on courage and camaraderie | Teachers College Press

By: Kerri Ullucci

Kerri Ullucci was born and raised in Rhode Island. She is a first generation student. She earned her Ph.D. from UCLA in Urban Education and her MAT from the University of Pittsburgh in Elementary Education. She is a former elementary school teacher and has been licensed to teach in RI, MA and CA.

Dr. Ullucci is currently Associate Professor of Diversity and Equity in Education at Roger Williams University. Her research interests focus on issues of race and poverty in education and the development of culturally relevant teaching practices. She spent her 2018 sabbatical working with young refugees in grades 9-12. Dr. Ullucci has been published in numerous journals, including Urban education, Race, ethnicity and education and Teacher Training Quarterly. With Joi Spencer, she is co-author of Anti-Blackness at School: Creating Affirmative Educational Spaces for African American Students (Teachers College Press, November 2022).

Find the first part here

When we left you in May, joy was on our minds. As educators entered a well-deserved summer, the focus on joy allowed us to “fill” after the school year. As promised, now that August is upon us, we are reflecting on what we need most as we return to teaching this fall. As teachers in the fields of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we find that courage and camaraderie are on our wish lists. Joi and I teach about race and write about anti-Blackness. Courage and camaraderie help us navigate the difficult parts of this job. By courage, we attribute to Nelson Mandela’s belief that courage is not the absence of fear, but a triumph over it. When it comes to camaraderie, we’re thinking about how to limit feelings of isolation, to see that there are others who care about these issues as well. So, as with our first TCP blog entry, we return to Office Hours with Allen, Noguera, Howard, and Harper as an easy-to-access and engaging source of information and inspiration to keep at work DEI. In case you haven’t seen our first post, Office Hours is a podcast hosted by Jaleel Howard featuring professors Walter Allen, Pedro Noguera, Tyrone Howard, and Shaun Harper. Quick and concise, the podcasts offer insight into how these seasoned scholars make sense of the educational (and often social) landscape. This time, we’re looking at tough topics: mental health, school violence, and the outcry against critical race theory. We focus on these three subjects because courage and camaraderie are needed for these subjects; they are difficult and necessary, and best done with support.


Mental health and education, March 2022


We are all going through some degree of mental trauma in the wake of COVID, the Trump presidency and the cyclone of racism. These are collective experiences that affect us all. However, mental health in schools is often under-treated and downplayed. In this podcast, the team shows how people can talk about their own mental health and how communities have silenced conversations about mental health. It’s an important episode simply because we hear from men talking about their own mental health. It’s the company; we all go through something, and these scholars dare to say so. Listen to their anchors to find out how they stabilize.


We can set an example of courage for our students in the face of mental health issues by simply talking about it, dispelling any shame from the conversation, and normalizing mental health care. I start many of the college classes I teach with a modified form of “joys and sorrows,” allowing students to share their highs and lows with each other during the week. In doing so, I hope that students can see and support each other in their pain, but also celebrate their victories. They quickly understand that every anxiety, fear or stressor they have, someone else has too. I also frequently turn to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley for helpful mental health and wellness resources that teachers can easily incorporate into their classrooms.


Why all the fuss about the CRT? November 2021


My my my. The heat and noise surrounding critical race theory is staggering. This podcast is the perfect introduction to what CRT is, what it helps us understand, and how it got twisted. If you’re new to this, this podcast will quickly get you up to speed. If you’re more experienced with CRT, Dr. Howard’s ability to see through the misinformation surrounding CRT will remind you that there are friends who do this work and see controversy (non-controversy?) in the same way as you. As Drs. Howard and Harper argue, no one in K-12 schools teaches CRT. It is a political project with little basis in reality that Dr. Allen explores. This episode will give you the courage to fend off the uninitiated who have weaponized this framework.


Read, read, read our elders in this field, what they theorized, and how they wanted this work to be used. When we invoke CRT, we need to make sure we know what we’re talking about and what the limits are. Talk about anything that has to do with race is NOT critical race theory. Knowledge sustains courage. According to Dr. Howard’s advice on fundamental texts, try:

  • Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color by Kimberle Crenshaw
  • Faces at the bottom of the well by Derrick Bell
  • Whiteness as a property by Cheryl Harris


Class action on school shootings, June 2022


“How are you?”

Jaleel begins with the most basic questions that spark much of the conversation regarding the recent shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo. Participants talk about their anger, their sadness and their feeling of helplessness. Dr. Harper talks about fighting despair. Listen only to this: anger and indignation. There is something powerful about witnessing this, as you can hear – literally – the anger turn into activism. It’s totally improvised, but the nature of collective grief. As each person speaks out and emotions rise and anger is evident, so does the need to help each other through action. As they say: organizing is a form of healing. The team’s analogies to recycling and smoking (no kidding!) are helpful. You can see the benefit of being angry together.


We believe that we teach whole students, who come to us with academic, social and psychological needs. We are at our best when we can meet those needs. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative can help teachers understand how to support young people in crisis. Both sites contain actionable suggestions for schools, with videos, publications, and materials to use for faculty development. NCTSN also has resources in Spanish.

As you begin your school year, please know that we are thinking of you, sending you courage, and reminding you that you are not alone. We need more, but there are like-minded people out there.

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