Saturday Reading: Kids These Days!

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There is a horrible magic happening right now: high school students who survived the Parkland school shooting, along with peers in South Florida and across the country, are calling on our elected officials to do something about gun control. It is a sign of abject national failure that students, many too young to vote, have to take on the engrained ‘thoughts and prayers’ congressional and media ‘so it goes’ response to these tragedies. But we here are cheering them on, and we’ll be following developments closely.

If you’re getting caught up, here are a few write ups that are worth your time:

From the LA Times, “Horrified Florida students beg the adults: Please, do something about guns”

Over at RawStory: “Parkland survivor slams GOP for shrugging off dead kids — but freaking out over ‘rainbow wedding cakes'”

And on NPR: “Students Who Survived Florida Shooting Want Politicians to Know They’re Angry”

SmallStones Interviews: Nada Djordjevich, Education Consultant

Public Education in Anxious Times and Hope in Everyday Actions

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Teachers engage in STEM professional learning. Courtesy of Nada Djordjevich

Nada Djordjevich is a writer and consultant with more than fifteen years experience working to strengthen schools, communities, and arts organizations. As Executive Director of Gibson and Associates, she has secured more than $35 million in private, state, and federal funding for education initiatives and developed three-year plans for two of the ten largest school districts in California. As an educator, she taught history, English language development, and writing and served as an academic dean. She has worked in both public and private high schools as well as community college and non-profit settings. You can read more about Nada Djordjevich at nadadjordjevich.com and gibsonandassociates.com, or follow her on Twitter (@NadaDjordjev) or LinkedIn.

She spoke with Eva Kaye-Zwiebel on January 3, 2018. Their conversation has been edited for length. Updated information on the California budget and resource links were added for reference and context.

Small Stones (SS): Can you tell me, big picture, about your work, and then about the big issues that your clients are, collectively, encountering right now?

Nada Djordjevich (ND): I’ve been involved in all sorts of areas of school reform: creating school district plans, large-scale partnerships between school districts and institutes of higher education, and teacher pipeline programs. These are projects for which district administrators or schools usually need to hire somebody outside to get the work done. As a consultant, I’ve worked under Republican and Democrat administrations—in both California and the federal system. I’ve been involved with several initiatives at the federal and state level including No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top. With NCLB, for better or worse, because it was bipartisan people thought, “We don’t like it necessarily, but we know it’s here to stay.” There have been a lot of transitions recently, and that creates anxiety and a lack of traction.

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Image courtesy of Nada Djordjevich

This happens with any administration, Democrat or Republican: you have an exodus of knowledge, when people who have been in departments for years and years leave. You see that at the local level, too, when you have a change of superintendents. Like I said, people could argue against the vision, but between 2000 and 2016, for the most part education vision was bipartisan. You might have Democrats, certainly at the local level, more willing to tax, but there wasn’t a sense that we are on completely different teams.

SS: Can you give some examples of areas where there’s less agreement than before?

ND: STEM and higher ed are two examples. A lot of my work is in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). I’ve written 12 grants in this area. The science and math emphasis actually came from the Bush administration, and then Obama took on the STEM initiative. There was a sense of, “It doesn’t matter who’s going to be in power; Republicans and Democrats both like science and technology and both are going to be advocating for it.” The Math and Science Partnership grants were wonderful partnerships and there were 13 years of them. The lack of support for STEM now, that’s been a real shift. A recent article from Fast Company describes how STEM budget cuts impact low-income youth’s access to science and technology.

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Friday Music: ‘This Land Is Your Land’

One of us is just done celebrating Chanukah and the other is about to head into Christmas festivities. In this week when we’ve felt a bit down about the state of the country and world, we’re offering you a familiar standby.

Here’s This Land is Your Land in a new rendition by Maxwell‘s AllStars, filmed by Boyd Matson, who captured both the recording session and a montage of newsreel films touching on civil rights, immigration, and the variety of people and places that constitute America. The direct YouTube link is here.

Here’s Matson’s description of the film and the list of participating artists.

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Friday Music: Pink’s ‘What About Us?’

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Image courtesy of Pink and the AMAs.

On a rainy day in the midst of exhausting sexual harrassment news, we needed a song with some ethical fire. The song What About Us?, by Pink, has been all over the radio, but we hadn’t listened carefully to the words ’til Pink was on NPR, having a frank conversation with Michel Martin about the state of US politics. What About Us? is all about the past year.

One Year Later: An Election Reading List

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We’ve been thinking a lot lately–as probably evidenced by our slightly-unplanned lack of activity. Thinking about what our mission is, thinking about what we’d like our communities to become, and thinking about what the past year has meant for us all.

Some of the thinking you’ll see in this space soon, as we resume our Small Stones Interviews with people resisting in large ways and small, working to make our country and their home towns just a little bit better.

Continue reading “One Year Later: An Election Reading List”

On Our Best Days, We Elect Them Homecoming Queen

Al Franken, Muna Abdulahi, and the potential expansiveness of American identity

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US Sen. Al Franken is shown June 5, 2016 at the Willmar Senior High School graduation of Muna Abdulahi. Rand Middleton/Tribune file photo. Original here.

Tuesday night, while driving home from a not-very-good public talk about artificial intelligence, radio station KQED was rebroadcasting a City Arts & Lectures interview with Senator Al Franken. It touched us, serving as a reminder of the face-to-face decency our country is sometimes capable of achieving. We’re sharing it for that reason: as a hopeful anecdote.

City Arts doesn’t archive its audio, so we’re relying on an excerpt from Franken’s new memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, to share the story with you. Here it is, with Franken narrating in the first person:

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Helping Kids Embrace Their Differences

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 This article caught our attention as we sit here, hurt and raging over the atrocious mass shooting in Las Vegas: Illustrated Books to Help Children Embrace Their Differences, from the New York Times’s Match Book series. The article responds to a mother’s letter asking for books to offer her 4-year-old, on-the-spectrum son. She writes,

 

He’s just beginning to realize he’s a little different. He has always loved reading, so I’ve begun to use books to help him find comfort in this world.

The content is gentle and focused on the comforting fact that a picture book can help put little people a bit more at ease in the world. We also love that it starts with The Story of Ferdinand; one of us had a beloved doggie named after the gentle Spanish bull.

Writer Nicole Lamy’s response is reprinted below (original is here). We’ve added hyperlinks to the books she mentions.

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Friday Music: Song for a Peaceful Night

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Image by Laura Bolter

Today is the tenth anniversary of my father’s death, and next week is the start of the Jewish new year, or Rosh Hashanah. In honor of the occasions, here’s a Jewish prayer and song, Hashkiveinu, sung by Craig Taubman. Hashkiveinu means something like ‘Let us lie down’. For me, Fall has always felt like a time of renewal, perhaps because it’s when the school year starts. Emily and I wish you a weekend of peace and time spent with loved ones.   ~ Eva

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Working Women in Their 30s

An essay on pacing and perspective for the long haul

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Illustration: Anna Parini. Screen grab from top of The Ambition Collision, here.

Yesterday, The Cut published an essay by Lisa Miller, entitled The Ambition Collision, about a loss of career ambition that’s hitting the author’s female, thirty-something friends. Some parts of it resonate with us—we’re both in our mid-thirties—so we’re sharing it with you.

We note that this article is about upper middle-class professional women, i.e. not applicable to a lot of women in the same way Lean In wasn’t a primer for many folks. We’ll also note that our professional paths haven’t been so climbing-the-career-ladder oriented as Miller’s friends’, nor so (apparently) smooth. Still, some of Miller’s essay does touch on thoughts we hear from friends and feelings we’ve experienced about the lack of meaning in white collar jobs.

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Welcome back, teachers! We love you all.

A back-to-school roundup of posts and readings.

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Here’s to all teachers and educators returning to the classroom, wherever that might be for you. And what a first week it’s been. Below are some of our most popular posts that may be helpful as the new school year begins.

If you, like us, live in a place where far-right and white-supremacist groups have been coming to visit, check out “Students and Civil Disobedience: Lesson Plans and Activities” and its sister-post, “Students and Civil Disobedience: A Reading List” for ideas on how to contextualize this moment in US history. For those who might have students participating in marches and counter-protests, we have some tips.

Continue reading “Welcome back, teachers! We love you all.”