Image Source: New York Times

In six years as an urban educator, I have met exactly two white parents. Two! So I was surprised when I first heard the New York Times’ podcast “Nice White Parents” claim that white parents are the most powerful force shaping public schools. Created by NPR host Chana Joffe-Walt and Serial Productions, the 5-part series explores the contentious sixty-year relationship between white parents and public schools by observing a neighborhood school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. …


We would be remiss to believe that the challenges that teachers are experiencing during COVID-19 are temporal. For many teachers, the sense of burnout is not purely the result of the shift to virtual and hybrid learning models but the continuation of educational inequity that has long defined the profession…

I always choke on my lunch Caesar salad. After a few scary encounters during lunch, sans husband to pat my back, I learned to keep my Nalgene water bottle nearby. I am an urban educator. I’ve spent my thirty minute lunch break for the last half decade begging for students to leave as soon as the bell rings; running down two hallways to wait in line at the single-stall restroom; trying, praying, meditating to get into the right headspace; running copies from the single-school teacher copier; scarfing my food down. …


A stable of New Year’s celebrations, Aud Lang Syne translates to “old long since”. The Scottish folk-melody begins with a rhetorical question, “should old acquaintance be forgot and brought to mind?”. The answer is certainly not — for the literary device functions to bring the listener’s attention attention to the events and pleasures of the previous year.

This year, I’ll be raising a glass alone to 2020, not thinking of acquaintances or “the seas between us braid hae roar’d” for three vacations had to be cancelled. …


I understood the sandwich criticism generation: I have received participation ribbons since preschool and received stickers for a B+ (which I am convinced stands for “BUT you could do better”).

“I really admire your hard work on this project…” Then, there’s that excruciating looooong pause. You know that the next statement is going to be targeted feedback that is long overdue — “but we expect you to use updated metrics instead of recycling last quarter’s presentation file”.

These “admire your hard work” niceties are the bread of the sandwich model of criticism — which you are probably familiar with, where criticism is “sandwiched” between two compliments. It follows this format: Dear [feedback recipient], I wanted to point out that [insert compliment here] but [add criticism here]. In conclusion, [compliment]. The…


“Gaines’ popularity testifies to the continued patriarchal cult of domesticity in contemporary suburban placemaking practices.”

“So, you like shiplap, then?” That is the frequent question I get when people find out my husband is a real estate developer. “You’re like his Joanna Gaines?” Why is my relation to my husband’s occupation so damn interesting? As a high school English teacher who would like to think that she practices what she preaches, I don’t have an operable television and have never watched a session of “Fixer Upper”, the HGTV show that skyrocketed Joanna Gaines to fame. Until a few Google searches ago, I did not know what shiplap is (verdict: hate it). However, it is impossible…


John F. Kennedy once observed, “when written in Chinese, crisis is composed of two characters. One represents disaster and the other opportunity.” Educational reformers have historically took advantage of crises to serve their capitalist aims. In a recent report, the Heritage Foundation observed, “sometimes it takes a natural disaster to catalyze meaningful education change. That’s what happened in New Orleans, where one of the nation’s most vibrant school choice districts has arisen from the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina.” …


A grocery store in the Parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia after 15 hours of looting. Photo: WPVI Philadelphia

“Riots are the language of the unheard” is a line that has been getting a lot of traction in recent months. The line comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “The Other America” where the civil rights leader addressed the causal effects of structural racism. The line has recently been used by some commentators to rationalize the destruction of property and looting by a small number of opportunists. As an urbanist, I am concerned that this oft-shared explanation fails to examine the lingering effects on the “unheard” people of color in urban communities. After all, there are unintended consequences to…


During the last few months of social distancing, I have been getting to know my plant-friends a little too well. Notorious F.I.G, the fiddle leaf fig, has a leaf that I watched steadily turn from green to banana-yellow in the last week (much like my social life). Pot-roast the pothos has a 47 degree tilt on the right which will result in him catapulting off my plant wall in the next two weeks.

While they are no substitute for human contact, caring for a plant does relieve stress and promote a positive well-being. Finding Insta-worthy large leafy plants is not…


Freshmen year is one of the most exhilarating times of your life and sets the tone for the rest of your college experience. While the jury is still out on university life during COVID-19, here are recommendations to help you navigate your first year.

Above all else: Immediately buy “They Say: We Say: Moves that Work in Academic Writing” by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. This book is full of sentence stems and academic writing templates that help you construct an exceptional paper. Many university writing programs now include it as required reading! Peep this sentence stem from the book…


Doyle picks up where her previous memoir “Love Warrior” left off — reflecting on her relationship with soccer star Abby Wambauch, sudden divorce, sobriety, and child-rearing in the age of Trump.

I once passed graffiti that read “our heads are circular so our thoughts can change direction”. Such is the nature of “Untamed” by activist and best-selling author Glennon Doyle. With rich prose and intimate reflection, Doyle picks up where her previous memoir “Love Warrior” left off — reflecting on her relationship with soccer star Abby Wambauch, sudden divorce, sobriety, and child-rearing in the age of Trump. “Allow me to rewrite my own description,” implores Doyle, “I am forty-four years old. With all my chin hairs and pain and contradictions, I am flawless, and unbroken.” Describing her actualized self as a…

Lydia Kulina

| Urbanist | Place-maker | Seeker |

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