You’ll Never Walk Alone

Dear graduating 2019 MA Cohort in the Linked Learning Curriculum & Instruction program (and friends),

This morning as I woke up, I saw your many posts from commencement last night.  I saw the joy of celebrating this momentous occasion with students, colleagues, friends and family.  I saw the light of the culmination of a program that has had its ups and downs for you all. And in all of that, I saw hope, my hope and yours, reflected in your radiance.

I also woke up with the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (see video above) playing into my head, and it made me think of you.  (Note: While this song is most recently famous for being the team song for the Liverpool Football Club, I know it from the musical Carousel and more specifically from my high school choir, and it’s stuck with me all these years.  I really loved the version that I posted above, which took me a minute to find on YouTube)

So, with all of this, in my head and my heart, this is my commencement speech to you, which is more like an open letter to you, my last lecture, I suppose, about the times you will feel alone, but that you will walk on knowing that truly you are never alone.

Teaching can so often feel lonely and isolating.  When we are in our classrooms and our lessons aren’t going well, for whatever reason.  When we are looking at our grade rosters, knowing that each student has such amazing potential for success and feeling their greatness in our hearts, then seeing that those numbers and letters don’t reflect that greatness, especially for students from historically marginalized groups.  When we are trying to advocate for what’s right for students, colleagues & communities and coming up against institutional barriers, so many institutional barriers, at so many levels.  When we are fighting for a living wage after coming home exhausted each night.  When we have to say no to myriad social invitations (because, hey, we’re still cool and have friends) because we need to prep or grade or do something extra that prompts our non-educator friends and families to say, “Why are you working so hard? Why don’t you just show them a movie?” or “Don’t you already have a worksheet for that?” or “Aren’t you done at 3pm?”  When you are sitting in a classroom, trying to grow yourself, and being saddened, sickened, frustrated by how much you know and don’t know about the educational system and how much there seems left to do. When we, on the regular, stare inequalities and inequity in the face and don’t know what to do except for cry, then regroup and come back to do better.

I know all of those feelings.  I’ve felt them all in the last month, maybe even the last week.  I want to acknowledge that these are the realities of being an educator that cares deeply for students, that believes in their greatness, and that teaches in a  school system that is so far from ideal that the injustice wears you down sometimes, especially when you know that even with many individuals at many levels trying their best, the systemic nature of inequality is persistent.

But, here’s where the lyrics to the song come in.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark 

(Well, don’t be so afraid that it scares you into inaction)

At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark

(There are always moments of golden sky and sweet silver songs — they come in the small moments of seeing student growth and improvement, your own growth and improvement, those incremental changes in your classroom & schools.  They also come in the big moments of commencement, of collective action that results in better teaching and learning conditions for students, in structural change that I know can come through our collective advocacy)

Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,

Though your dreams be tossed and blown 

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,

And you’ll never walk alone.

You’ll never walk alone. 

My dear forever students, colleagues and friends, walk on with hope in your hearts.  Hold it, keep it and cherish it, like I hold on to you, your growth, your commitments, your collective action, like I cherish each and every one of you.  I will never walk alone because you all walk with me.  You will never walk alone because you walk with one another.  You carry me.  You carry your students, in your heart.  Teaching is about not walking alone.  It is about being a collective; it is about working together to bring about structural change, because we cannot do it alone.

Stay with one another when your dreams are being tossed and blown, when you see the end of the storm.  Celebrate your victories, regroup after your defeats.

I love you.  I believe in you.  I know that we will continue to build coalition and to work towards change.  I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished in this program, but I know that it is truly a commencement, the end of a program, but the beginning of a lifetime of continued growth and improvement.

Thank you for letting me walk alongside you in this journey.

With all my heart,

Dr. Hsieh

Respecting Teachers

What would it look like if teachers were valued and respected as professionals? My students thought about what would be necessary to sustain a discourse like this and how a discourse like that might be reflected in society

I am a teacher educator. I currently prepare people who want to become teachers to get their teaching credentials, and work with teachers in classrooms to improve their practice. I do this at a large, regional, public, comprehensive university that serves a large percentage of students of color, many of whom are first generation college students.  Prior to that, I spent over 10 years in public school classrooms, as a teacher and peer coach.  In my 17 years as a public school and university educator, I have been on strike twice.

Now, I have many teacher friends and former students, in Oakland and Los Angeles Unified School Districts (2 of the largest public school districts in the state) who are poised to go on strike.

Let me tell you, your public school educators do not want to go on strike.  Being on strike is exhausting and not fun.  It is not what educators are trained to do.  It is not our passion or purpose.  When a district gets to the point of a strike, the working conditions have gotten so bad that teachers feel they have no choice but to leave their classrooms and students in order to fight for things that all students and educators deserve, things like: libraries, nurses, counselors, smaller class sizes that allow for more individualized attention, special education, early education and bilingual education support, and the commitment of our society to public education.

Yes, they would like a salary increase too, because salary reflects the value of the critical work that teachers do. It shows that we respect the work of teachers.  They’d like less standardized testing and less prescribed curriculum that deprofessionalizes teaching and takes away from instructional time. They’d like the opportunity to design and implement innovative curriculum that integrates 21st century learning skills.

Yes, there are teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms.  I’m not going to lie. There are teachers who struggle through our credential program and who I wouldn’t want teaching my own children.  My son, who has been in public schools for 7 years has had both exceptional and struggling teachers. I get that many people have had difficult experiences with public school teachers.  As a parent and a huge public school advocate, honestly, I have as well. And, as a teacher educator, I am working tirelessly (if you’ve read this blog, you know I work tirelessly) to prepare educators to do better for all students.

But these teachers are not the majority of the teachers I have worked with or continue to work with. These teachers do, however, get a lot of media coverage, and are often concentrated in schools and classrooms where students actually need the most supports but have the fewest choices.  However, even in those schools, there are great teachers who are fighting for students to have the best learning environment possible. Great teachers and students with so much potential exist in every school.  They need the resources to thrive and grow.

Of course, the answers to how we make public education work for everyone is complex.  Certainly, though, the answer isn’t to further make working conditions so untenable that great teachers can’t afford to stay in classrooms (either monetarily or for their own mental or physical health). And, it’s not to blame one another for these problems and scrap the system for a business model that allows those with privilege to gain more privilege.  Teaching under the conditions that many urban, public school teachers face is unfair to them and more than that, it’s unfair to public school students, all of whom deserve a quality education from their local neighborhood school.

Let’s actually show respect for our teachers and students. They are not only our future leaders, they are shaping our present society. They are our best investment.

Reflections on Humanizing Connections

Tiny wildflowers among the rocks in the Coachella Valley

The end of the semester always comes fast and furious, with myriad assignments to grade and curriculum to cover as 15 weeks culminates with “trying to get it all done.”

And usually, I get sick in the midst of it.

I used to have my body trained to not get sick until the end of the semester, operating on pure adrenaline until final grades were submitted and then collapsing in a heap of exhaustion to spend all of winter break ill.  Now, with a 3-year old, exhaustion comes early, and I have, for the last two years, spent November and early December fighting some type of laryngitis + virus that keeps me away from my normal morning runs and forces me to slow down, sleep more, and be more intentional in speaking.

And with that, I remember to reflect.

This morning, after grading a couple of fieldwork reflection assignments from my preservice candidates, I was struck by both students’ focus on the importance of recognizing students’ assets, social-emotional learning and literacies.

I teach secondary literacy classes, and generally explore disciplinary and content area (general) literacy strategies to support student learning, with a mix of 21st century literacies including technological literacy and the 4Cs from the P21 framework.  However, I’ve been really thinking about my teacher education practice because of some professional development opportunities that I’ve had over the summer (namely the Transformative Teacher Educator Fellowship summer institute and the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child summer institute, particularly with a focus on the CASEL social and emotional learning competencies) and have been trying to integrate mindfulness practices and a focus on more humanizing approaches to consider students as whole people, particular students of color, English Language Learners and students with special needs/disabilities, who have often been marginalized or defined by what they are not rather than by who they are.

From week to week, this sometimes feels like exploring the rocky terrain and sinking sands of a trail I don’t know (as I did last week when trying to come back from my illness). But this morning, I read these fieldwork reflections and was inspired by my credential candidate students who framed the students they worked with (in 1-on-1 tutoring experiences) in terms of their assets, and funds of knowledge they brought to the classroom from their homes and communities.  Both reflected on the importance of humanizing approaches and how it will shape their practices. One drew from a student’s religious background to show how math and tessellations were a part of Islamic art, engaging the students’ interest in a concept that hadn’t previously seemed relevant. Later this same candidate, after an incident involving the student he was working with and another adult, was able to pull the student aside, discuss his behavior, acknowledge his emotions, and then work with the student to resolve the situation so that the student could reintegrate himself into the classroom.   The other student noted the importance of making sure that the student she worked with felt stable (and grounded) before moving on to the academic content at hand, learning patience and persistence and that the lesson wouldn’t always move on exactly as planned.

In seeing my candidates’ reflections, it reminds me of the importance of the work of educators.  When we remember to acknowledge what students bring to the classroom, to work with it (rather than trying to work around or ignore it), and to respect students’ humanity, we build and rise together.  It is inspiring. It is energizing. It is humanizing.

Even in our most human moments, at the end of the semester.

The Importance of Connection

My current students leading a high school tour for my students from my former middle school community

This morning I woke up and did what I normally do.  I unlocked my phone and checked my Facebook (yes, I know this is not the best morning routine, but it is my morning routine).  I was still thinking about many historic firsts from the mid-term elections and wondering about close races across the country, and I wanted updates before a busy morning of getting my family ready for school then getting out for a run and getting to campus.

What I saw immediately was news of another mass shooting, in a community only about 20 minutes from where I grew up, in a popular country bar on a college night.  I saw that 12 people lost their lives including a 29-year veteran sheriff who had been a first responder.  I wondered if friends had been there or had friends there.  I thought deeply about how, what and when to speak.  So much flooded through my mind as I scanned my feed and saw story after story, post after post, about the incident — from scared parents and community members; to those who have been tirelessly advocating for gun control; to thoughts and prayers.  In that moment, I didn’t have anything really to say that I haven’t said countless times before–except that I’m so sorry you’re all suffering, because even though I’ve said that a million times, you have to know that if you’re suffering, I am just so sorry about it all, and I love you.

But, I just couldn’t post it because I just felt so heavy in my heart. The heaviness of recognition, of the again after never again.

I ran 3 miles, then jumped in the car to get to school. My current credential students were set to lead a tour for students from the high school that my former middle school feeds in to.  We waited and the bus arrived, and the second person to come off of the bus was….Yaya:

Yaya and me

So, let me tell you about Yaya.  Yaya is one of my favorite people on the planet and has been since she was a spunky 7th grader, unafraid to speak her mind, brilliant and thoughtful beyond her years, FUNNY, and always up on media gossip.  I love this woman.  Over the years, we’ve kept in touch sporadically through occasional visits and social media, but we didn’t know that we would see each other this morning. She was an adult chaperone, a digital storyteller and mentor to these high school students.

And seeing her literally made my day, week, month, year.

We were able to catch up like old friends, in her words, “like I graduated from Chavez yesterday.” We talked about family, career, life — all the important things. I’m hoping she’ll come down to CSULB and earn her single subject credential, and she’s definitely going to let me know the next time she’s back in town.

Yaya reminded me about what I really have to say, in general about our society, and specifically about the prevalence of mass shootings.  It reminded me about the importance, the absolutely critical importance, of connection.

So, gun control is a part of the issue, and you may agree or disagree with me, but that’s my stance on that.  AND, it’s also not what I feel like is the only central feature of mass shootings. I’m going to go out on a limb (because it’s my blog, and I can do that here) and say that, dehumanization of others is what is at the core of not only mass shootings, but much of the physical and psychological violence that plagues our society today.  We don’t connect with one another and in that environment of missed connection and disconnection, we allow ourselves to justify dehumanizing and hurting one another.  If I disagree with you, but I respect you, we disagree, and we work through things as best we can or we end our relationship and go our separate ways. If I disagree with you but one of us fundamentally dismisses the other’s humanity, this is the core of violence.  It is violent that we dismiss someone else’s humanity because we disagree with them.

But, that violence isn’t equal. More than the violence of dismissal, in and of itself, if you are the dismisser or the dismissed and you want power in a situation (don’t most of us when we feel disempowered?), and you buy into the norms of toxic masculinity that are perpetuated around us, and you have access to guns and you feel like you have more rights than others, what is stopping you from going out in a blaze of glory? NOTHING. Nothing is stopping you.

Unless a sense of inherent connection to others, to a higher power, to humanity stops you.

I’m grateful to Yaya for reminding me that even in the darkest moments, my conviction that faith in humanity must be sustained, that connections are more powerful than all that we are up against, and that the only way we’re going to make it is together.

Connections matter. Please keep connecting, in joy and in tragedy.  You are not alone.

Mid-Semester Academic Mama Check-In

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I am super tired.

Yesterday, I had two phone call meetings, an in-person and taught two classes in addition to prepping and grading.  Last night, after teaching back-to-back classes, I picked up my son from evening Tae Kwon Do practice, had a long talk with him on the car ride home about responsibility (after he forgot to turn in his fundraiser packet and only came to realize it a month later after we looked for his items and they weren’t there).  Then, I came home and finished up a meeting agenda and minutes.

This morning, I have already prepped my daughter for picture day and checked my son’s math homework before sending them off to school. Today, I have a pile of grading to do, another class to teach, 3 meetings, another set of office hours, a class that I’ve been stressed about for the last week, and several e-mails to send.  I also need to, at some point, prep a conference presentation for next week, finish an Institutional Research Board submission, do a paper review, and work on my next article.

This weekend, there’s laundry (which is never really done), weekend volunteering at the Tae Kwon Do competition, dinner with old and new friends, singing at the 50th anniversary of our Presbytery with my church choir, Chinese school, spending time with my 3-year old.  And there’s a husband in there somewhere…the best one, longstanding and patient.

It’s mid-semester.

It’s all good. It’s full. But, it’s also exhausting and overwhelming.

So much. So full. But also beautiful.

Take it one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one task at a time.

Be present. Keep breathing. Keep writing. Keep going. Or rest, when needed.

Keep reaching out. Hold on to community. Take in the great moments. Let go of those that aren’t so great.

Do the work, but attend to the people.

It’s going to be okay.

Growth & Collaboration: Walking the Talk

Pictures say a thousand words so I won’t say (as) much in this post, but I’ll explain these pictures and what they mean to me.  On Wednesday night, my preservice candidates in my secondary literacy course got to present Project Based Learning assessments aligned with Career & Technical Education pathways and state content standards, disciplinary lesson plans that would lead to these assessments and reflections on their take-aways from my course. Usually, this presentation is done to their other colleagues in the course. On Wednesday, my current Masters candidates (who are practicing teachers in a curriculum and instruction cohort focused on Linked Learning principles) and my former credential students (now in the classroom) came to be the audience, give feedback and tell about their experiences in the classroom. Here they are presenting (each to groups at individual tables thanks to our awesome Active Learning classrooms):

It was an amazing night and a super meaningful way for me to end the semester with my preservice students.  It was a night based on reflection, growth, professional collaboration and learning.  I could not have been prouder.

And, following our good-byes, my Masters candidates “kidnapped” me to go to our final program celebration of the semester, where we got to acknowledge one another and celebrate their accomplishments:

CSULB Curriculum & Instruction: Focus on Linked Learning MA Candidates — Fall 2017

I came home that night, and the next morning opened a small gift that was presented to me the day before.  

This teaching bracelet and this night reminded me why persistence is important and why I champion professional learning and growth, professional and personal identities in the classroom, and relevant curriculum that draws students in and helps them to reach their goals.  We can do amazing things as educators when we walk together and push one another. I am humbled by my students and the opportunities to engage in this work, and I am so very grateful for growth & collaboration with them on the journey.

Reflections on Humanity

I just got back from a 4-day vacation in New York City.  It was amazing, but it was an intense 4-days of over 10-miles walking/running each day, seeing the sights, being around the people, eating the food. It was also emotional: reliving 9-11, thinking about the importance of immigrant contributions to this country, remembering my love for city life (and how different it is from my current suburban life). It was a trip full of life, but it was a lot to live.

My son at baking camp

Today, my first full day home, and spent over 4 hours driving, spent 2-hours meeting with a care team for my aunt (and visiting with her as she recovers), had a 15-minute lunch (at 2pm), went to the last hour of my son’s baking camp and then took my daughter to pediatric urgent care.

My daughter and her swollen eyelid

All of this meant that I had approximately 1 hour of work time which I needed to catch up on e-mails that I had missed while I was gone.

And now, the freaking e-mail server just went down and I may have just locked myself out of my e-mail account for the 3rd time in 2 weeks. I definitely just deleted all of my e-mails from my computer.

I have never been so behind with 17 days until the start of the school year.

I am exhausted and living with the full depth of my humanity.

It sucks so much, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sob.  There is only so much humanity that I can be with.  I know I have been in worse places, personally and with familial stuff, but I have never let my work suffer. It has been the one marker of consistency in my entire life.  But, I just can’t push through right now.

I’m writing this for myself on the other side, and because truth is messy, and because sometimes even though you’re great at life, you suck at life too.  I have faith and community that I know will help me through this.  I have inner strength and coping strategies. I am really good at designing curriculum and syllabi. My daughter has antibiotics and my aunt has a caretaker and a family behind her.

But right now is hard and there’s just no way around that.  The only way is through it.  I’ll see you all on the other side.

Moving through Critique

Another semester, another set of evaluations.

Evaluation time always stresses me out, to be frank.  I’m still working towards tenure and although my evaluations are generally high, I know they’re vitally important to the tenure and promotion process so I worry.

But it goes beyond simple self-interest.  If it were just about not getting tenure, it wouldn’t be so important.  It’s also about self-improvement.  Part of why I dislike the end-of-semester evaluation process is because it’s a one-way conversation.  I would have liked to genuinely sit down with critical students and engage with these critiques earlier in the process, not because I worry about the tenure process, but because I believe in what I do and I believe in the value of understanding when what I do doesn’t land with students the way that I intend.

This semester, I had 2.5 critical evaluations (2 sets of critical comments; 1 set of semi-critical numerical markings with no comments) out of 57 students in my pre-service credential courses.  It’s a 95% approval rate, my best friend pointed out to me.  You can’t make everyone happy, my husband told me.  I know, logically, that these are still high evaluation marks, particularly given the stances I took last semester in the courses I taught. These things are true, but the critiques I received offer points of reflection.

The two major critiques that I received in the Fall had to do with responding respectfully to student concerns (by 2 students) and bias in the course that I held on the day following the election (1 student).  Another critique was that I shouldn’t assume people have time for endless reflection (1 student) and that there’s too much work in my courses (there is a lot of work, but, to be fair, I gave warning of this at the beginning of the semester…and frankly, good teaching is a lot of work).

So, here’s the thing–I don’t want to actually spend this reflective moment justifying myself.  Some of these critiques (reflection, hard work, advocacy) are part of who I am and my professional identity.  I embrace and accept that those things.

But, I am listening to the critique as well.  I have been thinking a lot, in this post election era about the importance of listening and empathy.  No, it wasn’t my intention EVER to disrespect or belittle a student.  It also wasn’t my intention to create an unsafe, biased space on the day after the election (in fact, it was my intention to do the exact opposite).  But, I am acutely aware of the power that I have as a professor, and respect for students is at the CORE of who I am, so I want these students to know that (whether or not it was my intention or even whether or not I agree with them), I hear you; I get that you were left in a space where you felt disrespected, and I am using your critique to think about ways to be more vigilant in expressing my intentions and creating a space for dialogue where more voices can be heard. We can only ever move forward if we can begin to listen to one another instead of staying safely in our own camps.

And, if the student who wrote the evaluation that referred to being a “failure of a teacher” if their students don’t vote is reading this blog, I want to apologize if I said anything like that.  I honestly do not recall saying this, and I think it’s an incredibly problematic statement, given that some students (undocumented students, immigrant non-naturalized students) don’t even have the right to vote in this country AND given the complexity of teaching–no one point makes a teacher a failure.  We are all trying our best.  I do think that it’s important to teach students civic engagement.  I don’t apologize for that.  I do think that students need to participate in their families, communities, and society in productive ways. And, I think it’s important to vote.  Voting is one of those ways.  But, I certainly wouldn’t ever judge a teacher’s success based on the voting rate of their students.  So, for that, if I said that or left you with that, I apologize.

But, here’s the thing.  We are all trying our best.  I am too.  I’ve been at the teaching thing for a long time, yes, and the human thing for even longer.  But, I am imperfect.  My beliefs and intentions don’t always match my actions or how I’m received.   Sometimes they do and we’ll disagree.  Granted.  Sometimes they don’t and my actions will get misinterpreted. Granted.  Sometimes, I need to be more thoughtful about how I speak out of emotion about the things which I am passionate about.  Granted.  But I cannot let the critique stop me from action, from advocacy, and from engaging with that which I fear.

And that is why, despite the fact that I also don’t have so much time for reflection, I do it: because I have to keep acting every day; because the course of a semester is long and I have just begun a new semester where I am certain to make mistakes; because this work is my calling.  I have a deep love for my students and their future students. Personally, I want to keep improving. And as a member of this society, I constantly see openings for action that call me to do better. But I refuse to be driven by the fear of critique.

The work is hard.  And critique is hard…particularly when you are trying to step out and be heard. But, all of this is necessary if we are to be the change that we wish to see–whatever one’s version of that change may be.

“Hsieh Miserables” : The revolution, the redemption, the reflection — Final Reflection Fall 2016


It has been quite a semester, particularly in the last 6 weeks.  Teaching during this electoral season was difficult, personally and pedagogically. In addition to what’s being going on in the world, there’s been a lot going on with my family and me.  Through injuries and illness, strained relationships and ever-present concerns about the scarcity of time and money, I’ve struggled to keep present to the work that is so important to me, the work of preparing educators to be the best that they can be.

But, in the midst of struggle, what I have learned is that there can be joy.  That joy comes in moments of focus on the work that is mine to do.  For me, it came in listening to my students share what they were taking away from this semester–new understandings, new perspectives, stronger professional senses of their professional identities and commitments.  Here are a few things they shared with me:

Joy also came in figuring out an authentic research agenda based on how who we are impacts our teaching (who we want to teach, how we teach, etc.) and feeling really inspired to develop my work in that clear direction.  Joy came in making my practice public, in serving my colleagues, in challenging myself to teach a research methods course, in sitting on two dissertation proposal defense committees, in helping my Masters students (many of whom had little to no experience with educational research) draft action research proposals, in joining my church choir and social justice committees, in hugging my children, in the awe of my daughter going from no words to 3 word phrases and from crawling to running, in watching my son go from dreading school to taking pride in his academic performance.  Joy came in the journey, the rocky, but beautiful, journey of this semester.

At the end of the semester, one of my classes presented me with a basket of thanks including the above poster:


It was a touching (and hilarious) gesture of thanks, reminding me to continue doing this work even when the going gets tough…perhaps especially when the going gets tough.  But I am the one who is most thankful, to do this work I love, to invest in the present and future of education and educators, and to dedicate my life to contribution.

A Parent’s Perspective


When I first became a teacher, I was very young and several years removed from having my own children.  As a student, I had never received a call home from a teacher and, as a novice teacher, I was intimidated to reach out to parents, worried that I would either “get a kid in trouble” or get yelled at for “picking on” a student.

I learned, eventually, to take a deep breath, and work with families in the best interest of their students.  Parents became partners with me in helping to support and understand their children and I developed strong relationships with some parents that last to this day.

It helped a lot when I became a parent myself.


My parenting journey is unusual.  My twin daughters were students at my middle school who approached me to see if they could come live with my husband and me. The very condensed version of our story is that we agreed, they came, and we eventually adopted them.  With them came a complicated history and a new role of advocacy as a first time mother.  I had teachers in my own district who were both wonderfully supportive and harshly critical.  I made plenty of mistakes, as did my girls.

But, I was genuinely trying my hardest to do the best I knew how for their development as people, and to support them to be successful in school.

I also believe that my girls’ biological parents tried their best, and gave them everything they could to help them be successful in the best way they knew how.


Fast forward several years to my biological son (child 3 of 4) and his entry into school.  Because my son was born to me, and had, what I thought to be, a much less complicated history, I figured the transition into school would be simple.  Not so much.  For a variety of reasons, my kid, who initially struggled with change, has been in 4 different elementary schools in 6 years. In each, I’ve sought to develop relationships with his teachers and been an advocate for him to get an education that would support and challenge him.

This year, he’s been in a Mandarin Chinese weekend heritage school.  I don’t speak Mandarin well and couldn’t understand most of his teacher’s orientation.  It left me in tears.  Luckily, upon approaching the teacher, she was able to give me the most important information in English, and was kind and welcoming.  I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing there most of the time. It’s incredibly hard, makes me not want to be at school, and has me struggling with shame on a weekly basis.

My experiences have left me convinced of the important of home-school communication.  As a parent, more than anything else, I want to be heard and acknowledged. I want educators to know that I’m doing the best I can, and I actually have an important and unique perspective about my children.  As an educator, I want families to understand how much I care about their students and that I’m also doing the best I can.  I want us to work as a team to support their child’s development.  As a parent and an educator, I do not expect the other side to “give in to my demands” or “make my life easier.” I understand the constraints that educators face each day and the demands that parents feel in many aspects of their lives.  I have incredible empathy for both sides.

I share all of this because I have seen and experienced the pain of being misunderstood on both sides.  I’ve also seen the possibilities of powerful teamwork in support of students.  I hope we’ll choose the latter for our students, but also, in the spirit of our shared humanity.