Our newest episode features a conversation with Lindsey Nelson, Literacy Coordinator at the Tennessee State Department of Education. Lindsey has served as a MNPS classroom teacher, instructional coach, and the Regional Manager of Literacy for a charter school network. Lindsey and I met while working at a local university and we connected over the fact that we both have young children.

In this episode, Lindsey gives amazing advice for parents deciding where to send their children to school. Lindsey discusses her family’s decision making process and ways that anyone can adapt the lessons she’s learned to make the best decision possible concerning their child. We also discuss literacy and how to make sense of TN Ready scores.

Click here to learn more about MNPS’s school choice process.

In this episode you will hear a roundtable discussion with teachers in the Educators’ Cooperative. Greg O’Loughlin, who you’ll remember from Episode 16, is back for this episode, along with teachers Alecia Ford, Jennifer Weinblatt, and Marc Anthony Peek.

The Educators’ Cooperative is a growing network of teachers working in classrooms and schools all over Nashville. Working together across the boundaries of private, public, and charter schools, CoOp teachers work to serve, support, and strengthen the vital work happening in classrooms all over our city. (educatorscooperative.com)

Alecia, Jennifer, and Marc come from a variety of backgrounds and teach in traditional, independent, and charter schools, respectively. In this conversation we discuss how their experiences in the Educators’ Cooperative have enriched both their professional and personal lives. We chat about how they came to teaching, what surprised them about working with teachers from different settings, teacher leadership, and much more. These educators exemplify positivity, openness, and capacity for empathy; all of which I think we need more of in 2019!

Click here to register for the 2nd annual #EdCampNash, hosted by the Educators’ Cooperative. This FREE, teacher-led unconference will be held on February 23 at University of School of Nashville.

Today’s guest, Greg O’Loughlin, is the founder of the Educators’ Cooperative. In our chat you will hear about Greg’s path to creating the Cooperative and the myriad ways the Cooperative is benefitting teachers and students in the Nashville area.

A local teacher, Greg saw a need for teachers to have the time and space to collaborate and share best practices in teaching and learning. Having taught in various settings himself, Greg intentionally brings together teachers from traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools. The Cooperative provides several opportunities for teachers: a week-long summer workshop, EdCampNash, and monthly meetings, to name a few. Perhaps most importantly, the Cooperative provides the support that our teachers deserve and so desperately need. Also, since we recorded I learned that Metro Nashville Public Schools teachers can now earn Professional Development Hours for their participation in the Cooperative.

Their work isn’t going unnoticed- The Nashville Public Education Foundation is recognizing the Educators’ Cooperative as a finalist for their Inspiring Innovation Award to be given out in October.

Registration for EdCampNash 2019 is open. It is a FREE, teacher-led, teacher-designed, teacher-organized event that will be held on Saturday, February 23. Spread the word! If you want to learn more about the Educators’ Cooperative, I recommend following @Ed_Cooperative on Twitter or visiting educatorscooperative.com. Those interested in contributing to the Educators’ Cooperative can visit Giving Matters.

Today’s guest, Cary Rayson, is the community engagement coordinator at Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. Cary facilitates Stewards of Children training, which is a program to help adults learn how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. I went through Cary’s training earlier this year, and it really empowered me to be more proactive about protecting both my own children and children that I work with in the school setting.

Back in May, Anita Wadhwani and Dave Boucher at the Tennessean reported that in a recent five year period, more than 3400 cases of inappropriate sexual behavior have been documented in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The school board members interviewed in the article were unaware of the magnitude of this issue, and the district spokesperson explained the number away by saying they “overreport” and that this isn’t a problem exclusive to MNPS. I would argue that this issue is the problem of every adult in our community.

I believe that every organization who works with kids should take advantage of the free Stewards of Children training offered by today’s guest. As she explains in our conversation, child sexual abuse is a public health crisis and we need to treat it as such. She also offers concrete, cost effective suggestions, that if implemented, can ensure that fewer of our children become victims of sexual abuse. Cary can be reached at cary.rayson@pcat.org.

Further Resources:

ACE Nashville

Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee

Sexual Assault Center

Nashville Children’s Alliance

Our Kids

This summer I had the pleasure of teaching a podcasting camp at the Westwood Baptist Church. This year’s camp theme is Wise, creative, innovative thinkers, and Minister Elois Freeman, the last guest on the podcast, thought that podcasting could be a great medium for students to express their wisdom, creativity, and ingenuity. In this episode, you will hear middle schoolers talk candidly about their experiences in school and their suggestions for making school a better place.

Westwood Baptist Church is a welcoming, inclusive series of brick buildings right around the corner from Pearl-Cohn high school. Fifteen middle schoolers from the camp and I met several times during the month of June, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little intimidated at first. It’s been years since I’ve taught middle schoolers, and there was also a pretty glaring elephant in the room. I was a white teacher standing in front of a class of all students of color.

We began by watching the TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie. I think that here in Nashville, we mistakenly believe a single story about Metro Nashville middle schools and the students that attend those schools. The common refrain is that we shouldn’t send our kids to a Metro middle school unless it is either in an affluent neighborhood, a magnet school, or a charter school.

I have news for you. I have spent the last month with middle schoolers from Metro middle schools in all areas of this city. They are some of the brightest, most empathetic, and wisest young people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. I kept our conversations open ended, because I wanted to focus on the topics that are relevant to them. The topics that emerged over and over again are race and discipline. Today’s episode is structured into four parts.

Part 1: A Tale of Two Middle Schools

Part 2: What Our Kids Think and Understand About Race and Discipline in Schools

Part 3: The Ideal School

Part 4: I Wish My Teacher Knew

Based on all I learned from hearing about these students’ experiences, I think that Our kids want to attend schools that are relevant, anti-racist, and safe. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, do you?

Here are a few suggestions for ways to get involved in helping make our schools better places for kids.

Additional links shared by Minister Elois Freeman:

  • The consciousness gap in education – an equity imperative | Dorinda Carter Andrews | TEDxLansingED  In this talk, Dorinda Carter Andrews challenges us to consider how gaps in critical consciousness and mindsets for adults and students in schools prevent us from providing equitable schooling experiences for all students. Specifically, Carter Andrews urges educators to consider how increased critical consciousness about the role of race and culture in teaching and learning can be fostered through educator professional development and student curriculum and can ultimately strengthen teacher-student relationships.
  • Excerpt of book, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard Reeves, Brookings Institution Press, 2017. The American dream is of a decent home in a pleasant neighborhood, good schools for our kids, a steadily rising income, and enough money put aside for an enjoyable retirement. It is about sustaining a strong family and seeing your children off to a good college. It has become a staple of politicians to declare the American dream dying or dead. But it is not dead. It is alive and well; but it is being hoarded by those of us in the upper middle class. The question is: Will we share it?

Music used in this episode:

Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: I’m Going for a Coffee

Album: Music for Podcasts 3

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_3/02_Im_Going_for_a_Coffee


Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: Puzzle Pieces

Album: Music for Podcasts 2

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_10_Puzzle_Pieces


Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: The Secret to Growing Up
Album: Music for Podcasts 3
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_3/03_The_Secret_to_Growing_Up
Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Southside
Album: Music for Podcasts 4
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_for_Podcasts_4/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_4_-_09_Southside


Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Try Anything Once
Album: Music for Podcasts 2
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_14_Try_Anything_Once


Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Sad Marimba Planet
Album: Music for Podcasts 4
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_14_Try_Anything_Once


Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: Betrayal

Album: Music for Podcasts 5

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_5/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_For_Podcasts_5_-_08_Betrayal


Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: We’re Almost There

Album: Hold Music

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Hold_Music/Lee_Rosevere_-_Hold_Music_-_12_Were_Almost_There

This week’s guest is North Nashville educator, Elois Freeman. Elois is direct, authentic, and carries a wisdom that can only be acquired through a long and meaningful life. Elois grew up going to segregated schools in North Nashville and went on to graduate from Fisk University in 1970. After graduation, Elois left Nashville to teach school in different locations around the country. Since returning to Nashville, Elois has been deeply involved in education activism work.

Elois and I met at a book discussion of Making the Unequal Metropolis by Dr. Ansley Erickson. I am so glad that she agreed to come on the podcast to talk about her first hand accounts that correspond to the overarching account that Dr. Erickson presents in the book. In our conversation, we discuss the strong community ties in the North Nashville community, how the interstate construction in the 1960’s intentionally divided and damaged Jefferson Street (where Elois’ family still resides today), whether or not desegregation should be a current goal for Metro Nashville Public Schools, and why data is the one topic that Elois will not discuss.

For more context about North Nashville, check out Steven Hale’s recent Nashville Scene piece, History Repeats Itself in North Nashville.

“If the story of the last 60 years was this perpetual, creative, varied pursuit of economic growth, well, the city got it, clearly… but it’s also clear that that growth doesn’t inherently create equity. It doesn’t close wealth gaps, it doesn’t produce of itself… equally distributed opportunity. In some ways you have an economically strong and growing metropolis. What a wonderful position to be in to really ask what it would mean to try to shape that city in favor of greater equity.” -Dr. Ansley T. Erickson

I was thrilled to get to interview Dr. Ansley T. Erickson, author of Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and its Limits. Ansley is an Associate Professor of History and Education at Teachers College Columbia University, and I think her book should be required reading for anyone interested in how politics, policy, housing, power, and privilege shaped Nashville’s schools.

In the interview, we discuss the early days of desegregation in Nashville, how local, state, and federal policies shaped our unequal landscape, vocational education, misconceptions about busing, and much more.

Mentioned in this episode:

Dr. Mary Crnobori is the trauma-informed coordinator for Metro Nashville Public Schools and she is doing incredibly important work to raise awareness about trauma-informed practices and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Common ACEs are violence in the home, divorce, a parent with mental illness or substance abuse problems, abuse or neglect, or a parent who is incarcerated. Not to mention the skyrocketing rate of childhood poverty in Nashville. While poverty rates have gone down citywide, as of 2016, childhood poverty is currently above 60 percent in 4 council districts

When I told someone I was doing this episode, he said “Isn’t aces just kind of a buzz word at this point? Don’t we already know this stuff?

I thought that was really interesting point, and I think that he’s probably not the only one who has this misconception. What we commonly hear about ACEs is that a high ace score is correlated with poor educational outcomes, behavior issues, and even health problems. 

The part of the conversation that I feel like is often left out is that there are concrete actions that we can take to mitigate the effect of ACEs. Edutopia recently did a series on how Fall-Hamilton Elementary, MNPS’s trauma-informed pilot school, is doing this important work. 

I hope after listening to this episode, you will know more about what trauma informed schools look like, the importance of building relationships, and how we should support educators in this work. 

Further Reading:

The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris

ACEs Connection

Treating Childhood Trauma – 60 Minutes segment with Oprah Winfrey

What do you say when a student asks, “Did you vote for Donald Trump?”

In this episode, we discuss how to respond to difficult questions, how to get students to engage in civil discourse in these turbulent political times, and what happened when Tarana Burke, the founder of the #metoo movement, led Hume-Fogg students in a walkout to protest gun violence.

Amanda Smithfield is a librarian at Hume-Fogg Magnet High School, and in her words, she is the “proudest Democrat ever to sponsor the high school Republicans.” In addition to starting clubs for both the high school Republicans and the high school Democrats, Amanda has started a movement called ProjectCivAmerica, where she hosts monthly bipartisan discussions on topics such as gun control and net neutrality. Amanda provides resources for anyone who wants to host their own ProjectCiv discussions.

Holly Korbey is my special guest cohost this week. Holly is an education journalist who is passionate about closing the research to practice gap. She has written groundbreaking pieces about dyslexia and social and emotional learning, to name a few. Currently, Holly is working on a book titled, How to Raise a Citizen, to be released in 2019. Sign up for Holly’s civics education newsletter to learn more about raising citizens in today’s political climate.

Whenever I tell someone that corporal punishment still happens in Tennessee schools, the reaction is typically shock. People can’t believe that kids are still being hit in schools as punishment in the year 2018.

Investigative journalist, Alanna Autler was similarly surprised to learn that this practice is still commonplace. She was shocked most of all to learn that students with disabilities are corporally punished at a higher rate than students without disabilities in Tennessee schools. Click here and here and here to read some of Alanna’s groundbreaking journalism on this topic.

In this episode you will hear my conversation with Alanna, as well as gain a greater understanding of the policies and laws in place that allow educators to continue this very controversial practice.

If you want to see corporal punishment banned for students with disabilities, please contact your legislators and ask the to support HB 2330. This bill, sponsored by Nashville Representative Jason Powell, is coming up in a House Subcommittee this afternoon at 3:00. The corresponding SB 2330 is coming up in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow. Here is a link to the House Subcommittee members to call and here’s a link to the Senate Education Committee members to call.