, the Indigenous peoples who lost both land and life due to colonization in Virginia.
  6. Who is on your “free pass” list? We tend to be more forgiving of those we like and are in agreement with. List five people–friends, students, public figures–whose failings you tend to excuse or write off. Explain also why you tend to “go easy” on them.
  7. When do you tend most toward non-acceptance and judgment? Are your triggers cultural differences? Ideological and religious dissimilarity? In-group/out-group challenges?
  8. How much cross-cultural literature, TV, and movies do you consume in order to familiarize yourself with what for some is an uncomfortable shift to a more diverse community?

For Colored Girls

This week’s SmallBites is a round table with Jonathan Reidenouer, Hal Roberts and Emily Witt, three people shaped by the fundamentalist Christian community who have come to embrace the need for representation and cultural literacy.

Why is it so hard for people from the Evangelical movement to embrace what some in the community call “woke” ideologies? Why do some church organizations draw a line when it comes to having uncomfortable conversations on topics like race, gender and American History as learned in schools, even as they ensured that all students are seen and represented?

In this round table, we follow the journey of three school and community educators as they talk openly about their journey from Evangelical church circles to understanding the importance of representation and cultural literacy.

You can follow Jonathan Reidenouer at @JReidenouer

After 15 years working in restaurants, Jonathan got his graduate degree in Education in 2011 and has not looked back. Since then, he has worked as a math teacher in an alternative school and as a substitute teacher in both public and private schools. Self-employed for seven years now, he is a professional tutor who specializes in math, test prep, and writing. Last year marked 15 years of marriage to spouse Dayna, who is a copyeditor and fiber arts enthusiast. Since first gaining access to the internet, Jonathan has spent time learning all things about American history that weren’t taught in school.

You can follow Hal Roberts at @HalLRoberts

Hal Roberts is a retired superintendent after serving for 38 years in education, with 30 of those in leadership. Hal taught students in grades 4-12, coached boys and girls 7-12, served as athletic director, elementary principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. He has spent the last six years researching both leadership and neuroscience and how those relate to each other.

You can follow Emily Witt at @witty_witt93 or view her work at https://www.emilylwitt.com/

Emily is an Austin-based playwright and communications professional working for Texas Freedom Network, a multi-issue progressive & advocacy organization. Previously, she worked at CASA of Travis County, helping to expand the diversity of their volunteer base to better serve children and families within the child welfare system. She earned her BFA in Playwriting from Chicago’s DePaul University, where the mainstage production of her play about our country’s barriers to abortion access, Mrs. Phu’s Cleansing Juices (and also salads), received a Distinguished Achievement Award for Playwriting from The Kennedy Center. She spends her free time volunteering at SAFE (an org serving sexual assault and domestic violence survivors), going to as much live music as possible, and hiking with her dog.

Link to Geronimo

Link to Indigenous Peoples’ History of the US

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

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.


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. 

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.