Freshman Year: The Make or Break Year

Episode 9: Freshman, rookie, newbie. How can schools help students make the difficult transition to 9th grade, often leaving behind the smaller, more protected environments of middle school to navigate the larger high schools with different teachers and different classmates. In this episode, we hear from Emily Krone Phillips, author of The Make or Break Year: Solving the Dropout Crisis One 9th Grader at a Time. Phillips worked as the Communications Director for the Chicago Coalition on School Research. She currently works as the Communications Director for the Spencer Foundation. We’ll also hear from local 8th and 9th grade students who share their hopes, fears, and advice for handling this difficult transition.

Ghosts in the Schoolyard

Episode 8: In this episode we’ll consider the vital link between schools and their surrounding communities, and the “institutional mourning” that occurs when schools close. We’ll hear an interview with Eve Ewing, author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side (University of Chicago Press) and a poem from Pat Frazier, the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, whose debut collection is called Graphite. Click on the images below to see some of the extraordinary photographs of school closings by photographer Tom Lau. All three of these artists (Ewing, Frazier, and Lau) are proud products of the Chicago Public Schools.

Why Teach?

Episode 7: In this episode we’ll consider the reasons why people teach and why teachers stay in the profession. Charles Logan interviews teachers April Peet Vos and Ryan Reese. He also speaks with Dr. Sonia Nieto, professor emerita at The University of Massachusetts - Amherst. All three discuss the importance of relationships — with colleagues and, most of all, with students.


Episode 6: In this episode we'll consider neurodiversity, a term signifying the amazing range of human brains, minds, and abilities -- abilities that are not always accommodated in schools. For today’s guests, this is not merely a pedagogical concern, but also a human rights issue. We'll hear from Peter Smagorinsky, a distinguished education professor at the University of Georgia, and Nick Walker, an educator, activist, and speaker. Smagorinsky and Walker are autistic men who share stories about their own experiences in schools and suggest ways that schools might better accommodate the talents and challenges of the neruodivergent. 

Fail Better

Episode 5: Are our current abilities a reflection of our native talent or just what we have learned so far? In this episode we consider growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor, that refers to a "self-belief" that our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work since our brains and talent are just the starting point. Cultivating a growth mindset can hugely impact our confidence and our behavior -- specifically, our willingness to persevere and our openness to new strategies. We'll talk to classroom teacher Charles Logan, PhD candidate Chris Seals, and University of Pennsylvania professor Kyla Haimovitz to explore these issues in theory -- and practice. 

Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

Episode 4: In this episode we consider the national teacher shortage. According to the Learning Policy Institute, "annual teacher shortages could increase to over 100,000 by next year and remain close to that level thereafter." We'll hear from Michigan State professor Alyssa Dunn who has studied the teacher exodus and the curious phenomenon of teacher resignation letters going viral. We'll also hear from Harper's magazine writer Garret Keizer, author of Getting Schooled: The Re-education of an American teacher

The Secret Lives of Teachers

Episode 3: According to Frank McCourt (Teacher Man), teachers are always wearing a "mask," a professional persona in the classroom. And sure, teaching is always, to some extent, a performance, but when can -- or should  -- teachers be "themselves" in the classroom? How do teachers' lives outside of school affect their roles with students and with fellow teachers? In this episode, we'll consider the tension between the public and the private lives of teachers. We'll hear from Jim Cullen, the author of The Secret Lives of Teachers (University of Chicago Press) and comedian Cate Freedman, whose TV show Teachers finds comedy in the intersection between the personal and professional lives of teachers.  

Politics in the Classroom

Episode 2: Should politics be present in the classroom? "Everything in the classroom is already political," according to our first guest, Bill Ayers, a longtime education professor and activist. We'll also hear from Jashen Edwards, a music educator currently working in Chicago-area schools. Edwards tried to teach the hymn and civil rights anthem, Amazing Grace, with a classroom of young students only to be told it was "too political." 

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A Lesson on Kindness

Episode 1: Classroom teacher and writer Tamara Jaffe-Notier tells a story about her experience teaching the poem Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye. In the process, Tamara shares a story with her students that she had never told anyone else. Then we hear from the poet Naomi Shihab Nye who responds to that story and explains how she came to write that poem.