Archive | March 2016

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education – A Review


I heard the title last year and saw the pre-order on Amazon and laughed. I was thinking, am I the “white folk” he means? Was my laugh out of discomfort? How could a book title cause so much thought? I was going to pre-order the book anyways but now I really needed to read it! It had me checking myself, my identity, my privilege, my lived experience…all from a pre-order on Amazon…wow Dr Emdin you did it! (FYI he goes into defining “white folk” and “the hood” in the preface).

I got the book on Kindle the first day as I couldn’t wait for it to ship! This book needs to be in the hands of every single educator. Not just in urban settings and those working with youth of colour, as all our students would benefit from this work. I watched Dr. Emdin’s TED talks, read his papers, seen his articles, caught his news clips, re-tweeted his tweets, read his other book and seen him live multiple times in NYC and Toronto (so this review isn’t biased at all 🙂 ). I thought I knew what he is all about…but I was wrong! I didn’t know about his work and experience around indigenous education. The first chapter opens up on indigenous education! With a lot of work happening in Canada, this comes at a perfect time and based on the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Education Recommendations it is a perfect compliment. Indigenous and Neo-Indigenous youth share very different histories but common circumstances and oppression in and out of schools.

I started writing this review and had summaries and quotes from the book but I can’t possibly do the book justice, you need to read it. So I will continue on with why this book is important and how we can use the book to better education.

Dr. Emdin breaks the book down into 11 chapters filled with amazing ways to transform education. It isn’t just about the students and “fixing them of their problems”, it is really about a complete change needed from top to bottom. Schools are failing students and Dr. Emdin is giving us the manual to fix it! As educators working with students, we need to look critically at the extremely complex and interwoven factors that impact the success and failure at school. The deeply engrained Eurocentric model of schooling that many of us as teachers were extremely successful at navigating in order to get to where we are today, is hard to disrupt. It is replicated class after class, year after year, with many teachers, teaching as they were taught (this includes teachers of colour as well). Dr. Emdin eludes that the “white folk” may not actually be white at all.

I would challenge teachers of all colours, backgrounds and religions to evaluate the narrative they provide to students. This book is excellent for system leaders, policy makers, educators and parents, to understand the deeply rooted issues in our education systems. Dr. Emdin eloquently brings them to the surface and identifies ways to make change. This book looks at the past and theory but most importantly moves forward with actions and recommendations. I see this as a book I read again, return to and refresh myself as an educator.

I read many of the other reviews and articles on this book with so many doing the book justice. A few articles though, try to undermine and suppress the work that is desperately needed calling this pretty much a manual for teachers to run schools like gangs. These authors need to check themselves and evaluate the hegemony in their own work.  I took out the citation to them as the click bait they used in their titles get them enough clicks. 😉

Those in the Toronto area Dr Chris Emdin will be doing a Toronto book launch at A Different Booklist on April 22nd. More information to follow!


Dr Chris Emdin – Credit Ryan Lash

Cover Photo Credit to Beacon Press

Dr Emdin Photo Credit to Ryan Lash

See more of Dr Emind at





Are we doing enough for our new teachers?

I am writing this out of a concern I have had not only for myself but more importantly a ton of teachers new to the profession. Let’s start with the supports for new teachers. We know there is already the New Teacher Induction Program and also many boards have beginning teacher groups which offer great support but what my concern is around is the treatment of new teachers from a job perspective. Let’s also at this point assume they made it onto the list, as getting on a list to be hired is a whole other post. Let’s also assume they have survived supply teaching and now doing LTOs or doing a 0.5 or 1.0 contract.

What really bothers me is the inability to provide new teachers with support as they bumped from school to school each year or even as drastically as each semester. It is hard on the students but also on that teacher who is trying to develop resources for the first time and learn the ins/outs and culture of the school. As a science teacher, just trying to find all the equipment for demos and experiments takes a year.

Often word comes around that a new teacher is joining the school either for a semester, halfway through a semester or at the start of the year. By this time the timetables have been settled and in some schools I have seen the most senior teacher get the “best” classes (ex. Grade 12 Academic) and then the new teachers are scheduled into what is left. By giving the first year teacher 6 completely different courses, often more applied and behavioural and subjects across multiple departments, it is setting them up for a hard start. Many teachers including myself, have been there with 6 courses, 2-3 aren’t even in the qualifications of what you have been trained to teach. You have to report to 1-3 different department heads and do a great job doing it. I have watched too many teachers starting out getting overwhelmed, stressed out and not supported. They then finish the semester or year and shipped somewhere else.

They arrive then at a new schools again, you have to re-learn everything as so many procedures are school specific and you need to build up relationships with staff and students. Having staff to support you is huge and many teachers just give up as they know they will only be there for a semester so why bother. As teachers and system leaders we need to support the new teachers. We need to give them timetables that are manageable, we need to have senior teachers take on a section from some of the challenging classes (but are my favourite to teach and have the biggest rewards) and have mentoring take place. The unions and administration need to work together to not just rank and order teachers by years experience and give the junior teacher what is left. I am not commenting on the union, and not saying take away jobs for more senior but let’s spread the load a little. I hope as we enter another spring and teachers get their surplus letters that admin, department heads and unions take this kind of thinking into account.