Whether conducting a home visit or teaching virtually, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers, school administrators, and youth-serving organizations unprecedented access to the home lives of their students. This intimate blending of school and home can feel invasive at times, but is also a meaningful opportunity to build deeper relationships with families who are part of historically marginalized social groups in school communities.
To learn more about how to engage with low-income, POC, immigrant, and world-language speaking families during COVID, many school administrators and organizations across the country are using surveys to assess each family’s needs and preferences. But not all surveys are created equal. Far too often, families give their time in hopes of contributing to positive change in their school communities, but rarely get to see the final data or their words turned into action.
“Part of the reason that there’s so much fatigue with answering anything — whether it’s a survey collecting data from families or a conversation — is that they have experienced time and time again nothing happening as a result of them sharing their challenges,” said Dr. Ann Ishimaru, associate professor at the University of Washington School of Education and author of Just Schools.
Ishimaru and UW researchers Jondou Chen and Aditi Rajendran collaborated with the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), local schools, caregivers, community organizations, and other stakeholders to design an equitable family engagement survey for Southeast Seattle schools. The survey was adapted from a previous co-design process the UW researchers had developed with input from community leaders across the region. Foundry10 research coordinators Riddhi Divanji and Ella Shahn supported the Southeast Seattle effort through data collection and analysis support.
Ishimaru spoke with Divanji about family engagement and equitable survey design collaborations with families and communities during COVID-19 remote learning. Here are a few takeaways from their conversation that may be valuable for researchers, school administrators, youth-serving organizations, and educators looking to build equitable family engagement into their professional practice.
Before I decided to create a human being inside of my body, I needed a few questions answered: Where do your organs go when the baby moves in? Should you want to eat your placenta? Will I die? Is a doula something I’m supposed to be wearing? What’s the difference between colostrum and meconium? Will the baby come out without a birth playlist?
Attempting to ease my fears about becoming a parent, my mother reassured me that birth was easy — and life with a newborn? Pure bliss. I wasn’t buying it. I cast aside my secondhand copy of “What to Expect,” closed the terrifying WebMD tabs, and turned to The Longest Shortest Time (LST), a parenting podcast with real stories and diverse experiences.
Executive producer and original host of the show, Hillary Frank created the podcast in 2010 after surviving a traumatic birth injury and weeks of sleepless nights with a newborn. During that dark period, a good friend had advised her: “These first few months are the longest shortest time. Remember that. They go on forever. And then they’re over.”
Once upon a time at the Seattle Children’s Festival, drag queen Aleksa Manila read books to children. Perched regally atop a cozy nest of blankets and wrapped in a glamorous fuchsia kimono, Manila inspired awe in each child who toddled into the room. Coco, age 4, was moonstruck by Manila’s hot-pink hair adorned with magenta flowers.
“Are those flowers real?” said Coco skeptically.
“Fake,” whispered Manila, with a heavy-lashed wink and a smile. “Now who wants to pick our first story?” A field of tiny hands sprouted up and story time began with a reading of Manila’s favorite children’s book, “My Princess Boy.”
Written by Seattle author Cheryl Kilodavis to help explain her son Dyson’s fondness for “pretty things” to teachers and classmates, the book inspired a movement of acceptance for children who feel misunderstood. “I love my Princess Boy. When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes. But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him,” Kilodavis writes.
“The Princess Boy’s story is very close to my own story,” says Manila, who began to question her gender identity while attending Catholic elementary school in the Philippines. “I remember being in the boys section and staring at the girls section, wondering, ‘Should I be there?’”
Macklemore and Michael Bennett have purchased copies of the critically acclaimed book, “Teaching for Black Lives,” for every middle- and high-school social-studies and language-arts teacher in Seattle Public Schools.
“Teaching for Black Lives” is a collection of teaching activities, role-plays, essays, poems and art created to help educators humanize African-American people in school curriculum. The book gives examples of how teachers can connect the curriculum to young people’s lives and explores how classrooms can be designed to challenge racism.
“The contributions that black people have made to this country are integral and the struggles that kids have to go through facing all forms of institutionalized racism and discrimination are real,” says Jesse Hagopian, an editor of the book and an ethnic-studies teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School.
Earlier this year, I wrote several segments for “Articulate with Jim Cotter”, an arts & culture show based in Philadelphia that airs on PBS. Here is one with Daniel Handler, the author of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”. He offers some fun insights into his writing process and world view. Enjoy!
Graphic Art from What To Do When You’re Raped: An ABC Guide for Native Girls
“‘What do I tell my daughter when she is raped?’
This was the question posed to Charon Asetoyer, CEO of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center by a young mother on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota.
“The feeling … I can’t even begin to explain how that made me feel. Not if she’s raped, but when she’s raped,” said Asetoyer of the Comanche tribe. “We’re aware of how bad the problem is in our reservation community, but when somebody puts it to you that way, you realize it’s even worse than you thought it was.”
Asetoyer is well aware that Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes than all other races in the US and that more than one in three Native American women report having been raped during their lifetime. She speaks with survivors of sexual assault in her community every day.
Recognizing an immediate need to prepare and support indigenous young women in the likely event of a sexual assault, Asetoyer and her colleagues teamed up with graphic designer Lucy M Bonner to create a graphic novel entitled, “What To Do When You’re Raped: An ABC Handbook for Native Girls”. The book is available to download free online or to order in print.”
If this story moves you, Charon Asetoyer and Pamela Kingfisher say there are many ways you can help. Call your local government representatives and tell them this is unacceptable. Buy Plan B in bulk and donate it to your local Native American community. Donate to the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center and women’s shelter here.
“In the aftermath of World War II, the USSR and the USA became locked in an ideological conflict between socialism and capitalism. Determined to demonstrate the superiority of the socialist way, the USSR launched a secret space program. Eventually a human cosmonaut would fly into outer space, but first came Laika—a dog.
Laika’s launch was kept a secret until a few days before take-off. As Russian feminist art historian Olesya Turkina explains in her book, Soviet Space Dogs, “the secrecy of the space program was justified by the notion that socialism could not be seen to fail in any of its endeavors. In this sense, space travel was the most imperative achievement of such a society.” According to the official Soviet story, the valiant little mutt launched into orbit, died a heroic death, and became the first icon of space exploration.”
Thank you to Olesya and Damon for taking the time to answer my questions and for creating such a special book. Check out FUEL Publishing’s “Soviet Space Dogs” by Olesya Turkina, published by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell.
“…to speak of them out loud, to speak of their hunger and pain and loneliness and humor, to make them visible so that can not be ravaged in the dark without great consequence.”― Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Photo: Sydney Parker
“Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.” – Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth
Photo: Sydney Parker
“Volumes upon volumes on exploration, war, violence, the life-threatening transformative journeys of man. But you can’t talk about this. The fucking, the sadness, the dark, the blood, the light. They will burn you at the fucking stake for this shit.”― Elisa Albert, After Birth
“Rain, coffee, cat ladies, and a robust literary arts community make Seattle one of the best cities in the world to curl up with a book. Seattle’s bookish heritage extends all the way back to the city’s earliest beginnings. Houses were built, a few buildings, a lumber mill, and then — libraries. Stunning, glorious, introvert-friendly libraries.
After two decades of book nerd community rabble-rousing, the first Seattle public library opened in 1891 on the fifth floor of the Occidental Building in Pioneer Square. According to Seattle Public Library lore, a lumber company vice-president checked out the first book, a brand new copy of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad…”
I LOVED learning about the Seattle Public Library. Read all about it and see some more great photos by clicking HERE.
“On November 16th, 1961 President John F. Kennedy came to Seattle and gave an address at the University of Washington’s 100th Anniversary Program in Edmundson Pavilion. He emphasized the danger of a nuclear holocaust if American diplomacy failed with Russia. Frightened by terrifying images of mushroom clouds and radiation, Washingtonians began preparing for the worst.”
Seattle is home to the only fallout shelter under a freeway. It’s frightening relic of the Cold War. To read more and see pictures, read the full article here.
Family fallout shelter billboard, December 1959. Photo: Werner Lenggenhager via Seattle Public Library