Are your students ready to become the engaged and informed citizens our democracy needs right now? Your classroom can be a place for them to experience what it means to live in community with others, to overcome differences, and to ask the questions.
Today on the podcast we're joined by Mary Ehrenworth, Pablo Wolfe, and Marc Todd, co-authors of The Civically Engaged Classroom: Reading, Writing, and Speaking for Change. Their book offers strategies and lessons for facilitating civic engagement that you can use in your classroom immediately. They believe that the work of engaging young people isn’t about giving students a voice: they already have their own voices. The work is about teaching them to use those voices with power.
A transcript of this episode is available below.
Steph: Thank you all for joining me here today. I'm so excited to talk about your brand new book, The Civically Engaged Classroom. In the opening of the book, you write about all the challenges that our students are facing today in society, and that education has never been as important as it is right now. So, what kind of challenges are you noticing that led you to write this book?
Marc: This is Marc. We wrote this book way, way before the election was happening. So, we wrote this book with the election in mind, and the challenges at that time, we were thinking just about how unjust our country seemed, and how unfair it seemed. And as we began to write this, the border crisis from last fall began to take shape, where we saw families being separated and children being locked up. So, we began to see how our society began to crack apart. And then COVID came, and we really saw how that crack widened against the people in our country, I guess the citizens of our country, and how leadership just lacked.
So, we wrote this book initially to talk about civic engagement in our students. And as the months went on, we realized what a necessity it is for students to do something about it right now, because school is where they can learn to come together.
School is where we can help them overcome this fear, to feel safe, to connect with each other and to name some problems, to discuss some problems and to research some problems on both sides. It's really about having our classrooms become political places where topics can be discussed and investigated, and that research behind those topics can be looked at and discerned for just the perspectives and the values behind that.
Mary: I think that one thing that came up early on that I was really struck by Pablo that you brought into, was this notion that it wasn't that we were interested in teaching kids or teachers who to vote for, but it is to try to teach kids in such a way that they will become voters, that they will be the kind of citizens who vote. And we are concerned about that. You look at the last election, the people who didn't vote were young people, and also people who had traditionally been disenfranchised. So, we want to make sure that's changed. I mean, the power imbalance is so unfair in this country. And part of that constraint in school so, that was another thing and probably Pablo what would you learn?
Pablo: I would say that the challenges facing our kids are just innumerable. It's really unprecedented time for them right now. And I think one of the things that's really threatening them is that the public discourse threatens many of their identities. That we have so many kids feel attacked by those who are in power right now, and whether you're Mexican or whether you're black, whether you're gay I mean, there's so many identities that are attacked. I think second kids are in despair or the global challenges that are in the world right now, whether they're questions of race or climate change or pandemic. There's a lot of anxiety around that.
I think there's also lost time for socialization with peers, because of the pandemic and distance learning, and that's affecting kids too. And I think on top of all these challenges kids are asking like, so what's the point of school? What's the utility of school? In the face of all of these challenges. And I think the answer to that is civic engagement. I think the answer to that is what we kind of are prescribing in this book. If you're going to respond to all those myriad challenges, the only way to do that is to connect with each other. And that's the essence of civic engagement.
Steph: We've all been so lucky to be able to witness this student led activism that's popping up right now. So, what can educators do to support students in that work?
Pablo: This is Pablo again, I suspect a lot of those great leaders that we think about like Greta Thunberg or Malala, and then some of the kids in Florida as well in response to typically in my one sentence schools, unfortunately I think they do their activism in spite of school, not with the help of school. I think that school can be a distraction for them. And so, it's actually something that they're taking on, on their own. And I think one of the things that teachers can do is realize that promoting the activism of their students has to be done with them. And it can't be forced on them.
It's about creating civic actions together with kids, and it means radically rethinking the way we interact with our students. I think often we're proposing a course of action, that may not be the one that kids would prefer to do. And so, we have to figure out how to do things in concert with them. And I think, one of the things I learned from Kathleen Tolan is get out of the kid's way. We have to learn ways to guide students, but not get in their way and take example from some of these activists that you mentioned.
Marc: That makes me think of as a classroom teacher, we just have to provide that space for them to gather, to meet, to discuss and to not judge. And to be in that room and just listening to them, and have them listen to each other so that they can have those conversations. And it's not about giving them answers, but also if they're attacking these big issues at a young age, maybe listing out some possibilities, raising their language and raising their awareness. And any time that you can share anything that inspires you or an activist someone speaking out, amplify that experience in your classroom for the students, for them to see not only that, but to see you respond to that bravery and that change.
Mary: This is Mary. I think Marc too, was just listening to what you were just saying about introducing big controversial issues inside your classroom. That is, I think the thing that sometimes teachers were afraid to do in our classrooms, this sense that like, well, we can't do that in school because people are going to really disagree, but we can't do that in school because it's an issue that people are going to be on different sides of, whereas in fact the school is the place where we want to help kids develop civil discourse. You look at some of our political leaders now and I'm like, who were your teachers? Because you have not learned civil discourse or maybe you'd rejected what they learned, but they needed more practice, like they need more practice. And we want that, we want kids to be able to see things in really different ways and be able to talk about that, and still be able to listen.
A big part of what we do in the book, which I actually am really proud of is, I feel like all three of us Pablo and I have written together, Marc and I have written together before, and before this we'd done quite a bit of work with argumentation where a lot of it was about learning how to help kids have logical arguments. And I think in this book, we did a lot more with inside of argumentation learning to listen, to be radical listeners. And I think that is really huge on that for kids to be engaged in social action, they also have to be able to listen, to be able to hear other viewpoints and perspectives, so that they're building their own from a sort of more informed perspective. And they're also just more humane, like they're just people listened to you more when you also listen.
Pablo: And I appreciate both your points, because you guys made such an important case therefor the role that school plays in building our young citizens. I don't think that as a society, we can rely solely on kids learning civic, virtues and responsibilities at home, schools have a role to play in helping them develop those skills and I think that's extremely important.
Steph: Yeah. Mary, I like that you brought up how logic and argumentation often doesn't create a whole lot of space for listening. And it often doesn't create a whole lot of space for identity, and lived experience. And all three of those pieces are a big part of your book. So, to be an engaged citizen, like we want our students to be, why is it important to start with exploring our own identities and our biases?
Mary: Yeah. And I think there's two people that I think we should probably mention that we feel really indebted to in their thinking or that were apprenticed to actually littler and our thinking. And one is Sara Ahmed, who's written Being the Change. And she did some just stunning work with helping kids do some identity mapping. And she was at teacher's college when we were just in the midst of writing this book and we got to talk with her. And one of the things she said, which we were so struck by is she said that, "Every day as the news breaks, kids and families in your classroom will experience it differently based on their identities." And we were so struck by that. That, that is something that sometimes school doesn't acknowledge. And what we took from that is not just breaking news, but also curriculum, that kids are going to experience the curriculum differently because of their identities, because of their histories, and their cultures, and their backgrounds and that school traditionally hasn't made any room for that.
I think the older kids get in school, the less room there is made for that. By the time you get to be taking AP or IB courses, there literally is no room for you in the curriculum. I think about when the common core standards came out and David Coleman, who is one of the authors of the standards, he literally got up on stage, and when asked about the common core standards, which he said, the thing I want to teach kids, is that nobody gives a shit about you. That was what he wanted to teach, was like, nobody gives a shit about your life. That was his national quote that was on the national news.
I was like, that's what you think the purpose of education is? Which is, I'm sorry, but is such an elitist point of view. Easy for you to say with your Ivy league degree and your road scholarship, to say that you want to teach a whole generation of kids that nobody gives a shit about their lives. So, we wanted to make sure that school is the opposite of that, that we wanted to have a place that school becomes a place where there's the curriculum that you plan, and then that the kids are also the curriculum. That there's intersection between those two.
Then the other person that we feel apprentice to is Bettina Love, who, she of course wrote, We Want to do More than Survive, about abolitionist teaching, but she recently gave this amazing talk. It was a webinar she did with Penn. She talked there a little bit about how school is a place where not all kids are allowed to thrive. She was begging teachers that when we come back from COVID to not actually go back to business as usual, because business as usual is not a place where all the kids got to thrive.
One of the things we try in the book, [inaudible 00:10:42] you can talk more about this, but I feel like we wanted to do a lot of work with kids getting a chance to both explore their identities, and then have their identities affirmed. Then Pablo really pushed us to make sure that that was work we did with adults as well. So, Pablo, maybe, do you want to talk about that for a second? Because I feel like that was something that you really pushed us towards.
Pablo: I think the flip side, well, one, I'm always an advocate for teachers doing whatever they're asking their kids to do. If it's important enough for the kids to do, then we have to take it on ourselves and see how it affects us. So, I think it's important for us to think about who we are and what we bring into the classroom. That includes, of course it's all the beauty that we bring from our own life experiences and the groups that we are a part of, but then it also brings the biases that are part of us too. On the flip side of any identity work is also bias work.
Because of the groups we affiliate with, we also have perceptions of other groups. It's important to unpack that as well. I think we want to think as educators going into the classroom, what is it that's part of my identity that's beautiful, that's great, that's going to be enriching for my students to be exposed to. But then on the other hand, what are some of the biases that come with the particular identity I have and how are those biases going to play out in the space that I'm creating with my kids?
Mary: Marc, do you want to talk a little bit about when you did the Harvard implicit bias project a little bit?
Marc: Yes, I'm trying this work out with students. Was a little bit shocking, even though we had a safe space, just when you realize that there are biases within you, just that realization is hard. It's hard for adults, and it's really shocking for children because we were told that we are all inclusive. We are in New York, we are an inclusive school, but really, realizing there's biases towards other people. In one case, there's biases against who we are as a person. So, this inner judgment of ourselves is a huge thing for students to uncover. But by uncovering it early, then it can come out and then we have tools to deal with it. It's no longer we're learning who we are, we're learning who you are. I'm learning who I am, but I'm also learning along with you, so I learn a little bit more of myself too.
Steph: Yeah, Mark, I really appreciate that you name how discovering that we have our own biases can be really alarming and upsetting. Throughout the book, it's mentioned quite a bit, that discomfort is necessary. You even write that distress is better than ignorance. So, why is leaning into this discomfort so important?
Mary: That's one of the premises of the book. It's interesting, when Bettina was giving this talk of the day at Penn, she was talking about anti-racism and about a concept that's come up, which is ally fatigue, which is when, for instance, straight allies, the people who are trying to get LGBTQ rights, or people who are white, trying to be allies. She brought up ally fatigue and she just was like, that's not okay. It's not okay to have ally fatigue, it's not okay. Because when you think about our kids of color, they don't get to opt out of racism. That means those of us who are white don't get to opt out of anti-racism. I think that that sense that it's going to be uncomfortable, it is going to be uncomfortable because we don't all experience the world in the same ways, and because the air we breathe as full of racism.
The air we breathe is full of sexism, the air we breathe is full of homophobia. So, we took that to heart of what Kendi says about that, you can't escape those oppressions. They are all around you, and we internalize them. Like Marc was saying, it's really uncomfortable.
I have a great colleague, Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, who calls me on my shit sometimes. It's really uncomfortable, and I'm so grateful to her. It's painful in the moment, but I'm so grateful to her that she has the care and the candor to say to me like, Mary, this thing you just said could be perceived as a microaggression. When you first try to do that in your workplace with colleagues, it's really uncomfortable. So, we did find that one of the easier ways to start is by looking at text, for instance. So, you're looking at books and you're looking at articles. All you got to do is pick out a bunch of the books that kids have in their library on westward expansion or on exploration. They are so full of white privilege bias.
You don't have to look very deeply to see it. Then that lets you go from there to other places where it's less comfortable. But sadly, the texts that are in our history classrooms are just so full of, not implicit bias, but explicit bias. That that, in a way, is I think Marc, maybe you can talk to that, because I feel like you get your kids acculturated to thinking about bias by first looking at in text too. Then, in a way, that helps them think of ourselves as a text. Do you want to say something about that maybe?
Marc: Absolutely. Anytime we're looking at a text ourselves, if you're honest, it becomes real. When it's real then, students will realize how brave it is. There's a beauty in danger because danger becomes honest. When things are honest, you can really do some self discovery or some discovery within the text. There's also some healing because what has been implicit, or unspoken, has been named. So, there's some healing that takes place. It's also thought provoking and it's world expanding. Students really, I feel like, become empowered. It becomes electric. They finally seek this new purpose. It's not being vessels for information, but really, it's becoming agents of naming some change that they can see of themselves or not see in the text. So, they can teach the text something, or the author something, or the publisher something, which is really powerful for a seventh grader.
Pablo: You guys mentioned how to do that work with hex, I think it's also important for us to self-assess in our interactions with students as well and check ourselves when biases come out and give opportunities for difficult conversations to take place in our classrooms, or outside of our classrooms in spare time that we might have with the kids. I remember last year, I was a dean of instruction and then also a teacher at a school that was 99% black students. I had an interaction in the lunchroom with a group of girls, it was at the end of lunch. It was a time where we were supposed to all be quiet, and so we could announce which tables were dismissing to what rooms and that sort of thing, so everyone had to be silent.
There was a group of girls and they were all rowdy, and they were still talking, and were being loud. Some of them had thrown food at each other, and the janitor, the maintenance man, Mr. Charlie, he saw all the food on the floor. Mr. Charlie is black as well, but he saw all the food, and he was so angry that they'd thrown all the food. And I was so angry because the students weren't listening to my silent signal to get everyone to be quiet and they'd thrown food. And so I was angry at the students and they were angry at me for coming over and trying to reprimand them.
And Mr. Charlie and I walked over together and Mr. Charlie says, "You all are animals." And he says it to them in, again, granted it's coming from a black man, but I was closely associated with him as who they perceive to be a white man right next to them. And their anger at being called that word and their anger at seeing me with Mr. Charlie push the table forcefully out of the way, so we could clean up the mess that was on the floor, I think they associated that kind of language with me and with the racial weight that that word carries.
And it was a very tense and fraught moment. We cleaned the mess up and I felt like we had to talk about it. So I sat with the girls, there were four of them, and we went up to my classroom and we sat down, and we started to talk about that situation and what had transpired, and how they felt, not only in that moment, but also in my classroom. And in that conversation, there were things that came out that made me realize that I was sending signals in my room that I didn't even, wasn't even aware of. And I wasn't listening to the signals they were giving back to me. So some things that came out. One girl said, "You take things too personally," so, "You move too fast," "Sometimes I'm not even sure how to do your work and trying to unpack your work was interesting for me."
Cause something I was doing was making the assignments that we were doing together, not together. It was me imposing something on them. And so in that conversation I had to do a lot of listening. I could picture my face getting red. I had to hold back, like not saying, "Well, but you guys have to listen better," and stuff like that. I had to take it. And it was a difficult conversation, definitely uncomfortable. And it made me a much better teacher and it made me a much better administrator. And it made it possible for me to write with more honesty in this book, I think. So those are the types of situations that we have to put ourselves in.
Mary: It was a really powerful thing too, you were saying it's really [inaudible 00:20:18] story of not treating kids like they're empty vessels, but that they can be empowered to both express their identities and change them and grow as well in school.
Mary: And maybe that's related a little bit to really our theories, because it's a major paradigm shift to think that our job isn't to fill kids up with information, but to help them develop the skills to be able to build their own knowledge from a lot of different sources. And so Mark, do you want to talk maybe a little bit about that? Because that's been a really big part of our work as well.
Marc: Absolutely, and I think it has a lot to do, in many ways, Mary, with this identity work Here, we're talking about academic identities. So kids are either successful or they seem to not. So when kids become an age, they think smart is happened because it's just who you are, or they begin to peg themselves as, I'm not smart. So they have this social identity of who they can be friends with and how to act. It's very separate if we talk about their academic identity.
So it's no longer about what they do know or don't know, it's what they do. And sometimes that information has not been shared with them. So whether it's approaching a topic and pulling a certain group aside, saying students that get ahead know something about the topic before they begin class. So it pays a lot to do some research really quickly, to understand what we are studying before we begin the unit.
Steph: The importance of background knowledge is huge. You talk about it a lot in the book. How can we prepare students to check sources and be mindful of their reading, so that they really go into these conversations with some good grounding?
Marc: I guess it's a switch from making sure they understand content to how they approach content. So if they're going to, not so much what they know, but what they do to understand what they know, so that they can go to eighth grade and high school and college and graduate school, knowing that before they get to class, they can start researching then. Or that in addition to reading from a text on their own, they can search out some primary sources. And instead of waiting for someone to explain what this primary source is, you can begin to read that primary source for yourself. It's letting them know that as they consume media, that the media really is in charge of them and they can slow things down and they can be in charge of that media and the texts that they read.
Just knowing that if they do a little research on the author or organization that's putting out that information. If they start to look for connotative language, so they get the sense of the bias of the author. And if they're looking at the bias of the author, if they're looking at their own biases, they can lay out their research. I have all this research that confirms what I know. I don't have anything that challenges me or challenges my thinking. So letting them be aware of that, which is a game changer for them, so they can search out both sides of an argument or even find the neutrality of an argument.
So that way, like other topics. So that next time they go on, they can begin to... This is neutral source. I'm going to look out on a very conservative source. I'm going to look out on a liberal source for this. I'm going to look out for arguments inside of what's happening and research both sides.
Mary: Yeah. Mark, I worked with a teacher this morning in Barcelona. He teaches IB history and he said he's doing a study with a professor out of Harvard, and I think Stanford, who's teaching them the term lateral reading, and I really liked that. And it was the thing that rather than saying that you try to do what we used to do is like, can you validate this website? And he's like that doesn't really work, like anybody can get a dot organization. Anybody can make a website look valid. And instead, to just read laterally. To say, instead of reading one thing, I'm going to read eight things. Or instead of reading one thing, I'm going to read four things.
And just that notion of comparing across texts. And I think that's one thing that we try to help teachers with in the book, is that rather than have kids just surfing the internet, that it's helpful for the classes we're teaching and the curriculum or designing, to develop kind of starter sets for texts. And the challenge inside of that, which maybe probably you could talk about, is that even we end up wanting to put 16 sources that are all what I think. It's so easy to have confirmation bias, even in the text lists that we build.
Do you want to talk a little bit about that Pablo? Because I feel like that's challenging.
Pablo: It's definitely challenging to come up with texts that compliment each other, and that provide a number of different perspectives on an event or on an issue. And I think it's tough to do, but it can be done, and you have to be just conscious of it. And we give some suggestions on how to do that in the book.
I think the point again and again, that Marc and Mary both made is about reading a lot. We have to make sure that we're not giving them one source, but several that, at the very least, we're triangulating with a couple of different sources to see what they have in common and to see what they disagree on. So I think that's really important.
I just want to make one point, that we talk heavily about text. It's not the only way for us to build background knowledge. Depending on what we're trying to do as a class, we might rely a lot on interviews or on conversations with people in our community, for example.
I had a really rich experience with some students in Brownsville, Brooklyn two years ago. And they were led by a very capable teacher, his name's [Aquin Barns 00:08:29]. And he was assisted by a community activist and organizer Aaron Hinton. And they did some beautiful work with trying to understand how the police were interacting with the students in that community. And their background information came from surveys that they conducted. They designed the survey and then they took that survey out to the streets and they talked to people directly. And so their sources were community members. And so rather than thinking that the community is something that has to be studied from afar.
It's like, actually there's great knowledge right here. Let's go and harness that. So the kids can just talk to one or two members of their community. They talk to 200. So they really went deep and that 200 different pieces of data that they could actually then show to the police department and say, "Look, this percentage of people don't know that they have recourse if you do something wrong. So how can we get them to know that there was an actual mechanism for them to complain about problems with policing?" So it actually became a tool that was really powerful. So I just think that background knowledge, we have to remember that the communities around our schools are rich in background knowledge, that parents are rich in background knowledge too and that we have to honor that and give kids the permission because sometimes they need that permission from us to tap it.
Mary: Pablo, that feels really important and it's making me think about... Do you remember when Gloria Ladson-Billings came out with the Dreamkeepers, where she wanted us to shift the emphasis from kids always having to learn from us to also us learning more about kids families, and their histories, and their cultures, and the notion that background knowledge would be multi-directional. We also need to be building more knowledge and reaching out to find out more and to... So that we can teach better, that we can teach with better relationships and better knowledge and more celebrating affirming of kid's identities. But I am really struck by what you said also about in the community also there're distinct pools.
That's really beautiful.
Marc: This family communication, which is really interesting too, because if a student goes home and begins to have an academic conversation with their family about what they've learned, that's a game changer for families. So then that's when they can start moving, talking about ideas and issues, then what did you do in school today?
Mary: I know that becomes relevant. And as someone who's raised two teenagers, the notion of you're like, "How was school?" And they're like, "fine. Oh, fine." Which I guess it's like fine. There was a myriad of who knows what the hell that means. So the notion of, the kids start to find school actually relevant, is huge. I mean, the notion like Pablo that in Brownsville where your kids were, "We're taking up an issue on the community, the community was suffering from." So if they're going to go home and talk about trying to change the way that the police interact with their local community and with themselves, that's really relevant to everybody in the family to all of us and to everyone versus, I want to talk to you about my quiz on the American revolution. So that I think is on us, is to shift the curriculum too. So the curriculum is actually socially relevant to the lives the kids are living.
Pablo: Well, and if we want to think about, the time that we're in right now, I think we'll all agree and I think our listeners will agree too, that the social fabric is torn and that there are tremendous divides in this country. I think as educators, if we want to magnify our impact in trying to bring that stitch, that fabric back together, we can't just be thinking of ourselves as doing something active in just our classroom and just having it freeze there. If we want to magnify our impact, we have to think about how do we reach out into the dinner table conversations that kids have with their parents and their conversations they have with their friends and their neighbors in the street. That's what civic consciousness is about. It can't stop in just the bubble of the class, it has to magnify outwards and radiate outwards in order for it to make the impact that we want it to make.
Marc: That's the beauty of this time, right? It is a time of change.
Mary: Yeah, it is.
Marc: Right? So, I mean, there's inside this, it's that time of change that we can have these conversations and that something needs to happen and they need someone. We're looking for leaders. We're looking for people to name these problems, to talk about these problems and do it, not maybe at such a grand level. But things can change, things can improve and that students can be a part of it. Because certainly adults don't know how to stop some things. These models around... There's this models around where adults just have failed and it's clear to the adults in their lives. So now that this is moment of change for them to take charge that is really powerful.
Mary: Yeah, well, like the Parkland kids. I mean, that is only because kids are talking of climate change. They're like, the world that we're making isn't good enough. And that does give you great hope for helping harness that inside the classroom and also, like you said, probably in the beginning, what are the things we can do that can help kids, come out of school even stronger with more powerful voices?
Steph: So before we wrap up, I just wanted to draw attention again to the title of the book, which again is of course, The Civically Engaged Classroom. So, what are the conditions of a civically engaged classroom? How would we know one, when we see one?
Pablo: This is Pablo again. I think the conditions of a civically engaged classroom, there are several. One of them is, has to do with belief in power to change systems and to expose oppression. I think if our classroom is going to go out and do something in the world, it first has to believe that it can. I think that radiates from the teacher communicating to kids, that they believe in them and they are listening to them and then that can then magnify and grow outward. So I think that's one belief that you can actually change something. So it calls on you to be an optimist. I think second condition, social networks are really powerful and important. And I don't mean Facebook and LinkedIn and whatever. I mean, social networks in terms of our community ties and knowing and taking stock of the value of those connections that radiate outward from a school is really important.
I think third, if we're going to have a really civically engaged class, you need to have access to materials, books, texts, technology, those kinds of things are really important because they allow us to connect and to understand the context that we're in. We also need the strategies and skills that are important to be a literate people. Those are skills that we talk a lot about in the book that we work on all the time in our writing and reading workshops, but we have to have those literacy skills that allow us to access texts. Another condition, a fourth condition is... A fifth condition, the classroom has to have a culture of care and of respect. If you're going to do any of this work and take these kinds of risks that we're asking you to take, the kids have to listen to each other, they have to value each other and they have to value you as well.
So you have to have that kind of culture in your classroom. I think we also need to have another condition as important as an awareness of oppression in the world and injustice in the world. You have to be open to the fact that things aren't fair. I think if you're going to do anything, that's going to be valid in connecting to others, you have to acknowledge that. And then understanding that we not only have rights to take advantage of in this country, we also have responsibilities. I think the teachers needs to understand the responsibilities that they have as citizens, but the kids do need to know their responsibilities too. And that's incredibly important to think about what am I giving back to my community? And then the last one that I would say is love. I mean, it sounds so corny, but it's absolutely imperative that there be a feeling of you're doing this because you love the kids that are in your room and that you love the communities that they're a part of and that has to be reciprocal for your classroom to be really civically engaged.
Mary Ehrenworth, Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and co-editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Middle School series, works with schools and districts around the globe, and is a frequent keynote speaker at Project events and national and international conferences. Mary’s interest in critical literacies, deep interpretation, and reading and writing for social justice all inform the books she has authored or co-authored in the Reading and Writing Units of Study series as well as her many articles and other books on instruction and leadership.
You can connect with her on Twitter @MaryEhrenworth
Pablo Wolfe is a Washington DC-based educator who promotes civic education as a means to improve student engagement, celebrate student identity, and embolden the next generation of activists. He's been a public school administrator, a staff developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, a teacher, and a parent, and in all of these roles has sought to make school a training ground for civic life. Whether planning town hall meetings with groups of 7th graders, writing letters to elected officials, or organizing opportunities for service learning, Pablo believes that academic skills are best learned when applied towards addressing social injustices. He is currently working to create a network of civic-minded educators to share stories and best practices that illustrate how civic knowledge, values, and behaviors improve student outcomes and transform schools. A strong believer in the role of teachers as agents of social change, he strives to thread this idea through his writing, staff development and teaching.
You can connect with him on Twitter @pablowolfe
Marc Todd teaches Social Studies at IS 289, the Hudson River Middle School in New York, and is a national presenter for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. He collaborates with teachers around the world and leads workshops and institutes on culturally relevant pedagogy and teaching students to be critical readers of history. Marc believes in immersing kids in nonfiction reading and making notebook work inside of content classes both serious and joyful. He incorporates Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed into his curriculum.
You can connect with him on Twitter @marctoddnyc