Author: NCWP



We are excited to introduce the invited fellows for the NCWP Invitational Design Institute! This summer, we are offering our Invitational Design Institute in a new, extended format to allow for deeper engagement and community support as we navigate exciting and challenging ideas together. Please welcome the new cohort to the network of National Writing Project teachers! We are so excited to bring this group together to read new professional texts, write together, share problems of practice, and create the kinds of support they want as educators. 

Deanna Davis is an Ohio native who earned her credential and has been living in good ol’ Chico for the past 14 years. Being centrally located in NorCal with an abundance of outdoor destinations in any direction is the attraction. She enjoys being in nature as much as possible, nourishing the mind and body. She has taught middle school for the past 7 years and with that, has gained great insight into our public school system. Soon Deanna will be going back to school herself, something in leadership, with the goal of an even clearer lens into education. But the best thing that she has accomplished thus far is her son, Atlas. He is a ham and she adores him. He’s new, under a year, but Deanna doubts the newness with ever wear off! She is over the moon obsessed; he’s sparked a new craving for adventure and possibility for their family. This brings Deanna full circle, focusing on absorbing as much goodness and education as she can to pass that knowledge to him.

Carolyn Diskin teaches High School English at Redding School of the Arts and is currently in her 8th year of teaching English in Redding. During her teaching tenure she has completed a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Chico State and holds English and Multiple Subject credentials from Cal Poly Humboldt. Carolyn has always had a passion for learning. Growing up, her mother was a teacher (therefore her desire to be a teacher blossomed at a young age), and Carolyn herself is a frequent library book connoisseur. Now in her own classroom, her passion for helping others learn and love to read drives her teaching practices. Carolyn aspires to continue pursuing her own education further and is always looking for opportunities to help her colleagues and those around her. She is best described as a smiling, happy presence who is solution driven and constantly motivated to better herself. Her favorite part of being a teacher is the wonderful relationship building it offers and the creative outlet of curriculum creation. Outside of her classroom, you would find her reading in her backyard or chasing around her two sons.

Lukas Harrison grew up in the small town of Colfax, California. This experience has guided his professional and personal passions for serving small, underserved communities. Lukas is finishing his last student teaching semester at Hamilton Elementary in Hamilton City, California. Lukas, a first-generation college graduate, takes pride in fostering relationships with all students and implementing UDL and ELD strategies in the classroom that ensure equitable reading, writing, and speaking opportunities for all students. Outside of the classroom, Lukas enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring new breweries and restaurants, attending professional development sessions, and watching and coaching sports.

Settle in, settle down, get to reading/writing” is projected every day a student walks into her room, as Simone Hobbs welcomes every class, often with a song of the day blaring. Her sixth grade students at C.K. Price Middle school in Orland, California often hate reading and writing in the beginning of the year, but she has a way of getting them to come around, nudging them with humor, patience, a little goading, and perseverance. One of her favorite quotes is from a student who said, “Reading is just not for me, but Mrs. Hobbs, you make reading better.” Having taught in classrooms for about twenty years as a K-6th grade public and private school teacher, Simone constantly shares her joy of reading and writing by giving her students multiple opportunities and engagement activities to create a culture of kindness and compassion, as well as a love of learning. Teaching active listening and collaboration skills, engaging conversations called “table talk”, and encouraging students, along with building her students’ passion for ELA, is just all in a day’s work. “Keep the pencil moving” if using a journal, and “flying fingers” if typing a Dear Mrs. Hobbs weekly letter, are just a few of her favorite sayings.

Megan Johnson is an Education Specialist teaching RSP English, Reading Intervention and RSP STEM at Corning Union High School in Corning, California.  After completing her BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2010, she went on to pursue her Education Specialist Credential through the Rural Teacher Residency program. Megan is currently in her eleventh year of teaching, four of those years at Corning High School, and she enjoys helping students find their voices through self-advocacy and guiding students as they grow in their reading and writing. In addition to teaching in the classroom, she is also a Special Education Case Manager and serves as the Special Education Department Chair. When she is not teaching, Megan enjoys spending quality time with her husband and son, camping, exploring the outdoors, and crafting. 

Toni Lawson teaches English 9-12 at Oroville High School, changing courses midstream after being hired to originally teach History and Geography there, and embracing her passion for writing and literature. Originally from England, she moved to California with her family as a child and spent summers back in England. Navigating the US education system as a first generation immigrant helped her develop a strong skill for inquiry and a critical eye to the need for decolonizing and diversifying curriculum, which she eventually turned into an undergraduate degree in History from UCSB and a Masters in Secondary Education from Stanford University. After teaching in a humanities based program in the Bay Area, she became a curriculum writer for an ed nonprofit supporting 500 schools across the US. Seeing the need for teachers and increased social emotional support in the classroom during the pandemic prompted her to move back to the classroom where her passions for supporting students directly and creating change at a local level have allowed her to engage deeply this school year. Outside of the classroom she enjoys partner dancing, photography, gardening, cooking, and devouring YA novels while snuggling her monster pup: Toast.

Erin Lizardo is an artist and art educator from Northern California. She holds a BA in Sculpture, Ceramics, and Art History, a single-subject credential in art, and currently is a candidate for a multiple-subject teaching credential. She recently received her MA in Curriculum and Instruction in May, 2023. Erin transitioned away from full-time teaching to complete her MA and now enjoys staying active in the classroom as a substitute teacher while working on curriculum development projects. Erin is passionate about art education, accessibility, and integration. She has lived in Chico since 2003 and is active in the local arts and music community. Erin is married and has two sons, ages 11 and 14.

Liz Lurie is a recent California transplant from Austin, TX. Her teaching experience consists mainly of high school and middle school ELD, several years in K-12 Resource, and a few teaching stints in Spain and Turkey. Liz works as the ELD Consultant at the Tehama County Department of Education, where she supports educators in serving multilingual learners. She is excited to be part of the writing project and spread the word on equity-based writing instruction. Liz loves speaking Spanish, gardening, cooking, exploring all of the beauty that the North state has to offer, reading, and of course, writing!

Cheryl McBryde started her teaching journey by earning a degree in English Education from Chico State and then her teaching credential from the Chico State School of Education. Currently she teaches English at Pioneer Continuation High School in the beautiful town of Redding, California. Cheryl loves making a difference in the lives of her students by helping them reach their potential and inspiring them through literature, especially poetry. When she’s not teaching, she loves to spend time with her family, reading, writing, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Zack O’Neill has worked in Yuba College’s English department for six years. He has taught at community colleges and universities in California, Nevada, Texas, and South Carolina. He has a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara, a Masters in English from Sacramento State, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of South Carolina, where he was the recipient of the James Dickey Fellowship and editor of Yemassee, the school’s literary journal. He also had a writing fellowship at the University of Houston, where he worked as a visiting assistant professor. He lives in Sacramento and enjoys baseball, reading nonfiction, blogging at, and attending to various houseplants.

Dana Paz received her BA in Social Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. She lived and worked in her native Guatemala as a grant writer for international development projects for 12 years. She relocated back to California with her family and received her Masters in Education at Chico State in 2019. She is in her fourth year of teaching English Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders at CK Price Intermediate School in Orland, CA. As an immigrant from Guatemala who found academic success relatively late in life, Dana strives to build her students’ confidence in finding their voice. For her, the best part is the immense variety of what students share and the moments of genius that come through. When she’s not teaching, writing or reading, Dana enjoys long bike rides, hiking, yoga and spending time with her husband and son. 

Alex Rainey has been in education for over 15 years and she currently teaches 4th grade at Chico Country Day Elementary in Chico, CA. She holds close to her heart the importance of creating a safe and inclusive learning environment that grants all her learners the space and grace to be seen as who they truly are and can have their voice heard and amplified. As an advocate for equitable and liberatory practices in education, Alex works to ensure students have access to the same opportunities and resources. She is committed to addressing systemic inequalities and creating a more inclusive educational system. Outside of the classroom, Alex loves spending time with her two boys, traveling the world, and immersing herself into new experiences. 

Laura Talley has been teaching English in all forms at local community colleges since 2016. She became interested in teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama after completing her BA in English in San Diego. Afterwards, she returned to complete her MA in Teaching International Languages as well as Certificates in TESOL and Teaching Composition at Chico State. When not teaching a variety of ESL or composition classes, she spends time with her family and at the occasional West Coast Swing dance.

Ann Van De Water is originally from Rochester, NY and moved to CA in ’94.  She decided to become an English teacher when she was in 9th grade and never looked back! After graduating from Vassar College, Ann taught middle school English for a few years. She moved to CA, got married, and taught high school English. Ann earned her MA in English from Middlebury College, including one wonderful summer in Oxford, England. She is in her 19th year of teaching and currently works at Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento. Ann and her husband have two daughters in college. Her hobbies include reading memoirs and fiction, walking her dog, getting her butt to the gym a couple times a week, and hiking.

Sarah Peterson Young is a sixth grade language arts and history teacher at Chico Country Day School, a K-8 charter school in northern California. She graduated from the Political Science department at Chico State and received her teaching credential from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. This is her twenty-fifth year teaching and her second time participating in the Northern California Writing Project (but her first time participating as a middle school teacher!) She is an avid reader and writer: she’s written curriculum for various institutions including the Smithsonian and CyArk, authored a monthly North State Voices column in the local Enterprise Record newspaper, and is a staff writer for the online publication Outdoor Education for All. She’s currently trying to write The Great American Novel.  When found in the wild she’ll be camping with her family or working in her garden.

Maria “Rocio” Zamudio-Perez was born and lived in Mexico up until the age of eight. She graduated from Shasta High School and then continued with her studies at Shasta College. Upon completing her prerequisites at Shasta College, she transferred to Chico State. She graduated with a bachelors in Liberal Studies and a BCLAD Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. She then went onto work in the Early Childhood Field for a number of years. She is currently teaching kindergarten at Gerber Elementary, which she greatly enjoys. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her son, mother, siblings and her dog.

“Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation” Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant

“Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation” Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant

The Northern California Writing Project announces a grant in partnership with Quartz Valley Indian Reservation the awarding of a grant through the National Writing Project’s Building a More Perfect Union, a grant program for humanities organizations across the United States to assist in recovering from interruptions to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Building a More Perfect Union program funds organizations to develop programming in anticipation of the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

 Working with the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation in designing and developing an online presence that captures and reflects the essence of their tribal community has been a real honor for OBSIDIAN to be a part of. We are truly humbled by the depth of cultural knowledge that they share and to witness how it fosters an environment of mutual respect among community members has been a real treat to experience. All to say we have enjoyed the mutual working relationship we have garnered as we’ve come to establish a productive collaborative process with the QVIR youth and leadership. We’re very excited and hopeful for what’s to come!

Rocky Tano, President/CEO, OBSIDIAN, Inc.

This year our project Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation is working to increase the visibility and accessibility of the reservation’s history, culture, and language. To do so, we seek to engage tribal members, community members, and high school and community college students in creating a comprehensive history of the reservation, an online resource for teaching, a renewal of the reservation’s Culture Camp, and an enhanced website for the public.

The awarded projects, selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process, are located at local, regional, or cross-regional organizations such as nonprofits, museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, and public-facing humanities centers at colleges and universities across the country. This funding will help such entities restore post-pandemic programming and engage or deepen collaborations with stakeholders and communities that will expand their reach.

“Each project contributes to a shared national conversation in important ways,” said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director of the National Writing Project. “Building a More Perfect Union recognizes the unique role that local, regional, and cross-regional humanities organizations play in understanding and making visible fuller stories of our national experience.”

Awardees plan to “build a more perfect union” through expanding access and raising the visibility of lesser-known stories and histories in regions and communities, engaging communities through participatory public humanities events and opportunities, and developing institutes and curricula with teachers and students to support K12 classrooms.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is grateful to the National Writing Project for administering American Rescue Plan funding to help local and regional humanities organizations recover from the pandemic,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “These ARP awards will allow archives, libraries, museums, historic sites, and other institutions around the country to restore and expand public programs that preserve and share the stories of the communities they serve.”

To learn more about Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation’s Building a More Perfect Union grant, please visit the National Writing Project website.

NCWP Listening-Pod & Walking “Book Club”

NCWP Listening-Pod & Walking “Book Club”

This spring the Northern California Writing project is excited to offer a three-part “book club” series that will help educators connect to themselves, nature, and each other by intentionally carving out time to walk outside and listen to restorative podcasts in community. During each two-hour session, teachers will listen to a podcast while exploring outdoor spaces, journaling, sketching, and discussing takeaways. We will be providing a notebook and flair pens to all attending.

  • Session One: March 25th, 10:00AM-12:00PM
  • Session Two: April 22nd, 10:00AM-12:00PM
  • Session Three: May 20th, 10:00AM-12:00PM

The activities are free of charge. All educators with access to the community locations are encouraged to register as soon as possible.


NCWP in the News: “Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation”

NCWP in the News: “Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation”

It’s the first step in a larger project called “Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation.” Future plans include annual culture camps at the Siskiyou County reservation, and an educational website open to everyone, said Project Coordinator Jasmine Corona Alcazar and the Northern California Writing Project, a network of teachers, researchers and writers based in Chico.

 Jessica Skropnanic, Redding Record Searchlight

We are thrilled to announce that the Northern California Writing Project was recently featured in the Redding Record Searchlight. Jessica Skropnanic’s article, “Tribes in Shasta, Siskiyou teach students about culture, history of ‘resiliency and hope’,” highlights the NCWP’s educational partnership with the Quartz Valley Reservation.

Keep up to date with project announcements by following our Instagram.




This summer, Northern California Writing Project (NCWP) is offering our Invitational Design Institute, formerly known as the Invitational Summer Institute (ISI), in a new, extended format to allow for deeper engagement and community support as we navigate exciting and challenging ideas together. This extended institute experience is open to educators across grade levels (from kindergarten to college) and disciplines. Invited fellows will attend a program orientation on April 29, 2023 (via Zoom). The orientation will be followed by an Intensive Retreat that takes place in-person July 24-27 at California State University, Chico (lodging provided). The retreat will set the stage for classroom inquiry with two fall debrief meetings on October 14, 2023 (in-person) and November 4, 2023 (via Zoom). We will conclude our work together with an in-person celebration on December 2, 2023. Fellows will receive a $1000 stipend for their participation in the summer intensive, and another $1000 upon completing the follow-up sessions. Teachers can also purchase 1-3 professional development units.

Who should apply?

Any teacher (k-college) who wants to think about the teaching of writing with other educators in our service area. Educators who are ready to engage in conversations about equity, anti racist approaches to course design, and ways to create dynamic communities in education. Teachers should come representing learners of every age and from a variety of disciplines–math to social studies–as we believe that language is a part of every area of study. Our goal is to connect rural teachers in our network at the beginning of what we hope is a long career in education by offering ongoing support, resources, and meaningful professional inquiry.

What will we do?

At the center of our beliefs about professional development is that teachers are the best teachers of other teachers. For this reason, teachers in our Invitational Design Institute read new professional texts, write together, share problems of practice, and create the kinds of support they want as educators. 

This year, our core texts are Start Here, Start Now by Liz Kleinrock, Linguistic Justice by Dr. April Baker-Bell and En Communidad by Carla Espana and Luz Yadira Herrera. Alongside these books, grade-level specific texts and other resources will act as both lens and anchor to our ongoing conversations and imaginations around our teaching.  

Who is facilitating?

The team of facilitators cover a range of grade levels and contexts: Anthony Miranda is an Instructional Coach for Multilingual Learners and a former 7th grade English teacher; Kyra Mello, co-director of the NCWP, teaches at Yuba Community College District and is the former Coordinator of Distance Education; Sarah Pape teaches creative writing at Chico State and is the managing editor for Watershed Review. The team will be joined throughout the institute by other veteran teachers who will facilitate a variety of workshops related to the teaching of writing.

Deadlines, dates and location?

  • Applications are due on Wednesday March 1, 2023; please APPLY HERE!
    • Applications will be screened between March 20 and April 1; invited fellows will be announced the first week of April via email. 
  • Pre Institute Orientation: Saturday, April 29, 2023, 9-12:00 via Zoom
  • Summer Institute Intensive Retreat:
    • July 24-27 at CSUC (lodging provided, details TBA)
  • Fall meeting days:
    • Saturday, October 14, 2023, 9:00-12:00 at CSUC
    • Saturday, November 4, 2023, 9:00-12:00 via Zoom
    • Saturday, December 2, 2023, 9:00-3:00 pm at CSUC (details TBA)

Are there other details I should know?

  • Participants will receive a total of $2000 for participating—$1000 for the summer work and and another $1000 in December for the continued work in the fall
  • Professional development units can be purchased (1-3 CSU credits for $60 per unit).
  • All materials, including current professional books for participants, are covered by NCWP and will be mailed to teachers’ preferred address.
  • We will follow the evolving state-recommended COVID protocols throughout our in-person programming.
  • Applications are due March 1st! We hope you will join us!
  • Link to application
Dispatches: You Are the Scale of the World: Fragments From a COVID-Era Classroom by Robbin Jack

Dispatches: You Are the Scale of the World: Fragments From a COVID-Era Classroom by Robbin Jack

Welcome to NCWP Dispatches.

How do we chronicle our days in a time that resists narrative? Like living through a long body of paragraphs, by the time we get to the conclusion, the introduction has changed. The memory of March is a distant cousin to the reality of August. And so we write missives: a memo, a letter to an old friend, a late night text, a doodle in the margins. Or perhaps a recipe, a rant, or an unsent email draft–forms that hold the capacity for uncertainty, story spaces already ceded to unknowing. In other words, the ephemera of this moment. With this in mind, this summer, the Northern California Writing Project hosted a space for a group of teacher consultants to write weekly, tracking their experience, observations, and process as they navigated the transition between the initial pandemic response in the spring to the impending, more-intentional classroom spaces created for fall. We called them Dispatches. Representing a range of grade levels, teaching contexts, and expertise, these educators created a writing community where deep dives into anti-racist pedagogy wove through questions and concerns about teaching communities, daily writing practice and illustrated mini essays resonated with one another, and over time the fullness of our experience came into focus.  

Kitchen tables are now recording studios. Entire worlds are offered and built through the laptop’s persistent eye. Never before has the classroom felt at once so public, and so private, siloed in our homes or offices, away from students, colleagues, and campuses, trusting, hoping, our videos, documents, and discussions are finding their destination. As we stretch, week by week, into a school year like no other, we offer you the Dispatches from this summer’s writing, revised and expanded to include the ever-evolving challenges of teaching and learning, right now.

–Sarah Pape, NCWP teacher consultant and Dispatches coordinator

photo of author's classroom

You Are the Scale of the World: Fragments From a COVID-Era Classroom* by Robbin Jack

I. The teacher slips on her paper mask in the parking lot, fingers slipping over the light blue edges, looking for gaps that could kill. Inside, she begins the task she has dreaded for weeks, breaking the long wooden table apart, into individual segments, now distanced. They look lonely. She stacks boxes of markers and pencils and post-its into piles and begins to fill bright yellow bags with the tools needed to create vibrant maps and models of the earth’s crust, and stories of lives lived, histories of families, poems of young love, graphs of the length and width of the football field. She measures six feet between chairs, six feet between children breathing, six feet marked with blue tape on the floor, a moat no one may breach. She builds a cache of the weapons of this new war: bleach wipes, sanitizer so cheap it smells of bargain tequila, the one precious bottle of Lysol she found hidden one early morning on the market shelf behind the dish soap. Her year always starts in September and this one brings the same dream the past ones always have: that they live, that they all, live.

cover of the book Patron Saints of NothingII. The brother and the sister board the plane, hovering too near each other, craving connection. The plane lifts and rises above the verdant, lush green of their native Philippines, each foot lifting them further away from anything that ever felt like home. They are teenagers in the bodies of small children. Time zones away a teacher sits before a stack of books trying to choose, sending up pleas to whatever gods that might be to guide her hand to the story that holds the potential for solace and connection and familiarity in this global time of crisis, fear, and loneliness. The brother and sister silently step into the classroom, hovering too near each other, craving connection, the only two bodies in the room allowed to remain closer than six feet, a small but potent gift. Four huge brown eyes lift and move slowly around the room. Two small bodies remaining perfectly still, skin prickling in the presence of so many other people, public school for the first time ever. The teacher explains how to combine simple sentences from eight feet away. The brother and sister hide their elegant grasp of English at all costs; they are not yet ready to offer this new world their souls in words. After grammar, the teacher places a copy of the novel in front of them, one each, the story of a Filipino American boy. The brother and sister open the red cover and begin to read their own story, in reverse.

III. For years the custodian has walked these halls and rooms, righting the chaos that blooms every day from the crush of 1200 bodies jostling and learning in one small space. He has read love letters crumpled and carelessly dropped, scooped up printed essays slipped desperately late under classroom doors, washed the day’s remnants of lessons from silky whiteboards, swept the crumbs from hundreds of illicit snacks out from under hungry children’s chairs. He has always known more of the dark underbelly of this place than most. Now he hides in the shadowed hush of the storage closet, surrounded by chemicals and latex gloves and a new addition, ‘the fogger,’ and fights tears no one would believe could possibly leak from his eyes, wipes them away with his massive strong hands, callouses catching in the folds of his eyes—hands now expected to hold and protect the health of 1200 bodies that still write love letters and late essays, that still sneak snacks under cover of masks when the teacher isn’t looking.

IV. He survived, that’s what he can say. The nights of screams and carefully aimed fists into the soft parts of the body, always (or almost always) under clothes so as not to be seen. Constantly moving, often cold, hunger too familiar. During court the judge said you deserved better from your parents. His abuela tried not to cry as her eyes darted from the judge to the translator and back in a frantic attempt to show respect where it was demanded. Now there are papers showing he belongs to this home where there is always food and blankets and heat; this will take some getting used to. When he gets sick, and then his abuela gets sick, and they have to move his Papa to Tia’s house because he is old and has diabetes, the boy stops going to school. He tries to learn to make soup, listening all the while to his abuela’s harsh coughing in the other room, fear in his stomach like an old friend. His teachers lament his lack of motivation to learn, and the red flashing number on the answering machine gets higher every day, the school attendance officer leaving orders in English that only he can understand. He tells his abuela not to worry, that they are only calling to make sure she is okay, that all is well. He turns back to the soup pot and stirs. He hums Las Mañanitas as he stirs; he is 14 tomorrow.

V. She is the only one in her family who has ever been any good at school, her brother tells her. Last year he hid in their small apartment for two months until the school gave up trying to find him, though they must not have tried very hard since 1401 Creek Street is right next door, on the same side of the street, even. All day long they hear the bells ring each hour and they know not to try to drive out of their parking lot at 8am or 2:30 for fear of being stuck in a throng of teens walking home. Her brother really used to be someone, running in a gang on the streets of Honolulu, and before that their island in Malaysia. Every hat he owned was red, riding atop his long black braid; he always had rolls of hundreds in a drawer by his bed, and those guns might have been dangerous, but only for others—they made her feel safe. Now, every morning in the dark, she lightly steps over the sleeping bodies on her way out the door, pulling it shut in silence, walking next door under the weight of a backpack filled with papers covered in her neat, tiny handwriting. He put a twenty dollar bill she hasn’t found yet in her jacket pocket. Briefly, her skin remembers the island air, warm and wet and heavy. She will be someone, too.

VI. Today in class the children remind the teacher of puppies, talking over each other and jostling each other and laughing. Masks slip down from noses, one girl unknowingly pulls her mask off as she excitedly explains to everyone that she heard a news article that was just like what happened in the book. The classroom door is open, and in the hallway a group of students jog past as they laugh and high five, another teacher hurrying behind them trying to catch up; he peeks into the classroom and his eyes crinkle above his 49ers mask, the new signal for smile. The sun slips up into the windows like a kiss.

VII. This morning she has a serious talk with herself in the mirror. You must hold everything in your two hands; you must make them big enough to carry it all. Your spine must become the pillar and not bend or break. Your arms and shoulders, she explains, are now the fulcrum, slanting slowly to one side and then the next as the weight piles on; your hands are the pans that can drop nothing, nothing do you hear me. You are the scale of the world. Sick parents, sick students, sick friends; “Guidance.” Teach them English they can use, wash their desks and tables and chairs, listen for hoarseness or a stuffy nose, look for signs of fever. Hug them and then wash your hands. Wait, don’t hug them, ever. Move your mom out for her own safety. Say goodbye to your partner until…after all this is over. Test every week. Briefly glance at the bowls you made from old magazine pages, back in March. Smash one. Tell your yoga mat to fuck off. Then tell it you’re sorry. Try to write.


photo of Robbin Jack, the authorDr. Robbin Jack is a high school ELD and English teacher in northern California. She currently teaches at a public high school in a hybrid model with students in person two days per week, and online for three. Her passion is building school systems that acknowledge and then dismantle opportunity gaps for kids. She has been a teacher in some form for 20 years.

*identifiers have been intentionally obscured.

Additional Resources:

Readings referenced: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Other classroom YA novels of note (salve perhaps for the now times):

photo of YA novels