A clip from the NWP Radio archives

After a year of all-kinds-of-schooling, it seems we may be on a path to returning to more regular educational arrangements and considering what should be our ‘new normal’ for public education.

But I can’t get out of my head the question a young person asked on TikTok the other day: “At this moment, I feel so far behind, I’m wondering why school at all?”

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Even if millions of young people, let alone their parents, can’t wait to return to their friends, to the activity, to the regularity of school…this young person still deserves an answer.

His phrasing of “why school”…

In support of the Academy of American Poets

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The Academy of American Poets’ free programs are supported by our donations.

If you missed, or just want to revisit, the Academy of American Poets’ Gather in Poetry online event, November 24, 2020, you can find it online…and embedded below!

The Academy’s Gather in Poems events are open readings, providing many more people the opportunity to hear and see poets reading their worn than they may otherwise have. They also reveal poetry’s capacity to offer a sense of human community, deeply needed as we face this unusual Thanksgiving. As Edward Hirsch has said, “Poetry rises out of one solitude to meet another in recognition and connection. It companions us.”

This Thanksgiving I’m feeling grateful for all the ways that literature companions us during this challenging times.

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Last Spring, as schools and campuses closed down, many imagined that we would be back into our buildings in the Fall. But as caseloads mount in the MidWest and Upper West, districts are faced with difficult and ever-changing decisions about reopening or converting to online instruction.

From their vantage point as faculty at the Illinois State University’s College of Education, Robyn Seglem, of the Illinois State Writing Project, and Anna Smith, NWP national leader, have seen the challenges this poses for teachers first hand. …

Rapid Response for Teachers and Students

We used to focus all our attention on election night, waiting for the networks to “call the election.” But this year, as we expected, a lengthy count followed into the week after the election with networks waiting until the following Saturday to project Joe Biden as the winner.

Even prior to the election, experts counseled patience as we counted massive mail-in and absentee ballots and encouraged us to be cautious as we read the news. They worried that during the post-election period, a tsunami of misinformation would likely circulate on social media — which is exactly what happened.

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By Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

Because we…

Feeling strangely hot and bothered by a writing assistance tool

Using grammar and spell-check tools became a part of my writing process long ago, but as I am old enough to even precede word processing programs, these assistants did not appear until I was already an able adult writer. Confident in my ability to muddle through, I was rarely swayed by false positives or strange suggestions, feeling instead happy to ignore them. A few false squiggles and weird word suggestions were a reasonable price to pay for the proofreading assistance.

And as long as those squiggly lines were just there, lurking quietly in the background, all was well. All wasn’t…

Civic art as a fulcrum for powerful conversations

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Students in College of DuPage’s Art 2221 and 2222 courses paint a new mural. (CC Y 2.0)

When I was a high school teacher, I was fortunate enough to be able to teach a year-long course called Humanities. This was back in the heyday of the “elective,” when high school teachers were encouraged and supported to develop courses out of their own expertise and student interest. When I was asked to teach the Humanities course I had a title, and not much else,

It was glorious.

One of the most significant projects, one that students talked most about year after year, was our project on civic art: art in public spaces. I have been thinking about those…

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Like so many, perhaps too many, I spent June 1 assembling lists of books, articles, podcasts, hashtags for sending out. Too many items on my list were more lists or even lists of lists on anti-racist teaching and living. Yikes.

The value was in pointing recognizing the wealth of writers, thinkers, voices all around us, living now, speaking now, as we do when we commit to Disrupt Texts and Teach Living Poets. We humanities teachers should look to that work for inspiration, leadership, and a place for our own contributions.

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There is a conversation that pops up in circles of friends-of-a-certain-age. It begins with a question or observation: this feels like 1968 all over again.

In some ways it does, in some ways it doesn’t, or so says historian Heather Ann Thompson, but it may not matter either way to the unfolding of the fire this time. Time passes, and we know we can’t step in the same river twice. But given the long history of systemic racism, its debilitating effects, and people’s resistance, it’s not surprising that history echoes.

Back then, many White Americans asked why about the protests and riots. Fewer are asking now, more understand, but enough still seem to ask. In 1968, folks asked James Baldwin. His response is worth revisiting.

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Structural and systemic racism, white supremacy: these are heavy, thick, ubiquitous, like the tule fog we have out here in California. Driving through tule fog is hard and demands persistent attention to keep moving forward. But sitting still on the roadway still is no option either.

If we are on a journey through that fog, we have help. Scholars, teachers, and activists working in together through networks such as #BlackLivesMatter and #educolor, have been working to create resources and update reading lists for educators to use both in their teaching, and perhaps more significantly, in our own journey toward anti-racism…

Editors Note: Haven’t we all been wondering what we have learned from this unprecedented moment in teaching? It has been far too hard, too disruptive a task for us to just leave it as a temporary pause in business as usual. Here Richard Scullin, a longtime practitioner of Connected Learning and English Teacher at Miss Hall’s School in Massachusetts, shares six important lessons that deserve to travel with us into the future.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

By Richard Scullin

This moment offers an opportunity to reconceive how we teach high school.

The times are difficult. But as we try to work through this unprecedented…

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl

Executive Director of the National Writing Project (nwp.org). Find me at the NWP in Berkeley, CA and online at @elyseea.

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