Episode 21 – Cami Anderson


CamiAndersonPHOTO“I like to think of it as choice ready, which is to say I think every kid needs to graduate with very high levels of reading, writing, quantitative, social and civic skills,” shares Cami Anderson, co-founder of ROADS, a network of charter high schools dedicated to court-involved youth, and former superintendent of schools, first overseeing alternative high schools and programs serving 90,000 young adults in New York City and then supporting 45,000 pre-K–12 students in Newark, New Jersey.

“… I think we have to be very real [about] 21st century jobs – only one in five jobs in 2020 is going to be available to folks without a post-secondary degree,” Cami continues as she discusses the importance of ensuring that all students are learning both college-ready and life-ready skills. “So, if we want folks to be life ready, to have access to economic freedom, justice, and all those things, and even the ability to thrive in 21st century jobs, requires a ton of academic and hard-core content. Gone are the days when we have vocational careers, persay – I mean everyone always has one example about their cousin who is a plumber or something – but the reality is, the vast majority of jobs are going to require a level of academic knowledge. And I want all of our kids to know that, because I don’t want to make that choice for them because they happen to be growing up potentially in an economically challenged circumstance. Having said that, they also need to be passionate about what they do and know how to work through challenges, and de-escalate anger, and vote, and build a community. Obviously those skills are just as critical.”

Fast Facts about Cami

  1. Full name: Cami Anderson
  2. Years in education: Over 15 years in both traditional and non-traditional education settings
  3. Grades taught: Middle School
  4. Current position: Founder and Managing Partner, ThirdWay Solutions
  5. Current city: New York, NY
  6. Favorite resources:
  7. Why teach: “Every single child, regardless of what zip code they are born in, deserve to be in an amazing classroom and a good school that delivers on their genius; there’s no more important or difficult job.”
  8. Follow Cami on Twitter @camianderson12

Noteworthy Outtakes from Cami’s Chat

Recognized by TIME magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, Cami Anderson is a fierce advocate of high academic expectations and a well-rounded educational system that meets the needs of all students, from all walks of life.

Equality doesnt mean Equity“I think equality means everyone gets the same amount of things – teachers, money, resources, breakfast programs, etcetera – on the theory that somehow we have a level playing field already,” says Cami on the differences between equality and equity. “And so therefore the same amount of [resources] will allow everyone to achieve at the same levels.

“And we know that’s not true, our country has a very rich history of systemic racism in particular, and other -isms, that make it unfair for certain groups of folks.” Cami continues. “Equity is when you invest whatever you need to invest to make sure that every young person, in this case education, is able to perform at the highest levels academically, socially and civically. And so that means – and I am perfectly comfortable with this – some young people need more in order for them to overcome the barriers that have been placed in front of them. Not by their own choosing, but just by circumstance or zip code.”

Listen as Cami goes further in depth about this topic, her work to provide formerly incarcerated youth with quality education that leads to a High School diploma and more.

Want to learn more about Cami? Click here for her full bio.

7 Ways Politics Has Affected My Teaching

If there is one thing the most recent Presidential election has done for society, that no one can deny, it’s that it made talking politics cool and relevant again. Sure, Former President Barack Obama has gone down in many people’s eyes as the coolest and most casual president in history, but no doubt about it – even back during the primary elections PoliticsinEdof 2016, people who were never much into politics starting talking about it, living it, breathing it in ways that hasn’t happened in many years…. even in classrooms among students as young as in first grade.

During a recent morning circle with my students, my 1st-3rd grade class was asked the question, “What are some things you would like to see improve in our classroom?” instead of naming things like, “more books in our library,” or “longer recess!” they began listing things like, “immigrants should be treated fairly!” and, “we need to stop a wall from being built!”

I was floored and impressed with their thoughts, and their insightful knowledge of the current political climate around them.  The impact of political decisions and processes on children has since been on my mind and a deep area of interest I have been exploring on several chats I’ve had with teachers. Check out some ways that politics has affected our teaching:

  1. We have to be activists!
    “We have to be activists,” reflects Phil S. Quinlan, 7th grade social studies teacher in Scottville, MI, as he chats about what he believes is the role of educators when discussing the current state of politics with students. “How did all of a sudden our profession become demonized?” he continued. “I have an opinion on it, but I have to be careful as far as, if I want to encourage my students to have voice and choice, I have to model that. I don’t want the students to know my perspective. Because what am I doing? I am not really enabling them to have a thought of their own. So, when it comes to students, I want them to ask driving questions, essential questions of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s and try to make connections… of how politics, and today’s world, plays into their future.
  2. We have to plant seeds
    “Anybody in power can come and take away your life, they can take your wealth, they can take your freedom, but they can never take your education,” shares Bill Price, upper elementary teacher in Oakland, CA, as he recalls the lasting impact his grandmother’s words has had on his teaching life. “…that really stuck with me and I thought, ‘Yeah, she’s right.’ They can stick me in a prison cell, they can keep me away from the people that I love, they can take all of my material wealth, but they can’t take what I’ve learned. And if I can’t play rock and roll guitar […] then I want to plant seeds, I want to grow gardens on these young impressionable minds and have them be the next change makers.”
  3. We must seek inspiration from our students
    “I am inspired by my students at the high school I teach at in Denver, Colorado.  My students are primarily Latino/Hispanic, and a large percentage are children of undocumented parents, or are undocumented themselves.  I see these young people defeat the odds every single day,” shares Edwina Lucero a teacher in the Denver metro area for the last 13 years.

    “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them,” Edwina continues. “I see them dream and hope and love and create.  I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings.  These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.

    “The arts are the avenue I travel with these young people. It is on that road that we are able to intersect with things like human spirit, empathy, empowerment, and knowledge of self.  This country is full of free-thinking, critical-thinking, and forward-thinking people. Regardless of your politics, the arts are an integral part of our existence. Whether you are celebrating triumphantly or marching in resistance, you are doing so to the beat of some drum – the music, the art, the expression of self – they are part of who you are.

    “We cannot allow the tyranny of fear to overtake our culture. Now is the time to write, sing, play, dance, sculpt, and create our destiny.”

  4. We have to design curriculum based on citizen engagement and helping students see themselves as change makers.
    What began as one teacher’s “crazy idea” has now become an annual tradition at Urban Montessori Charter School (UMCS) — where I have the pleasure of teaching in Oakland, CA —  “TARDIS Time Travel Change Makers Day” has become an annual tradition at UMCS. Students get to explore change makers: people who make peaceful, positive change in the world and focusing their energy on creating research projects and costumes to match the change maker of their choice. This project engages children to explore how ancestors have shaped the larger story of where we come from and how we have changed the world and helps them envision themselves as confident change makers. Teachers get to act as Time Lords and invoke the TARDIS (from Doctor Who) to bring together all the researched change makers to share about themselves. Children are invited to wear costumes they’ve made ahead of time as a classroom art project and dress up as a peaceful
    representation of what they envision their change maker to have looked like.“One crazy idea, to a spirit week activity, is now a School Wide Community Celebration,” says Gilbert Parada, Lead Teacher at UMCS. “I am very grateful and excited to have seen my ridiculous idea become something real, and, something that inspired many children to see change makers in our past to present timeline, with the inspiration to think of their future change making potential.”
  5. We have to share and relate to our students so they know they are not alone.
    “I just think all the women in my family are pretty amazing. They really inspired me, because growing up there was no fathers around. It was kind of an interesting situation. You know of course, I had to go through my traumatic experiences as a young person, but I got out of it,” shares Jackie Rodriguez-Vega on relating and connecting to her students. “But I think that’s one thing that really connects me with my youth, I am just so open about how I grew up. I was raised by a single mom and a lot of kids connect with that, because they’re raised by single moms, or they’re raised by their grandma, or they’re raised by their tia, their aunt. My father left my mother when I was five, and she was two months pregnant with my sister … my mom, she’s just a hard worker. She raised three kids on her own, and she just completely inspired me.”
  6. We must validate one another in this amazing teaching profession that we are in together.
    “Find ways everyday to avoid the isolation,” reflects Estella Owoimaha-Church, a top 50 finalist for the 2017 Global Teacher Prize as she discussed the heartfelt validation she felt among colleagues at the recent ceremony in Dubai. “The isolation I think is what leads to the depression and teachers leaving the field in […] hoards, it’s the isolation – we’ve got to figure out how to avoid that. So connecting with like-minded teachers and working with like-minded teachers, and doing everything we can to uplift the entire profession. I know that’s hard and we maybe didn’t sign up for that, but I think it’s kind of on us now and I appreciate Varkey, Mr. Sonny Varkey and the Varkey Foundation, for what they’re doing to do that around the world. We’ve got to avoid the isolation.”
  7. traininggroundQuoteWe  have to truly have zero tolerance for bullying and take the time to stop class and have discussions about things we hear our students are feeling.
    At no point during my teacher training program was it mentioned that teaching was actually 90% relationships and 10% academics. At least that’s what it feels like, and what many teachers I have had the pleasure of chatting with  have expressed too. During my first year of teaching I was so focused on making sure I delivered the best lesson plans possible, that in hindsight, I realize that my students, and myself, would have benefited immensely from strong relationship building first. Now, as the political climate has permeated the classroom – empathy and creating a classroom culture of inclusiveness through things like restorative justice circles are what matter most.
    Sure, bullying should never be tolerated – but it shouldn’t just be something discussed with the students or families involved in the situation either. The restorative process of mediation and conferencing in a circle that includes the entire classroom community provides a space where everyone can have a voice about how they are feeling about things going on around them. Whether a specific instance of bullying, or a general consensus of feeling like a change needs to happen for the betterment of our classroom community, students are able to speak out around the circle. The entire process is value driven and designed to bring healing and understanding to the community.

    Students are empowered to “design think” around solving a problem together. It’s not about me telling them what the rules are, it’s about them noticing and caring about a problem, brainstorming a solution, prototyping that solution and coming back together to reflect and start the whole process again if need be. If that means we spend a chunk of time together in this process, then that’s what needs to happen. Rushing to the content, if something is truly affecting the classroom community, will only lead to students who are not ready to learn and a teacher burnt out and frustrated that a well-thought out lesson plan has gone down the drain.

As I reflect on all the ways that politics has affected my teaching, a pattern presents itself: Our classrooms are a training ground for the real life our students will undoubtedly step into one day. We are there to teach content, but we are also there to help build values of respect, honesty, listening, truth, sharing, and growth.

Episode 13 – Bootsie Battle-Holt


Version 2“I hear of people all the time who made choices based on how they felt about themselves as math students,” shares Bootsie Battle-Holt as she explores the very real history of math anxiety. “It’s really poignant that how students feel about themselves as math students makes a tremendous impact on life decisions. One thing I am actually very thankful for with the common core standards is that we give equal credence to the math practices as well as the math content standards, and math practices are something that I think students can find a lot of success in as math students. Things like making sense of problems and preserving and solving them, that’s math practice number one […] math practices are like life practices and there is a place for everyone to find success.”

Fast Facts about Bootsie

  1. Full name: Bootsie Battle-Holt
  2. Years teaching: 11
  3. Grade/Subject taught(s): Middle school math
  4. Current position: 7th and 8th grade math teacher and math department chair, Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher of the year, 2016-2017 and Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year 2016-2017
  5. Current City: Los Angeles, CA
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Favorite resources:
  8. Mentioned during our chat:
  9. Why teach? “I teach because every kid deserves to spend the school day with people who believe they can aim higher and achieve more than they thought possible; and I love working in a school community that shares those high expectations for all kids.”

Noteworthy Outtakes from Bootsie’s Chat

From her honest dissection of mathematical anxiety and the long term affect it can leave on people whose math avoidance goes beyond the classroom, to her passion for educational policy and vision for teacher training reform – Bootsie shares her journey to the classroom and to the oval office where she met with former President Barack Obama to discuss “the ballooning of standardized testing.

Along with that, Bootsie shares her experience teaching in the same school where her children attend and how’s she’s been able to manage seamlessly incorporating her teacher life with her parent life. As a parent to children in the public school system and a passionate educator, Bootsie is  a fierce advocate for teacher development and education policies that can empower our teachers to engage and teach to the whole child and not only to the test.

“Seize opportunities to talk to other teachers, seize opportunities for professional development,” says Bootsie. “As a teacher a lot of people will  come to you with a lot of requests and you can’t say yes to all of them but, seize opportunities to be part of the bigger picture and step out of your own classroom see what’s happening in education at large.”