A White Teacher Has No License to Use the N-Word

2906486794_80400b009e_bBy Nick McDaniels

Within the last two weeks, a Baltimore City Schools teacher, a young, white woman, was publicly terminated from Baltimore City Schools as a cell phone video surfaced showing her using the n-word in class.

To be clear, I am not posting this to criticize this teacher. I am not posting this to analyze the context of her use of the word. I am not posting this to attempt to interpret her intent. I am not posting to attack her. I am not posting to defend her. In fact, I am not posting about her at all, or her use of the word.

I am posting to state one simple principle.

A white teacher has no license to use the n-word. Ever. It matters not the context in which you teach. It matters not how many times you have heard the n-word, nor in how many different contexts, nor with how many different meanings. It matters not how strong your relationships are with your students. It matters not how many years of teaching experience you have had. It matters not whether you are in front of students, or colleagues, or your friends from college. A white teacher has no license to use the n-word.

It is a problem, to be sure, if the word is already in the vocabulary, already in the heart and soul, of a white teacher. It is a problem added thereto if a white teacher feels compelled to use the word. These problems can be mitigated, however, if this rule is placed in the minds of future teachers as soon as possible and reminded to veteran teachers as often as possible.

A white teacher has no license to use the n-word.


Connecting With Parents of My Students

2959912279_8446aa1abdBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Looking for a way to connect to the parents of my students, I relied on email. My junior and senior students just finished writing poems for the Milwaukee Public Museum’s poetry competition. At the end of the unit, I asked for student volunteers to read poems aloud. Then, I emailed those students’ parents. Here is what I wrote:

“I just wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know that Kami volunteered to present her poem in class today. Currently, students are working on a food-themed poem for the Milwaukee Public Museum’s annual poetry competition. After we read Kami’s poem, classmates provided valuable feedback and encouragement. If you are interested, I would suggest you ask her to share what she is working on. I think you’ll be impressed! Volunteering to read her poem to the class was a brave, vulnerable and commendable thing to do. Please encourage Kami to keep up up the great work in Creative Writing. I’m looking forward to a wonderful semester of writing, creativity, and growth.”

Here are some of the responses I received:

“Thank you for the kind message. She showed us her poem Tuesday night and we really enjoyed hearing it from her. She really enjoys your class. Have a great weekend!”

“Thank you SO very much for reaching out to us about Anna! What a wonderful wonderful email to receive. Anna is a great kid. She has had some emotional struggles over the past few years and it has been a big hurdle for her. I’ve noticed this year in particular she has really been making an effort with her school work. I very much appreciate hearing you validate how much her hard work is paying off. I will be sure to share this with Anna and tell her how very proud we are of her! Have a great day! :)”

“Thanks for the good news, Liz. It’s nice to hear about something positive; I appreciate it. I will ask them to share their work with me and will encourage them. Thanks again and have a great weekend.”

“She has been sharing her writings with us and I have been so impressed with her work! I am so glad to hear from you about this! Of course I think it’s good, but to hear it from you is awesome. She shared with me your comments this am about her recent poem, she was so excited! I have never seen her so pumped about a subject in school before so keep up the awesome work motivating her and we will do the same. Thanks again!”

Each parent gave me a boost and reminded me of the positive impact I’m having on his or her child. The students, too, appreciated my efforts: “Thanks for emailing my dad.”— “My mom was so excited to see your email.”—“My mom took me to Culver’s for custard because of what you wrote.”

I’ve now made it my goal to email a different group of parents for each assignment.

Happy Thanksgiving


Tell Me Something Good

confetti_5878997537By Sabrina Bartels

This past week, one of my students mentioned that he finally got to go see a Marquette basketball game. He was so excited to share this experience with me, and immediately launched into a description of the arena, the players, and how cool it was seeing a court that has hosted Marquette alums Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Steve Novak. He spoke about how near it was seeing all of the student section, wearing their blue and gold t-shirts, turn their backs on the opposing team when they were announced, and how his favorite part was when the student section threw confetti in the air to celebrate Marquette’s first basket of the game.

This made me smile for so many reasons. It’s been a little bit since I went to a Marquette game, and even longer since I attended a game and stood in complete awe of what was going on around me. If I really think about it, I can remember the very first time I attended a basketball game: I was with a bunch of girls from my floor, and as we were walking in, some upperclassmen gave us a bunch of newspaper. We were perplexed until we saw all the students around us ripping the paper into tiny squares. We automatically followed suit. And when Marquette scored their first basket that night, everyone threw their confetti in the air. As it rained down on us, I remember thinking that there was no way any moment was more perfect than that one.

It’s been four years since I started counseling, and sometimes I worry that I have lost some of the wonder and awe associated with my job. Sometimes, I forget what drew me to counseling in the first place. Some days, I am so exhausted and frustrated with the drama associated with being a middle schooler that I miss some of the fun, charming moments. I miss the lessons that I’m learning. I’m so fixated on what is “wrong” that I’m not always thinking about the positive, good things that are happening at work and in my world.

So I decided to start writing down some of the good parts of my day, to remind me why it is that I’m a counselor. Here are some of my favorite things:

  • A parent told me that I’m someone her daughter really trusts.
  • A kid stopped me in the hall on my way out the door. She told me to go home and eat because I “work way too hard.”
  • A student told me I was beautiful (never mind that the next words out of her mouth were “for being that old!”)
  • I spent some time with one of my students helping him catch up on work. The smile on his face when he finished it all was amazing.
  • A bunch of our Student Ambassadors made posters and visited classrooms to promote our food drive. Having students conquer their fear of public speaking and give a mini presentation to the classes was a great moment to watch.
  • Hearing our Student Ambassadors talk about our food pantry and community closet. We recently started our food pantry and community closet. Parents can donate to it, and they can take what they need from it. When explaining this to our Student Ambassadors, all of them were very compassionate. Many wanted to know what they could do to help, from volunteering to help organize the pantry, to donating more clothes and food to help stock our shelves.
  • A few of my students volunteered to help a student with Down’s Syndrome. They let him eat lunch with them and taught him how to play Uno.

Take the time to remember the good things!

A Quick Guide to Graduate School Applications

graduates_of_brunswick_high_in_2007By Nick Rocha

Applying for graduate school is often a daunting task for students who are attempting to balance work, school, and family life.  Submitting an application, asking for letters of recommendations, and writing an essay takes both time and energy.  Students who are currently working on applications or students who are interested in attending a graduate program after their undergrad might benefit from these 4 tips.

  1. Ask for letters of recommendations early. Professors and academics are often busy on their own work and responsibilities, so it is imperative that you ask for letters of recommendation early on in the application process.  Some experts recommend giving professors at a minimum three to four weeks to write a letter.  Many graduate school applications require the professor to submit the letter on to their website or complete additional questions about the applicant.  Make sure to send a resume to the professor detailing your relevant experiences and why graduate school is the next step for your career.  In addition, it is okay to contact your professor to ask about the status of the letter of recommendation when the deadline is approaching, but do not constantly ask them if they have submitted it yet.
  2. Establish a hook. When you are drafting your essay, it is important to spend a considerate amount of time on your first few sentences.  A hook simply means that you engage the reader in a meaningful way to encourage them to continue reading.  Students can talk about a powerful interaction with a teacher or a professor.  Some students can talk about the first break through that they had with a difficult student during their student teaching experience.  What is important is that you develop a narrative that captures the reader and provides a sense of mystery.
  3. Look for application fee waivers. This is something that is often overlooked by students.  When submitting applications to different graduate school programs, the application costs can add up quickly.  Many graduate school programs offer some information on their websites on how to apply for application fee waivers.  Students who have completed service work such as AmeriCorps and Peace Corps are sometimes eligible for a waiver.  If you are low-income, participated in summer research programs, a McNair scholar, or demonstrate economic hardship you may qualify for a fee waiver.  It is important to note, however, that many graduate schools offer application fee waivers on a first-come first-serve basis so it is important to look for opportunities long before the official deadline.
  4. Establish connections with professors you want to work with in graduate school. Who you will be working with in graduate school has a significant impact on your overall experience and your retention in the program.  Spend some time finding professors at your dream graduate school who are conducting research in an area that you want to get involved with.  Don’t be afraid to ask your current professors if they know anyone from those schools! Academia is actually quite a small place and you may have someone you know who can get you connected to someone at your graduate school.  If you have the opportunity to visit the prospective graduate school prior to applying, I encourage you to do so.  That will give you the chance to see not only if you are a good fit for you, but if the school is a good fit for you.

Finding and applying to graduate school is like dating.  Not only are you being assessed on your ability to contribute to the graduate school, but you also have to make a decision on whether that particular graduate school program is right for you and whether you want to pursue it further.  Finding your niche is not an easy process, but once you have found it things become that much easier.


The sky is not falling.  It only looks that way.

clouds-in-blue-sky-14094113785iyBy Nick McDaniels

We in the education community, many of us anyway, were not elated by the confirmed election of Donald Trump on Wednesday morning. My students, worried about what a Trump presidency means for our society, for their lives, were terrified. As I launched into my impromptu lessons about the powers of the president to quell fears on Wednesday, among the many questions I answered, among the many opinions my students voiced, one piece of wisdom from a student seemed to rise to the top: “our life probably won’t change that much…” a student said.

Frankly, he’s right. Or at least, I think so. George W. Bush will be remembered in history as one of the weakest presidents of all time and Barack Obama as one of the strongest.  Neither dramatically shifted the day-to-day life of the average American, each having eight years to do so. That is not to make light of their impact, because both unmistakably altered the American experience, nor of the importance of the presidency. But it is to say that the likelihood that a president as unconventional as Donald Trump, no matter his degree of crassness and hate, will drastically change the day-to-day life of the average American is fairly slim.

So if that is true then, with our societal fabric pulled to its tensest level in about half a century, it is not a mutually exclusive to suggest that both President Trump will not impact our day-to-day lives and that the sky is not falling. In fact, the reason I suggest that the sky is not falling has nothing to do with the person in the White House. It has to do with the students in my classroom.

I have never seen a more richly accommodating and empathetic generation of students as the one that is developing before my eyes in my classroom with each successive year. This generation of students is the response to the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness. They exhibit a generally more open and welcoming disposition toward others and their ideas. I have heard such a generality as the one I am putting forth confirmed by many of my colleagues.

So the sky isn’t falling because, in the ebb and flow of society and its politics, the response to what may seem a wrong turn for America, is already generationally positioned to control our country in just a few years. The sky is not falling, it only looks that way, because these students–my students and many others–are starting to pull the ground upward.

Dr. Bob Fox Honored at Community Engagement Symposium



Dr. Bob Fox and Penfield Children’s Center were honored at the first Community Engagement Symposium held on Marquette University’s campus on November 15, 2016. The award for the Community Engaged Partnership Award recognizes a “faculty/community organization partnership that demonstrates excellence in respectful, bidirectional collaboration; makes a positive difference in the community; and enhances knowledge.”

Since 2003, the Behavior Clinic has served inner-city families with young children with developmental disabilities. Offering mental health services for children who are experiencing significant behavior and emotional problems, the Clinic also offers specialized training and supervised clinical experiences for graduate students. In addition, research in the clinic contributes regularly to the field of pediatric mental health.

Congratulations to the Behavior Clinic and Dr. Bob Fox, making a difference in the lives of Milwaukee’s youngest children.


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