UDL Rising: Naming, Disrupting, and Dismantling Barriers to Equity

>> We’re kicking off our conference today with a community of people who gather with us knowing that the solutions to today’s problems can’t be named solutions if they’re living in isolation Rather, solution lies within a community, shared understanding and collective knowledge-making Through the leadership of Lizzie Fortin and Dr. Jon Mundorf, educators Dr. Cody Miller, Marian Dingle, Cornelius Minor and Kass Minor have worked to curate a body of knowledge to be shared with all of you One that re-centers David Rose and M. Meier’s powerful declaration that the future is in the margins, clarifying and accentuating UDL’s radical possibilities and widening its scope Please join me in welcoming this amazing group of educators I’m going to stop sharing my screen so that Cornelius can share his >> And it is so exciting to be here with all of you I am with some of my favorite colleagues on the planet right now My name is Cornelius Minor and I am coming to you live from Brooklyn, New York where it is a hot August day Now for those of you who know the heat of New York City or of any other city, you know that miles of concrete amplify heat in awe-inspiring and uncomfortable ways So though it is summer, the time often associated with time off and leisure and fun conferences like this one, there is a discomfort in the city right now that is both familiar and new You probably feel it in your city too There is the familiar discomfort of the heat and of the tropical storms that sweep the continent at this time of year But there is also the articulated discomfort lingering in our collective consciousness As we contend with the impact of a pandemic on our communities and on our schools, as we process the reality that many among us have still not found the humanity to assert that black lives matter, and as we are literally dying of policy that fails to see our LGBTQIA family members Those of us who welcome change know that this discomfort is a necessary catalyst for the kind of social and educational progress that we have championed here at CAST always And it is in this spirit of necessary discomfort that I greet you this morning If we are not bold enough to name a problem in public and creative enough to study a problem, then we can never hope to solve a problem At CAST, we know how to live with and through discomfort At least, we used to There was discomfort as we helped a nation of schools contend with the ableist ideology that was legislated into its very foundation There was discomfort as we turned that reckoning into a global movement to include all learners This kind of radical work is our ethic But the last few years have been relatively good to us Our revolution of the marginalized has become decently mainstream and we have settled into comfort We built whole frameworks and approaches that expressed radical outrage when men in offices demanded an approach to teaching and learning that failed to acknowledge our neurodiversity We knew that this was not just a matter of public sentiment We understood that these were issues of access Yet we are silent on the policy front, when black and brown students with IEP’s are at the center of the school to prison nexus This is an issue of access Yet we are silent on the policy front when our transgender and nonbinary or gay students are underrepresented and pushed out of schools This is an issue of access A crucial read of history teaches us that in order for the radical to become mainstream, it must be robbed of its teeth We now poke at problems that we used to punch directly Lizzie, Marian, Kass, Jon, Cody and I are all here because this pains us We assumed that UDL was for all people All people And we have built our careers on that assumption, that the guidelines that they are lived in far too many places ignore the reality of our work and the lives of our students We realize that UDL is situated in a box that does not truly include all students yet And we are here to start the messy work of climbing out of that box

Exactly 157 years ago, on a sweltering August day just like this one, August 10th, 1863, an angry Frederick Douglass stormed into the office of then-president Abraham Lincoln And to remember the summer of 1863 is to remember the violence that marked that summer The Civil War was raging, riots over drafts targeted specifically black communities And Douglass arrives at Lincoln’s threshold with a simple request: that Lincoln, you have built this box called democracy, but your white male, able-bodied democracy is not big enough or does not include my people And so we come to you today with a similar assertion: that the box that we have built called UDL is still not big enough And I am proud to be here with leaders in our field who have labored intensely for years to make the borders, the margins of that box include every kid in every community and in every school As we engage in this work with you this morning, please know that policies alone will not do this for us That this work requires bold social action and powerful imagination, and a reckoning with the histories of hurt that have happened on our watch We know that white supremacy is not a rational thing, so we will not end it with our intellect alone in spaces like this We know that ableism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, transphobia, classism — we have spent too much time attempting to make sense of the senseless And we have not examined how the senseless has seeped into our organizations, into our schools, into our classrooms and into our communities That we are so excited to engage you in this radical work of reimagining and reconstructing and rethinking today I want to welcome you to this UDL conference, and I want to introduce you to some of my favorite colleagues, the people who have been doing this work in communities all over As we work today, we will be sharing the microphone, passing from one to another So please know that even in this digital space we are inviting you to question, to think with us and also to be angry with us And to take that anger like our UDL forebearers did and to imagine a thing that is more inclusive than the things that existed yesterday, than the things that existed this morning, than the things that exist in far too many of our school communities Welcome to this conference Welcome to the experience We are certainly glad to have you here All right, I’m passing to my colleague now >> Hey, all I’m Cody Miller, he and his pronouns Thank you so much for that beautiful intro, Cornelius I’m coming from Rochester which is the cradle where Frederick Douglass did most of his work So I feel a spirit of everything you said I feel so honored just to be in the city where so much important work that shaped our democracy happened So thank you so much for that beautiful introduction I want to spend a little bit of time today really thinking about, you know, why and what does UDL have to say about movements that have been happening for a long time, right, that the UDL universe has not been part of I have kind of three guiding quotes I want us to anchor and to think about So this first one comes from Chris Mayo who’s a queer education scholar “Where we think any conversation starts sets the terms of how it continues And so thinking about histories with more complexity may help us keep moving towards educative possibilities.” And so with this quote, what I really want us to think about is, where did the UDL conversation begin, right? And who were in those rooms as that conversation was happening? Because if we start there, we can really understand the problems we’re facing now If we assume that somehow the start was this neutral, vague start, it doesn’t allow us to name the systems that were operating when this conversation started, right? So for instance, if at the beginning of that conversation racism, sexism, homophobia,

transphobia, classism, all these forms of oppression were not centered, it’s very hard then to have that conversation today, right? We have to name the genealogies that we come from to say how we got here And so that’s kind of what I want us to talk through a little bit in my segment Because I think it’s really important to think who was in the room when UDL was conceptualized Who wasn’t? And then what are the implications we can draw from that, right? I am always — I have a level of skepticism whenever the word universal is brought up, because often universal is a tool to flatten out all marginalized people, right? So you think like I’m an English teacher So when we say this book is universal, what it typically means is like it was written by cis white men and then we’re going to like universalize that experience onto everyone, right? So I want us to start with this question — I guess I keep saying start with this question and then I give a new question Another question to add is, if in this room when UDL was started singular dominant identities were present, that’s not universal, right? And I think we really have to constantly be problematizing the U in UDL Because I think that U is where a lot of systems of oppression can get replicated And you know, I want to kind of chew on that note — think back to Jennifer’s opening where Jennifer said that this work UDL was groundbreaking at the time And I wrote groundbreaking for who, right? Like who saw this as groundbreaking? The idea that schools exist and then force norms onto people who don’t necessarily want to embody those norms — queer and trans people have been saying that for like decades, right? Like that is nothing new for queer and trans people So again, groundbreaking for who, right? And kind of surfacing these identities that haven’t been talked about explicitly in UDL — I think those are really important keys So to kind of continue with the opening notes, in talking about intersection with disability, Jennifer didn’t name homophobia and transphobia, right? And when we think about disability as a medical model, which is kind of the dominant framework for thinking about disability, it’s important to note that the medical model disability claimed that queer people, you know, were diseased up until 1973, right? And it’s still legal for therapists to use junk science to do conversion therapy against queer and trans people So I think again it’s important that we can’t say, “Oh, we’ve always talked about these We just haven’t talked about it explicitly.” If we’re not being explicit about it, then we’re not talking about it, right? So I really want to surface that in this conversation And then if I could have the next slide Thank you, Lizzie The next thing I want to talk a little bit about is how ideas that are committed to radical politics can get defamed if we don’t really honor those intellectual legacies, right? So this is a quote from an article I love by Cheryl Matias, which is, “Worse yet, some white teachers and teacher educators co-opt and redefine theories first conceptualized by scholars of color who are resisting the hegemonic oppressions of whiteness and using their white ocular to filter out the most radical parts of these theories to fit within white color-blind comforts, the essence of their conception is lost.” I think that’s really important that when we think about a concept like critical race theory or closely relevant teaching, culturally-responsive pedagogy, those are theories that were committed to a politic, a radical politic that called for the restructuring of society, right? It was not just about like offer audiobooks or give multiple ways to like do your assessment, right? These were radical notions to restructure what society meant And so I think it’s just really, really important that especially when white folks in these circles start to drop these theories, they really have a deep understanding of the theories And they reiterate the political commitment of those theories You know, because if we don’t honor the political commitment of those theories, you know, to use a jargony academic term, it is a level of epistemological gentrification, right? Like we are taking these like radical notions from marginalized people, defaming them of the politics to try to sell them to mostly middle- and upper-class cis hetero white people, right? We are selling them to mostly middle- and upper-class cis hetero white people which predominantly make up the teaching force in order to make them feel comfortable to like move an inch, when the theory calls us to like move miles, right? So I think that’s really important whenever we’re dropping these names, let’s make sure we’re not defaming them from the political commitments those theories call for And it also just reminds me of — in thinking about how activists have been, you know,

singing a song of contribution for a long time, I want to point to a book by Jeff Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell called The Art of Critical Pedagogy And in that book, they call for people committed to critical pedagogy to stop looking at academics, right? Stop looking at academics and start looking at activists, right? We can learn so much about how to change schools by looking at activists, not looking at Harvard professors, right? So I really want us to like rechange our scope there too And then the last quote I want to end with is one by Dafina-Lazarus Stewart that I really, really love And it’s about the difference between inclusion, equity, diversity and justice So “Inclusion asks, is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong? Justice challenges whose safety is being sacrificed and minimized to allow others to be comfortable, maintaining dehumanizing views.” And so this really gets at the importance of thinking of the language we use And I really want to reiterate again that I fear often in these conversations, you know, folks doing UDL have always thought about these We just haven’t named them And again, if you’re not naming them, you’re not doing them, right? Like if you are not making a political commitment to name these systems of oppressions and challenge them in all parts of your life, then you’re not doing them And I really want to reiterate that we are explicit in naming what we’re doing And I think as we’re moving forward, I also want us to think how UDL has — what has UDL — you know, how and what has UDL benefitted from not naming those systems for so long, right? What have the UDL world gained and benefitted by not naming those systems? Because I think we need to not feel like, “Oh, I do UDL and it’s kind of adjacent to this so now I have a right to be in these conversations,” when activists have been doing this, putting their lives at stake for decades, right? Like we need to really honor that and not just feel like we have a say in it, because of some vague language in the UDL guideline that says all I think that’s really, really important And then the last thing I want to say is thinking back to when I went to UDL IRN back in 2017 — and it was shortly after Donald Trump was elected, despite losing the popular vote And he was in the process of rescinding protections for trans kids that the Obama era — that President Obama enacted And there was lots of keynotes, and there was talks about the harm that Donald Trump was doing to some of our marginalized kids There was lots of talks about revolution and the future and the margins And I just want to end on this note that there’s nothing revolutionary about staying quiet when the most marginalized people are being harmed So I want to end with that note, and then move to our next panelist And oh, there goes my timer The last thing really quickly is I do want to put in a GoFundMe link in the chat box One of the trans Black Lives Matter activists in Rochester who’s a really prominent activist, Sampson, was the victim of a hate crime earlier this week He’s now out of the hospital, however there are piling medical bills and there’s been a GoFundMe started So I’m going to put that link in the chat Please, if you can, please give Sampson does such important work in Rochester So thank you so much I feel such honor to be part of this panel and I’m going to pass it to the next person >> Hello, everyone My name is Marian Dingle and I am both excited to be addressing you today and really honored to be among such esteemed panelists My school year has begun, and as we speak I’m in a district training, hence this video I’d like to begin with a few acknowledgements I acknowledge that the land I am on today called Georgia is the unceded land that once belonged to the Cherokee and Muskogee peoples This land is land that they were forced to leave behind I also acknowledge that my ancestors were stolen from their native lands to work this unceded land I ask a blessing from the native peoples and my enslaved and free ancestors whose native languages I do not know I ask them to bless our time together as it is offered in the spirit of peace and reparation Personally, I acknowledge that although I am a healthy and employed educator, I’m dealing with chronic trauma

My son, a rising college senior, travels back to school tomorrow He’ll resume workouts with his football team as we await a decision on when his season will begin Both my adult children live and/or work in cities that have been in the news as the sites of recent murders and arrests of innocent people My husband occasionally travels for work As a black woman, I’m very aware of anti-blackness that surrounds me and the real dangers that confront my family I begin with these acknowledgements because context matters I think it’s important for us to acknowledge where we are so that we’re aware of the lens through which we act and feel That allows you to receive my comments appropriately I have been teaching for 22 years, all in elementary grades I have taught in different states, in public and private settings, in areas of families with high socioeconomic status and in schools that have received Title I funding I’ve been a teacher of the gifted and I have taught and in co-taught settings And the one thing that continues to persist, the one thing that keeps me up at night is the fact that no matter where I go, the students who look like me are those that are perceived to be at the bottom It is indeed the problem of practice of my career My father instilled a love of mathematics in me at a young age Many nights we would spend at the kitchen table as he revealed its secrets to me I was mesmerized and thought my father was a magician I couldn’t get enough In fact, he and my mother mathematized everything I grew up thinking everyone did this In early childhood we talk a lot about the importance of creating home environments for children that are rich in literacy and text Mine was rich in mathematical ideas and concepts They weren’t contrived, but as natural as breathing I remember my mother periodically dumping the contents of her purse onto her bed to expose the loose change The challenge was if I could count it correctly, I could keep it As I understand now, this was a brilliant pedagogical move because it allowed a conversation about my process She could observe my grouping strategies, how I looked for and made use of structure And of course, I had every motivation to persevere In the book Dare to Lead by Rene Brown, she asks readers to select their core values from which all actions emanate For me, they are love and justice As a mathematical being, this is the lens through which I view the world, as is love and justice In my problem of practice, I’m seeking a pedagogy that is more human and humanizing I believe we can begin with the concept of community The Mayan-inspired poem In Lak’ech, which translates to, “I Am You,” or “You Are Me,” reads, “You are my other me If I do harm you, I do harm to myself If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.” We are models of community for the children They are of our utmost concern The past few years, I relied upon the daily morning meeting to build community in the classroom All of us sitting in a circle being seen in whichever way we would like, with the invitation to speak During my first year of doing this, I had a student, Gigi, who I had been warned about “She is a selective mute,” they said “She won’t talk to you or anyone.” Gigi, a Latina ELO student had this label at age nine So of course she became my challenge On the first day of school, I went around the circle inviting each student to speak but really expecting each student to speak I made lots of eye contact with Gigi in the hopes that when it was her turn, she would speak I used my wait time and then more wait time, but she did not speak I proceeded to the next student, but all the while she was closely observing In the next period, I had taught the students a math song in a call and response fashion It was a sort of diagnostic to see which materials students knew and how much they retained after some review Along with the song, I would stop and point to different students

and that student would sing the required number in a rhythm The stakes were common: after all, it was their first day But they were fun I got my nerve up and I pointed to Gigi What does she do? Well, she sang the correct number on beat, of course That was the beginning of me realizing her brilliance I was ecstatic, because I thought it was a win for me, that I had pushed through and she had responded But as the year went on, I realized it wasn’t my win at all She would continue to show me the mathematics that already lived inside of her And I would have to catch up to where she was I had to get over myself If I was to teach her, I would need her trust and permission One way that trust was built between us was through journaling I learned that it was not that she didn’t want to communicate, but she preferred writing Through her entries and my response entries, we learned quite a bit about each other I learned to read her facial expressions and her body movements Those eyes, they saw everything It wasn’t long before she began advocating for herself One day, she approached me to say verbally that she just didn’t get division She needed help and she wanted extra work I gave her a lesson on the spot and supported her She began to use her voice more and more, but always purposefully That was her lesson for all of us, that her voice was a gift to us, not to be taken lightly She would use it as she saw fit It made me question quite a bit about my pedagogy, what I considered a good student Why did I require her to use her voice to show that she knew a concept? Why did I require oral reports and presentations? Whose need was I prioritizing? If we want an education that humanizes, then we must enter into experiences with kids that honor who they are Learning should be consensual Colleagues would occasionally comment when they saw her use her voice in class Mouths fell open when it was Gigi who appeared on the school announcements broadcasting the week’s events They thought I had done some magic, that there was something special about our class But that wasn’t it at all We simply allowed and expected Gigi to be herself To me, that is what UDL should aspire to be, where children’s brilliance is assumed and where students can trust that they can be their full selves >> Thank you My name is Kass Minor My pronouns are she and her, and I am sitting here today before you with a group of people I love as a guest on the land of the Lenape in Brooklyn, New York I’m going to take a deep breath I’m going to try to do a lot here in ten minutes So a few years ago I facilitated a presentation called UDL as an Act of Social Justice: Three Ways to Engage, Challenge and Cherish All Your Students before a huge sea of ELA teachers and school administrators at Teachers College in New York City I tell the crowd of people in that crowded space, UDL is an impetus for our communities to get the equity and access they need and experience the inclusivity they deserve Too often, kids who defy norms are left out, labeled and deemed impossible to teach, very much like the story that Marian just shared with us And so I bravely assembled all who gathered in my space and I did my best to complicate normality and reposition teachers as the architects of their curriculum And I ended powerfully, hopeful, encouraged by the teachers and school leaders scribbling notes and chatting around me in the conference space at Teachers College So in a conference space or in academia, theories are made and ideas are wielded and are projected onto the people So the three ways I said to engage, challenge and cherish your students to the folks in front of me were rife with possibility at that time, right? So one, I said that we need to acquire a strength-based view of students Two, create goals that are appropriate and challenging for all students And three, provide multiple pathways for students to reach those goals Very, very UDL-esque, right?

So these ideas and possibilities feel really strong and promising But later, now, I understand that this is way too narrow, and for possibilities we need to understand and we need to do and we need to feel so much more So the possibilities of an idea when your feet are anchored in a school feel less hopeful Conversely, sometimes an idea or a theory, even one like UDL, and maybe especially one like UDL feels hard and it feels soul-wrenching And I’ve been in a lot of conference halls over the past few years and I’ve studied it and I’ve worked for a university But my home remains in classrooms My family resides with teachers and my kin are the school communities I’ve allied with And this is where I know the heart of the work to be So as agents of learning design, we who are immersed in UDL culture and really anybody who strives to reach all learners knows that to create access, one first has to assess And having one conversation with a school leader is not the same as engaging in community listening sessions To assess literally translates to sit beside To reposition oneself at the same level as those who surround you, flattening that hierarchy So with lots of groups of teachers I’ve engaged in deep inquiry, complicating modes of assessment within schools And this spring, one particular period of engagement with teachers and students stands out to me So a school community that Cornelius and I had built a relationship with over the last few years reached out to us and they were deeply concerned about groups of students who were both disconnected and seemingly outraged with school in general and in very specific ways And so there were a lot of things that they named as concerns, rightfully so So I did my thing and I wrote up the site goals as this So it’s named in that gray box on the slide It says in this site goal, teachers will explore conflict in school spaces, working towards mitigating negative conflict by studying behavior as a form of communication and developing a deeper knowledge base around healing-centered practices This work will initially begin with story collecting from staff and students about their individual and shared experiences with the recent and current conflict, as well as visual data collection This sharing informs all areas of study which may include but not be limited to: de-escalation strategies, executive functioning, centering students as co-creators of curriculum, creating consistent meeting space for easily-triggered students and/or growing these sort of practices by experiencing a variety of circle activities I think big when I make site goals for people So fast-forward, we go to the school, Cornelius and me, and we have this really lovely group of teachers who we’ve met in a variety of different ways over the past, and we study together So we always start with our cycles of inquiry in deeply immersive research and we like tackle this report called the Impacts of Trauma on Learning — I’ll drop a link later — published by the Massachusetts Advocates for Children And we start — we start collecting these stories from teachers, from school leaders and also from kids So we’re careful in the way we collect information from kids So along with this group of people in the school, we created a people watching lens So Lizzie, if you could go to the next slide, folks will have a chance to see a little bit of it So I know it’s hard to read So there’s a Bitly on that slide, so you can go to that link and you can see the document more clearly And so we create this document with a group of people in the school and it’s sort of like a twist on Yetta Goodman’s and Gretchen Owocki’s Kid Watching piece that they did, that they created back in the ’80’s And so you’ll see it here And so we’re trying to figure out what’s happening with students and their relationship to school in the space, and also like with the grownups that are surrounding them And now there’s there a lot we can hypothesize about why what’s happening is happening, but anytime that you’re doing deep inquiry with people, you really need to experience real-time school with them And so we visited all of these different spaces: classrooms, hallways, et cetera So this is basically like low-inference — we’re taking low-inference observation notes and we’re pairing it with some deeper wonderings, right? So in the school spaces we’re about to visit like I expect loudness, visible rise in conflicts, you know, all different types of things But that day, instead of all this loudness that we expected or that I expected, I saw a lot of quiet spaces You know, and I’ve seen a lot of stuff happen in many classroom spaces, but that day, like if there was a cricket that lived in New York City, you could have heard it And so we noticed kids in this one particular classroom answering questions

and many times it’s like the same kids over and over We noticed kids doodling on their worksheets We noticed kids resting their head in their hands We noticed the teacher talking about the photos on the projector, asking questions And we noticed another teacher walking around the classroom individually supporting children Now I’m going to rewind what I just said and I’m going to revise it using more specific descriptors And I’m going to use race words as descriptors And the reason I’m doing that is because in American schools and even in the land of UDL, using race words has been taboo It makes people uncomfortable and in our schooling system, when people start to feel discomfort, it’s reinterpreted, “We should stop doing this.” I’m going to do it We can’t change what we don’t name, just like Cody said earlier This is like our mantra that I’m always telling folks So in that classroom, there was approximately 25 kids, about half are white or they present as white A fourth presents as Asian and about an eighth represents as Latinx and an eighth present as black One teacher is a white man, one teacher is a white woman — they present that way at least So three white boys and one Asian girl answer almost all the questions the teacher asks Girls who represent all different types of races doodle on their worksheets while the teacher talks And these girls lead the groups on task when it’s time for groupwork Two black girls are quiet with their heads resting the whole class One Latinx boy I’m supposed to keep an eye out for is absent The white male teacher is the only teacher who addresses the whole class The white female teacher only talks to kids individually or in small groups There are many, many disturbances to name, lots of context to add, but the facial cues are arresting They’re so arresting that most times when I enter into school spaces, what I see is a fractal or a microcosm of what is happening in our society that hardly anybody is naming, especially in school spaces And so we visit multiple classrooms after that and are collecting stories from the eight classrooms we visit alongside teachers Like any strong inquiry could go, it left us with many, many more questions The same questions that are posted on the slide you’ll see Questions teachers come to us and they ask, what do kids bodies look like when they’re feeling affirmed and engaged? What activities can rewrite this kind of body language? Without sleep, without food, what are children physiologically able to do? How do we adjust ourselves thinking about the stratification and separation that exists within our school community? How a school community exists within our larger community These are all questions that are completely valid and if we don’t dig into these questions, we are not going to be able to figure out why students have the types of relationships they have to school, to learning So maybe you’re wondering how those powerful questions arise from like this seemingly simple question or visual story collection So on the next slide, I’m going to show you Here we have — it’s called a framework for praxis of critical inclusivity So powerful questions like the ones I just read to you can only surface when you root everything you do in relationship People can call Cornelius and I up because we have a relationship with them They’re only going to ask us these kinds of questions if we’re truly listening to what they have named their problems to be We have radical presence We are here now with people So for me in the work I forge with Cornelius and many, many friends and teachers and kin and communities, it’s all been rooted in this, this praxis developed by Dr. Celia Oyler, Dr. Tara Schlessinger and Dr. Wanda Watson And these brilliant women posit work in schools is always a negotiation of people, space, structures, time, affect, ideology, cultures, politics, society and self We cannot do UDL alone UDL often lives in this space of ideology and curricular and pedagogical acts Everything surrounding that is what is impacting a child’s feeling connected to a school, to a person, to a peer, to content, curriculum So we cannot ignore those dangerous sociopolitical contexts we work in in schools, universities or anybody who lives in the United States of America is situated in The bold ways are obvious: deportation, shootings, suspensions that leads

to incarceration, COVID-19, special ed statistics, suicides from the LGBTQIA school community The silent ways are also insidious They are the quiet everyday happenings of both schools and spheres of educators that erase culture and personhood as a force of relevance and our shared ideating Youth who keep quiet with their heads in their hands during the history lesson, youth who are absent, families and caregivers who cannot stomach the PTA meeting — The work of including and designing all learners cannot be quiet with only tiny flickers of spaces to name and discuss the applicability of culture relevance, black liberation and indigenous histories to our movement as practitioners of something so boldly entitled “universal design.” So finally, I’m going to leave you with a question that’s on the last slide Who gets to be a knower in the land of universal design? And I can tell you I’ve spent almost my entire teaching career with a foot in both spaces of academia and school communities And almost everything I know about who I am as a pedagogue has been born from my proximity to communities in schools, in neighborhoods with families, their kids and other teachers While I am lucky for my pedagogy to be peppered with knowledge-bearers who wear professorial titles, I am bound to this earth with those who walk in the hallways of schools And so here I pass the baton to one of those people, my loving, brilliant, bold friend, Lizzie Fortin >> Thank you, Kass Thank you, Cody Thank you, Corn Thank you, Jon Hello. I am Lizzie Fortin and I currently use the pronouns she and they I’m a white queer educator currently sitting in a loft inside the renovated hill on Belope Factory in a gentrified section of western Massachusetts which was previously the land of the Nitmuk people who I’m continuing to learn about I live one mile down the road from Laurel Clayton, a historically black neighborhood that was demolished in 1970 and then removed again when I-290 was built I live two miles from the school that I work at in the Wester Public Schools I want to send some love to the people in Beirut after the explosion yesterday, and so much love to educators all over the country and world as they either are in school today or as they prepare for a school year like no other I am an instructional coach at a high school and was previously a visual art educator I am an artist and I’m currently working on my daily collage project, and a timeline project where I contextualize history I want to express an immense amount of gratitude and love for my fellow panelists who have taught me so much about UDL, collective liberation and unending grace Five years ago, when I learned about Universal Design for Learning, my brain exploded I engaged in my first UDL 101 course and I had a giant educator crush on Jon Mundorf who I’m on a panel with right now, who had led me to meet everybody else on this panel UDL finally made all the work I’d been trying to do with my students make sense I finally had a framework and a really clear direction I loved the intentionality within the guidelines, and the vast amount of research helped me make sense of how to make things happen for learners I also began to understand myself as a learner I began to notice though how other people talked about education students much more closely I noticed the specificity of equity and margins, but noticed who’s being left out And it seemed like my students, black and brown students, were being rendered invisible Render as an artist — this word has a particular meaning It’s a tier-three vocabulary word that means to draw accurately It takes particular skill, practice, discipline, focus and time to be able to render well So when I hear the phrase or I use it, rendered invisible, I understand it as an intentional act To render someone or a whole group of people invisible takes particular skill, intention, discipline, focus and time In order to bring those that we as a society and as educators have rendered invisible back to the center as UDL proposes to do, we must be able to see clearly and get proximate Brian Stevenson, who Cody is wearing a fantastic shirt with one of the amazing things Brian Stevenson says — who is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative, the author of Just Mercy and an advocate for those on death row, says that in order to shift the moral arc towards justice, we have to get proximate to those who are suffering

and those who have experienced injustice How often do I look away when I see the man on the side of the road? How often do I ignore the police siren in my neighborhood? How often do I throw my hands up with frustration at my own skills to support learners? How often do I use the phrase, those kids? How often am I silent when others use that language? How often do I prioritize the learning of the students in my classroom that show an eagerness? How often am I part of rendering others invisible? Why is the school I teach at or the one my kids go to predominantly white? Why don’t I send my children to the school I teach at? In order to get proximate, we must name that black learners, queer learners and trans learners are rendered invisible in our classrooms, school spaces and in society I also want to name that indigenous youth have some of the worst outcomes in this country, rivaling black youth I’m still in a learning space around indigeneity in this country, but if I don’t name this here, I’m going to continue to marginalize and invisiblize — I don’t know, I just made that word up — I’m going to render them invisible So based on the human rights campaign data from 2018, only 11% of youth of color surveyed believe that their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the US And over 50% of trans and gender-expansive use said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity What’s more, only 26% say they always feel safe in their school classrooms And just 5% say that all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people Our classrooms are rendering queer youth invisible The phrase “school to prison pipeline” — and I am — I’m not sure if the word is enjoying, but I love the terminology nexus because it’s actually the same Schools and prisons are the same It’s being used all over the place Schools are rendering black queer youth invisible through actions, shuffling students directly into the carceral system or through inaction, allowing 8% of black men and 5% of black women to drop out Monique Morris uses the term push-out, because that is really what we as educators are doing for students at the margins Dropping out seems so passive, as if nothing could be done about it Pushing out is much like the intentional moves of rendering students invisible As an artist and UDL practitioner, I have to center my design around those margins Although I can name the demographics and notice the students within my school who are on the margins, forgotten about, rendered invisible, I have to do some stretching, some imagining, some dreaming in order to design around those margins As a white queer person, I can look at my own experiences within education, but honestly, school is made for someone like me In order to get beyond what I currently have as a frame of understanding of education, I must dream beyond As a group of us planned this talk, we thought of showing what this might look like, what we’re proposing to explicitly name those barriers of racist and oppressive systems and how using UDL to proactively plan for those in the margins But there’s a few barriers within me or us in showing what this idea looks like The first barrier is that if we just take the guideline and just add anti-oppressive language to it — I think it was supposed to slide — oh, there we go Anti-oppressive language to it, it’s just the addition of a ramp It is reactive rather than proactive We need to get to the foundation We must partner with the communities we serve to hear what they need We must know the history of schools and spaces we are working within We can’t be the experts here, but we can be expert listeners The second barrier — we know that there’s not one way that UDL looks or sounds or feels We know it’s not only about captions or beanbag chairs or even graphic organizers That in order to be designing for your learners, you need to be thinking specifically about the context and environments Imagination and dreaming is something that is intentionally taught out of us in traditional schooling It is hard to do as an adult who is stifling under the systems of capitalism and white supremacy So I will help a little bit with this hard work of imagining the expansion of UDL to think more specifically towards those black trans learners in your communities So often when we are dreaming, especially with the use of UDL, we can only name the barriers And we get stuck on those barriers Ask any teacher what the barriers are right now and we and they can talk to you for hours Barriers are what make up teachers’ lounge conversations and parking lot conversations after the meetings So let’s not get stuck on the barriers

We’ve named them here and I implore you to continue to learn and have a full understanding of the barriers, but also to dream beyond the barriers and have your most marginalized students dream beyond the barriers And then listen and put those dreams into place Despite the perceived absence of black trans girls in your schools and educational spaces, we must plan for them in every moment You need to put on your anti-oppression lenses daily, not just when you’re feeling like it Just like when you first learned about UDL, it seems so large, so vast As such, so is working towards a dismantling of racism and oppression Put your new bifocals on, the UDL lens and the anti-racist lenses There are no lines anymore It’s all together That’s how they do those fancy new glasses Put in that same amount of time and energy you did early on with UDL and understanding your learners needs Learning how to get captions on every video — except now this work won’t be as technical It will be human-centered Learn from those at the margins Listen to your learners, read, watch and follow black trans women, black non-binary folks, queer black women, black cis women Who should I start with, is a question I get a lot I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you who I am listening to closely Charlene Caruthers, Val Brown, Marian Dingle, Dr. Carol Anderson, Dr. Bettina Love who will be here on Friday only live It will not be recorded Show up for Dr. Love Rev. Angel Kyota Williams, Adrienne Maree Brown, Shay Martin, Octavia Butler, Dr. Monique Morris, Dr. Bell Hooks, Dr. Goldie Mohamed Put in the same discipline, intention and practice as the artists do in rendering so that no longer will we — and I include myself in that we — be rendering people invisible We have to work collectively in order to make this happen So find your people in your schools, your communities, in your lives I’m going to send this over to my first UDL education crush, Dr. Jon Mundorf >> Thank you, Lizzie Thank you, everyone, for being here Good morning I am so thrilled to be with you all today amongst this group of just wonderful humans I’d also like to say happy August 6th to our friends on the other side of the world right now It’s nice knowing that there is a tomorrow ahead of us and it’s something that we get to work toward My name is Jon Mundorf, and my pronouns are he, him, his I’m a middle school teacher on the stolen lands of the Timucua in Gainesville, Florid Last Monday I began my 18th year teaching in Florida Public Schools I first learned about UDL at a Harvard Summer Institute in 2006 My teachers who are right there in front of you on the screen were Grace Mayo who’s on the left, Tom Hehir who’s on the right, and David Rose in the middle This was before I was on social media, so this image doesn’t exist anywhere else besides my computer, and so it’s fun to be able to share this When I attended the institute, I had never heard about universal design for learning, nor had I heard of the three people leading the institute I attended because I was awarded a scholarship for summer learning through Florida Gulf Coast University, and I found this opportunity about something, something design for something with a subtitle of New Direction for Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners I’d just finished my third year of teaching I was quickly on my way out I was overwhelmed with all that was asked teachers and how we were positioning students as the problem I didn’t have any old direction, so I was keen for a new direction These three wonderful people taught me about UDL, but it was also the first time that I really learned about the idea of asset pedagogy, an approach that focuses on strengths and sees the diversity of students as a positive thing There’s no way I would be the teacher I am today, and certainly no chance I’d be sitting here with this wonderful group of people if I hadn’t learned about universal design for learning A few weeks ago, I read an article in The Atlantic written by Dr. Christopher Emden and in the article he wrote, “The best teachers don’t just keep teaching Instead, they use their pedagogy as protest They disrupt teaching norms that harm vulnerable students.” It made me realize that UDL also taught me about the importance of disrupting teaching norms that harm vulnerable students And that’s why I continue to incorporate UDL into my teaching, and I believe it’s important for all educators to learn about universal design for learning I’ve never once been asked to implement UDL by one of my principals It has never been an initiative at a school or a district I worked in Yet it guides my work because it is the best framework I’ve come across for celebrating and responding to the variability of students It’s good, but it is not perfect And in its current form, universal design for learning is limited Hence, the need for this conversation and this symposium

Today, I want to talk about a few big ideas I learned at Harvard in 2006 from these three teachers and how these ideas inspire my thinking about UDL rising today I’m also going to ask you to consider some questions about UDL Lizzie, would you move to the next slide? I want to talk a little bit about something that Grace Mayo, a founder of CAST taught me She used to always say that the theory behind UDL is so important But what’s more important is where the rubber meets the road Her passion for the application of UDL inspired me in the way I think about UDL in action There’s no doubt that my students have benefited and still benefit from options for perception, physical action and recruiting interest, to name a few But there’s so much more needed in designing limitless learning environments Over the years, as I’ve taught my students about UDL, my eighth-graders, my former fourth-graders, my former fifth-graders, I’ve learned that UDL addresses some of the barriers my students face, but not all of them So this next slide is the first of some questions that I’m going to be asking you Lizzie, if you would go ahead Thank you In the coming days, I’d like you to think about two questions I’d like you to think about where does the rubber actually meet the road with UDL? How do we take the theory and put it into practice? And as you’re contemplating that, I’d like you to be thinking about the students that you serve Do the UDL guidelines address the barriers your students actually face? Does it address some of them? Does it address all of them? I’d like you to be thinking about that as you learn from one another over the next few days So if we move to the next slide, I want to talk a little bit about something that I learned from Dr. Tom Hehir He was a professor at Harvard, a former director of the Office of Special Education Programs at USDOE He was a former director of special education for the Boston and Chicago Public Schools And he always talked about being skeptical of dominant frames by which society addresses its perceived problems He explained that dominant frames hide oppression and inequality And he often would tell a story about a conversation that he had with his boss, Judy Heumann, the American Disability Rights activist, about federal policy related to teaching students with disabilities She said, “Don’t you get it, Tom? It’s ableism They don’t believe we — people with disabilities — are capable.” And Tom shared this story and he talked about how it was an epiphany for him, how it changed his frame, how he saw many of the practices that he and others in the field engaged in actually perpetuated ableism Though well-meaning, educators often focused on deficits and not strengths Too often they ignored their unique gifts that students with disabilities brought with them because of their disabilities Tom’s story is a constant reminder to us that even well-meaning educators can be creating the oppression and inequality in their classrooms because of the frames they rely on for working with students So please, take some time to consider these questions as you learn these next few days What are the dominant frames guiding your work? Is UDL one of those dominant frames? And what oppression and inequality are these frames hiding? So the next pair of questions are inspired by CAST co-founders, Dr. Anne Meyer and Dr. David Rose who was one of my teachers at that Summer Institute And they wrote in the beginning of the 21st century — they wrote about the role of technology and disability in education reform And they framed the work with this phrase: “The future is in the margins.” The notion has always resonated with me and it connects ever so clearly to the words of Dr. Emden that I shared earlier In the text, Meyer and Rose say, “As in any revolution, students in the margins are likely to lead the way, precipitating the shifts in thinking that will open vast opportunities for educational reform They have much to offer in this enterprise and we all have much to gain.” As I said, this idea is always on my mind and it makes me wonder, as I hope you will too, who are the students in the margins? And how are you letting them lead the way? Finally, I’d like to talk about the learning and unlearning we need to do Take some time to think about who you have been learning from As we move forward to name, disrupt and dismantle barriers to equity, think about the gaps in your learning, or even the unlearning you need to do and from whom you will learn as you move forward The answer to the first question is what got us to where we are today, which includes the good and the bad How you answer the second question will determine the future of universal design for learning In the book White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo writes, “Not naming the groups

that face barriers only serves those who already have access The assumption is that the access enjoyed by the controlling group is universal.” I’ve always believed — or maybe I wanted to believe — that even though UDL didn’t specifically address barriers such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, structural inequity, economic justice, that if you looked closely you could find a connection I really did I tried to convince people of it and I realize now that I was wrong and maybe I was just trying to convince myself Does racism limit learning? Does sexism limit learning? Do homophobia and transphobia limit learning? Does inequity limit learning? Does injustice limit learning? Of course those things do UDL is limited, because it fails to specifically address the barriers of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, inequity and injustice To conclude, as I pass it off to my friend Cornelius Minor, in 2017 there was a tweet in my Twitter feed from a teacher in New York City and it caught my attention It was from an account @MrMinor and it was a Kendrick Lamar quote and image I didn’t know Corn at the time, but the words captured my feelings perfectly The quote was, “I sit and talk to kids all day because I feel like they carry the most wisdom.” I printed it out and have had it on my desk at school ever since And to me it’s a reminder of the importance of the asset pedagogy I mentioned earlier Students come to us as the very best student they can be at this particular moment in time, and it is our job to learn from them and to design for them We’re just a few weeks from you all starting your school years, and I’ve got a whole bunch of eighth-graders that are ready for what I hope will be their best year yet You have students waiting for you too As you embark on this symposium and the upcoming school year, please keep asking yourself, who are the students in the margin, and how are we letting them lead the way? What dominant frames need to be challenged? Where does the rubber meet the road? Grappling with these questions and the other question that arise in the struggle is the only way we are going to design learning without limits >> All right, well thank you so much, Jon And I’m going to take our last 120 seconds because we’ve all got to transition to new panels and to new breakout rooms But I want to take our last 120 seconds to just thank my co-panelists And how do you find words to close out, you know, what Cody has remind us of what CAST has urged us to do? What Jon has envisioned and what Lizzie has designed and what Marian has personified Well, I want to remind you of this: that we know that a belief in normal is damaging It harms the students Similarly, cis-heteronormative, homophobia harms students Similarly, settler-colonialism harms students Similarly, white supremacy harms students I am familiar with all of these things, particularly this: white supremacy turns those who love black children into warriors We are constantly having to disrupt and to subvert and to undermine and to destroy practices that murder young spirits and pilfer futures In this we ourselves are robbed of countless opportunities to co-construct powerful and literate realities for children and for their communities This is true for my parents One thing that you need to know as we close this session today is that if you grew up like me with powerful, loving black parents, black wisdom was wealth And though it is no substitute for living wages or equal pay, the wisdom nurtured the eloquent and enduring rage that would keep us warm when there was no money for heat The real magic is the reality that when denied access to housing, to food, to opportunity, I have seen black and brown mommies, grandmas, daddies, aunties and other caregivers protect our children with wisdom And I am asking us to move forward today in that spirit of wisdom, that these pearls are David’s stones to the American educational Goliath that in 2020 can still not find a way to see black students or gay students or trans students or indigenous students as whole humans Friends, we know that today’s racism does not burn crosses or hurl stones through windows Today’s racial terrorists deny opportunity They horde resources, they broker low expectations, and they are on your school board and in your PTA and on your grade team You don’t identify the racist by the words that they utter or by the kind they are in their relationships Rather, you identify them by the outcomes that they consistently produce Six hours in a school day, white kids’ joy is encouraged; ours is relegated and policed Racism. 180 days of teaching, straight kids learn; gay kids survive

Nine months of instruction, rich kids see themselves in everything; poor kids are erased 12 years of schooling, white kids access opportunity and brown kids compete for the token slots that we have held for them These patterns are not patterns perpetuated by people who love you These are the habits sustained by people who many times unknowingly are participating in some form of your extinction When white extremists use violence to oppose shared opportunity and resources in school, Malcom X reminded black parents that the people who bomb your church should never be the ones who educate your children Only a fool would let an enemy teach their children When I consider the historic legacy of UDL, ableist orthodoxy as our enemy, inflexible rules or rote policies or approaches or beliefs that stifle creativity and drown love, only a fool would let an enemy educate their children We can be the anti-orthodoxy But again, policies alone won’t do it Bold social action, powerful imagination, reckoning with the histories of hurt that have happened on our watch — this will require a level of critical thinking that we hope that you hold onto as you move through this conference That multiple simultaneous truths can exist For Douglass and Lincoln, we knew that the Constitution was a powerful document, but it was also true that people used that Constitution as a weapon to deny humanity of whole communities Working to make the Constitution and a country what it professes to be is not antagonism It is the ultimate form of love For us, the UDL guidelines are revolutionary But it is also true that they are silent when it comes to the groups that are at the margins today Working to make these guidelines more inclusive is not an abandonment of UDL’s original vision It is a loving reconnection So as we move forward today and throughout this conference, may you be similarly lovingly reconnected to justice as we study together during this gathering I’m Cornelius Minor and on behalf of all of my co-panelists, thank you for being here