Poet Laureate Visits Classrooms


Philadelphia-based poet, singer, educator and curator Yolanda Wisher visited several TPS classrooms this week. Wisher was named the third Poet Laureate of Philadelphia in 2016.

“Poetry helps me make sense of my day,” explained Wisher to Primary Unit students. The poet spoke about The Black Opals, a group of young African American poets who worked in Philadelphia in the 1920s and who published their work in a literary journal at a time when no one was publishing poetry by African American poets. Wisher called them “the Avengers” (of poetry) of their time, superhero poets who did something no one was doing” in the early 20th century.

TPS Hosts First Annual Asian Family Night


On Thursday, April 18th our middle school Asian Affinity Group hosted the first annual TPS Asian Family Night for The Philadelphia School community. Over 90 people were in attendance as we celebrated Asian culture through food, music, and dance. We also heard from amazing speakers including our Head of School, Lisa Sun. The affinity group's goals of sharing their experiences, building community with Asian students, families, faculty, and staff was surely fulfilled during this event.

Asian Affinity Group member and 8th grade teacher Noel Yee reflects on the night:

This year, I focused on my Asian identity as an element to concentrate on in my work with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In my Equitable Classrooms cohort we surveyed students, teachers and parents to get a deeper understanding of how Asians in our TPS community feel and are perceived. The results of these surveys motivated me to work to create an Asian affinity group with two of my colleagues—Claudette Coverdale and Je Un Park.

Organizing the affinity group has been impactful for me in multiple ways. The group allows me to collaborate with my colleagues on a project that is non-academic and I get to be a leader for the small community of Asian students in the middle school.   

Asian Family Night was inspired from other family nights and dinners that have occurred at TPS over the past few years. Je, Claudette, and I agreed that it was important to keep the students at the center of the evening. We worked to achieve this by asking students to offer dances, poems, flyer production and anything else they could contribute. Students were so animated and driven to present and share their gifts with their families and TPS community.

The outcome of Asian Family Night could not have been any better. Sitting in the audience that night and watching our Asian community gather was fulfilling for not just me and the parents—but most of all the night brought a sense of community to the students.

Click here to hear a poem about diversity by sixth grader Miles. Miles shared this poem at Asian Family Night.

White Privilege Conference Reflection

Julia Carleton and Brian Johnson at the White Privilege Conference in Iowa.

Julia Carleton and Brian Johnson at the White Privilege Conference in Iowa.

The White Privilege Conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa provides an opportunity for individuals to feel empowered and prepared to advocate for equity and justice through working towards self and social transformations. As a school, we have been attending this conference since 2016, and we are proud that three faculty and staff members attended this year: Julia Carleton, Brian Johnson, and Brian Jordan.

Julia Carleton, Junior Unit D teacher, reflected on her experience at the conference:

I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this year’s White Privilege Conference in Iowa. The conference brought together a group of over 1,000 educators, non-profit workers, organizers, and students, all devoted to learning more about white supremacy and committing to actions that dismantle it. Some experiences that were particularly memorable for me were a keynote from Dr. Heather Hackman about the bodily effects of racial oppression, a keynote from Dr. Ivory A Toldson on how statistics about Black people reflect racial bias, a workshop about equitable ways to assess students’ learning, and a workshop about how affinity spaces engage white people in anti-racist work. For me, the conference was extremely informative and invigorating, and I gained more clarity on some of the ways that I, as a white person, can and must engage in anti-racist work. The conference also led me to recognize how much learning I still have ahead of me. I was humbled and motivated by the generosity of the presenters and participants there who shared their experiences and wisdom, and I look forward to sharing what I learned with my colleagues at TPS.


Kindergarten teacher and half of the musical duo City Love, Brian Jordan, performed songs from their album of children's music about diversity, equity, and inclusion called, The Future Is Bright.  

Brian Johnson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), gained valuable knowledge and fresh ideas to continue the meaningful DEI work he has been directing at TPS.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race

By JJ Shirley, President, TPSA

Last Thursday, my husband Raphael and I attended the Progressive Talk brought to the TPS community by Brian L. Johnson (Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), TPSA, and the Family Diversity Committee (FDC). As white parents of three white boys, we recognize the need for conversations in our home about race and racism, but we are not necessarily sure how to go about having them. We had attended previous talks on similar topics, and while informative and interesting, they had left us feeling as though we still didn’t know what to do. We were both hoping to come away from Thursday’s talk with some tools to help us navigate a topic with which we have little direct experience.


The evening’s format proved to be extremely useful, with discussion and research from the presenters –Brian L. Johnson and TPS parents Dayna Muniz (FDC) and Michele McKenna (FDC) – followed by breakout scenario workshops. The workshops afforded the parents in attendance the opportunity to grapple with real-life possibilities and exchange ideas for how to deal with them ourselves and in relation to our children. Having these multiple perspectives, which were then shared with the entire group, provided us with new ways to think about and approach the issue of race and racism, both within our family and as we encounter it in the world.

For those of you unable to attend the event, I encourage you to look through Talking About Race, a document created by Brian, Dayna, and Michele that has several useful resources for talking about race. I also encourage those in our community who are looking for help and guidance, on any topic, to attend presentations like this one. You will be surprised at how much you come away with.

Nourishing Equitable Classrooms

What are we doing to support “these” students to meet their potential? This is a question Brian Johnson, TPS Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), asked himself in 2012, prompting him to begin his journey in pursuing equitable classrooms for students of color. Brian first launched the program at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Massachusetts and introduced it at The Philadelphia School in the 2015-2016 school year.

While the program’s roots began with teachers focusing on individual students not meeting their academic potential, it has adapted to now being centered on the teachers themselves—providing our educators with tools, resources, and constructive feedback to help them meet the needs of all of their students while being mindful that each student’s experience and background is different.


Equitable Classrooms (EC) is a year-long program in which participating teachers engage in inquiry-based professional development that focuses on race as well as other social identities in their classrooms. Twelve TPS teachers are participating in the program. Each teacher identifies their own inquiry to explore throughout the year. Two outside consultants, Drs. Charlotte Jacobs and Ali Michael, are each assigned six EC teachers whom they observe monthly. EC teachers receive feedback from their consultant, as well as from an assigned peer, who provides another perspective on how they are progressing towards their goals.

Junior Unit teacher Julia Carleton has participated in EC for the last two years. This year, her inquiry is, How can I differentiate instruction to meet all students where they are and push them each to grow?

“I feel lucky to work at a school where we get to know each student well. I want to use my knowledge of each student and my relationship with them to design learning experiences that are individualized,” Julia shared. “My goal is to hold high expectations for each student, while recognizing that different students need to be pushed in different ways.”

Research has shown that learning environments that are not diverse, equitable, and inclusive can play a factor in inhibiting academic or social emotional performance. EC aims to improve both teacher and student performance. Teachers are addressing DEI growth areas to enable them to better deliver equitable and inclusive instruction and support, while students focus on building the necessary skills and knowledge to improve their academic or social-emotional performance as well as self-advocacy.

“Equitable Classrooms pushes teachers to do the same type of learning we expect of our students: learning that is reflective, critical, and self-driven,” Julia said.

The participating teachers, consultants, and program developer Brian Johnson meet each year to discuss how to continue to adapt this program so it is most effective. “We have the making of a dynamic program,” Brian shared. “I think Equitable Classrooms can make a difference in a teacher’s practice and, in turn, be the difference maker for our students.”