You are receiving this monthly newsletter because you are committed to validating and affirming your students, colleagues, parents, and community culturally and linguistically. You are a contributor to the CLR Community. Thanks for VABBing.

May 2017
VABBing with Mindset

Build Your Mindset

By Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Executive Director, The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

On the surface, eliminating ignorance about the cultures and languages of others seems doable because ignorance is mitigated with knowledge. The more we know about others, the less ignorant we are, and we then reduce our biases and fears. Simple, right? Not at all. The challenge is building knowledge and accepting that in order to be culturally responsive, there has to be a commitment to lifelong learning. My view is by hook or crook, you must relentlessly pursue knowing more about the students you are teaching culturally and linguistically.  It sounds corny, but the more you know the more you grow.

Summer break is a great time for knowledge building. Coupled with swimming, snorkeling, surfing, sailing, or any other fun activity that starts with s, learning about others can be a part of  relaxing, rejuvenating, and refreshing. Chances are you are planning to take a book or two along the way for a leisurely read while you are on a plane, on a beach, or on a lake. So, here are four titles for your summer VABB knowledge building. All of these titles are fiction/narrative, for the most part, proving that a better understanding of other cultures and languages does not always involve academic, research-based, non-fiction. That's not fun when you are basking in the sun somewhere tropical.

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

"Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity." (Amazon)

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship. (Goodreads)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

What makes this novel so compelling is the way Starr negotiates the relatively safe world of school, where she assimilates despite the soft racism of one or two so-called friends, and how she navigates the dangers of her own neighbourhood, where it’s not uncommon to be caught in the crossfire of rival gangs. There is one chilling scene where Starr witnesses a police officer, in a revenge stop, force her father to lie on the ground as he searches him. “Face down,” the policeman yells, his hands never too far away from his gun, humiliating his victim even though Big Mav offers to show his ID and addresses the officer as “Sir”. (The Guardian)

Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today. Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. (Barnes and Nobles)

All four of these titles will increase your awareness and knowledge about these four cultures, and decrease your "ignorances," all to the benefit of your VABBing mindset with your students. 

Special thank you for all that you do, and will continue to do for the under-served.

Happy Summer!


VABBing with Mindset
VABBing with Skillset

Reflect, and Celebrate Your CLR Skillset

By Gina Spoo, CLR Instructional Coach

REFLECT:  How has CLR impacted your teaching and your students’ engagement?

  • In what ways have you connected with your students to make them feel validated and affirmed?
  • How have you provided a culturally responsive environment for your students that makes everyone feel welcomed, safe and valued?
  • How has the mantra:  “My First Thought Isn’t My Last Thought” affected your teaching?
  • In what ways have your students been more engaged in your classroom?
  • In what ways has CLR helped your students with situational appropriateness and code-switching?
  • What can you tell a colleague that is hesitant about jumping into the CLR pool?

CELEBRATE:  Get together with colleagues and celebrate!

  • To reflect and celebrate, try out the protocols:  *Click on the titles for explanation/directions

Chalk Talk

Use Chalk Talk to have a silent conversation to reflect and share about some of the questions above.


1-3-6 + Headlines

Use 1-3-6 to reflect, share and discuss some of the questions above and then create individual or group Headlines for your CLR-ness.  Post the Headlines around the school!

  • Nominate a leader at your school to organize this celebration by:
    • Finding a date, time and space to come together.  (Maybe the sole focus of a May staff meeting?! )
    • Organizing food, treats, prizes (Of course optional, but who doesn’t love meetings with food and prizes?!)
    • Gather whatever supplies are needed for the reflecting and celebrating or delegate to others
    • Then on the day of the celebration, simply welcome everyone and get everyone started.
  • Where can you use Chalk Talk, 1-3-6, or Headlines with your students before the school year ends?


In closing…   This work is about celebrating who each individual student is and connecting our teaching to our students.  It is about engaging all of our students.  It just takes one person to start, to take a stand and to get FIRED UP!   Be that person!


*Click on the image to take you to an entertaining video about leadership and creating “A Movement!”  Thank you to a friend and colleague for sharing this fun video.  While the video at times may be blurry and shaky, focus in on the commentary.

Be a part of the CLR Movement at your school and keep swimming!

Join us! Click on the image to register now!

Check these out:

Relevant Reading!

Have you already begun planning a summer filled with rich, culturally-relevant, and FUN reading experiences for your students?  If you're looking for a curricular program you can use to get your VABB on in summer school, check out these resources from Reading with Relevance--a team passionate about cultural relevance, social/emotional learning, and teacher support.  Their fully developed lesson plans just might help you have a fun summer too!



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