Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • Free Celebrating Transgender Students in Our Classrooms and in Our Schools

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    What can teachers, schools, and districts do to meet the needs of trans students? To make them visible? To keep them alive? To celebrate them?

  • Free On Behalf of Their Name

    Using They/Them Pronouns Because They Need Us To

    By Mykhiel Deych

    The staff advisor for their high school’s Queer-Straight Alliance delves into the complexities of a student-led training for teachers on the importance of using students’ preferred pronouns. >>> Adrienne Rich’s quote illuminated the projector screen welcoming teachers as they entered the library for a 90-minute training on gender and sexuality acceptance led by the Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) — a student organization that I am the staff advisor for. Our large urban school holds about 100 staff members. Maybe 3 percent looked forward to this training. The rest sat with their arms crossed, present only because admin mandated their attendance. . . .

  • Free Teaching Them into Existence

    By Mykhiel Deych

    A high school English teacher (also the QSA staff advisor) wrestles with the suicide of a transgender student and calls on heterosexual and cisgender teachers to integrate LGBTQ authors, themes, and history into their classrooms. >>> Teaching isn’t supposed to include life-or-death consequences, but it does. When it comes to LGBTQ students, we fail to hold space for their existence. Heterocentric, cisnormative curriculum writes out the existence of LGBTQ lives. Campaigns such as Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better,” spur and go viral precisely because we aren’t actually reassuring youth that their existence is acceptable, real, normal. We need an “It Gets Better” campaign because high school is awful for LGBTQ kids, high school is fatal. . . .

  • Free Queering Black History and Getting Free

    By Dominique Hazzard

    A Black freedom organizer demands that teachers and activists radically change their frameworks around Black history by lifting up the stories of Black LGBTQ people like Marsha P. Johnson. >>> Queering Black history means canonizing Marsha P. Johnson as a matriarch of Black America. Putting her face on those calendars and poster collages right next to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Coretta Scott King, and Michelle Obama. It means studying her ACT UP campaigns in high school classrooms. It means mourning her too-early death just as we mourn the deaths of cisgender men like Malcolm and Medgar. It means examining why it took 20 years for the NYPD to investigate that death as a murder, and having conversations about the role of the Black freedom movement in bringing about trans liberation today. . . .

  • Free "What Kind Are You?"

    Transgender Characters in Children’s Literature

    By Lora Worden

    A school librarian describes children’s books with strong transgender characters and themes. >>> Some of those who wished to remove George denied that it was because of the book’s transgender protagonist, and instead cited concerns over passing references to dirty magazines and characters who erased their internet search history in order to hide that information from their parents.

  • Features
  • Free Teaching Social Activism in Prison

    The Leap Manifesto and Incarcerated Youth

    By Rachel Boccio

    A Connecticut educator who taught English to incarcerated young men for 20 years describes what happened when she introduced her students to the Canadian “Leap Manifesto.” >>> Manson Youth Institution is a maximum security correctional facility for adolescent males tried and sentenced as adults in the Connecticut Department of Correction. Its population is composed mostly of poor men of color with histories of abuse, detention, and truancy. Education is mandatory for the majority of Manson’s inmates: boys file up to school — right side of the yellow line, no talking, IDs out, shirts tucked, heads down — bearing the anger, frustration, fear, and loneliness that inheres to incarcerated life. . . .

  • Free You Need Rank and File to Win: How Arizona Teachers Built a Movement

    By Noah Karvelis

    An elementary teacher who helped organize Arizona educators to strike explains how their movement formed and operated, and how it can inspire other teachers’ movements. >>> Across the nation, from Puerto Rico to Kentucky and Colorado to California, a powerful teachers’ movement has been growing. The potential of this movement first became apparent when West Virginia’s teachers went on strike in February and ultimately won a 5 percent raise for all public employees. Following this, Oklahoma’s educators mobilized and won raises and additional funding. After that strike, teachers in my own state of Arizona went on a six-day strike and won $406 million in funding. . . .

  • Free My First Year as a Teacher of Color

    Teaching Against the Grain

    By Juan Córdova

    A teacher of color writes about obstacles he faced during his first year in the classroom and the support he received — and did not receive — from other teachers and administrators. >>> Interviewing for my first teaching job out of school, I arrived excited in a suit and tie as I was walked to a sunny corner office to meet the principal. A charming middle-aged white woman with a bright smile, a bubbly personality, and contagious excitement, she seemed eager to get to know me and asked to hear my story and find out how this man of Color decided to go into teaching. . . .

  • Free Deportations on Trial

    Mexican Americans During the Great Depression

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A social studies teacher describes the role play trial she developed around a largely forgotten period: when during the Great Depression the United States deported thousands of Mexican American families. >>> From the late 1920s to the late 1930s, men, women, and children, immigrant and U.S.-born, citizen and noncitizen, longtime residents and temporary workers all became the targets of a massive campaign of forced relocation, based solely on their perceived status as “Mexican.” They were rounded up in parks, at work sites, and in hospitals; betrayed by local relief agencies who reported anyone with a “Mexican sounding” name to the Immigration Service; tricked and terrorized into “voluntary” deportation by municipal and state officials; and forcibly deported in trains and buses to a country some hadn’t lived in for decades and others never at all. . . .

  • Free Who Is Allowed to Teach Spanish in Our Public Schools?

    Documenting the Consequences of the edTPA

    By Sarah Jourdain

    The director of a world language teacher preparation program argues for an end to the edTPA because it bars native Spanish speakers from public school classrooms. >>> Maria found a position in a local private school, but she is still not eligible to teach in the New York state public school system even though her program’s teacher education faculty, as well as both of her cooperating teachers, were unanimous in deeming Maria qualified to begin her career as a Spanish teacher. . . .

  • Departments Free
  • Tax the Rich, Fight Climate Change

    Column: Earth, Justice, and Our Classrooms

    By Bill Bigelow
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources

Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources


Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary
Edited by Taylor Pendergrass
and Mateo Hoke
(Haymarket Books, 2018)
282 pp.

Six By Ten

This volume is the latest from Voices of Witness, a nonprofit seeking to amplify “unheard voices” through oral history. Six by Ten offers 13 stories of solitary confinement from prisoners, former prisoners, their families, and prison workers. These histories confirm that solitary confinement is torture, but also explain its place in the larger dehumanization that is everyday prison life. These narratives of solitary are themselves acts of resistance. They are assertions of survival and agency, a challenge to the attempt to silence, isolate, and “break” those the state deems most incorrigible. The book’s appendixes offer teacher-friendly background materials and resources for those looking to problematize solitary confinement with their students.


Marked, Unmarked, Remembered:
A Geography of American Memory

By Andrew Lichtenstein and
Alex Lichtenstein
(West Virginia University Press, 2017)
181 pp.


In William Faulkner’s famous passage from Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” There may be no more imaginative illustration of this insight than the Lichtensteins’ Marked, Unmarked, Remembered. Through stark black-and-white photographs paired with short passages and historical essays, the authors take us through a people’s history of the United States. The photos and text alert us to historical episodes of resistance and tragedy — some famous, some buried — and what the sites of these events look like today. The book’s concluding “Remembered” section shows how moments in U.S. history are commemorated in our own time — the poignant, like the depiction of someone chalking on the sidewalk the names of those who perished in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City; and the infuriating, like the three Confederate Civil War reenactors celebrating the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ inauguration. The book is rich in teaching possibilities.


By Layli Long Soldier
(Graywolf Press, 2017)
101 pp.


This collection of poems by Layli Long Soldier is a response to the congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans signed by Obama in 2009. Soldier explains, “My response is directed to the apology’s delivery, as well as the language, crafting, and arrangement of the written document. I am a citizen of the United States and . . . a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation — and in this dual citizenship, I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” Soldier’s poems are a gorgeous rebuke of the language of colonialism — the (broken) treaties, the (genocidal) legislation, and the (empty) apologies. Teachers will find many uses for these poems, including as models for student writing or by pairing with government documents — the “good faith” clause of the Northwest Ordinance, the Indian Removal Act, the Dawes Act, or any number of U.S. treaties with the sovereign nations on whose land most of us currently teach.

Young Adult Fiction

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America
Edited by Ibi Zoboi
(Balzer & Bray, 2019)
416 pp.

Black Enough

Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian immigrant whose novel American Street was a finalist for the National Book Award, has gathered a bouquet of Black voices in her anthology, Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America. Zoboi’s collection features 17 of the most acclaimed Black authors writing for teens today — Renée Watson, Jason Reynolds, Rita Williams Garcia, and Tracey Baptiste, to name a few. The stories’ Black characters come from diverse experiences — city and rural landscapes, gay and lesbian, biracial, immigrant, rich and poor. Each story explores an aching or familiar moment in teen life — a crush, a kiss, a family torn apart, sexual harassment, self-discovery. This collection of stories is an essential book for any teacher wanting stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in the United States today. Age 13+.


Watch Us Rise
By Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
(Bloomsbury, 2019)
400 pp.

Watch Us Rise

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan in this YA feminist anthem about young women finding and raising their voices. This two-voice novel told from the perspective of high school juniors — Jasmine, who is Black, and Chelsea, who is white — is a must read for middle and high school students. These best friends and their cohort seek to interrupt the sexism, sexual harassment, and patriarchy at their progressive New York City high school. The novel is compelling, full of the drama of high school — crushes, family heartaches, hypocritical administrators, teachers, and peers. But the novel is also full of hope and strategies for tackling the problems that women face in schools, on the bus, in stores, and society. These dynamic young women write blogs and poetry, they use guerrilla tactics to wake up the school to the myriad ways that they have been silenced and shamed because of their looks, their size, their gender. The book teaches about women artists who tackle these issues, who have spoken up and refused to be silent in the face of oppression. Watch Us Rise is a gift to teachers who want a book that seeks to explore and explode this #MeToo time in our schools. Ages 13+.

Picture Books

Missing Daddy
By Mariame Kaba
Illustrated by bria royal
(Project NIA, 2018)
32 pp.

Missing Daddy

In the last decade, the representation of family diversity has improved in children’s books, including single parents, children living with grandparents, two moms, and two dads. However, there are only a handful of books reflecting the reality of the 2.7 million children under the age of 18 in the United States with an incarcerated parent. That’s why author and activist Mariame Kaba wrote and published Missing Daddy about a young girl whose father went to prison when she was 3. The young girl shares with the reader how much she holds on to her father’s words, how she gets teased in school, and the fact that her mother has to work two jobs to make ends meet. This easy-to-read picture book with beautiful illustrations ends with a warm scene of the young girl and her father in the visiting room. We recommend this book for every early childhood classroom. For too long, despite growing mass incarceration, prisoners have been an invisible population in our school curriculum.


Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins
By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Illustrated by Jade Johnson
(Quarto Publishing Group, 2018)
32 pp.

Someday Is Now

Introduce students to the activism of Clara Luper, an African American high school teacher who organized lunch counter sit-ins for her students to protest segregation in 1958. The narrative functions as a history lesson and as a guide for when and how to challenge injustice (now and with nonviolent direct action). The author does not shy away from describing the humiliating abuse the children suffered during the sit-in. The artist shows images of Black children covered in food while white patrons yell, throw, and shake their fists. The art is simple but stunning.


Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement
By Mark R. Warren with David Goodman
(Beacon Press, 2018)
185 pp.

Lift Us Up

The premise of this impressive collection by a diverse array of education activists is that those most affected by interlocking forms of oppression — students of color and their parents — must lead the educational justice movement. That is why the opening five chapters of Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! give us the voices of students like Carlos Rojas and Glorya Wornum, opponents of racist discipline policies in Boston schools, and parents like Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, who shares her struggle to find a school that will love and care for her elementary-aged Black son who has already, by kindergarten, been identified as a troublemaker. The anthology also includes essays by teachers, union and community organizers, and activist scholars. All contributions are written as first-person narratives, giving this collection the feel of shared knowledge toward movement building, rather than a polemic with one-size-fits-all answers.

Reviewed by Bill Bigelow, Linda Christensen, Deborah Menkart, Katie Orr, and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca