Summer 2020 updates (remote learning + anti-racist resources)

You did it, #vted. For you, I share my deepest gratitude and jazz hands

It is a blazingly hot summer day. I’ve already spent some time in the river down the road, and quite possibly might go back again later today. It is one of those days where us Vermonters just melt. I’m so thankful for all of the places I can access water, shade and woods here.

In many ways it feels like years since I wrote the last post here, about remote learning resources in March, and the very quick pivot teachers, students and parents had to make. And now, we have been at this for months, and so much has happened.

My normal response to a crisis is to work, work, work. Try to be helpful, try to use the tools I have to assist in any way. And that is what I tried to do much of this spring and early summer. Over at the Tarrant Institute blog, we were all very busy trying to bring forth resources, posts, and tools that could help teachers and students through this challenging time. In case you missed any of these posts, here are a few:

Street art by Elly Budliger

The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ammaud Arbery, and the subsequent protests, brought into sharp focus the need to address anti-racism at all levels in schools. Of course this is not a new call. This time, though, more people than ever were reaching out, wanting to do better, to refuse to stay silent, to get involved. I have been reading, listening to, and following educators, scholars and activists of color. I am reminded by Ijeoma Oluo that this is our work.

“The next frontier is white people trying to dismantle the systems of racial oppression that benefit them. In a way, they’re the only ones who can do that. White people need to want racism gone.”

—-Ijeoma Oluo, White Lies: Ijeoma Oluo on Privilege, Power, and Race

Here are some of our recent posts about anti-racism, and here are several other super helpful resources, no matter where you are with this work.

Now, of course, we struggle with the unknown. How will we go back to school.. what it will look like. How will students, teachers and our families stay safe. It is a scary and overwhelming time. I myself am trying to take it one day at a time. One moment at a time. Each day, I start with meditating, even when I am antsy, unsettled, and with a full to-do list. That is probably when I need it most.

image by Kurt Budliger

And each day I am trying to notice things, like the red on the hummingbird’s neck that comes to our feeder. Or the yellow and black Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flitting around the yard. The light breeze on my skin, or the magic flashes of light from the fireflies at night.

What is keeping you grounded, and keeping you present? Wishing you and yours a safe, happy and relaxing summer, despite the barrage of news and challenges.

More soon. Poems and sketchnotes on recently read books. Stay safe and healthy.

Home Learning Resources + Support

Freshly created sketchnote on our currently reality.

First of all, sending wishes for love and health to you and your family. These are overwhelming times. The world feels out of control, big and scary. But I am also seeing so much love, humanity, and a return to focus on what really matters. Connecting (not literally) with each other, checking in to see how the folks we love are doing, and creating things that will make this time better for everyone.

Many had forgotten. I sure had. The slowing down, the news, the changing reality, has put into sharp focus the goal of helping others and caring for loved ones.

I saw that an author and person I greatly admire, Kate Messner, was gathering videos of authors reading aloud their books for kids who are now learning at home. First, I thought, I can do that! The salamander season is soon to begin. Then I thought, ugh, I have to change from my PJs! I have to face the video camera. I know nothing about video!

Read Aloud of Salamander Sky by Katy Farber and Meg Sodano

Well, how many things are we doing right now that feel hard? And this isn’t even hard! Just hitting record and fiddling a bit. So, along with my sneezing cat, I recorded a video of me reading Salamander Sky, which was illustrated by the incredible Meg Sodano and published by Green Writers Press. We have many resources to extend learning about the salamander (and amphibian) migration!

There is an educator’s guide which has a letter from me, plans for project-based learning, science learning, discussion questions, and multi-media resources. Meg has created some fabulous visual resources including this coloring page of a vernal pool, and this identification guide for spotted salamanders. Please be in touch with any questions that your kids might have!

Also, we have been busy posting on the Tarrant Institute for Innovation blog resources for educators suddenly pivoting to distance and remote learning. We now have a homepage with resources for remote learning.

We also have fresh posts based on educator’s requests and needs:

This padlet of resources I created is full of resources for educators (and families) as well.

In addition, on Facebook I have been sharing publicly the many resources I see for families to help with at home learning. The same goes for Twitter. I have been retweeting all of the incredible resources and opportunities for virtual learning I have seen.

If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. I’d love to see those finished coloring pages, and I will certainly stream when the migration begins! We are in this together and it is showing us what is important, and the work we have to do to create more just, equitable, and humane systems. Sending love and good health your way.

Supporting teachers, emotional labor, critical project-based learning (Winter updates)

Warming up.

I am relieved January is behind us. It is deep deep winter here in Vermont. Very little light. But there is a quiet beauty, even if your fingers and toes sting with the cold. Like the woods behind my house. Always quiet, beautiful, waiting for a visit. They stand guard and connect me to a world beyond impeachment, caucus meltdowns, and other human issues.

Since Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus was published in 2010 I have been pondering, how would I write about that now? What would I add? I wrote a recent post for Edutopia with some new thinking about the hugely important issue of supporting teachers for a long and happy career in the field of education. It is crystal clear to me that we must work to increase the humanity we extend to teachers and students in schools, and create what Carla Shalaby calls in Troublemakers:

Resurrect our imagination for schooling as a deeply human, wildly revolutionary site of possibility.

Here are 7 ways to make teaching a sustainable profession, and these ideas are not revolutionary.. but they are ways to build the kind of learning environments we know support the growth and emotional health of teachers and students. I would also add the importance of building supportive teacher networks and communities, online and off as essential to this work.

Another piece that is often overlooked and undervalued is the emotional labor teachers put forth each day. I wrote about that over here at the TIIE blog. This one is personal for sure. I hope that we can validate and make visible the care and effort teachers give students each day.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we tend to focus on what is wrong before we focus on what is right. How can we bring a strength-based lens to project-based learning work so students can learn deeply about the values of their communities? By intentionally planning it.

One of the beauties we found on the dirt road outside our house. Can’t wait!

And the salamanders will be coming…. soon! I’m excited to head to a few schools this spring to share about the great salamander migration and Salamander Sky and how to write for change.

Thanks for reading!