WellnessCheck


    Of Note: More Loss and an Even Greater Need

    "What's Missing at School: A Wellness Check for Grown-Ups" by Jennifer Bryan
    October 28, 2020

    In this incisive and clear-eyed white paper, Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D, director of Re-Set Schools, urgently reminds schools to pause, now, to assess and plan for the wellness and resiliency of all the adults who have been working in crisis mode since last March. Dr. Bryan offers both an analysis of the current status of most independent schools and a framework for an action plan whereby school leaders can attend to the fatigue, grief, and variations in their faculty's experiences. Independent schools are accustomed to making student-centered decisions and holding themselves to standards of excellence; however, some of these traditional mindsets may, in some cases, lead to poor decision-making. Dr. Bryan reminds us that we must also consider the unprecedented circumstances we are in, the length of time that we all have been working in crisis mode with few, if any, boundaries between work and home-life, and the reality that teachers and administrators have had little time to recharge and reflect since the pandemic hit. To that end, she offers academic leaders support and a framework as they plan for the rest of this school year, and beyond, within a landscape that continues to shift and present unanticipated scenarios, more loss, and an even greater need for community building and connection.


    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    CallThemIn


    The Intellectual Invitation

    "Otegha Uwagba: 'I've spent my entire life treading around white people's feelings'" by Nesrine Malik
    The Guardian, November 14, 2020

     "What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?" by Jessica Bennett
    The New York Times, November 19, 2020

    In the world, nation, and schools, we are grappling with the tension between Dr. King's belief that "the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice" and the idea that it does not (e.g., from Ta-Nehisi Coates). How do we teach these mindsets on a continuum, instead of teaching them as diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive? And how can we equip our students to decide where on the continuum they see themselves or choose to place themselves in a given conversation – with flexibility for them to move in either direction? Nesrine Malik's recent interview with Otegha Uwagba about her new short book, Whites, explores Uwagba's "rage and frustration" over what Malik calls the "mental tithes of coexisting with whiteness." By design, Uwagba's book is uncomfortable, challenging, and confrontational, examining her "anger and disappointment in white allies" and "the limitations of white allyship," concluding that "genuine allyship is probably not going to feel good for white people," since "it requires loss." Also in November, Jessica Bennett wrote in The New York Times about Professor Loretta J. Ross's course on white supremacy at Smith College, which includes a "calling in" (instead of calling out) module. Believing that calling people in is the "antidote to [the] outrage cycle," Ross works to "create a culture of compassion." For Ross, calling out can be appropriate, yet shaming may be counterproductive; she emphasizes keeping a seat at the table for those willing to engage in the work. Bennett synthesizes: "Civil conversation between parties who disagree [is] part of activism." It would be easy to simplify and minimize these thinkers as exclusive versus inclusive, like juxtaposing certain ideas from Dr. King with certain ideas from Malcolm X and reducing them to nonviolent versus violent. The intellectual invitation, however, is to study their contexts and complexities. In a culture with tendencies towards reduction and polarization, schools have the opportunity – with perhaps more urgency than ever – to nurture complexity and pluralism.


    Submitted By Meghan Tally, The Archer School for Girls, Los Angeles, CA


    ReadingTeacher74-1


    Of Platforms and Profits

    Beyond Apps: Digital Literacies in a Platform Society by T. Philip Nichols, Robert Jean LeBlanc
    The Reading Teacher Vol. 74 No. 1 pp. 103-109, January 01, 2020

    In 2021, we "stand" on various platforms, both concrete and abstract. Digital platforms facilitate a vast number of our operations, providing the connective web powering the many applications we can no longer live, learn, or work without. In their fascinating article, "Beyond Apps: Digital Literacies in a Platform Society," professors T. Philip Nichols and Robert Jean LeBlanc integrate the emergent field of platform studies into their research on teacher use of educational apps such as FlipGrid, Kahoot, ClassDojo, Socrative, and Seesaw. In the process, they strengthen our collective understanding of the digital literacies needed to teach and learn today. Like their creators, platforms operate in relation to one another – for example, the iPhone is a platform for the App Store, and so on – and have social, technical, and economic dimensions. When choosing apps to use in their classrooms, educators should consider, "What is the platform and how does it work? What does it allow users to do? Who profits?" All three questions, but especially the last one, help teachers to evaluate their choices and adopt the best and safest apps for learning. "Platforms exert competing pressures on educators" that can be counterbalanced, say Nichols and LeBlanc, through digital literacies that go "beyond using software to access, create or interpret digital content [to] one that involves exploring, analyzing, and intervening in platform dynamics." Perhaps most important, the article will stimulate teachers to help their students to strengthen their own digital literacies by asking them to engage with inquiry and reflection on the uses and functions of digital platforms.


    Submitted By Jessica Flaxman, 120 Education Consultancy, Belmont, MA


    Mediocre


    At the Expense of All

    Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
    Seal Press, December 1, 2020

    "Our entire society is built to ensure that white men hoard power," Ijeoma Oluo writes in the introduction of her new book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. From Buffalo Bill to Reddit message boards, Oluo guides her readers through an ambitious walk-through of American history, highlighting the ways in which white men, anxious about losing their presumptive right to dominate and subjugate, thwart social progress at the expense of all (including themselves). Of particular interest to educators is an exploration of the roots of many structures of contemporary education, such as the college admission process and the SAT, which were designed to and are successful in keeping white men in power. Additionally, Oluo unpacks the contradictions inherent in our system of higher education, naming the often overlooked fact that those who perpetuate fear about education were often educated in our most elite schools. Oluo writes, "With a clear view of the past, we may then consider trying something new for our future." In fact, Oluo challenges readers to consider their own role in oppressive systems and compels us to imagine a new future that will be brighter for all, including white men who are often pressured and constrained by white male identity.


    Submitted By Teri Rutledge, Harbor School, Vashon, WA & Kurt Prescott, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    FacilitatingConversations


    Entry Point

    Facilitating Conversations on Difficult Topics in the Classroom: Teachers' Stories of Opening Spaces Using Children's Literature by Mollie Welsh Kruger, Susie Rolander, and Susan Stires
    Bank Street Occasional Paper Series #44, November 1, 2020

    Inviting educators from Early Childhood to college to speak about how they use children's literature as an entry point to difficult conversations with students, authors Kruger, Rolander, and Stires found a rich response. This issue of Bank Street College of Education’s Occasional Paper Series is intimate, timely, and encouraging. What constitutes "difficult conversations" remained up to each writer and included gender and sexuality, racism, fear, grief, climate change, police brutality, class issues, trauma, family insecurity, and health challenges. For every age and stage, teachers identified those times when it is hard to find starting points that include all, and that may be challenging for students to put into words because of fear, a sense that no one will understand, or the depth of feelings they are experiencing. The authors have identified what literature they used to support students and how they held safe space for conversation. These powerful stories of real-world teachers and students are designed for that space, and each story is worthy of staff discussion or personal reflection. Notably, this is not an outline of one right way to use literature; instead, it calls for boldly acknowledging our own contexts and the harsh conditions that may exist within them for our students. In so doing, it is exactly what living in – and beyond – a time of global pandemic requires.


    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School, Toronto, Ontario


    HowLearningHappens


    Accessible Foundations

    How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice by Paul A. Kirschner and Carl Hendrick
    Routledge, February 1, 2020

    For decades, researchers in educational psychology published papers that were largely inaccessible to non-specialists. More recently, a range of scholars have worked to translate these technical findings into actionable writing aimed at K-12 teachers. Up until now, however, there has been no single comprehensive and accessible resource related to this topic. This gap has been filled admirably by Kirschner and Hendrick's How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice. The book has six sections, each of which is dedicated to broad topics in education, such as the role of the teacher or how the brain works. Individual chapters contain a practical, concrete distillation of a foundational research article. The writing is clear, contains helpful visuals, and introduces the major research findings of the studies. Chapter topics include cognitive load theory, scaffolding, growth mindset, direct instruction, and dual coding theory. The illustrations by Oliver Caviglioli are compelling and informative. One shortcoming of this excellent book is the lack of attention paid to questions of identity as they intersect with the science of learning. Readers interested in that topic might consider a text like Verschelden's Bandwidth Recovery to read alongside this one.


    Submitted By Andrew Housiaux, Tang Institute, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA


    UncomfortableConversationsWithABlackMan


    A Response and a Model

    "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man" by Emmanuel Acho
    YouTube, June 1, 2020

    "Are you afraid of white people?" Chip and Joanna Gaines' young daughter asked Emmanuel Acho. His response, a model for the most pressing conversations with which educators should be engaging during a time of national racial reckoning, advances only one of the many difficult conversations that he has welcomed. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Acho launched his YouTube series, "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man." There are so many questions that we are afraid to ask, have been trained not to ask, or have internalized understandings of that go unexamined. And beyond asking, there is so much we need to slow down and hear on a deep and soul-changing level. Guests of the series have included the Petaluma, CA police department, white parents raising black children, interracial couples, Mathew McConaughey, Chelsea Handler, and NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. No topic or question is off-limits, and the discussions are honest and intended to recognize, address, and perhaps even begin to mend the racial divide that has long resulted in death, disenfranchisement, and oppression.


    Submitted By Jini Rae Sparkman, Holderness School, Holderness, NH


    TheCatalyst


    Change Your Mind About Changing Minds

    The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind by Jonah Berger
    Simon & Schuster UK, March 3, 2020

    Have you ever wondered why traditional techniques of persuasion aren't…well, that persuasive? What if we've been using ineffective methods to try to change people's minds? Whether in the classroom, civic organizations, or your own family, there are times when we all seek to be more persuasive. And in The Catalyst, Professor Jonah Berger presents a research-backed approach to changing people's minds – by being a "catalyst." Catalysts aren't people who talk longer or more emphatically, nor is their efficacy tied to luck. Catalysts are people who are exceptional at removing obstacles that prevent people from changing behavior. Specifically, catalysts change behavior by navigating five types of obstacles: they increase a sense of autonomy to battle reactance; they surface the cost of inaction embedded in endowment; they reduce distance by starting with a place of agreement and breaking change into smaller, more manageable chunks; they address uncertainty by letting people try things in small doses; and they support their claims with multiple, meaningful layers of corroborating evidence. Navigating pushback from implementing anti-racist curriculum? Searching for lead gifts for a new capital campaign? Persuading your student to speak up more in class? Thinking like a catalyst could help.


    Submitted By Zakaria Sherbiny, Edwell, Baltimore, MD

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