All posts by Teacher Action Group Philadelphia

Announcing TAG’s 2017 Inquiry to Action Groups

Teacher Action Group (TAG) is excited to bring ItAG’s back to Philadelphia for 2017!

Inquiry to Action Groups (ItAGs) are an opportunity to build community by learning together, developing as activists, and linking social justice issues with classroom practice.

Small groups will meet for six to eight sessions between February and April to share experiences, respond to readings, exchange ideas, and develop plans of action.

Below find the titles and descriptions of this year’s six ItAGs. To register, complete this form. And please plan to join us for our kick-off event on February 16 at 6pm at Science Leadership Academy-Center City (22nd and Arch).

2017 Inquiry to Action Groups

1. Creating Grassroots Curriculum, Part II

In this Part II to a previous ItAG, we will engage in a series of workshops that build upon the work we completed last year.  We will begin by reviewing last year’s work, which resulted in a curriculum outline, themes and primary foci for a 7-12 Philadelphia humanities curriculum.  We will also explore existing models of grassroots curriculum and continue to create grassroots curriculum to serve our immediate environments and communities.  We will examine what makes a curriculum grassroots and solicit input from the various stakeholders that are vital to producing a sound, viable curriculum that can be used both inside and outside the learning institutions of our communities.  We welcome you to join us whether or not you participated last year.

Stacy Hill is a 14 year veteran teacher who has worked toward educating youth of all ages within the context of community, youth and curriculum development. She is a founding member and active board member of the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce.

2. Education to Govern: Exploring the Possibilities of Public Education

How are we preparing our students to be leaders who can push forward a more equitable, liberatory society? How can our classrooms and schools be practice spaces for building the skills and strategies of active democracy? Using the text “Education to Govern” by Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs as an anchor, we will firm up a framework, assess our classrooms, and explore tools to prepare our students to develop the capacities needed in order to collectively govern, now and into the future. We will work with various protocols for engaging in critical dialogue in the classroom, as well as brainstorming pedagogical shifts toward the classroom as an organizing space.

Hanako Franz, Ismael Jimenez, Anissa Weinraub — Philadelphia educators and organizers. Members of the Caucus of Working Educators and Teacher Action Group.

3. Environmental Justice in the Urban Classroom

How do environmental justice issues affect our students, schools, and communities? Issues in our environment affect every breath we take (both figuratively and literally), but the concepts and language of environmental justice aren’t familiar to most educators, students, and families. What are the issues, and how can we contextualize and fight for them with our students and schools?

Environmental justice issues include sustainable food systems and food deserts, air pollution and fossil fuels, water contamination and oil transport, #NoDAPL and indigenous rights, global warming and globalization’s effects on the world and workers, to name a few.

The goal of this ItAG is to bring together educators interested in exploring environmental justice in their classrooms, schools, and in the city. There are no experts, only fellow learners. Some of us have been using environmental justice concepts in our teaching for years, others are still trying to figure out what it even means. We will also invite environmental organizers from around the area to discuss their work and campaigns.

We will discuss the issues, collect and develop resources, and explore best practices. We will develop the agenda and essential questions at our first meeting.  Educators are encouraged to bring any resources or ideas you have to share. We hope this will be a jumping-off point for future environmental justice teaching and practice in our city and beyond!

Max Rosen-Long teaches Spanish at SLA Beeber.  He is a member of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators. He became interested in environmental justice while working on the campaign for PSERS to divest from the DAPL Pipeline and Fossil Fuels.

4. Immigrant Justice and the Fight for Sanctuary Schools

In the aftermath of the election, students and educators across the country are mobilizing to transform their schools into places of sanctuary to protect students of immigrant backgrounds from the violence perpetrated by the state, as well as interpersonal violence. In this ItAG, we will explore what such a project entails by considering the following questions: What does the idea of a “sanctuary school” mean to us? What are the historical precedents of this social movement? How can we expand the notion of sanctuary across various facets of our teaching practice? What would it mean for us to put it into practice with and for our students?

Jazmín Delgado is an interpreter for the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. She is also pursuing a doctorate in American Literature with a special focus on U.S.-Central American relations.
Rosi Barbera teaches Social Work with a focus on human rights and social justice at La Salle University.  She has worked with various immigrant-focused organizations in Philadelphia.

5. Trauma and Resilience in Education

This ItAG will integrate an exploration of trauma informed practice and self care, and how both affect ALL of us in education.  To explore trauma, we will read articles and one very practical book about teachers’ and administrators’ roles in a developing a trauma informed space. We will also focus on the Sanctuary Model by Susan Bloom and look at the wider implications of trauma and how it affects everyone from classrooms to cities, to society as a whole. We will be joined by clinicians who have certifications in trauma treatment as well as other practitioners in the field. To explore resilience and self care, we will consider the following questions:  How do we keep the fire burning? How do we maintain our passion, energy, and commitment in the face of difficulties, frustrations, and traumas? What helps us bounce back after disappointments and failures? How do we creatively and realistically create change, without succumbing to cynicism, complacency, or despair? How do we balance patience and persistence with a sense of urgency? What habits and practices sustain our sanity and help us flourish and grow over the long term? How do we care for ourselves in order to care for others? How do we balance cycles of sacrifice and renewal? How do we, and how can we, support each other in this work?  
Our goal is for participants to feel empowered with strategies, information and be willing to act further to help push forward the movement of having trauma informed practice as the norm, and a clear sense of their own path towards resilience.  

Erika Dajevskis is a school counselor at W.C. Longstreth Elementary.
Ericka Morris is an EWS Case Manager at the Philadelphia Education Fund, as well as a part time educational consultant focusing in areas of trauma informed teaching practices, self care and best practices for urban educators in general.  Ericka taught at three Philadelphia schools and has one year of administrative experience.  Ericka has also been a certified trainer through Handle With Care, a crisis intervention and behavior management training organization.

6. White Educators and Race: Exploring Our Practice

According to 2012 data, Philadelphia’s teaching force is 69% white, while its student population is 59% black. It is essential for us to have conversations about race, whiteness, and implicit bias with our colleagues, especially white educators. Through this ItAG, we will interrogate the impact of systemic racism and implicit bias on our own practice as educators, review examples of whiteness and implicit bias trainings that already exist, and work to create a training module, specifically designed for Philly educators, to help Philly teachers explore the impact of race on our practice. While the goal of this ItAG is specifically to encourage educators to interrogate whiteness, this group welcomes participants from all backgrounds and professions who are interested in engaging in this work.

Essential Questions:
– How does systemic racism in the United States affect the thoughts and actions of white educators?
– How can we examine the impact of race and bias on our classroom practice?
– How can we engage in conversations about race and the classroom in constructive and critical ways?

Charlie McGeehan is a Humanities educator at The U School. He is involved in racial justice work through Teacher Action Group and the Caucus of Working Educators.  

Building a Movement by Reading Together: Sign up for a Summer Book Club Today!

In 2014, TAG-Philly teamed up with the newly formed Caucus of Working Educators (WE) to offer 9 book groups with about 85 participants for the purpose of bringing people together and learning about social justice unionism, threats to public education, and racial justice struggles in Philadelphia. Last year, WE and TAG sponsored twelve groups with 170 participants with a focus on racial justice.

This year, based on survey results, WE and TAG are excited to announce 15 book groups for 2016!

reading groups collage

Want to meet other people committed to educational justice struggles and other social movements in Philadelphia? Want to learn about the school-to-prison pipeline, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, organizing, feminism, gender & sexuality in education, or another topic? Want to read a classic by bell hooks or Paulo Freire or a New York Times best seller by Ta-Nehisi Coates? Want to be part of a strong and growing movement of educators and allies committed to public education?

Sign up for a book (or five) today!

And come to the Caucus of Working Educators Summer Kick-Off Happy Hour on June 2 at Frankford Hall from 4-7pm to find out more about the books and talk to other participants!

reading groups 2

This summer, we continue the tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life and all parts of the city- parents, teachers, nurses, counselors, activists, community members, students, and anyone else!

Want to learn more about past book clubs and how they started? Read this article on the Summer Reading Series in Perspectives on Urban Education by Kathleen Riley.

Register NOW: Education for Liberation Conference on Saturday, April 30

Eventbrite - TAG's 7th Annual Education for Liberation Conference


At this year’s conference, we celebrate the vision, strength and resourcefulness of students, educators and community members exercising power and creativity in the face of abandonment and dispossession.  We stand firm in the conviction that the people and places in the Philadelphia school system are not disposable, but instead worth cultivating. Rather than disregard and erase our communities’ wisdom and knowledge, we strive to create a space that values this cultural wealth and uses it to ground our work for manifesting just communities and schools.  Drawing from the power within leads us towards limitless possibility and real transformation.

This year’s workshops include: 

  • African American History Curriculum Review Collaborative: non-negotiatiables and the importance of the counter narrative
  • The Benefits of Guided Inquiry Pedagogy for Students with Learning Disabilities
  • The School to Prison Pipeline
  • Reclaiming Assessment and Leadership of our Schools
  • Teaching Consent Through Youth Media (film screening and discussion)
  • Trauma Informed Teaching
  • Children with Incarcerated Family: From Silence to Collaboration
  • Creating Our Own Mythologies
  • Historytelling: Storytelling as a tool for continuity and resistance
  • THERE’S MORE TO OUR STORY: Counteracting The Tragedy of A Single Narrative
  • Being Poor is Expensive: Philly Students Use Math to Explore Social Justice
  • Mindfulness in the Classroom

Saturday, April 30  •  9:30 — 4:00
Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School
1023 Callowhill St. 

Eventbrite - TAG's 7th Annual Education for Liberation Conference

Mindful Mondays: Mindfulness in Philly’s Classrooms

Below, you will find an introduction from TAG’s 2016 Mindfulness ItAG, Mindful Mondays. For more, check out their blog. You can also join them Mondays from 5-7pm at The Living Room Cafe (701 S 5th St.) through April 18. Find their full schedule below.


mindfulness itag 2

We are a group of current and former educators who have experienced the every day frustrations of teaching. We know how powerful and effective practicing mindfulness as a teacher is on decreasing disruptive behaviors, increasing student engagement, and tending to the socio-emotional health of our school communities .

Each Monday through the month of April we will be collaborating with experts in mindfulness who will share their resources, practices and inspiration with Philadelphia-based educators. We will learn how to be mindful and how to create a sustainable environments for our students in a way that uplifts the practice of teaching and learning.

Why not join the inquiry? We practice, chat, chew and unpack the complexities of engaging with this work in classroom spaces. Below find a listing of our driving questions for each session. Feel free to join us for any of them, no experience needed. Just an openness of heart and gratitude for the reflective practice.

Mindful Mondays, 5-7pm

Location: The Living Room Cafe, 701 S 5th St., Philadelphia, PA.

2/22: What is mindfulness and how is it practiced?

2/29: How do I teach and model mindfulness for my students?

3/7: How do students benefit from mindful practice? What structural changes happen in the brain after practicing mindfulness?

3/14: How do your students perceive things?  How does this affect their responses and behavior?

3/28: How can mindfulness positively impact student engagement with content? How do I incorporate the use of mindfulness in my approach while teaching content?

4/4: How can Mindfulness support teacher resilience in environments low on collaboration, modeling or support? How can mindfulness decrease stress reactivity in teachers?

4/11: Who is practicing mindfulness in their classrooms and what works for them?

4/18: Guest students and their experiences with mindfulness.

African-American History Collaborative ItAG Meeting Reflection

The African-American History Collaborative ItAG meets every other Thursday from 5-7pm at Central High School. For more and to join the conversation, check #AFAMtalk or email Yaasiyn Muhammad or Ismael Jiminez.

The following blog was written by an attendee of the ItAG, Shayla Amenra. Shayla is currently a masters student in curriculum development at Arcadia University, and small business owner at HAPPIMADE. Previously, she taught elementary and high school, and ran a mentoring program at Drexel. You can find this and more on her blog.

For the last couple of months I have found myself becoming more pessimistic regarding the state of our nation, african-americans, and education. As a masters student I am constantly ingratiated in the woes and perils facing the educational system; particularly urban schools. I also spend time discussing strategies on what we as educators can do in our little corners of the world to make it right. However, no matter how enthusiastic the conversation I am often left feeling discouraged and pessimistic. Needless to say I  needed to find somewhere to ‘vent’ my aggravation after I read the numbers of blacks in prison and continual police shootings. Not to mention the constant attack I see happening on Philadelphia schools, its’ students and teachers.
A few nights ago I attended the African-American Curriculum ITAG group meeting. If you are unfamiliar with ITAG/TAG Philly you can check out their site here. This group is taking a serious look at the  African-American History course with the goal of making it more accessible, providing certain standards of study, and empowering for students. Once complete, the group would like to submit their final curricula to the school district for approval to implemented city-wide.
This ITAG meeting was just that place for me to be. It was attended by mostly teachers, but there were others in attendance who are in the education world as well.  A few of the educators in attendance teach the African-American Studies course. One of these teachers mentioned that 65%(I think I might be low on this number) of Philadelphia teachers are white, and it’s student population is majority black. Given the numbers, a majority of the teachers of the African-American Studies course will be white. What are the implications? What will the experience be for black students receiving this information from White teachers? Will students of color feel safe exploring the historical context of racism and their relationship to Mayor Kenny’s continuation of ‘Stop and Frisk’ with white teachers? What about white students, how can they explore issues around whiteness and privilege, while understanding connections between this history, neighborhood empowerment and themselves? How would the white teacher talk about the brutal history of this country with their black students while acknowledging their role, passive or otherwise, in this system?What happens when they are called ‘cracker’ by a black student? Is it a teachable moment, or another disciplinary action? Can they move through history to current events helping to motivate action from these same students?
What about the power dynamics? During our discussions a black male teacher shared his story of being told his white students feel threatened by him. This teacher explained that he was doing the same things he had been doing with his black students, but for some reason with his white students he was threatening. Is it possible for this class to address these issues? If so, how, and can they be addressed the same if the teacher was white? In this case how can the teacher ‘teach’ when he first has to address the idea of him being the boogyman. How does a black educator effectively teach this course without being labeled a trouble maker, extreme, or inciting their students to hate all whites? How do they encourage unity and collective activism if they worry about job safety?
Even with a B.A. in African/African-American Studies I am constantly reminded that there is always more for me to learn. I am excited to be a part of this group. The idea of being able to use my field of study to work towards effective change in education helps my pessimism.  It helps as I continue to read about neoliberal policies, watch videos of schools being taken over, and how wonderful(not) TFA has been for African-American teachers. What this group proposes to do follows the districts  idea to, “create a culture that not only reinforces a desire to learn, achieve and grow, but reaffirms their existence in the world.”

2016 Education for Liberation Conference – Call for Workshops, Tables, Student Work, and Volunteers


At this year’s conference, we celebrate the vision, strength and resourcefulness of students, educators and community members exercising power and creativity in the face of abandonment and dispossession.  We stand firm in the conviction that the people and places in the Philadelphia school system are not disposable, but instead worth cultivating. Rather than disregard and erase our communities’ wisdom and knowledge, we strive to create a space that values this cultural wealth and uses it to ground our work for manifesting just communities and schools.  Drawing from the power within leads us towards limitless possibility and real transformation.

Saturday, April 30  •  9:30 — 4:00
Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School
1023 Callowhill St. 


Eventbrite - TAG's 7th Annual Education for Liberation Conference

Call for workshop proposals

We invite you to share a workshop with the social justice education community in Philadelphia.  We welcome workshops that are focused on political education  (e.g. intersectional analyses of how institutional oppression affects our students, our schools, ourselves as educators) and deeper understanding of the current context, curricular ideas, instructional strategies and teaching practice, presentations of community work and student-led presentations.  We particularly encourage student-facilitated workshops.  We will offer three tracks of workshops.

  • Restorative Justice and Healing Trauma

  • Teaching and Learning

  • Organizing for Just Communities and Schools

Submit a workshop proposal here.

Call for student work

Please share examples of your students’ amazing work!  Participate in the student work gallery that showcases students’ expressiveness and skill, and also provides models of what education for liberation looks like in action.  Examples include visual art, memoir, poetry, digital media, student-led presentations/exhibitions

Sign up to display student work here.

Call for tabling and lunch conversation facilitators

Do you have resources or curriculum to share?  We will provide a table for you to display your work and offer it to others.  We also invite you to sign up to host an informal lunch conversation around a theme of your choice.

Sign up to table or facilitate a lunch conversation here.


We need your help to make the conference run smoothly. Consider volunteering to help us in a number of different ways.

Add your name to a volunteer list here.

Announcing 2016’s Inquiry to Action Groups — Register now!

TAG is excited to present 2016’s Inquiry to Action Groups.  ItAGs bring together educators, parents, students, and community members to focus on topics related to social justice in education, and to take action connected to what they learned.  ItAGs create a space for us to explore, imagine, and work towards creating the schools our students deserve.

Listed here are descriptions of NINE ItAGs, which will convene across the city in the coming months:

  • African American History Curriculum
  • Countering Racial Capitalism for a Just City
  • Creating Grassroots Curriculum
  • Cultivating a Mindful Classroom
  • Feminism is for Everybody
  • History and Memory of the 1981 Teachers’ Strike
  • Math and Social Justice
  • Questioning the World
  • Reclaiming Assessment, Classrooms, and Leadership: Responding to High-Stakes Testing and the Future of Assessment Reforms

Register for ItAGs now!

Then join us at 6:00 on FEBRUARY 11 at SCIENCE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY (55 N. 22nd Street) for a PUBLIC LAUNCH and a chance to meet the facilitators.

Spread the word!  Share the ItAGs list and registration widely, and join the movement for educational equity and justice in Philadelphia: @TAGphilly; #ItAGs16; #PHLed;

For more information, reach out to us at

Support a Game Changer for Education in Philly

Early in 2016, there is an incredible opportunity to change the landscape of education in Philadelphia.  Imagine electing a teacher union leadership committed to actively struggling for social justice through strengthening democracy and empowering teachers across the city.

The Teacher Action Group stands in solidarity with the 
Caucus of Working Educators, a caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) organizing for transformation of our public schools.  The Caucus envisions a democratic and transparent member-driven teachers union.  They are running a slate of inspiring candidates in the upcoming PFT elections in winter of 2016.

Whether you are a member of the PFT or not, please join us to support the work of WE, especially in this critical time!

  • Become a member of the caucus and encouraging your colleagues to join (community allies who are not members of the PFT are also welcome to join).
  • Read and share WE’s platform and build relationships with people around you who connect to its vision.
  • Attend a WhoAreWE Session:                                                          
  • Host a #WhoAreWE session for your colleagues within and beyond your school (contact: for information).
  • #OccupyTheSRC on December 18, 2015 5:00 PM, 440 N. Broad.  Show your support for our schools, students, and teachers.
  • Fundraise and donate to support the election campaign.  Join us for one (or more!) of the following fundraising events:
    • Friday, December 18th: House Party, e-mail
    • Tuesday, December 22nd 5:00PM: “Meet the Slate Fundraiser”, Son’s of American Legion Squadron #366 Loudenslager, 7976 Oxford Ave.
    • Saturday, December 26th: Painting with a Twist, email
    • Wednesday, December 30th: “Party for your Right to Fight” (Host: Kelley Collings), 441 W. Earlham Terr.
  • Organize every PFT member to vote in the 2016 election.
  • Help flyer at every school in Philadelphia (contact for information about getting materials and locations)

Questions?  Want to join this effort at a deeper level? Contact Kelley Collings:      kelleycollings@gmail.com215-868-3089


Submit an ItAG Proposal by December 1st!

Interested in starting a conversation with colleagues about a social justice topic in education that relates to your practice?  Submit a proposal to facilitate an Inquiry to Action Group.  ItAGs are 6 — 8 week spaces for educators from across the city to learn and take action around a theme.  All are welcome to facilitate.  Complete this form by December 1st to propose an ItAG for 2016.  Questions? Contact us at