All posts by engagetheirminds

“I Don’t See Color”

“The thing is, I really don’t see color in my class,” I told my husband and daughter at dinner one night.  We were discussing a student who had accused me of being racist (a story I’ll explain in another post), and I was describing my honest surprise at the student’s comment.

Of course I’m not blind, but I was genuinely offended by the student accusing me of reacting to him because of his skin color.  Having taught for more than a quarter of a century, I prided myself on being fair with my students.  When I said that I don’t see color, I meant that I placed the color of someone’s skin on the same level as the color of their hair or their eyes.  I meant that it was not a factor in my decisions about how to educate that student.  Growing up in a generation where acknowledging that a person was a different color was equivalent to prejudice and stereotyping, I thought I was doing the right thing by ignoring skin tone completely.  I had made the mistake that we often make in education (and in life) by over-correcting and jumping to the opposite extreme.

After last week’s post, I was afraid to write anything else.  I know that I have been racist, though unintentionally, and I was fearful that anything I said might, once again, shed light on my ignorance.

But then I got inspiration from what some might think to be an unlikely source.  I was listening to the latest My Favorite Murder podcast episode, “It’s Jenga,” as I walked my dog this morning. The hosts were discussing current events, and one of them admitted, “We’re so nervous to even talk about this because we don’t want to be wrong.”

“Yes!” I thought.  And then she shared some insight from her therapist:


So, I will admit that I was wrong to ignore the skin color of my students.  It was wrong because it meant that I was not willing to acknowledge the systemic problems that assault people of color in every area of their lives, the trauma that it can cause, and the way I might need to differentiate for this in my classroom.  I am truly sorry. (For a much more detailed explanation of why I shouldn’t have ignored color, please read this post by Joy Mohammed on We Are Teachers.)

In the meantime, I have been introspective about other parts of my life where I have been ignoring people of color.  I looked at my list of “Engaging Educators” on this blog, and realized I only had one person of color on the list.  This was not a conscious decision – but that’s the problem.  I sought to change that, and I have now added some other people who I deeply admire but it just never occurred to me include.  If you know of any other education bloggers I should consider, please let me know in the comments below or @terrieichholz on Twitter.

In my attempt to become anti-racist, instead of being a silent bystander, I am pledging to write at least one anti-racist post each week.  For those of you who follow me for the resources I share, I will resume doing that next week as well.

Take care out there.  I noticed a few hits on my blog today for this post, “Treat People Right.”  If you want to see a story that reminds you that there are many humans out there trying to be kind and do the right thing, check out that short video from StoryCorps.


I haven’t published any posts this week for several reasons, but what has inhibited me the most is the anger that I feel as I watch injustice on top of injustice unfolding in our country.  My schizophrenic Twitter timeline that places agonized appeals to repair a system that allows people to consistently murder people of color without redress next to the optimistic instructions for how-to-design-your-own virtual Bitmoji classroom (but, make sure that classroom reflects diversity and student disabilities) make me oscillate between being angry at myself for not doing enough and angry at those in power who are doing all of the wrong things.  I’m afraid this anger will flood out of me when I write – a confusing tsunami of emotion that drowns the innocent and has no effect, as usual, on the ignorantly privileged.

I recently heard an interview with comedian Hannah Gadsby on Fresh Air.  They replayed part of her Nanette comedy special in which she explained why she needed to step away from comedy:


I am not a victim.  But I feel anger on the part of the victims.  And I do feel, unfortunately, hatred toward their abusers.  But the consequence of hatred is fear, and isn’t fear what has brought us to this?  People who have a misplaced fear of those who they don’t understand commit vile acts against them.

I hate them.  The people who make a grown man cry out to his mother until he dies, the people who tell the police they are being assaulted by a black man when he is merely asking them to follow the rules, the people who take it upon themselves to make a citizen’s arrest of a man and end up killing him, the leader who systematically bullies and threatens anyone who doesn’t support him.

But I can’t let hatred guide me.  So I need to step back a little bit until I can find a way to re-shape my anger into something constructive.  I’m going to drown myself in puppy pics and heartwarming animal rescue stories from @Dodo for a few days.

And then I’m going to figure out a way to constructively eradicate those assholes.


Social Distancing Hacks

One of the challenges I have with students when we are doing Design Thinking is to teach them to embrace constraints.  Sometimes I will get feedback from them at the end of projects that “we should be able to do whatever we want,”  despite my explanation that my experience has shown that complete freedom can often be too overwhelming – and sometimes not very safe.  So, I’ve been watching the slow emergence of innovative ideas coming out of our current pandemic situation with some delight at the creativity being revealed as people try to design around social distancing.

These are all basically ideas using, at the very least, the “Adapt” step of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., as people attempt to find ways to stay healthy while still leaving their homes.  After you show them a few of the linked images, students might enjoy designing their own social distancing hacks for school, shopping, the beach, etc…  I’d love to see their ideas!

Image by db_oblikovanje from Pixabay


Which One Doesn’t Belong – More Photos!

One of my favorite math activities to do with students is called, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” This was an idea that seems to have originated with @MaryBourassa, who created a website for this.  I described the concept and offered some links in this post from 2016. Recently, I saw a Tweet from @Simon_Gregg offering an entire album of over 200 WODB images for educators to use for stimulating math discussions.

Each picture set has 4 different images.  Project the images to your students, and ask them which one doesn’t belong – and why?  Hopefully, you will receive many different answers, and they will all be right for various reasons.  Because these are so open-ended, they can be used with different levels of complexity from number sense to geometric reasoning.  Encourage students to use mathematical vocabulary as they defend their choices, perhaps even making it a game where points are awarded for including particular words.  Challenge the students to try to find a reason for each one of the four to be excluded from the group, not just the first one they notice. The “See, Think, Wonder” Thinking Routine would go very well with this activity. (For more on Project Zero Thinking Routines, see this post.)  A formative or summative assessment option would be to ask students to create their own WODB challenges.

WODB is one of the 15 Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep that I’ve listed on this post. I highly recommend checking out those links if you feel like you want to add a bit more zip to your math lessons – or just enjoy doing unusual math puzzles.  (I’m addicted to the SolveMe Mobiles!)

wodb numbersearch 1
Which One Doesn’t Belong? Image by Simon Gregg (@Simon_Gregg), from this WODB album

Two Bit Circus

Two Bit Circus is a foundation that describes its mission as follows: “We serve children in all economic situations by creating learning experiences to: inspire entrepreneurship, encourage young inventors, and instill environmental stewardship.”  The organization has aimed to achieve these goals through activities such as summer camps, STEAM Carnivals, and workshops.  Although many of these programs have had to come to a screaming stop during the last few months due to the pandemic, Two Bit Circus has not faltered in its delivery of quality content.  Instead, it has shifted to offering streaming classes during the week on topics that range from creating music to building balloon racers.  You can find the archive, already full of informational project videos they have streamed since March, here.  Note that Caine Monroy (yes – the charming young man from Caine’s Arcade) makes a special appearance in some of them.  He is a member of the foundation’s Junior Advisory Board.  In fact, according to the streaming schedule on the home page, Caine will be hosting another live session this Thursday, May 21st.

It’s clear that Two Bit Circus is making a strong effort to offer distance learning projects that are fun, educational, and mostly reliant on household supplies.  Some other resources you will currently find on their website home page are their STEAM Carnival Playbooks (currently free downloads thanks to Vans), a Bricks Playbook for Parents, and “Power Lab,” a “Print-At-Home Escape/Story Room Experience.”  In addition, parents who are suddenly finding themselves to be educators may learn some helpful advice from the “Teachers for Teachers” series that you can find here.

While the official school year may be winding down for some, the unpredictability of the next few months will probably still leave some gaps in children’s schedules.  With these resources from Two Bit Circus you can make that time fly!

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

Art Jumpstart

Darrell Wakelam (@DarrellWakelam) is an artist who shares his considerable talent by doing workshops with children at schools and museums.  During the quarantine I have noticed Wakelam’s tweeting free #ArtJumpStart activities, and I asked him for permission to write about them on this blog.  I had no idea that he had so many available on his website!

Each #ArtJumpStart consists of a pair of pictures.  The first one shows his completed project, and the second one gives instructions.  As you can see, the materials should be fairly easy to find in most households, making these works of art ideal projects for students staying at home.  The hope is that these will inspire students to create and innovate no matter where they are.

You can download the full gallery of #ArtJumpStart projects here for free.  Also, be sure to check out Wakelam’s photos of his art on this page of his website.

Cardboard Fly Trap by @DarrellWakelam,
Cardboard Fly Trap Instructions by @DarrellWakelam,

How Distance Learning Fosters Global Collaboration

My second monthly article for NEO has been published.  The title is, How Distance Learning Fosters Global Collaboration, and it may have some helpful resources for you.  (Last month’s article was, How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom.)  For additional resources on global collaboration, you might also want to refer to this post.

As always, I would love to hear any comments or recommendations for topics of future posts.  I am currently working on the rough draft for next month, which is about integrating S.T.E.A.M. into distance learning, and I welcome any ideas you think should be included!

Image by stokpic from Pixabay