The last week has been one of hard and heart-wrenching conversations. Like many of you, we and our education leader partners have been grappling with the insurrection at the Capitol — yet another incident in this country that signals how far we have to go — while anxiously anticipating other potential attacks on Washington and capitals across the country leading up to next week’s Presidential Inauguration. We’ve all been navigating how to communicate with families, staff and students, and there remains the additional challenge of navigating much of this conversation virtually.

We are learning with you and have pulled together a variety of resources, linked below, to support you through these conversations. While these discussions are difficult and can be controversial, we believe they are necessary.

A key component to creating culturally responsive learning environments is building our students’ socio-political awareness, which Gloria Ladson Billings describes as the ability to use school knowledge to solve relevant social, cultural, civic, environmental and political problems. We can only do that by addressing issues in real time and creating space for our youth to discuss our current events. This requires courage.

As part of our learning, please join me on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m., when I will be speaking at a free webinar with Nellie Mae Foundation Vice President Gislaine Ngounou and South Dakota Teacher Travis Lape, moderated by PDK CEO Josh Starr, about the tools and methods educators can use to navigate issues of difference in the tough post-election conversations they are having.

This is a critical time for each of us to be a culturally responsive leader. That means responding, in real time, to what is happening in our world. Our schools serve as the nucleus of our communities. There is no secret veil we cross that separates our schools from society at large. But to do this well, we must prioritize capacity building and support our teachers and leaders in practicing these conversations so they can in turn create spaces for our youth who are always listening and watching.

We know this work is hard. And none of us can or should do it alone. Please join us on Wednesday, and please review, use, and share widely the below resources. Please reach out if you are in need of additional support.


Conversations about race and equity

  • This week’s episode of Code Switch talks about police, “terrorism”, and the symbols of white nationalism that made it to the floor of the Capitol.
  • In this article, Atlantic writer Clint Smith says, an image from the Capitol captures the distance between who we purport to be and who we have been.
  • In this The Atlantic article Ibram X. Kendi pushes us to resolve to the fact that what happened at the Capitol is exactly who the United States is-just look at our history.
  • New York Times writer Charles Blow shares in this commentary that white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy, democracy is the greatest threat to White supremacy because when Democracy works, White supremacists will always, reflexively, be rattled – whether in the 19th century, or the 21st.

Classroom conversations

  • The same day a Black man and a Jewish man were voted into the U.S. Senate, a mob toting Confederate and Nazi flags attacked the U.S. Capitol. As you teach about Martin Luther King Jr. ahead of his birthday observation, acknowledge the link between the racism he resisted and the violence we witnessed at the Capitol. These resources will help foster related discussions within the context of U.S. history.
  • Here are recommendations from the Teaching Tolerance advisory board for how they’d engage in conversations with students on the insurrection.
  • We cannot talk about racism without talking about whiteness. The consequences of white rage in D.C. illustrate the importance of disrupting a “fundamental disconnect between the racial self-perceptions of many white people and the realities of racism.” Here’s why and how educators should talk about it.
  • This Teaching Idea and this Teaching Idea from Facing History and Ourselves guide students to synthesize what happened and outline multiple causes. They include excerpts from texts that explore the ways in which inflammatory language, disinformation, and white supremacy were contributing causes of the insurrection. They are designed to help guide an initial classroom reflection on the events at the U.S. Capitol that occurred that day.
  • This resource offers teachers other helpful guidance for talking with students.


Adult learning and development 

  • This Huffington Post article gives concrete suggestions on how to discuss the insurrection at work.
  • This episode of the NPR podcast Throughline chronicles the rise of modern white supremacy.
  • The insurrection at the Capitol is not the first in US history. The Wilmington insurrection of 1898 was successful. The Atlantic published an article on the events several years ago. Time published an article on the Wilmington insurrection in July in connection to the murder of George Floyd.
  • NPR’s podcast Throughline took over Code Switch and the episode gets into some of the most urgent lessons we can learn from James Baldwin, whose life and writing illuminate so much about what it would really mean for the United States to reckon with its race problem.

Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.

Lead Education Officer & President

Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is Lead Education Officer & President of The Leadership Academy. Nancy joined The Leadership Academy in 2014 and has served as National Leadership Designer and Facilitator, Vice President of District Leadership, and Chief Strategy Officer. She was named President & CEO in July 2018 and continues to serve as an executive leadership coach and facilitator for school systems across the country. She was a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, and in February 2020 was named among the 100 most powerful education leaders in New York by City & State New York. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker for local and national education organizations and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership and equity for national publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, and Hechinger Report. Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrator’s Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. Prior to her tenure with The Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification. Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade. She is an instructor at NYU and frequently teaches at the Harvard Principals’ Center institutes for School Turnaround Leaders, Urban School Leaders, and Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership. Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at The Hunt Institute, Brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team. Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.