Tuesday, December 18, 2018

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know by Mary Holden

Originally posted at: https://maryjholden.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/you-dont-know-what-you-dont-know/?fbclid=IwAR2w6XEL0J-n9shzNuKsfQCljKBMoAq2_h6bSF7kvJ5QSKA5b-Ym_3VdQKc

I’ve been a teacher for a while now. One thing I’ve noticed is how few teachers really know what’s going on in the state of public education.

They know what’s going on in their classrooms, of course, and at their schools. They may even have a vague sense of what’s happening at the district level. But beyond that – state legislation that affects public education, who said state legislators are and what their beliefs are, federal education guidelines like ESSA and how they affect things like testing and accountability, etc. – they don’t know.

And maybe worse, they don’t know what they don’t know.
They aren’t really aware of how what is happening at the state and federal level affects them in their classrooms.

I’m not necessarily laying blame here. Ignorance is bliss, so they say. But what I’m trying to understand is why. Why don’t they know what’s happening?

It could be because they are overwhelmed. Or complacent. Or uninterested.

But many are just unaware. I know teachers – and parents – who feel frustration about things but never do anything about it. I guess it just depends on the person and how much they want things to change.

Who are we talking about here anyway?

John Merrow writes about people fitting into one of four categories when it comes to knowledge about public education: The “DeVosians,” “Education Reformers,” those who don’t know or who aren’t involved, and the Progressives. I, along, with Merrow, see myself as a progressive. Not just because I’m a teacher and a parent of a public school student, but because I truly believe in the importance of a strong public school system.

As Merrow writes:
How about you?  Deep down, are you a progressive?  Ask yourself these simple questions.
1) Do you want your child or grandchild to be in schools where the adults look at each kid and wonder “How Smart Is This Child?”—and then sort them accordingly?
2) Or would you choose a school where the adults ask a different question, “How Is This Child Smart?”
3) Do you want your children or grandchildren to repeat what they have been told, or would you like them to discover things on their own, guided by the teacher?
If you opted for discovery over sorting, then you are an education progressive.  Welcome!  Now let’s get to work on creating a genuine paradigm shift. For that to occur, at least three things have to happen.  One, we need to reject the language of ‘school reformers’ in favor of a more precise vocabulary.  Two, we need to change the conversation from hackneyed terms like “learning for all” to more dynamic language like “discovery” or “knowledge production.” And, three, we must get outside our own echo chamber and engage with the 75% of the population that does not have a direct stake in schooling.
We need to change the conversation; or rather, we need to expand it. We need to engage teachers in a way that has been done recently in West Virginia and Arizona. Part of that is organizing that takes place at the union level, but the more important part occurs at the school level, in conversations during lunch or in the hallway or the parking lot. It’s getting teachers to open up and share their concerns and then showing them that we can make changes.You just need to know where to put your energy to try to change things.

For example, at the national level, if you care about public education and want to fight against privatization and corporate reform, you can find “your people” over at the Network for Public Education. You can even attend their conference next week in Indiana (I’ll be there!). You can subscribe to Diane Ravitch’s blog, or Peter Greene’s, Steven Singer’s, or Julian Vasquez Heilig’s, or Mercedes Schneider’s. Check out the links they provide in their writings, and you’ll see there are many people out there who are fighting for public education. You can support groups like the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools. Pick an issue that you’re most frustrated about – school funding, social justice, standardized testing – and then start reading about it. If you’re a teacher, you can join the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) on Facebook and get involved in your state group.

In Tennessee, if you’re frustrated with the amount of testing we have to do and the botched teacher evaluation system that is tied to it, you need to focus your energy on the State Legislature. Help get teachers like Gloria Johnson and Larry Proffitt elected. Visit Legislative Plaza to talk to state representatives – they need to hear from teachers about what it’s really like for us and our students.
Here in Nashville, if you’re frustrated about the lack of school funding, there are two places to focus your energy – the Metro council and the State Legislature. And there are parent groups (start here: Mid-TN CAPE) and teacher associations (join us at Tennessee Education Association) that can help.

If you’re frustrated about the way teachers are treated – the way we are overworked, stretched too thin in a million different directions with all that is asked of us, and then sorely underpaid for all of our hard work – then you need to focus your energy on the school district. Specifically, the Nashville Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and the school board. And there are groups (message me for more info) that can help with this as well.

There are movements afoot at this very moment to try to unseat the Director of Schools because of multiple offenses. There are movements underway to bring about change within our teacher associations so we can grow our membership statewide and engage teachers to get involved in the fight for public education. There are movements building statewide to engage our religious brothers and sisters in the fight to support public education.
You just need to know where to look.

And that is where teachers who are engaged – those progressives Merrow spoke about – come in. We need to be talking to teachers and parents and community members. We need to spread the word – join the Tennessee Education Association, become active in your local association, attend a training on organizing for change. Or join the Parent Advisory Committee for the school where you live. Join a Facebook group focused on saving public education. Better yet – sign up to speak at a board meeting during public comment. Find the best way you can contribute – write an op-ed for the paper, deliver a speech, help organize an event.

And of course, vote for candidates that care about public schools!
It is so easy to become frustrated with politics and all that is happening at the national level. It can be depressing and dreadful. But caring about our public schools is something that we can – and should – all get behind, no matter your political party.
Ignorance is not bliss. Be aware of the issues that affect public education. Educate yourself. Get involved.
Your voice matters. Make it heard.

What Happened to 2018 As The Year of the Teacher? by Steven Singer

Originally posted at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2018/12/13/what-happened-to-2018-as-the-year-of-the-teacher/?fbclid=IwAR3l_wIq18JK6nJgBj62tBzLhawiuHgBBbUe5ha3galBMhMyQVfYC70IHB0

This year teachers took their mission way beyond the classroom.

Starting in West Virginia, we staged half-a-dozen walkouts in red states across the country demanding a better investment in children’s educations and often getting it.

Then we took that momentum and stormed our state capitals and Washington, DC, with thousands of grassroots campaigns that translated into seats in government.

It was so effective and unprecedented that the story began circulating that 2018 would be known as “The Year of the Teacher.”

And then, just as suddenly, the story stopped.

No more headlines. No more editorials. No more exposes.

So what happened?

The gum in the works seems to have been a story in The Atlantic by Alia Wong called “The Questionable Year of the Teacher Politician.”

In it, she writes that the teacher insurgence was overblown by unions and marks little more than a moment in time and not an authentic movement.

It really comes down to a numbers game. Numerous sources cite high numbers of teachers running for office. Wong disputes them.

National Education Association (NEA) senior political director Carrie Pugh says about 1,800 educators – both Republicans and Democrats – sought seats in state legislatures this year. Likewise, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), a group that works to elect Democrats to state legislatures, puts the number at 1,456 educators.

Wong disputes these figures because she says most of these people aren’t currently K-12 classroom teachers.

She writes:

 “The NEA uses the word educator liberally, counting essentially anyone who currently works in or used to work in an education-related job, such as professors, guidance counselors, and school administrators.”

Maddy Will and others at Education Week agree with Wong’s assessment. According to their analysis, out of the thousands of education-related candidates, they could only prove that 177 were K-12 classroom teachers.

And there you have it.

A story about teachers taking over their own destinies is dead in the water.

However, this begs two important questions: (1) Is not being able to corroborate the facts the same as disproving them? And (2) Is being a K-12 classroom teacher a fair metric by which to judge education candidates?

First, there’s the issue of corroboration.

Wong, herself, notes that part of the disparity, “…may come down to the inconsistent ways in which candidate lists are compiled from state to state and organization to organization.” It’s unclear why that, by itself, throws doubt on the NEA’s and DLCC’s numbers. These are verifiable facts. Journalists could – in theory – track down their truth or falsity if their parent companies ponied up the dough for enough staff to do the hard work of researching them. The fact that this hasn’t happened is not proof of anything except low journalistic standards.

Second, there’s the question of whether Wong and Will are holding teachers up to a fair standard.

Since the Great Recession, more than 116,000 educators have been out of work. If roughly 1-2% of them decide to run for office, doesn’t that represent a rising tide of teachers striking back at the very representatives responsible for neglecting schools and students? Aren’t they seeking to right the wrongs that put them out of work in the first place?

Even if we look at just the people currently employed in an education field, why are college professors defined out of existence? Why are guidance counselors and principals not worthy of notice?

Certainly K-12 classroom teachers are at the heart of the day-to-day workings of the education system. But these others are by no means unrelated.

Carol Burris was an award-winning principal at South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District of New York before becoming Executive Director of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Diane Ravitch, who co-founded NPE, is an education historian and research professor at New York University.

If Wong and Will are to be believed, the work of Burris and Ravitch on behalf of public education should be discounted because they are not currently working in the classroom. That’s just ridiculous.

This isn’t about logic or facts. It’s about controlling the narrative.

The Atlantic and Education Week are artificially massaging the numbers to support the narrative their owners prefer.

And let’s not forget, both publications are in bed with the forces of standardization and privatization that educators of every stripe have been taking arms against this year and beyond.

Though The Atlantic is a 162-year-old pillar of the journalistic establishment, it was purchased on July 28, 2017, by the Emerson Collective. This is Laurne Powell Jobs’ philanthrocapitalist cover organization which she’s been using in a media blitz to reinvent high schools by way of corporate education reform.

Likewise, Education Week has always had a corporatist slant on its editorial page and sometimes even in the way it reports news. Nowhere is this more blatant than the publication’s annual Quality Counts issue which promotes the standards-and-testing industrial school complex of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, etc.

It’s no wonder that these organizations would want to stop the narrative of insurgent teachers taking a stand against the very things these publications and their owners hold dear.

They want to cast doubt on the record-breaking activism of parents, students, citizens and, yes, teachers.

But the facts tell a very different story.

From West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky to Colorado and Arizona, educators took to the streets last spring to rally for adequate, equitable and sustainable K–12 funding.

All over the country, we’re demanding properly equipped classrooms, better wages, and stronger public schools.

In Connecticut we sent the first black woman to the legislature from the state, Jahana Hayes, a school administrator and Teacher of the Year.

We took down Wisconsin’s anti-education Governor Scott Walker. Not only that, but we replaced him with the state superintendent of public instruction, Tony Evers, on a platform centered on schools and learning.

And he wasn’t the only educator with a gubernatorial win. Tim Walz, a former high school teacher, became governor of Minnesota.

In Oklahoma, former teachers Carri Hicks, Jacob Rosencrants, and John Waldron all won seats in the state legislature, who along with others riding the pro-school tide increased the state’s “education caucus” – a group of bipartisan lawmakers committed to improving schools – from nine members to 25.

Even where candidates weren’t explicitly educators, mobilizing around the issue of education brought electoral victories. Democratic candidates were able to break the Republican supermajority in North Carolina because of their schools advocacy.

Even in Michigan – home of our anti-education Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor after campaigning against public-school funding cuts.

In Illinois, anti-education governor Bruce Rauner got the boot, while Democrat J.B. Pritzker unseated him on a schools platform.

And in Kansas, not only did school districts successfully sue the state for more funding, Laura Kelly defeated conservative incumbent governor Kris Kobach on a platform of further expanding school funding.

These victories didn’t just happen. They were the result of grassroots people power.

The NEA says even beyond educators seeking office, members and their families showed a 165% increase in activism and volunteering during the midterm election over 2016. This is especially significant because participation tends to flag, not increase, around midterms.

So let’s return to the disputed numbers of teachers who sought election this campaign season.

Of the 1,800 educators the NEA identified, 1,080 of them were elected to their state legislatures. When it comes to the smaller American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 109 of 178 educators won.

If we go by Education Week’s numbers, just 43 of 177 won.

Clearly, this is not the whole picture.

The education insurgency was more than even getting candidates elected. It was also about changes in policy.

In Massachusetts, we successfully repealed the Ban on Bilingual Education so educators will be able to teach English Language Learners in a mix of the students’ native language and English as a bridge to greater English proficiency.

In North Carolina, we successfully lobbied state lawmakers to stop for-profit charter schools from taking over four of five public schools.

And everywhere you look the stranglehold of high stakes standardized testing is losing its grip.

Because of our advocacy, the amount of time spent on these deeply biased assessments has been cut in states like Maryland, New Mexico, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania.

The highly suspect practice of evaluating teachers on student test scores has been dropped in Connecticut and the weight it is given has been reduced in New Mexico.

Now with new policies in Idaho and North Dakota, 10 states have explicit laws on the books allowing parents to opt their children out of some or all of these exams.

Half of New Hampshire’s school districts have replaced standardized tests in most grades with local, teacher-made performance assessments.

I don’t care what corporate journalists are being forced to report by their billionaire owners.

These accomplishments should not be minimized.

Teachers are at the heart of communities fighting the good fight everywhere.

And in most places we’re winning!

We’re teaching our lawmakers what it means to support public education – and if they refuse to learn that lesson, we’re replacing them.

If that’s not “Year of the Teacher,” I don’t know what is.

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

New year! New vision! New leadership!

The Board of Directors of the Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots public education advocacy organization of nearly 65,000 members are excited to announce a few recent changes within the BAT leadership team.
Melissa Tomlinson, former Assistant Executive Director, has now been named Interim Executive Director and Dr. Denisha Jones, Esq. will serve as interim Assistant Executive Director.
“I am excited to step in to this role and continue to serve the Badass Teachers Association. It has been a pleasure watching this organization grow and I am committed to using my skills and talents to support the important work we do on behalf of teachers, students, and public education.” ~ Dr. Denisha Jones, Esq.
Under the guidance of Melissa and Denisha, the BAT Steering Committee Directors and Executive Board members have recently been given the task of looking internally at the organization, its vision, goals, purpose, and mission. As we head into 2019 we will be meeting for strategic planning and goal setting, as every organization must do to meet new challenges.
“Moving this organization forward has been my commitment since I first joined. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next and energized to have Dr. Jones with me in this.
The only way that we will be successful in this work is to challenge ourselves and each other to grow, to stand up, and to fight back in solidarity.” ~ Melissa Tomlinson
Being constantly within the fight for public education, it is sometimes hard to see the growth and progress that has been made. With the life expectancy of organizations such as this averaging only around five years, it is important to reflect upon what has been accomplished and complete a strength analysis so we can be prepared to meet the battles that lie ahead.
As we undergo change, we hope to still provide a space for you to connect what you experience with the bigger national picture of corporate education reform. We hope that you join us in our quest to infuse or work with and to make space for social and racial justice. While we recognize that not all of us enter this space at the same place, it does not benefit neither ourselves nor our students to refuse to progress along the journey for equity.
We have created a Google survey form for you to share some of your thoughts with us about what matters to you. We would also like to get a little more information about you so that we can better focus our actions and directly call in people to join when needed.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Charter School Lobby Silent as Charter Teachers Continue Strike by Steven Singer

Charter school teachers in Chicago are in their fourth day of a strike.

Yet I wonder why the leaders of the charter movement are quiet.

Not a word from Campbell Brown or Michelle Rhee?

Not a peep from Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump?

This is a historic moment. Teachers at various charter schools have unionized before, but it has never come to an outright strike – not once since the federal charter school law was established in 1994.

You’d think the charter cheerleaders – the folks who lobby for this type of school above every other type – would have something to say.

But no.

They are conspicuously silent.

I wonder why.

Could it be that they never intended workers at these schools to have any rights?

Could it be that small class size – one of the main demands of teachers at the 15 Acero schools – was never something these policymakers intended?

It certainly seems so.

For decades we’ve been told that these types of schools were all about innovation. They were laboratories where teachers and administrators could be freed from the stifling regulations at traditional public schools.

Yet whenever wealthy operators stole money or cut services to maximize profits or engaged in shady real estate deals or collected money for ghost children or cherry picked the best students or fomented “no excuses” discipline policies or increased segregation or denied services to special education kids or a thousand other shady business practices – whenever any of that happened, we were told they were just unfortunate side effects. Malfeasance and fraud weren’t what charters were all about. They were about the children.

And now when charter teachers speak out and demand a better environment for themselves and their students, these ideologues have nothing to say.


It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on here.

The latest audit of Acero shows they have $10 million a year in additional revenue that they aren’t spending on the students. Yet they’re cutting the budget by 6 percent annually. Meanwhile, Acero’s CEO Richard Rodriguez is taking home more than $260,000 for overseeing 15 schools while Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson makes slightly less money for managing more than 500 schools.

If the school privatization lobby cared about kids, it shouldn’t be hard to come out against Acero and in favor of these teachers and students.

But nothing.


It seems to prove what charter critics have been saying all along – and how full of crap the privatization lobby has always been.

In short, the charter movement is all about the rich getting richer. It has never been about helping students and families.

Well, maybe it was once upon a time when union leader Albert Shanker backed the plan. But even he turned against it when he saw how it enriched the moneymen and corporations while doing very little for children.

The fact of the matter is that the only people at charters on the side of teachers, parents and students are the people generally associated with opposing them.

I, myself, am a huge foe of school privatization in all its forms – and that includes school vouchers and charter schools.

I know many educators who’ve worked at charters. In most cases they are dedicated, caring professionals who’d rather work at a traditional public school but had to settle for employment where they could find it even if that meant less pay, longer hours, and fewer rights.

I know many parents who sent their kids to charter schools because of funding inequalities or rampant high stakes testing at traditional public schools. In every case, they are doing the best they can for their children – navigating a system they hate looking for the best opportunities.

I’ve taught many students who’ve gone to charter schools and then returned to my traditional public school classroom disillusioned from their subpar experience in privatized education. Without exception they are great kids who try their hardest to succeed despite huge deficits from the years lost at charters.

These people are not our enemy. We are their allies.

We are pushing for a better education system for all of us. And this strike is part of that.

If the operators of Acero charter schools in Chicago (formerly UNO’s charter schools) agree to a living wage for teachers and lower class sizes, it sets a standard for the industry. It helps push other charters to do the same. It pushes charter schools to become more like traditional public schools. And that’s a good thing.

Every school should have an elected school board. Every school should have public meetings, transparency and be accountable for how it spends tax dollars. Every school should have to accept the kids living in its borders and provide them the proper services and respect their rights. Every school should treat its employees like professionals and pay them a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

Ultimately, I think this means the end of the charter school concept. But that doesn’t have to mean the end of all these charter schools. Many of them that can operate effectively and efficiently should become traditional public schools. That may mean incorporation into existing districts or creations of new ones. It may mean additional funding from the state and federal government.

In the case of fly-by-night charters that do nothing but enrich their investors while cheating kids out of an education, they should be closed immediately and the persons responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (whatever that is, if at all possible).

I don’t have all the answers, and what’s right in one neighborhood may be wrong in another. However, I am confident that there is a solution.

No matter how this strike is resolved, the fact that it exists – and is probably a precursor to more such strikes – points the way to a brighter future for everyone.

It’s a victory for workers over wealth.

And that is a victory for students, too.

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Holiday Season Brings Fear and Resentment for Many Students by Steven Singer

“I hate Christmas.”

I hate Christmas. I hate Thanksgiving. I hate every holiday.

America’s public school students are living under tremendous pressure.

The social safety net is full of holes. And our children are left to fall through the ripped and torn fabric.

So if your classroom is typical, 25% of your students have witnessed violence or been subject to a deeply distressing experience.

That could be drug or alcohol abuse, food insecurity, severe beatings, absent caregivers or neglect.

These figures, provided by Neena McConnico, Director of Boston Medical Center’s Child Witness to Violence Project, are indicative of a truth about this country that we don’t want to see.

Our Darwinian public policies leave many children to suffer the effects of poverty – and our society doesn’t want to deal with it.

The Center for Disease Control’s comprehensive Adverse Childhood Experiences study links the toxic stress of unaddressed trauma to heart disease, liver disease, and mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

Young children exposed to more than five adverse experiences in the first three years of life face a 75 percent likelihood of having delays in language, emotional, or brain development, according to McConnico.

This translates directly to negative behaviors in the classroom.

Children who witness violence often have trouble in school because they suffer from post-traumatic stress, which can manifest as inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, insomnia, aggression, and emotional outbursts.

Or, alternately, these children can sometimes withdraw and appear to be unfazed by their experiences. In some ways, that’s even more dangerous because while they avoid negative attention, they often get no attention at all.

It’s bad enough in the everyday. But it gets worse around the holidays.

Some of it is due to the structure and safety of school being removed. During holiday breaks, children are left to the mercy of sometimes chaotic and uncertain home lives.

Some of it is due to unrealistic expectations inevitably conjured up by the holiday season, itself. Even grown adults have trouble with depression around this time of year. But when you’re a troubled child, the unrealistic expectations and disappointments can be doubly impactful.

Loved ones are missing due to incarceration, divorce, abandonment, health issues, or death. Talk of family gatherings or a special meal can trigger hurt feelings for children who know their caregivers can’t or won’t provide them.

And it’s not always neglect. Sometimes there just isn’t the money for these things. We live in a gig economy where many people work multiple jobs just to survive. All it takes is missing one paycheck or one illness to disrupt holiday celebrations.

Even when parents have enough money, some just don’t bother to buy their kids anything. Sometimes families get to a better financial point but children have had to live through a period of food insecurity and are haunted by it. So even though the household is stable now, kids eat all their treats on the way to school because they always are fearful that the food will run out.

When kids have these sorts of fears, the ubiquitous holiday movies, TV shows, Christmas songs and commercials can set them off further.

It’s the most wonderful time of year for some, but not for all. For many students, the holidays are a time of dread and resentment.

For the quarter of American children who experience trauma at home, school may be their only safe harbor in a world of storms. Teachers may be the only people they see all day who offer a safe place, a stable environment and a friendly word.

For some kids, teachers are the only adults in their lives who make them feel valuable and supported.

We offer our students so much more than reading, writing and math. We’re allies, mentors, protectors and role models.

I wish we could save them from all the terrors of this world, but we can’t.

Let me be clear – I am in no way a super teacher.

But here are a few things I do in my classroom to help alleviate some of the stressesof the season – and often year round.

1)  Prioritize Relationships

Let your kids know you care. The student-teacher relationship is sacred. Nourish it. Be reliable, honest, and dependable.

As Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

2)  Listen to Them

Sometimes the best thing a teacher can do is just listen to students’ problems. You don’t always have to offer a solution. Our kids are dealing with so many adult pressures. Offering them the ability to get it all out in the presence of a caring adult can be a treasured gift.

“It’s really that simple,” McConnico says. “Listen, reflect back to them that they have been heard, validate the child’s feelings without judgment, and thank the child for sharing with you.”

3)  Create Opportunities to be Successful

Some people see teaching as essentially an act of evaluation and assessment. We observe students and then tell them what they did wrong.
This is extremely narrow-minded. When you get to know your students, you can offer them tasks in which you expect they’ll succeed. It’s the kind of thing we do all the time – differentiating instruction and offering choice so that students can achieve the goal in the manner best suited to them.
Sometimes you really have to work at it. If a child has extreme behavior issues, you can observe closely to find the one thing he or she does right and then praise them for it. This doesn’t always work, but when it does, it pays off tremendously!
Positive experiences lead to more positive experiences. It’s like putting training wheels on a bike. It scaffolds learning by supporting kids emotional needs before their academic ones.

4)  Routines

I am a huge fan of routine. Kids know exactly what we’re going to do in my class everyday – or at least they have a clear conception of the normal outline of what happens there.
I try to have very clear expectations, timelines and consequences. For kids who live in chaotic homes, this is especially comforting. It’s just another way of creating a safe place where all can learn.

5)  There’s Nothing Wrong With Downtime

I know. Teachers are under enormous pressure from administrators to fill every second of the day. But sometimes the best use of class time is giving students a break.

Let students finish assignments in class, read for pleasure, draw, even just daydream and relax. You can overdo it, but everyone can benefit from a little R & R.

This is especially true for traumatized children. Give them time to regroup from the mental and emotional stress. I find that it actually helps motivate kids to work harder when assignments are given.

The holidays can be a stressful time in school.

Kids get overexcited, they can’t concentrate, they’re torn left and right by the various emotions of the season.

As teachers, it’s our job to understand the full scope of what’s going on with our kids and make our classes as nourishing and safe as possible.

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!