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For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

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Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education. Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education. Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. He begins by taking to task the perception of urban youth of color as unteachable, and he challenges educators to embrace and respect each student’s culture and to reimagine the classroom as a site where roles are reversed and students become the experts in their own learning. Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education. With this fresh and engaging new pedagogical vision, Emdin demonstrates the importance of creating a family structure and building communities within the classroom, using culturally relevant strategies like hip-hop music and call-and-response, and connecting the experiences of urban youth to indigenous populations globally. Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, Emdin demonstrates how by implementing the “Seven C’s” of reality pedagogy in their own classrooms, urban youth of color benefit from truly transformative education. Lively, accessible, and revelatory, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y’all Too is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.


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Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education. Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education. Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. He begins by taking to task the perception of urban youth of color as unteachable, and he challenges educators to embrace and respect each student’s culture and to reimagine the classroom as a site where roles are reversed and students become the experts in their own learning. Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education. With this fresh and engaging new pedagogical vision, Emdin demonstrates the importance of creating a family structure and building communities within the classroom, using culturally relevant strategies like hip-hop music and call-and-response, and connecting the experiences of urban youth to indigenous populations globally. Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, Emdin demonstrates how by implementing the “Seven C’s” of reality pedagogy in their own classrooms, urban youth of color benefit from truly transformative education. Lively, accessible, and revelatory, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y’all Too is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.

30 review for For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ioana

    Excellent distillation of urban studies, race-gender oriented critical-theory, and education philosophy applied to the urban classroom, for a non-academic audience. This book was written for me (And for you, too, especially if you teach or are interested in the education debates). A personal anecdote: Kids hang out in my room after school, including many I don't teach (they come with friends). Anyways, the other day, I had to kick everyone out due to a faculty morale-building activity (well so Excellent distillation of urban studies, race-gender oriented critical-theory, and education philosophy applied to the urban classroom, for a non-academic audience. This book was written for me (And for you, too, especially if you teach or are interested in the education debates). A personal anecdote: Kids hang out in my room after school, including many I don't teach (they come with friends). Anyways, the other day, I had to kick everyone out due to a faculty morale-building activity (well so that wasn't the name of the event, but its purpose, close enough). When I told the students where I was going, one of the friends, looked at me and said, "Why do the teachers need morale building? Is it because they feel so bad working with all the black children?" I think that's the first time I've experienced the phenomenon known as "mouth gaping open". I was just completely shocked, because the only reason I'm still here, 10 years later, despite all the bull bursting the seams of the system and despite the current atmosphere of teacher-demonization, is my kids. But, after thinking about it for a moment, the comment made sense: here we are, a staff of majority-white teachers, a 99%-black student body, and there's the news everyday, another black kid getting shot by authorities, droves of teachers leaving the cities (5-year turn-over rate in DC Public Schools where I teach), etc. & so on. My school is not quite like those Emdin describes, because we are an application school in not-quite-the-poorest part of DC. Teachers at my school have stuck around (not all, but a lot more than in the rest of our District). In Southeast DC, for example, there are some schools that have a turn-over rate of 1-2 years, meaning every other year, 100% new staff is in place. And, we've been making some progress on the issues Emdin describes, like truly engaging children on their own terms. Still, there's so much to learn here, and it saddens me that there really are schools (probably a majority of urban schools, I would not be surprised) where the situation is as bad as described by Emdin. The other aspect of this work that saddens me is that, read away from the academic world, it might even sound radical, when all it is is a reiteration of basic commonly accepted paradigms in the education-research world. Reminds me of my eternal struggle in grad school: the disconnect between academia and "the real world" (ever notice there are no people with education masters or PhDs making education policy decisions? Next time you wonder why there is an "education crisis" in the US, start here). Basically, the premise is the obvious fact that we have mostly white teachers imposing pedagogical methods and employing experiences born in privilege, teaching black and hispanic urban children. (Sigh, already I am imagining the hate-filled comments on a Hill or Politico forum if I were to post even just that sentence. Thank goodness this is GoodReads). The problem is even broader, because the entire system is constructed on a structure that privileges some over others (just take a look at American jails as an example). What this means in education is that it's not just white teachers who adopt these pedagogies of subjugation, but really, most teachers, because most have been taught to teach in ways that value obedience, physical rigidity, etc. Emdin employs the term neoindigenous to draw parallels between colonized indigenous groups and urban students in public schools, and frames urban pedagogy as an extension of Freirean critical pedagogy. Like Freire, who drew from a rich tradition of liberation theology, Emdin uses the black church as a model for implementing the "Seven Cs" of urban reality pedagogy: cogenerative dialogues, coteaching, cosmopolitanism, context, content, competition, and curation. After introducing the framework (25%), the remainder of the book is an exploration of the 7-Cs in practice, with some beautifully illustrated examples. I have one major complaint, but it's not detracting from my rating: Emdin should have done more to contextualize his research and to broaden its appeal. Sadly, much of the U.S. (judged by The Hill and Politico forums, which I sadly visit too frequently) isn't ready for this, as it stands. I was thinking the whole time, if I was some of the commentators I've seen on said forums, I would be denouncing this book as radical trash. But that just couldn't be farther from the truth: Emdin's research is really no great revolution, I mean, of course it's important, but it's in no way radical based on other prior research. It's just that that research never makes it public, so this may seem to come out of nowhere. I would have appreciated a chapter placing this work in a broader context, explaining it as a logical and natural extension of everything that has come before. That probably wouldn't convince those who believe academia is the spawn of the devil, but still, it'd do something. *I received a free copy through the GR giveaways program. For which I am eternally grateful, because I needed to read this book, and I should have bought it regardless of whether I won.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Terynce

    Handshakes? "Take 'em to church?" This book really and truly is for white folks that teach in the hood. Here's the trick to effective teaching: see your students as individuals and recognize that they may have a different background or experiences than you. Work hard to reach them anyway and check your biases -- we all have them; don't disregard them, but be aware and acknowledge them. I'm hesitant to give a harsh review of this book because for someone it may be beneficial. For me, I was Handshakes? "Take 'em to church?" This book really and truly is for white folks that teach in the hood. Here's the trick to effective teaching: see your students as individuals and recognize that they may have a different background or experiences than you. Work hard to reach them anyway and check your biases -- we all have them; don't disregard them, but be aware and acknowledge them. I'm hesitant to give a harsh review of this book because for someone it may be beneficial. For me, I was waiting for the "aha" moment, the enlightening part, the new information and it never came. But maybe I wasn't the target audience. Talk to your kids, listen to them, make adjustments accordingly. Don't be so stuck in your preconceptions; ask and assimilate.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Khama Weatherspoon

    This style of teaching is unreal. The author makes it seem like urban children are hard-wired to rowdy, boisterous, and overly-social, and that we should accept that as part of black and brown culture and recalibrate our teaching to accommodate it. As a black man, I disagree with almost all that he has written....but the author would most likely say that I'm a traitor/sell-out who has stripped myself of my real true identity in order to appease white traditional America... This man is insane... If This style of teaching is unreal. The author makes it seem like urban children are hard-wired to rowdy, boisterous, and overly-social, and that we should accept that as part of black and brown culture and recalibrate our teaching to accommodate it. As a black man, I disagree with almost all that he has written....but the author would most likely say that I'm a traitor/sell-out who has stripped myself of my real true identity in order to appease white traditional America... This man is insane... If you want to discuss this book, just message me..I have a lot to say.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This review is lengthy and also gets quite personal, since I can’t help but examine For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood …and the Rest of Y’all Too in the light of my own experiences as a teacher. TL;DR: Christopher Emdin is awesome, and this book is too. It’s short and accessible, but it has such staying power. I wish this were mandatory in teacher training everywhere. Also, minor spoilers for Anne of Green Gables in the next paragraph. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. When I was a wee boy, I read This review is lengthy and also gets quite personal, since I can’t help but examine For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood …and the Rest of Y’all Too in the light of my own experiences as a teacher. TL;DR: Christopher Emdin is awesome, and this book is too. It’s short and accessible, but it has such staying power. I wish this were mandatory in teacher training everywhere. Also, minor spoilers for Anne of Green Gables in the next paragraph. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. When I was a wee boy, I read the Anne of Green Gables series, as many Canadian children do. It’s fascinating what sticks with each person from the books they read in their youth. I don’t remember a lot of the series, but of course, I identified with Anne’s desire to become a teacher. And one part stays with me to this day: Anne’s resolve not to use corporal punishment, and the heartbreaking moment she breaks that promise to herself. The feeling of that moment is one that stuck with me as I went through high school and university and completed my own teacher training, and now it is one I understand more completely. While, of course, we teachers today do not use corporal punishment, like Anne most of us begin our careers with naivety and idealism, promising that we will not succumb to the rancour within the system that we want to change. And, inevitably, all of us fall. After I graduated from my teacher education, I taught in the UK for two years. And boy, do I wish I had this book at the beginning of that journey (though I probably wouldn’t have been as equipped to recognize myself in it at that time). I chose to go to the UK, having decided I wouldn’t be getting a job back home, because it seemed relatively “safe” as far as exotic locales go. There were jobs up North too, but I don’t much enjoy outdoor activities, and I knew that if I didn’t want to participate in those, I wouldn’t fit into the community very well—something Emdin discusses in Chapter 7, Context and Content. I figured a country that produced Monty Python and shared my love of tea would be a good fit for me—and largely it was. But teaching there was still challenging, and while the school where I taught was not poor per se, the socioeconomic status of its students was definitely lower than in other parts of the UK. While the students were largely white, there was a diversity of ethnicities, from British students to Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, and other children of immigrant parents. Combine this with an education system that is literally the antecedent of the oppressive systems in place in Canada and the US, and you have a population of students who largely don’t see the value in what they are doing every day. And I can’t blame them. I won’t be too hard on myself: I think, by and large, I was a good teacher while in the UK. I was new and inexperienced, of course, so I made a lot of the typical noob mistakes. I yelled (a lot). I got frustrated when I felt the students were not appreciative of my brilliance and my dedication and my oh-so-intricate lesson-planning. I made myself sick (like, shingles sick). Still, I enjoyed my time there. I loved living in the UK; I loved my colleagues; I even loved the students, as challenging as they might have been. I learned a great deal and grew, both as a teacher and as a person, and it will indubitably become one of the most significant and formative periods of my career and my life. Nevertheless, I recognize myself in many of the mistakes or missteps that Emdin shares in For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood. Some of these come from teachers he has observed, but some of them come from his own experience, and I really admire someone who can own up to their mistakes. If there is a common thread throughout the chapters of this book, it pertains to one’s attitude as a teacher. Somewhere along the way, thanks to the droning of academia we inhabit during our training, and the pressures of the system we inhabit during our employment, we form a lot of assumptions about what “teaching” and effective teaching looks like. And Emdin is really keen on the idea that we need to have more of an open mind. We need to remember we can learn from our students, and that we can make mistakes—and that this is not the end of the world. Most importantly, the things we try and implement, whether they are suggestions from this book or any of the others out there, are not quick fixes. Real change and real improvements to teaching and learning take time. I follow a fair number of educators and educationally-minded folks on Twitter, or through other venues. However, I largely stay out of the ed chats. I’m a bit disenchanted with the amount of buzzwords and lingo that fly around on social media; it feels a little like I haven’t escaped university still. Don’t get me wrong—there are so many awesome teachers out there sharing real experiences and actual ideas and lesson plans with each other, and I try to look for and pay attention to them. These pieces of gold are mixed up in less interesting conversations, at least to me—do I really care if the buzzword of the week is empowerment or engagement? Why should I compete to see who can shove more synonyms for “differentiated student-led student-centred inquiry-based rich open high-ceiling” lesson into 140 characters? What I’m saying is that while social media offers a great deal of promise for its ability to connect educators, there is also a temptation to communicate very shallowly. Hyping up buzzwords might make us feel good and re-energize us with respect to the practice of teaching—and that might be fine in the short-term. But it’s also important to have discussions that reach past the most popular language and concepts of the day. One thing I find so compelling about For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood is how it kind of does both: Emdin certainly coins his share of buzzwords, from reality pedagogy to cogens and cosmo duos, but he also backs this flash up with substance. The result is a book that both reinvigorates my enthusiasm for teaching and leaves me with very practical ideas for experiments I can try in my classroom. I’ve seen some criticism levelled at the dearth of research to back up this book. Firstly, I’m not seeing it—every chapter has references that Emdin draws on. Secondly, it means one has probably missed the point, because this entire book is predicated on the idea that pedagogy as it stands is biased towards academic (code for white) research that marginalizes and erases other ways of knowing. There is so much research in this book—but it’s research that Emdin has collected in ways not necessarily kosher among academics. It’s personal and experiential but no less valid for it. And you are free to disagree with that, but it’s disingenuous to expect this book to be anything else when Emdin signals it upfront at the end of the first chapter: Reality pedagogy does not draw its cues from “classroom experts” who are far removed from real schools, or from researchers who make suggestions for the best ways to teach “urban,” “suburban,” and “rural” youth based on their perceptions of what makes sense for classrooms. Fun story, since clearly I haven’t spent enough time being personal in this review already: during my teacher training year, multiple professors told me I should think about applying to the Masters in Education program. They meant that I should do it before I had even taught in a classroom. I was shocked by the idea that they thought I could try to tell other people how to teach without having taught myself! Now, they meant well, and it was flattering that they had such high regard for my academic abilities and my potential as an educator—but it was also clear to me, then and now, that they spoke from a position so completely divorced from the reality of the classroom. Theirs was the area of the professor, the academic, the researcher. But I knew that, while I could easily spend the rest of my days lounging around university soaking up more credits, if I wanted to be a good teacher, I needed to get out of that space and get into classrooms. Emdin sticks to this idea for the rest of the book: reality pedagogy is about what we really have to work with in our classrooms, not what we might want to have, or dream of having, or what the curriculum, tests, or administrators tell us we should have. We teachers tend to forget that sometimes, if we ever knew it in the first place. I was certainly guilty of it in the UK: I got so caught up in doing what I felt I was “expected” to do, from enforcing stupid uniform codes to preparing students for their GCSEs, that I forgot I should, you know, actually be trying to help them become better people. Part of my journey post-UK has been towards becoming more “fearless” when it comes to what I actually do, day to day, to help my students learn. Confronting the reality of the students one has also means, for me as a white person, confronting a very pernicious facet of my white privilege: entitlement. White people tend to get told that the universe owes them, and that their anger and disgruntlement when the universe reneges on that “promise” is totally justified (whereas the anger of Black and Indigenous and other groups is threatening). Growing up we’re told we will get careers handed to us out of school (that proved a huge lie). Teachers, so fresh and ready to “make a difference” and so secure in their knowledge of the content, feel like they deserve students who are likewise “ready to learn.” I know I did. Even now I still occasionally yearn for a mythical classroom of 14–18-year-olds who just want to learn calculus and read novels and have great intellectual discussions, as if those children or those moments will somehow exist in a vacuum. Pop that bubble, and we see the world for the more complicated place it is. As Emdin articulates in this book, it’s not that students in urban environments are unready to learn: it that’s the systems in place do not recognize their expressions of readiness or validate their modes of learning. He coins the term neoindigenous so that he can liken these students’ experiences to those of Indigenous populations, which for the past several centuries have been subject to colonial policies designed to exterminate them through a combination of assimilation and outright genocide. Similarly, many of our educational practices extend this colonial mindset to the neoindigenous, rewarding students for “acting white” or for fulfilling our racist idea of what a “good” student behaves like. This makes sense to me. Moreover, while I do not “teach in the hood”, I do work largely with Indigenous students these days in my capacity as an adult education teacher. So they have been through the traumas of the regular school system and, for whatever reason, didn’t succeed enough to get their diploma. Hence, much of what Emdin discusses resonates with me and reflects what I myself have been seeing in the year and a half I’ve been doing this. That’s the …and the Rest of Y'all Too part of the title, of course, and it’s why this book is so good and should be mandatory everywhere teachers are trained. While Emdin’s own experience and practices are rooted in urban schools with predominantly Black populations, meaning he draws from hip hop culture, that doesn’t make his pedagogy or his suggestions any less relevant for other types of students. It just means that the specific cultural context will be different. The underlying ideas are the same: listen to the students, work with them, be open to criticism and changing your teaching style, and try to involve the wider community. I’m looking forward to trying out Emdin’s ideas. Some of them are simple and won’t take too much effort to try; others require a little adaptation for my particular situation. Some will work out; others might not—such is the nature of experimentation. I’m not expecting it to be easy. But I’m convinced it’s worth that effort for me to be a better teacher, and for my students to get more out of their time with me. My time in the UK was invaluable, and I learned a lot. That system tho! The system ground me down and nearly spat me back out, and I know I’m not alone—it’s no wonder so many teachers leave the profession that entire agencies make their money by recruiting overseas. It’s not education; it’s industrial warehousing of children until they can be press-ganged into the workforce. And I have so much empathy for my UK and US colleagues who are trapped in a hell of standardized tests, school inspections, and administrators who care more about appearances than actual learning. It’s not all roses here in Ontario, but I think it’s a little better (and I certainly have a fair amount of freedom in adult education that I don’t have even in an Ontario high school classroom). Even so, one of the first and most daunting hurdles to reality pedagogy must be that fear of what happens if you screw up and something “doesn’t work” and suddenly you feel you’re behind on “curriculum” or haven’t prepared your students for that major test. And I really just want to say … so what? Curriculum is important, and it’s there for a reason—but it’s not the reason, if you get me. Tests can be useful, data can be useful, but it shouldn’t be an end unto itself. If you get caught up in that thinking, you’re not focusing on what teaching should be. In my Philosophy of Education class, we once had a debate about whether education should/could be neutral or political. I maintained, and still maintain, even more fervently today, that education neither cannot nor should not be neutral. Education is inherently political; educating people is a political act. As a teacher, you are engaging in those politics every time you walk into that classroom, whether you work with the system or push back against it. Emdin summarizes it so well in the conclusion: “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.” The more I look back at my teacher training, the more I think about how it didn’t prepare me for being a teacher. All due respect to my teachers, because they cared and knew their stuff, and I enjoyed my time there. The very structure and assumptions of the program, however, need reworking. The best moments were when we got to engage with teachers who were still connected to the classroom. One Grade 7/8 teacher came in and told us that if we didn’t look back at our first two years of teaching with horror, we shouldn’t keep teaching (and he was totally right). I also had the opportunity to go listen to Christopher Emdin speak when he came to Thunder Bay, which is how he first came on my radar. I still haven’t read his first book, but I will hopefully get to it sooner now. I’m really happy I pre-ordered For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, even though now I’m giving away this heavily annotated copy to a colleague and buying a few more as gifts … because I think every teacher needs to read this. Teaching, for me, is all about critically examining what I do and the assumptions I have, and changing. Nothing stays still in this world, so why should my teaching? This book provides another opportunity to help me do that. While, at times, it reminded me of uncomfortable moments or made me cringe as I remembered less-proud actions, reading this is a largely positive, uplifting experience. It’s inspirational, but it is also not empty: Emdin presents eminently actionable ideas. The result is a balance between theory and practice. And that’s all I got, because it’s time to stop talking about this stuff and start doing it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Eduction, by Christopher Emdin, is a fascinating and exciting work that challenges teachers who work in urban environments "in the hood" as to how they approach their work, adapt their teaching practice to the needs and the strengths of their students, and reflect upon their own biases and willingness to change. The book brought to the surface assumptions I was unaware that I even had which was, at For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Eduction, by Christopher Emdin, is a fascinating and exciting work that challenges teachers who work in urban environments "in the hood" as to how they approach their work, adapt their teaching practice to the needs and the strengths of their students, and reflect upon their own biases and willingness to change. The book brought to the surface assumptions I was unaware that I even had which was, at times, uncomfortable. On the other hand, there were so many concrete suggestions as to how to create classrooms that were more authentic learning spaces that I left my pride behind. Emdin refers to the urban population of students of colors as neoindigenous and compares much of current educational practice to the way in which Native American students were taught 100 years ago. He talks of the socioemotional violence that demands that students leave their culture and own ways of being outside of the culture and are forced to conform to behavioral/learning norms that have little or nothing to do with them. While he acknowledges the need to help students learn how to function within the dominant culture, he primarily addresses the urgency of celebrating these students' own culture and ways of learning so that their brilliance can be seen as well as experienced by themselves. The continuing "achievement gaps" indicate that our current paradigms of "interventions" are not working. Emdin presents practical strategies such as co-teaching with the students, connecting context to content, and enlisting student input into classroom practice in authentic ways as some of the means of achieving what he refers to as a "cosmopolitan classroom": one in which a variety of experiences and means of learning are not only permitted but also celebrated. I strongly recommend this book to anyone teaching in urban environments with students of color as well as to anyone who is interested in education. Emdin's writing is compulsively readable and his concepts are dynamic and challenge preconceptions people may have about "those" children's ability to connect with the educational experience, engage with content and enjoy academic success. My thanks to LibraryThing which gave me this book in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Towner

    The introduction and conclusion should be required reading for any teacher, not just those who teach in urban schools. The chapters based around the "Seven C's" of reality pedagogy didn't feel as revelatory to me. There are good ideas for teachers, even teachers like me who don't teach in diverse/urban schools, but what I want to see from a book like this is how to change not just classroom instruction but the values education is built upon. Some ideas (like the cogen/cypher) I could see The introduction and conclusion should be required reading for any teacher, not just those who teach in urban schools. The chapters based around the "Seven C's" of reality pedagogy didn't feel as revelatory to me. There are good ideas for teachers, even teachers like me who don't teach in diverse/urban schools, but what I want to see from a book like this is how to change not just classroom instruction but the values education is built upon. Some ideas (like the cogen/cypher) I could see teachers easily make use of in the classroom, but many teachers don't work in an environment that allows for a great deal of pedagogical freedom. Like many educational books, a lot of this book seems directed toward the reflective teacher that wants to improve and is willing to "close the door" and teach. After having read a great many teaching books, I want educational books that focus on revolutionary change in education. How do we reach the teachers that are stuck in their ways? How do we change the culture of a school and not just a classroom? The intro and conclusion clearly establish that Emdin wants this sort of revolutionary change, but the chapters in between didn't fire me up in the same way.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Christopher Emdin is no LouAnne Johnson. She’s best known for her book “My Posse Don't Do Homework”, which served as — very loosely — the basis for the movie Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. But her tour de force is her primer on teaching in urban schools, Two Parts Textbook, One Part Love: A Recipe for Successful Teaching — the greatest book I’ve ever read on teaching. Period! It would be unfair to compare For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Christopher Emdin is no LouAnne Johnson. She’s best known for her book “My Posse Don't Do Homework”, which served as — very loosely — the basis for the movie Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. But her tour de force is her primer on teaching in urban schools, Two Parts Textbook, One Part Love: A Recipe for Successful Teaching — the greatest book I’ve ever read on teaching. Period! It would be unfair to compare For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education to Two Parts Textbook, One Part Love, so I won’t. Emdin makes some good points: too often, it’s idealistic, inexperienced white teachers who get sent into “challenging” schools, where the population is 99 percent black or brown. They expect their students to be dangerous, disruptive and defiant — and, through cultural insensitivity and sheer inexperience, often reap exactly that. Unprepared, these teachers flee the schools — if not the profession — as soon as they can, creating a constant cycle of newbie teachers and ineffective teaching for students who need good teachers the most. Emdin has some good advice about checking stereotyped expectations, effective teaching style and getting to know your students — good advice no matter where you teach; however, Emdin takes a while to get to each point. This 220-page text could have been sheared in half and been the better for it. And some of Emdin’s advice would strike any experienced teacher as — well, insane. Co-teach regularly with students? Forget about classroom management? Exhuberance and cultural sensitivity is one thing; chaos is another. Not bad (except for the classroom management advice), but Beverly Daniel Tatum’s “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity and, of course, Two Parts Textbook, One Part Love are much, much better.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Fulton

    Emdin's main idea is solid: White teachers need to understand and value their students' culture. What is not solid is the practical conclusions for instructional practice that he draws based on this idea. Emdin's suggestions fall into 3 groups: (1) intriguing but WAY too complicated to implement in real life, (2) insultingly simple, and (3) good ideas but nothing new that research hasn't been saying for YEARS. The thing that most distressed me about the book was Emdin's oversimplification of the Emdin's main idea is solid: White teachers need to understand and value their students' culture. What is not solid is the practical conclusions for instructional practice that he draws based on this idea. Emdin's suggestions fall into 3 groups: (1) intriguing but WAY too complicated to implement in real life, (2) insultingly simple, and (3) good ideas but nothing new that research hasn't been saying for YEARS. The thing that most distressed me about the book was Emdin's oversimplification of the process of connecting with your students and their culture. For example: Emdin actually claims that buying and wearing "cool" sneakers like the ones your students are into will create connections with them. Setting aside the problematic assumption that there is a single kind of sneakers (or music, or food, or language, or religion) that all urban students are into, Emdin's recommendation is just insulting. Kids are smart. If a teacher (of any race, but especially a white teacher) suddenly flip-flops on style and starts dressing like them (or pairing Jordans with their work slacks instead of Oxfords), kids will see through the artificiality of the gesture. Does Emdin really think that urban kids are so simple-minded that putting on a pair of Jordans will win their affection and bridge all cultural divides? If so, then he has a greater deficit view of black kids than the teachers he's addressing the book to.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kris Sieloff

    Should be required reading in teacher education programs. I wish I had read a book like this when I was an undergrad education major. Twenty four years in the classroom later, all of this book rings true to me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steven Baumann

    Teachers are taught to use evidence-supported pedagogy. Unfortunately, much of teacher education is based on unsupported flashy-idea pedagogy and catchphrases that change rapidly. If you are looking for pedagogy supported by evidence or quantitative or even deep qualitative research, this is simply not the book. For a book with 210 pages, five pages of notes or one piece of research per chapter is simply not enough. What is unfortunate is that Dr. Emdin scratches the surface of ideas that have Teachers are taught to use evidence-supported pedagogy. Unfortunately, much of teacher education is based on unsupported flashy-idea pedagogy and catchphrases that change rapidly. If you are looking for pedagogy supported by evidence or quantitative or even deep qualitative research, this is simply not the book. For a book with 210 pages, five pages of notes or one piece of research per chapter is simply not enough. What is unfortunate is that Dr. Emdin scratches the surface of ideas that have potential to be developed into more complete academic work. He starts the book out with a thunderous and enticing entrance with a Carlisle School comparison, but he lets his ideas float away or disappear without evidence or thoughtful development in to an soft thud of a conclusion. An analysis of the conclusion chapter captures how this work falls short. First, it is not a conclusion of the book as much as it is a completely different set of suggestions. Like the rest of the book, it is unsupported by evidence of any substantial sort while still full of claims. Emdin offers eight generic suggestions to support teachers (pg.207-8): 1. The way a teacher teaches can be traced back to the way a teacher has been taught. 2. The longer teachers teach, the better they are at their practice. 3. The effectiveness of the teacher can be traced directly back to what that teacher thinks of the student. 4. How successful the teacher is in the classroom is directly related to how successful the teacher thinks the students can be. 5. You cannot teach someone you do not believe in. 6. Planning for your lesson is valuable, but being willing to let go of the plan is even more so. 7. Continued effort in teaching more effectively inevitably results in more effective teaching. 8. The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teacher you associate with. I will let you draw your own conclusions on his advice but for me it is just as empty as an after school professional development run by the department of education. Emdin's book has interesting ideas, he has some compelling thoughts, he starts some interesting conversations, but the book finishes a confused mess of jargon and unsupported claims that left me more confused and frustrated than supported.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jackalacka

    A great topic to talk about but he repeats himself and rambles and takes too long to get his tips across. Maybe it's good for total newbies?? I feel like it could have been tightened up. Also, some of his tips aren't helpful for the average teachers. Who has time to play b-ball after work with kids(much less enough skill to be allowed to play with them?) or the flexibility to form rap sessions in class in a regular basis?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathrina

    Great stuff. Scholarly, but also conscientious of real-world circumstances; very successful in reframing what it means to teach, what it means to be schooled. I'm teaching a course called Language & Learning this year, and I'm adding this title to the list of group book talks. I anticipate some great, mind-widening discussions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Lewis

    This book was hard to read as a "white folk who taught in the hood" because it made me very aware of the hundreds of things I did wrong and the privilege I did not check nearly enough during my time in the classroom. I think it's definitely, 100% worth reading if you plan to teach in a school that serves students of color. That being said, this book focuses primarily on teaching black students, which made it less personally relevant to my own teaching experience; almost 100% of my students were This book was hard to read as a "white folk who taught in the hood" because it made me very aware of the hundreds of things I did wrong and the privilege I did not check nearly enough during my time in the classroom. I think it's definitely, 100% worth reading if you plan to teach in a school that serves students of color. That being said, this book focuses primarily on teaching black students, which made it less personally relevant to my own teaching experience; almost 100% of my students were Latino and recent immigrants. This book didn't reference the nuances of teaching this demographic. I also wish that the book had addressed the aspects of the education climate that make implementing a lot of the author's suggestions extremely difficult. For example, the author cites an example from his "cosmopolitan" classroom where the class's assigned "blackboard eraser" skipped class one day, so the board didn't get erased and students weren't able to take notes. I agree that this is a valuable teaching moment, but it would be nearly impossible to get away with in a school climate that has a death-grip on every second of instructional time. I also felt uncomfortable by some of the author's suggestions for reality pedagogy, which include things like wearing articles of clothing that are popular with students to show them that you respect their culture. While I loved what he said about how teachers should value and appreciate their students' style and culture, I think that me showing up to school in a pair of Jordans would have been construed as cultural appropriation or mockery. I'm being negative, but again, this book is totally worth reading. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.

  14. 4 out of 5

    adeservingporcupine

    I feel incredibly grateful to be working with educators who assigned this reading to our staff. This book is meant to be discussed, and I cannot wait to do so with my team and family. I would argue that this is not just a book about great teaching "in the hood", but a book about straight up great teaching -- which is educating in a way that validates and celebrates kids, people and communities (not standardized tests). I'm excited to implement many of the steps outlined right away, and am I feel incredibly grateful to be working with educators who assigned this reading to our staff. This book is meant to be discussed, and I cannot wait to do so with my team and family. I would argue that this is not just a book about great teaching "in the hood", but a book about straight up great teaching -- which is educating in a way that validates and celebrates kids, people and communities (not standardized tests). I'm excited to implement many of the steps outlined right away, and am particularly thrilled by the chapter on using social media in the classroom -- a goal I already had for our students this coming school year, and one which Emdin gives detailed steps for making happen. 4.5 stars instead of five because I got an impression as I was reading that several of the strategies for engaging black and brown kids engaged primarily black and brown boys. Certainly important, but troublesome for me as I found myself visualizing these super classrooms that I couldn't see girls' experiences validated in. This might be a failure of my white lady perspective, however, and I welcome being pushed on that this year.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annah

    Emdin discusses the importance of engaging neoindigenous context as a pedagogical tool, particularly by teachers who don't share the cultural background of their students. Truly an average rating: I either loved a chapter or I hated it. There's a lot of anthro/soc, which I love, and the book certainly challenges what's comfortable/necessary/possible in the classroom. The thing that bothered me most was the arrogance in how one-sided the discussion of context was, which strikes me as Emdin discusses the importance of engaging neoindigenous context as a pedagogical tool, particularly by teachers who don't share the cultural background of their students. Truly an average rating: I either loved a chapter or I hated it. There's a lot of anthro/soc, which I love, and the book certainly challenges what's comfortable/necessary/possible in the classroom. The thing that bothered me most was the arrogance in how one-sided the discussion of context was, which strikes me as unsustainable and rigid in prescription. For a book so predicated on considering individual and group context, there seemed to be one type of kid from the hood, one type of majority culture teacher, and one solution. On a minor note, I also couldn't handle any of the stilted classroom scenarios and I cringed through all of the example dialogue. Recommended for educators who are ready to hear they're not doing it right.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    I'm glad I read this. It has a lot of rich passages and chapters that reminded me of what a highly engaged classroom can look like for kids from "the hood". My overall take on the book, though, is that it would have been a good book for me to read 10 years ago, when I was still new to the profession of teaching--and new to teaching kids from "the hood". The *now* me would have liked to have seen Dr. Emdin use the phrase "cultural appropriation" just once. (Just once!!) So, white teachers, please I'm glad I read this. It has a lot of rich passages and chapters that reminded me of what a highly engaged classroom can look like for kids from "the hood". My overall take on the book, though, is that it would have been a good book for me to read 10 years ago, when I was still new to the profession of teaching--and new to teaching kids from "the hood". The *now* me would have liked to have seen Dr. Emdin use the phrase "cultural appropriation" just once. (Just once!!) So, white teachers, please think twice before you try to rap in class, or before you buy those shoes all the kids are wearing, or before you take a "hood tour" (all things Emdin recommended). Think twice about your positionality so that you might avoid taking any of these recommendations and doing more harm with your whiteness.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pingree

    I really enjoyed this book! I’ve just recently accepted an offer with Teach For America in Tennessee and have been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a white woman from the Northeast entering a community that’s not my own, is majority POC, and declaring authority over knowledge and education. After reading this, I’m not excited to teach- I’m excited to learn. I am feeling privileged to have the opportunity to enter this community and learn from students themselves about how the I really enjoyed this book! I’ve just recently accepted an offer with Teach For America in Tennessee and have been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a white woman from the Northeast entering a community that’s not my own, is majority POC, and declaring authority over knowledge and education. After reading this, I’m not excited to teach- I’m excited to learn. I am feeling privileged to have the opportunity to enter this community and learn from students themselves about how the education system has failed them, and what I can do to support, excite, and encourage them despite the tragedy of this system. While I haven’t begun teaching yet, I anticipate that I will use a lot of the explicit lessons/class structures the author offers. I appreciate how clearly and thoroughly he outlines and explains his strategies and their goal impact.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Masterson

    This is a very valuable book for anyone who is a teacher in urban areas, or is an educator looking for new ideas of what authentic teaching and learning can look like. The "reality pedogogy" that this author suggests reminds me a lot of Paulo Freire's advice in Pedogogy of the Oppressed. One thing I wish the author would have addressed is the fact that he tried out all of the teaching techniques in the book as a black man teaching in the "hood," but he is writing for a mainly white audience of This is a very valuable book for anyone who is a teacher in urban areas, or is an educator looking for new ideas of what authentic teaching and learning can look like. The "reality pedogogy" that this author suggests reminds me a lot of Paulo Freire's advice in Pedogogy of the Oppressed. One thing I wish the author would have addressed is the fact that he tried out all of the teaching techniques in the book as a black man teaching in the "hood," but he is writing for a mainly white audience of teachers. He says that all of the techniques were successful in one way or another, and I believe him, but I wonder if some of it would come off as inauthentic or even offensive coming from a white person. (For example, he suggests dapping up students and wearing clothes that are similar to their style in order to make them feel like their culture is appreciated. I feel like this is something white folks should practice with care and consideration.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Well...all this boils down to love your students, your neighbor as yourself. Lots of new speak for explaining the golden rule simple. Education rolls about and introduces new terms with a few reinventions hoping it will make for systemic change. And it’s just love. It’s always love.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Park

    Fresh perspective on teaching in the “hood” or any other lower income areas. The main thesis of the book is that educators ought to celebrate qualities in neo-indigenous people (people of color) that are not normal to mainstream culture, but that don’t deter from actual learning. This made me think of how I can incorporate new ways of communication, like instagram, or even slang into my class to deliver it in a more powerful way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Seamus Ronan

    Anyone who is remotely interested in urban education should read this book. Administrators, educators, parents, policymakers, whatever. Emdin sheds true light on the darkened stereotypes of neo-indigenous urban youth and actively seeks to break the system through his reality pedagogy. The title made me feel uncomfortable, and it's supposed to.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meg Petersen

    This is a very different kind of education book. Although it is theoretically based, it does not focus on theory, and although it contains very practical suggestions, it does not focus on instruction either. The main focus of this book is on how we teach across difference, how we bridge gaps between our own backgrounds and those of our students. Emdin refers to urban, black students as the neoindigenous and sets up a comparison with how indigenous students were miseducated in the infamous Indian This is a very different kind of education book. Although it is theoretically based, it does not focus on theory, and although it contains very practical suggestions, it does not focus on instruction either. The main focus of this book is on how we teach across difference, how we bridge gaps between our own backgrounds and those of our students. Emdin refers to urban, black students as the neoindigenous and sets up a comparison with how indigenous students were miseducated in the infamous Indian Schools. He instructs white teachers (and I think these suggestions apply equally to the black middle class) on how to come to know and value the cultural practices of their students and apply this knowledge in the classroom. These instructions are very practical and detailed, moving far beyond the sage advice to know your students lives and communities and providing step by step instructions on how to accomplish this. This is the book's most profound contribution. What the book does not and cannot address is the disposition that would make a teacher want to engage in these practices. Although he does make clear that knowing and integrating these practices is not enough, he spends less time on how to help students learn how to code-switch easily into the language of power. I believe, however, that this is not what most white teachers have difficulty with. Where they often fall down is in showing sufficient respect for their students' communities and ways of life to make those students be interested in learning about the values the teacher represents. In that, this book excels. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I seem to be the only person that didn't love this book. Maybe I have just been reading too many professional books lately, but I actually didn't finish it. I am worried I missed all of the good stuff. It isn't that I don't agree with many of the points in the book, I do, I just couldn't get into the writing style, I suspect. I will also comment that Emdin's suggestions are just good teaching, not necessarily particular to one group of students.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shane Harris

    Compelling, thought-provoking, and insightful. Disrespectful, condescending, and judgmental. All wrapped up in one book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Means

    Although I do not teach in the “hood,” I believe that Christopher Emdin’s research is very applicable even in the rural context. What I really loved about this wonderful resource is that it provides so many strategies for teachers to help the disinterested become interested. Oftentimes we mistake disinterest for lack of ability, but once we understand the context from which our kids come; however, Emdin asserts, that once understand the context from which our kids come, we might realize that Although I do not teach in the “hood,” I believe that Christopher Emdin’s research is very applicable even in the rural context. What I really loved about this wonderful resource is that it provides so many strategies for teachers to help the disinterested become interested. Oftentimes we mistake disinterest for lack of ability, but once we understand the context from which our kids come; however, Emdin asserts, that once understand the context from which our kids come, we might realize that ability is not the issue, but that the reason for low motivation is due to the practices we implement in our classroom. We must know who we teach and how to reach them. Sometimes we might have to stray from our well-organized plan to help kids see the value in what we are doing, but, first, we must show them that we value them. In order for us to really see the brilliance and talents that our students bring to our schools, we must change our perceptions—just because it may be different than our own ways does not mean it has not value. We must provide a consistent, trusting, and safe learning environment where students are not undermined but encouraged. Regardless of what setting education occurs, consistency is key. The most difficult part of this book, for me as an educator, is the realization of how flawed our education system is. Through its current design, we are setting up so many kids for failure. We are not valuing their voices and their experiences. Throughout Emdin’s work, he refers to the experiences of the Native Americans at the Carlisle Boarding School. Having read books about the school, it really is not a far-stretch to relate the experiences of the urban youth (neoindigenous) to the indigenous experiences due to the fact that both groups are/were forced to assimilate into a society from which they are/were marginalized. Emdin asserts that a form of “classroom colonialism arises’—instead of allowing students to celebrate their diversity we are sending the message that students can only be smart when they “clean up” who they are. Behavior that is loud, is considered disruptive, and silence is taken for compliance. Of course, there are expectations that all people, regardless of race, background, etc., must meet to be college and career ready, but do we need to erase one’s culture and traditions in the process? While I do not necessarily see myself implementing all of Emdin’s strategies in my own classroom, I do find value in them. Emdin is not some random policymaker who has no clue of what happens in the classroom; rather, he has used struggled trying to create learning meaningful for his students. Through several efforts, he realized that a teacher can plan and organize the best of lessons but, “you cannot teach someone you don’t believe in.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kuhn

    This book was really helpful for me as I consider the complicated relationship race plays in my educational context in the South Bronx. I was challenged by the way Emdin calls out the white savior complex many urban teacher prep programs perpetuate, and also by the creative ways he calls teachers to make their educational practice more culturally responsive- in language, dress, and classroom practices that are more liberatory. This was a great follow-up to my recent read of of the philosophical This book was really helpful for me as I consider the complicated relationship race plays in my educational context in the South Bronx. I was challenged by the way Emdin calls out the white savior complex many urban teacher prep programs perpetuate, and also by the creative ways he calls teachers to make their educational practice more culturally responsive- in language, dress, and classroom practices that are more liberatory. This was a great follow-up to my recent read of of the philosophical and erudite Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks because of Emdin's practical and on-the-groud applications. I found his classification of the "neoindigenous" urban youth, and his proposition of reality pedagogy where students are met on their own emotional and cultural turf to be really insightful. He seems to be asking for a more humble approach to education the urban poor, a recognition that they have access to so much knowledge and culture...."once educators can recognize that they are biased against forms of brilliance other than their own they can finally begin to truly teach." It seems like Emdin is calling for a respect for students, instead of a pity or missionary mindset. "Teachers who hold within themselves perceptions of the inadequacy of students will never be able to teach them to be something greater than what they are. You cannot teach someone you do not believe in." I see this fatalistic and negative view of students every day, and it is devastating and demoralizing to the learning community. Emdin articulate the tell-tale racism markers of de-valuation and dehumanization I hear all the time, phrases like "these kids" and "those kids" in reference to the students we teach. My concerns after reading the book (which calls for educational practices that mirror black pentecostal church services, rap battles and cyphers, and for the teacher to adopt some of the language and fashion of students) include whether or not this is cultural appropriation and would also inflict damage on the authenticity of the teacher-student relationship.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I'm bummed that the digital version I downloaded expired before I could pull the quotes and bookmarks that I saved, but alas, I know we will be getting several copies for our professional section in the library and I'll go back to re-read/skim. It's an important addition to our professional collection and references other professional texts that we also have. I like that it's contemporary and posits the reality pedagogy where he details specific actionable items but also details them in a way I'm bummed that the digital version I downloaded expired before I could pull the quotes and bookmarks that I saved, but alas, I know we will be getting several copies for our professional section in the library and I'll go back to re-read/skim. It's an important addition to our professional collection and references other professional texts that we also have. I like that it's contemporary and posits the reality pedagogy where he details specific actionable items but also details them in a way that explains to "every person" rather than veteran educators. A first year teacher, a teacher-in-training, and a twenty year veteran would get just as much out of it and he also focuses on all people of color showcasing what any educator teaching with a population of students that don't look like them can do.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Mangler

    I'm torn on this book. There are elements I found thought-provoking, and there are elements I found problematic. The beginning of the book was the best part, as it helped me critically reflect on my experiences, and how the preconceptions I bring into the classroom have shaped what I do and why I do it. The later parts of the book reminded me very much of my student teaching experience, when I realized my cooperating teacher was trying to shape me into another him and I struggled to figure out I'm torn on this book. There are elements I found thought-provoking, and there are elements I found problematic. The beginning of the book was the best part, as it helped me critically reflect on my experiences, and how the preconceptions I bring into the classroom have shaped what I do and why I do it. The later parts of the book reminded me very much of my student teaching experience, when I realized my cooperating teacher was trying to shape me into another him and I struggled to figure out who I was going to be as a teacher because I didn't feel like that was authentic to me. Many of the examples in the later parts of the book felt as prescriptive as the practices Emdin is encouraging people to critically examine.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert Fitzgerald

    The best pedagogy book I have read, and definitely up there with the most insightful books on teaching. I had the privilege to see Dr. Emdin speak in Denver a couple years ago, and he was electric and riveting. You feel it in your bones that what he preaches works, as it is based on years of teaching experience, trials and observations. His heart for helping teachers and students from different backgrounds is so evident in this book - he wants fiercely to bridge the gaps between the two. Much of The best pedagogy book I have read, and definitely up there with the most insightful books on teaching. I had the privilege to see Dr. Emdin speak in Denver a couple years ago, and he was electric and riveting. You feel it in your bones that what he preaches works, as it is based on years of teaching experience, trials and observations. His heart for helping teachers and students from different backgrounds is so evident in this book - he wants fiercely to bridge the gaps between the two. Much of the advice is great even for teachers in affluent areas. A definite read for teachers open to new ideas for cultivating the best learning environment they possibly can.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex Johnson

    Even as a preservice teacher who hasn't taught yet, this book blew me away. Christopher Emdin identifies urban youth as "neoindigenous" and uses this term as a framework to build a classroom culture that celebrates nontraditional learning. His emphasis on community learning, student voice valuing, and family fostering really resonated with me. His strategies seem so pie-in-the-sky for me, but I know my fear of trying them out is rooted in not wanting to rock the boat. A must-read for anyone in Even as a preservice teacher who hasn't taught yet, this book blew me away. Christopher Emdin identifies urban youth as "neoindigenous" and uses this term as a framework to build a classroom culture that celebrates nontraditional learning. His emphasis on community learning, student voice valuing, and family fostering really resonated with me. His strategies seem so pie-in-the-sky for me, but I know my fear of trying them out is rooted in not wanting to rock the boat. A must-read for anyone in education or who cares about children.

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