There is Power in Art

There is Power in Art

I wake up and it is quiet

There’s no noises

The sunlight is peeking through the blinds of my bedroom window, where I see the wind ruffle the leaves of our magnolia tree.

I hear the wind, now, too.

Two hummingbirds are buzzing at the feeder suction cupped to my window. They rest and drink the sugary water and look at me through the window.

A crow caws as it flies past, and my wife rolls over in her sleep. The sound of her breathing is long and measured.

I wake up like this, everyday. It is extremely peaceful and the most relaxing thing I’ve ever experienced.

Yet, my heart is beating fast, very fast, like wings of the hummingbird outside of my window. There’s a knot of anxiety that refuses to dissipate. Something has a hold on my chest and my breathing is shallow. Why? What is making me feel this way, when I wake up in such an idyllic environment?

I pick up my phone that is next to me on my nightstand, and then I know why. Why I’ve felt this way for months, why I’ve felt uneasy since I moved from Brooklyn, to Seattle.

I feel unsafe. I feel that my life is threatened.

Scratch that.

I know that my life is threatened.

People are being murdered by the police, almost on a daily basis. The rights of gay and transgender people are being stripped away from them. Muslims are being targeted by bigots and denied entry into the “land of the free.” The education system is in shambles and young people are being terrorized by current policy. Teachers are devalued and deemed worthless; there are articles about teachers being replaced by AI. Artistic expression and creativity is shunned, but lies are universally accepted. The gap between the rich and poor is widening, as is the divide between black and white. Canada was on fire, and the smokescreen has made Seattle’s air quality akin to Beijing. White Supremacists are marching in Virginia, burning torches, and spreading vitriol, bolstered by a nation that has chosen hate as its form of expression.

Polar ice caps are melting and it is way too hot. Animals and trees are dying, and I’m laying in bed, and it is quiet and serene.

It’s feels like I’m lying in a coffin.

I know that I’m lucky, but I know my luck will end. Our luck will end. I wake up every day thinking today will be the day. The day that my life will be taken from me.

Then I remember

We are stronger together.

Out of darkness, there is light.

There is power in art.

After the dark ages in Europe, there was the renaissance. Because of da Vinci, we understood Flight.

After years of “let them eat cake,” we had the French Revolution and with it, folk tales from the Brothers Grimm and music from Mozart and Beethoven. Artists turning their fears and desires into children’s stories and complex musical notes.

After the Mexican Revolution, we saw the innovative period of Mexican Muralism, which brought us artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Out of bloodshed and war, these muralists created images of family life and, of working class people, normally overlooked, in classical art.

During the Great Depression, there was also the Harlem Renaissance, highlighting Black artists of the 20s. From a time when people were grabbing pigeons out of the sky for dinner, Black artists were holding onto life, by reflecting what they saw in the world. There’d be no jazz, rock n roll, or hip hop without the Harlem Renaissance.

I wonder what art will spring forward based on the lives we live in 2017. How will the youth of tomorrow see the youth of today?




Written By: James Miles

Questions: When Narrative is Shaped by Race

Questions: When Narrative is Shaped by Race

Is two better than one?

Last week I saw “Barbecue” at the Intiman theater where one conceit was telling the same story through a lens of whiteness, and through the lens of blackness. “Barbecue” was story of a down on its luck family trying to save their drug addicted sister. The play started with an all white family planning an intervention, and after the blackout, the story continued, but the same characters were now all Black. It was interesting how race shaped the narrative. I won’t ruin the rest of the play, but I began wondering how a paradigm shift would impact other stories and possibly boost empathy, in audiences.

Then I saw Wonder Woman.

It was an enjoyable movie (quite enjoyable actually), and examined feminism through the lens of whiteness. The first time we meet Diana Prince she is being sought after by her black mammy. The next black woman we meet is a brute that speaks no words but is beaten with a large bat, yet feels no pain. That is the extent of women of color in that film.

Wonder Woman fights for humanity, but not all humans. This of course, is fine, but I wonder what would happen if the same story were told with black women. Black heroine chased by her white nanny. Big white woman hit with bat and says no words. Then black Wonder Woman battles the evils of African genocide and saves us from 500 years of oppression.

Or, would she fight alongside the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II? Would we see the character the same way, or would she be too militant? Would the movie get cancelled like ‘Underground,’ on WGN? Would white women be upset because they couldn’t see themselves in the character? Would the actress be chastised for supporting Black Lives Matter? Would it be a feminist movie or a black movie? Would my daughters leave the theater looking proud, instead of confused? Would she fall in love with an abolitionist? Would a love story even exist? Would Ares be the Egyptian god, Set?

Would young people still make art?

Would it matter?

Would there still be educational inequity?

What does representation mean, in 2017?

I guess we will find out next February…

James Miles is the Executive Director of the Seattle- based Arts Corps, an organization whose mission it is to unlock the creative power of youth through arts education and community collaboration. A Master Teaching Artist who has worked in arts education for more than 15 years. He has facilitated workshops and designed curriculum for the New Victory Theater, Roundabout Theatre, Disney Theatrical Group, Theatre for a New Audience, Center of Arts Education, BAX, Brooklyn Arts Council, Opening Act, and (Out)Laws & Justice. He has worked as an actor, an accountant, a comedian, and a model.

Written By: James Miles

Who’s Your Mr. Feeny?

Who’s Your Mr. Feeny?

I failed 9th grade algebra.

I assumed that I needed a photographic memory, or maybe it was because I’m dyslexic. I definitely lacked the stealth necessary to cheat; classmates routinely lifted their shoulders to block my vision of their exams. I could never explain why I tested so poorly, but standardized tests weren’t interested in my excuses. The deeper my grades sunk, the further back in class I’d sit; this also closely tied to the lack of effort teachers invested in me. Teachers forgot me once the back of the classroom became my domain. I stopped attending class after failing math for a third semester; until truancy officers brought me back.

“At this point you’re likely to graduate two years after your peers,” my advisor informed me, never prying her eyes from my transcript.

My advisor suggested attending an alternative high school to accelerate my credit accumulation. I applied for the alternative school, but by the time I was accepted I’d grown jaded, and developed a disdain for school and its administration. My test scores led everyone to turn their backs on me, and I’d now been funneled into my last option. A seed of resentment grew to be my primary motivator. Graduating high school for my own good became almost secondary, I was determined to void test scores and disprove everyone’s opinion of me as a failure.

Refocusing myself in high school was challenging. I applied myself to a degree I was unaware I possessed. My grades caught momentum, and I even passed algebra — thanks to one teacher in particular: Mr. Manjee. I don’t remember exactly what common interest we found, or what gave our relationship footing, but we bonded very quickly. Manjee introduced math in style, and demonstrated its application in everyday life during his lessons. He helped me, and other students with a track record of failing, not only pass algebra, but to see it’s usefulness. Manjee kept a diligent eye over my studies throughout my time at the alternative school. By senior year, I managed to raise my grades tremendously, averaging an A and eventually graduating as class valedictorian. Suddenly, I had high hopes of attending a university. College tours gave me a glimpse of a life in which I could recreate myself. I could forget downtrodden schools in impoverished neighborhoods. I wouldn’t have to share the same fate as my parents or the other kids in my neighborhood.

I recognized the letters of rejection by envelope size. A dream simply doesn’t fit in a letter-sized envelope. I was denied by every university that I applied to. Two years of Fs coupled with two years of As, formulated a cumulative average of Cs. No reputable college wants a C student.

Despite this, I didn’t feel an ounce of discouragement. Ironically, I was inspired. I had proved to myself my goals are always within reach. I was shocked to learn Manjee felt as if he failed me after all his encouragement and help applying to college. Manjee’s success with me lay elsewhere. Manjee viewed me as intelligent, capable, and amusing; although I did not identify with these qualities, it was flattering to have a teacher think of me as a person with qualities rather than a grade or college name. My presence never felt unwarranted, and it never seemed that the scale of my problems was insignificant to him. Most of all, he was patient and allowed me to learn at my own pace. My relationship with teachers renewed, I genuinely believed in the opportunities education could offer me.

I ended up attending community college, eventually transferring to a four-year school. I remained in contact with Manjee over the years. He continued teaching, but often felt deterred by how the school system perpetuated inequality. He went on to join Kiddom, an education technology platform, as their Chief Academic Officer. Manjee had been privately consulting Kiddom’s CEO (and his best friend) while he taught, helping design a way to ease the burden of tedious tasks with technology, and allow teachers to allocate their time where it was needed most: with students. The creation of Kiddom revived in me what originally solidified our relationship; it was that core commonality of resilience. When Manjee told me Kiddom was hiring and that I should apply to support teachers, I saw this as an opportunity to repay someone who’d done so much for me. I began working at Kiddom as a Teacher Advocate. My tasks involve assisting teachers navigate the platform, customizing Kiddom to fit their classrooms, and occasionally, occupational therapy. I listen as teachers express their frustration with the archaic systems in place.

I love math, but I find it pointless if I’m unable to inspire students to use mathematics creatively. I’m merely a robot at this point,” a teacher once told me, “ I love this program. Knowing that there are people out there who believe as educators we are responsible to meet the needs of children not only academically but emotionally, makes me think that maybe I could keep going.

This particular teacher loved Kiddom’s social emotional capacity. He’d taught math for ten years, his spirit diminished because he knew students needed more than a mechanical exchange to truly cultivate their minds. This conversation lead me to reminisce on the many math teachers throughout my education, and my transformative relationship with Manjee. Maybe teachers long for more ‘aha!’ moments with their students? Maybe over-testing leads teachers to grow jaded? I realized teachers yearn for a relationship with their students, but unfortunately bureaucracy often creates discord. I was delighted that this math teacher found a solution in Kiddom, and then it dawned upon me — Kiddom had also just saved a forgotten kid in the back of the classroom.

Thank you teachers, old and new, for continuing to look for innovative ways to connect with your students.

Written By: Kashon

Why I Left Teaching: Tidying Up Your Time and Finding Joy

Why I Left Teaching: Tidying Up Your Time and Finding Joy

My grandma was a teacher. My mom was a teacher. The only thing I can ever remember wanting to be was a teacher. I felt (and still feel) that it runs through my blood as a core piece of my identity. So, it may come as a shock that I am stepping away. I am leaving my job as a classroom teacher.

The realization came as a slow and steady evolution. However, at the end of the path, the decision was ready made. Here is my story.

Last summer I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. To summarize, she walks the reader through a process of decluttering belongings by asking a question about each and every object. “Does it spark joy?”

This question bounced around in my head as I began to evaluate my life, growing busier with time clutter by the day. I thought, What if I applied the idea of spark joy… to my time? I began my courageous analysis.

I started journaling about every action I took throughout the day. I kept a diligent log for weeks. Then, I went back and looked at each and every item and asked, “Did it spark joy?” (For my purposes, I define joy as activities that keep me grounded in the present moment and contribute to my long-term wellness. However, this could be an entirely different blog post!)

With that definition of joy, I developed a rating scale.

1 = spark joy

0 = joy neutral

-1 = joy depleting

I determined that after adding up all of my numbers, I could with almost certainty predict the outcome of my day. High number, great day. Negative number, horrible day. It seems so obvious now, but at the time, it was a real revelation.

I set a new life purpose. Create days with a high joy value.

How to begin?

Eliminate the -1

What could I do to completely cross joy depleting actions off my list?Example- The joy depleting errands through big box stores were replaced with Amazon delivery.

Transform -1 into 0

What could I do to change a joy depleting activity into a joy neutral activity?Example- While loading the dishwasher (-1), I started listening to audiobooks (1). In one simple step, I created a 0!

I was starting to make progress on the homefront. I was amazed that with very little effort, my days were increasing more joyful.

However, now I was faced with looking at my professional time.

Taking attendance: 0.

Facilitating Inquiry: 1.

ANYthing involving standardized tests: -1.

I was stunned at the results. A profession I thought I loved left me with more days, than I wanted to admit, in the negatives. I always had considered myself a positive person. I was confused. Had education changed? Had I changed? Were other teachers feeling this way?

Just to humor myself, I started crossing off all of the -1 activities from my list. Is it possible to create a day with mostly spark joy? If it were possible, what would it look like? As fast as my hand could write I began to journal about the vision.

I visualized joy being at the center of education. I visualized feeling full year round with minimal moments of depletion and exhaustion. I wanted to create a life that I didn’t need a vacation from. I extended the vision, not only to myself, but to every other teacher in the profession. What if we could create a system that held teacher and student wellness as the centerpiece for all decisions? What if.


What if…


It was in that moment that my decision came ready made. This school year I committed to take daily action around the things that matter to me most. I began to notice a difference in my energy as I began using my strengths.

It was with a mixture of certainty and trepidation that I applied for my leave of absence. It shocked my family and co-workers. It shocked my students and parents. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer the question, “What will you do?” The best response I could come up with was, “Live my joy”. Because really- what else is there?

I dove in and began doing research. I found organizations and people that had similar missions. To bring wellness to teachers and students. To prioritize joy. To make time and space for personal growth and development. Things have to change in the field of education, or the high rate of burn out will leave our students stranded. I believe I can help bring that change.

So, here I am. My last day of school. I may be leaving the classroom, but I will always consider myself a teacher.


Quote from Deb Fee


I am available for questions or comments at stephanie.kennelly@gmail.com

As I create space for new habits, here are some of the organizations that have inspired me:

1000-Petals is a well-being training and consulting company based on the science and practice of mindfulness and movement.

Kiddom is a team of passionate educators, designers, and developers creating transformative tools to make learning personal, expand access to quality content, and foster community collaboration.

Yellow Barn Wellness is a community based organization that strives to create an environment where the complexities of today are simplified back to the basics that our bodies call for — to build a balance of fitness and nutrition in an environment that encourages both.

Generation Wellness provides innovative solutions to empower educators, counselors and parents to promote the success of each child.

Mad Hatter Wellness is working to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with and without disabilities through empowerment, education, awareness, and movement to globally eliminate sexual violence and promote advocacy for self and others.




Written By: Stephanie Kennelly

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Teaching Strategies to Close the Year Based on Student Interests

Teaching Strategies to Close the Year Based on Student Interests

It’s the time of year to help students pinpoint areas of interest and encourage them to explore those further.


As the year comes to a close, student motivation can start to slip. When the weather warms up, it’s okay to admit that some students may be counting down the days until their summer vacations start. Truthfully, you might be too! Teaching is a double-edged sword: it’s rewarding, yet emotionally and physically exhausting.

It can be tempting to become more passive as things wrap up, especially when many of us have been preparing students all year to demonstrate what they’ve learned on cumulative standardized tests or internal exams. However, when I was in the classroom, I took another approach to end the year strong. I used the last weeks of school to encourage students to reflect and dive deeper into a topic from earlier in the year, which sent students into summer feeling empowered by everything they were able accomplish. Students spent the last part of the year working on projects to highlight what they learned and share why it excited them.

An easy way to give students a level of ownership is by using Kiddom’s Planner for curriculum development. The playlist feature in Planner lets you break projects into manageable pieces for students to complete. First, students begin by choosing the format in which they want to showcase what they have learned. Based on student choice, teachers can assign them the most relevant project outline. By using individualized resources and feedback shared through Google Drive and Kiddom’s communication tools, students will be able to produce projects that reflect their own development and passions, and take critical reflection and analysis tools with them onto their next course or grade.


Use Kiddom’s Planner to build personalized playlists for students to explore topics of interest.


In my biology class, there was a broad unit that covered nutrition. I had one student who, in his words, was allergic to vegetables, saying they made his “taste buds sad.” As we approached the final project, he wanted to build a greenhouse to grow flowers for his mom. I took this opportunity to link multiple units together and tied the skills he was passionate about developing to nutrition by supplying him with lettuce and radishes to plant. I had never seen him so excited to learn and build! This student was chronically late throughout the year and yet, for this project, he was coming in after school and at lunch! When his plants began to grow, his eyes lit up. The moment we harvested his first radish, I didn’t even have to ask him if he was going to try it. He rinsed it off and popped it in his mouth; the look of disgust was priceless, and could only have been gained through this personal exploration. While he left for the summer still hating vegetables, he was ecstatic with the knowledge that he could build a structure and grow plants.

As a teacher, shifting ownership of learning to students through final projects gives me time to reflect and learn from my students. I was able to identify which lessons truly “stuck” and which may have missed the mark. Analyzing which topics students choose to focus their projects on helped identify strengths in my curriculum. What does this tell me about the units I have taught? Where do I need to focus more next year and what lessons were particularly effective? I used the students’ interests to help me reflect on lessons that they remembered, and which ones had faded by June. Kiddom’s standards reports, alongside the assignment based reports, lets teachers compare student interest to their mastery of those skills. Not only can we see what our students enjoyed learning but how that engagement affects their mastery of a standard. With these data points I can make notes for next year detailing the most effective lessons for bringing students to mastery. Setting aside time to learn from past experiences is an important part of teaching that can easily get lost in the shuffle.


Standards-based reports allow you to infer interest by performance on specific skills.


We focus on students leaving the school year with something they can take away but we also need to find time for teachers to synthesize what they have learned during each school year. Kiddom gives teachers time to analyze their own development at the end of the year, letting them go into summer ready to take what they have learned and build a stronger foundation for the coming year.

Guest Post by: Liz E.

Say Hello to the New Student Experience

Say Hello to the New Student Experience

Today, we released a redesigned student experience on Kiddom to help 21st century learners access and submit work, track their own progress, and solicit feedback from teachers in real-time, from one place.

Over the past century, education technology has often left students out of the equation. That’s unfortunate, because students today move fast and are incredibly tech-savvy. At Kiddom, we believe students shouldn’t have to wait until progress reports are printed to learn where they stand in class or on specific skills. Students shouldn’t have to wait to see their teachers in person to pose clarifying questions or solicit feedback on an assignment. And from what we’ve gathered, teachers are constantly looking for ways to empower students to take control of their learning. With our redesigned student experience, the possibilities of student ownership are endless.

Timeline — Everything in One Place

For students that struggle to keep track of everything and never use paper planners — we heard you loud and clear.

When students login and click into their class, they’ll be greeted by their Timeline. Timeline allows students to view assignments (past, present, and upcoming) from one place. This not only includes teacher-created assignments, but also all the Khan Academy videos, CK-12 exercises, CommonLit readings, and other resources their teacher might’ve assigned for differentiation purposes via Kiddom’s Library of resources.

Submitting Work and Soliciting Feedback Made Easy

Teachers and learners can now actively communicate on their work in real-time. Sounds lovely.

When students click on an assignment from their Timeline, they’ll be able to see any instructions or attachments their teacher may have included, as well as the standards or skills has appended to the assignment. Students may upload and submit their own work and also engage in a discussion with their teacher regarding the assignment.

Reports — Monitor Progress and Self-Advocate

If students have real-time access to their achievement data, is it time to rethink report card day? We hope so.

When students can actively monitor their progress in class, they’re more likely to advocate for themselves. With our redesigned Reports, students can track their overall class progress, as well as progress on individual standards and skills — all in real-time. This means they finally have the data they need, when they need it.

We’re Just Getting Started

The new student experience has been long overdue. And while we’re incredibly excited about the positive impact it will make in classrooms around the world, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Over the next several months and into the next school year, we’re going to focus on adding community features to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new student experience with a comment or chat with us directly using the in-app chat tool. Happy teaching and learning!

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By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

Editor’s note: We’re still testing the new Kiddom student experience. If your students signed up before Friday, April 21, 2017, they may not experience the new Kiddom just yet. We plan to conclude testing on Friday, April 28, 2017, at which time all students will be on the redesigned student experience. For more information, contact our support team.

Teaching and Learning Made Beautiful: Introducing the New Kiddom

Teaching and Learning Made Beautiful: Introducing the New Kiddom

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

We’re building Kiddom to be a collaborative platform to allow teachers and learners to work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. To that end, today we released a completely redesigned platform, one which will help teachers plan, assess, and analyze learning in one cohesive system.

Why redesign Kiddom? Well, we’ve been doing our homework. And we’ve learned that teachers are often set up for failure from the start of the school year. They’re expected to plan a year’s worth of curriculum without knowing much about their incoming students. Once the year gets underway, they’re expected to keep up with the ever-changing needs of each student. Yet the tools teachers have access to don’t allow for the flexibility required to focus on individuals. By the end of the school year, this becomes a source of frustration and teachers reflect on how they might minimize this sense of powerlessness next year. The school year is effectively an emotional roller coaster ride for teachers. But with this version of Kiddom, we hope to change that.


What is Timeline?

Keeping track of class work, including late submissions, can get cumbersome. With Timeline, you can add, view, and grade class and individual student assignments all from one place.

How Timeline works:

  • Press the blue + button to start building an assignment. Add details and feel free to attach a file or a document from Google Drive.
  • If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel or need resources fast, use Kiddom’s content library and search for standards-aligned content.
  • You can assign to everyone, a group, or an individual student. You can even sort by mastery level to assign by performance level.
  • To get the most out of Kiddom’s reporting, append standards to assignments.
  • Once you’ve shared an assignment, you’ll come back to your Timeline. Click the assignment created to start grading. From here, you’ll be able to see who completed their work and who hasn’t. Click on a student to grade and leave feedback.

Once you’ve created an assignment, you can always come back and edit it. So don’t worry about making mistakes.

What is Planner?

Curriculum design is fundamentally emotional work, representing the journey educators plan for students to make meaningful connections. With Kiddom’s Planner, teachers can finally design curriculum for a class and modify pathways for groups or individual students.

How Planner works:

  • Open Planner from the right side of your Timeline. Create a new unit and add a title and description.
  • Add content to units by clicking the blue + button in the Planner. Add a single assignment or a playlist, which is a group of assignments. Playlists are great for grouping resources like videos, readings, and quizzes on the same topic.
  • To assign, simply drag the assignment or playlist into your Timeline. To assign content to an individual, simply filter your Timeline to reflect the student you’d like to assign directly.

We have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be geeking out with Planner. Don’t hold back.



With Kiddom’s new beautiful, actionable reports, it’s never been easier to analyze performance and pivot instruction. Reports help monitor student progress over time, track growth by mastery level, and analyze both class and student performance on individual standards.

How Reports work:

  • Once you’ve added and graded assignments, your reports will spring to life. Select weekly or monthly reports to view mastery data for the desired time frame.
  • The first reporting metric, Class Grade Average, depicts your overall class mastery. This is the class average on all graded assignments.
  • Scroll down to view mastery groups as a stacked line graph. This graph groups students by mastery level over time. Clicking on the number of students in a group reveals the students while clicking on a data point reveals where students lie at the end of any given week or month.
  • Next, your Class Standards Mastery tracks every standard assessed in your class. The lines depict the progress made on each standard. A single dot with dotted lines indicates there is only one assignment aligned to that standard.
  • To obtain reports for individual students, use the drop down menu on the left to choose the student you’d like to analyze. To download and print your reports, click on the “download reports” button.

Personalized learning doesn’t happen magically. Teachers must effectively use student achievement data to adjust their practice in real-time. With these reports, that’s now possible. Hooray!



We recognize every classroom is unique. That’s why we redesigned settings as your personal command center: to manage the finer details of your class.

How Settings work:

  • Access your settings by clicking on your avatar. Clicking on a class will let you manage the finer details of your classes.
  • Edit the subjects and grade levels of your class from the “info” tab. Don’t forget, you’re allowed to have multiple grades and subjects for each class. You can also manage the standards appended to your class. Add custom standards from here.
  • Manage your students from the “students” tab and click “manage students.” You can add students manually, import from another class, import from Google, or invite them to join on their own via your class code.
  • The grading tab allows you to modify grading methodology and calculation. Adjust your reports to show percentages, mastery, letter grades, or grade points. You can also adjust how your grades are calculated here (weighted, unweighted, or max value). Add additional assignment types to reflect the assignments types of your classroom.
  • Add or edit rubrics from the final tab, “Rubrics.” Add your own rubrics or add rubrics from Kiddom’s bank of preset rubrics.

There’s a lot of power in being able to modify Kiddom to meet your needs, as well as your students’. If you love to customize your tools, you’re going to love your new settings.


What’s Next

While we’re incredibly excited about the new Kiddom, we know there’s more work to be done. Over the next several months, we’re going to focus on building additional feature sets to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments, or chat with us directly using the in-app support chat tool. Kiddom’s mission is to unlock potential for all teachers and learners. With today’s redesigned platform launch, we’re excited to get one step closer to a world where more teachers have time to connect with and inspire students.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Introducing an iOS App for Teachers and Learners

Introducing an iOS App for Teachers and Learners

We’re building Kiddom to be a place where teachers and learners can work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. Today, we’re proud to release our first version of an iOS app that supports both teachers and learners.

Our latest iOS app (optimized for iPhone and iPad) makes it easier than ever for teachers to plan, assess, and analyze student work.

But most importantly, this is an app that students can use too, making it an effective way for 21st century students to stay organized, submit work, and get feedback in a timely manner.

Browse Premium, Standards-Aligned Content

Educators love Kiddom because we connect directly to premium, standards-aligned content. With our latest iOS app, teachers can browse and assign any of this content directly from their iOS devices. 

Moving forward, a teacher doesn’t have to wait to get in front of a computer to browse Khan Academy’s videos for a student that requested additional guidance on a particular topic.

A teacher that is assigned to cafeteria duty can still browse CK-12’s real-world activities to find the most appropriate exercise for students that are ready to apply what they learned in the previous class.

And teachers that can’t access a computer because they share a room can still peruse CommonLit’s news articles, short stories, poems, and historical documents directly from the app. Yeah, we’d say teaching and learning just got a little more convenient.


21st Century Students Rely on Instant Feedback

Grading student work can grow to become a daunting exercise this season as quarters, trimesters, semesters, and all sorts of grading periods start to wrap-up. With our latest iOS app, teachers can assess student work and share critical feedback instantaneously.

Students are free to ask their teachers questions on assignments in real-time from the convenience of their own iOS device.

The ability for learners to learn on their own time and ask clarifying questions in-the-moment helps create a productive, continuous learning cycle. If students don’t have to wait until they physically see their teachers to get questions answered, then they’re free to learn more and get more done on their own time. We think that’s beautiful.


So, What’s Next?

We’re excited about this first version of a teacher and student iOS app, but we realize there’s more work to be done. We’ll continue to build more functionality for the iOS app over the next several months. In the meantime, download the app and let us know what you think in the comments.

Kiddom’s mission is to unlock potential for all teachers and learners. With today’s iOS app launch, we’re excited to get one step closer to a world where teachers have the time to inspire students and students have the ability to learn on the device they’re most comfortable with, on their own terms.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Storytime with Fresh Professor (Part Two)

Storytime with Fresh Professor (Part Two)

I wasn’t always the Fresh Professor. At one point, I was just another starving actor trying to make a living. But stories change over time, as do professional desires.

This is Part Two of my story. Enjoy the ride.

August 2000. Waltham, MA

Her name was Maggie, and she was badass.

I met her at Brandeis University, at the beginning of my second year as a grad actor. She was a first-year MFA, costume design.

For at least a week I’d caught only glimpses of this woman — from the back. Every time I tried to see her face she’d turn a corner or become inexplicably obscured.

Then one day, she sat in plain sight, eating her lunch in the common area, and I just stared in wonderment. She’s gorgeous — the moment I saw her face I was smitten. And when she turned my way, all I could think to do was smile the most charming Miles smile in the Miles repertoire. She looked at me and nodded her head in the “what up, pahtner” way I’ve only ever seen Black men do. That was the moment I fell in love … but don’t tell her that, or let her read this story — she hates when I write about her.

But I need to rewind.

One Year Earlier …

My first year at Brandeis was complete culture shock. Morehouse College, my undergrad, is an all-Black, all-male institution in southwest Atlanta, GA. Brandeis, however, is a predominantly Jewish institution founded in the same year as the State of Israel and located 10 miles west of Boston, MA. Up to this point, I had never lived anyplace smaller than Atlanta. Suddenly I found myself immersed in the suburbs of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts …

Though it’s among the most liberal of our states, it is widely known that White Bostonians hate Black people. And yes, that hatred extends 10 miles west.

As I was looking for work to supplement my scholarship, I was turned away by employer after employer, most of whom didn’t bother to look at my résumé. Luckily, when I applied at the independent movie theatre two blocks from my house, the interviewer was a film student from New York. His interview single question was, “What did you think of Eyes Wide Shut?”

One night on my walk home from work, two police officers pulled up and blocked my path with their cruiser.

“I dug it, but you could see Sydney Pollack’s hands on it. The masquerade was reminiscent of Barry Lyndon’s card game scene.”

I was hired on the spot.

Our uniform consisted of a white shirt, black tie, slacks, and dress shoes. Although it was a laid-back work environment,
we were all avid film fans and therefore took our work very seriously. We often argued over whether The Godfather or The Godfather II was the best movie ever made; we resoundingly hated The Blair Witch Project, which, unfortunately, was showing on two screens — our distaste stemmed from the fact that before patrons could acclimate to its handheld camera work they would vomit in the aisles, leaving us to take turns sweeping up human bile in the darkened theatres. Luckily, I had experience (see Part One).

One night on my walk home from work, two police officers pulled up and blocked my path with their cruiser.

“Where you going?”


“Oh really? And where, pray tell, might you live?” (I pointed at my house, which was across the street.)

“And where were you before … if you’re going home now?” (I turned around and pointed at the movie theatre, 20 feet from where I stood.)

“You sure you didn’t rape anybody? We got a call that there’s a rapist matching your profile.”

“My profile? In Waltham? I’m the only person in Waltham that looks like me. I work twenty feet in that direction and live twenty yards in that direction. I know that can’t be true … sirs.”

“Watch yourself. Don’t want you getting into trouble. We suggest you go inside and don’t come out.”

I walked away from the cruiser and toward my house. My three roommates
were hanging out in the kitchen, and I told them what happened. They were outraged but not surprised — they were also Black,
and two of them were from Boston proper. During the school-sponsored “House Hunting Weekend,” we were the only Black grad students in attendance. Understanding that it was Boston, and that we were definitely “other,” we figured there was strength in numbers. And somehow we were able to find a place not too far from campus, though if I remember correctly only the other light- skinned roommate and I ever met the realtors in person — she was accompanied by her parents and I wore a shirt and tie … the same shirt and tie I had on when confronted by police and accused of rape.

Thankfully, nothing else too exciting happened that first year of grad school. We had class every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 4 days a week I worked at the movie theatre, selling tickets and popcorn. At that point I was just trying to find my groove. … I couldn’t decide if I was a comedic actor, a dramatic actor, or both. I also found that I defied categories often prescribed for Black actors: I didn’t like August Wilson, I hated most TV shows that featured Black ensembles, and I was bored by stories of our past as slaves and civil rights activists. I pretty much kept to myself, both in and out of class, choosing instead to hang out with the employees of the movie theatre.

Anyway, the months rolled by. I drank a lot of beer, went to the gym, and hooked up with a lot of women. That summer, I got a job at a bar and continued working at the movie theater. It was a busy time. I shot
a few commercials and met with casting directors in Boston. In fact, I auditioned to be the cohost of a brand-new show called American Idol. (I didn’t even make it past the first round, but after watching one episode it was clear the producers got it right.) Anyway, before I knew it August had arrived.

This was when I met Maggie.

But before I get into that, you should know why she was different.

Winter 1982. Chicago, IL

“OK boys and girls, please grab your mats for naptime.” Naptime was my favorite part of school day.

Now, people know me as an extroverted guy who can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Although this is true today, it definitely wasn’t in 1982. I had a speech impediment growing up, which meant the only people I spoke to were adults.

My parents had me in their early twenties, so they were young and playful … excellent grown-ups who were always down to run and skip or pretend we were superheroes.

So, as prompted, Darien and I arranged our sleeping mats next to one another and promptly started making out.

They shaped the nascent Fresh Professor by encouraging me to ask questions and inviting me to explore.

That said, they really were young and they needed to party. Once or twice a week, they would drop me at Aunt Zelma’s on 79th and Stoney Island (South Side of Chicago). She was somewhere in the neighborhood
of 80 years old (no one knows her birth year because she was born before accurate records of Black folks were kept). Anyway, whenever I was over she let me do whatever I wanted, as long as I was happy and didn’t interrupt her “stories.”

Aunt Zelma loved watching soap operas… all of them. My personal favorite was General Hospital because I liked Luke and Laura — this might’ve been because of the actors’ interactions, their storylines, or the alliterative nature of their names; whatever the reason, I watched every episode possible and even requested it at home.

Oftentimes, Aunt Zelma’s female neighbors would pop by with their young nieces or granddaughters, many of whom were close to my age. I was happy to have these women in my life. … They never made fun of my speech and they always wanted to play fun or unusual games. I just loved it.

Spending most of my youth with older ladies and female playmates defined the man I am today and directly informed my adult interactions with women. I played house and dolls as much as I played Star Wars or jumped off of furniture. I never thought girls were icky. In fact, I only remember thinking girls were cute and wanting to be their friends (though I didn’t necessarily understand why).

Not to worry … I would find out during naptime.

“James, why don’t you put your mat here, next to your reading buddy?”

Darien was my reading buddy. She was also my new best friend (after all, she liked Star Wars and watched soap operas too).

She also liked to hug me. And I liked to hug her.

So, as prompted, Darien and I arranged our sleeping mats next to one another and promptly started making out.

Yes, it happened that fast. We may have been young, but we knew what we were doing. (Thank you, soap operas!)I remember our lips touching, then our tongues, and then we each began to gently touch the other’s face. It was an amazing 60 seconds. The teacher, a former nun, witnessed the action and wasted no time in pulling us apart. She reprimanded us and said she would have to tell our parents.

I was confused by everything—I thought this was exactly how boys and girls went about being friends: you played, you talked, you kissed, and then you ate lunch in the General Hospital cafeteria.

Thankfully, Darien and I remained friends through high school, though we never made out again. But since that naptime back in 1982, it’s been clear I have an easy way with women. I rarely struggled to find someone with whom I wanted to spend time. Sure… I considered settling down or finding a soul mate, but not until I was old and had experienced “life.”

Then I met Maggie.


She was, and still is, clearly, out of my league


September 2001. Waltham, MA

Goddamn, I’ve always hated arguing with Maggie.

It was a bright sunny day, and for some reason we were arguing. I don’t remember why, but we were both upset. I wanted to be alone and so did she, so I grabbed my sneakers and went to the gym. It was 7:45 a.m. on September 11th.

Two weeks prior, I’d started my final year of the MFA and my first appointment as an adjunct, teaching undergraduate improvisation at Brandeis. Maggie and I had been dating for almost a year.

Kinda …

When she nodded her head at me in the common area, 11 months prior, I immediately asked her out.

“Alrighty then … wassup, pahdner?”

“Nothing. I’m Maggie.”


“Where you from?”

“Chicago. You?”


“What you up to, later?”

“Ha. I have a boyfriend.”

“Cool. Wanna see a movie?”

“I have a boyfriend.”

“So you wanna go this weekend?”


“Solid. I’ll pick you up at your crib.”

And that’s how we began.

Maggie gave me her number and directions to her house (this was well before we all had GPS on our phones). I picked her up the next night, we drove to the movie theater, and we saw Almost Famous. I could tell we were both having fun and digging the movie, so I held her hand. She looked at my hand on hers. I felt her indecision. And then, an almost imperceptible jolt of energy pulsated through her knuckles. … She left our hands as they were — and that’s how they stayed the rest of the movie.

“Dope movie.”

“Yeah, I love Frances McDormand.”

“Word … since Fargo.”


“Yeah. Wanna grab a drink?”

“I have a boyfriend.”

“Cool. I worked at this one bar over the summer …”

“I live with my boyfriend.”

“… ”

“He’s moving back to Seattle for a bit.” “… just one drink.”


It was our first date, and though we couldn’t be certain, we hoped we’d be together forever.

That doesn’t mean it was always smooth sailing. Sometimes we argued, and of course most of the time our quarrels could have been avoided. … Such was the case for our argument that Tuesday, back in 2001.

Ugh — I hate this part.

By 2 p.m. I still hadn’t seen or spoken to Maggie.

I decided that taking my frustrations out in the weight room was a solid idea. Back in 2001 I had a portable CD player too bulky to carry around the gym, so I was forced to listen to whatever drivel poured out of the gym’s stereo. I began with bench presses, and by set number three I’d found my stride, the argument with Maggie all but forgotten. I was in the zone, obnoxious radio DJs be damned. And then …

“Apparently a plane just crashed into a building in New York City.”

“Ha-ha, how do you hit a building?”

“I know, right?! Don’t they have flight exams?”

“Yo, what if the line to get your pilot’s license was like the line at the DMV? Just mad waiting. …”

“Ha, no wonder this idiot flew a plane into a building.”

I looked around the gym, but no one else appeared to have heard the news. And while I know the DJs couldn’t possibly have understood the gravity of what was taking place, I vividly remember being taken aback as they joked, so dismissive.

I finished my workout and drove home, where I found my roommates gathered around our television set. Another plane had hit, and both towers of the World Trade Center were ablaze. Hundreds of New Yorkers were already presumed dead.

It was a Tuesday, so we all had class. Everyone hurriedly showered and changed clothes, but we all returned to the living room. I reentered as the first tower collapsed and a ticker ran across the screen, indicating that a plane had just flown into the Pentagon. The United States was under attack, but I wasn’t worried … I was in Waltham, MA.

I called my parents in Chicago — they were okay. My brother had just started at Morehouse, so I called him in Atlanta — he was fine, too

Not long after the second building fell, I walked into the classroom assigned to my undergrad improv class and just stared at the floor. This would be our third meeting. Students entered visibly upset, a few of them crying, as they had family members in New York; and, though everyone was physically fine, these young people were shaken up.

So I led them through some breathing and movement exercises before we took our seats. To my mind, we had two options: We could leave class early or we could attempt improvisation. The students chose the latter, and for the rest of that sad morning we struggled to make one another laugh.

By 2 p.m. I still hadn’t seen or spoken to Maggie. Our argument seemed twenty years in the past, so I ran to find her at the graduate drama building. She was on the steps outside.

We stared at each other for a while. We didn’t speak, just stared. Slowly, we walked toward one another and hugged. Then we held hands and walked into the building, saying only, “I love you.” Those words were all we needed.

The United States will never be the same.

We were attacked by people who despised our values and our way of life. They believed their mission was to blight all that was evil in the world. They felt the nation’s hubris was its downfall. They said we lived grandiose lives and were unworthy of redemption. Hate overpowered love that day.

This was an act of terrorism on U.S. soil, but it was not the first time.

June 1921. Tulsa, OK: An Imagined Account of a Very Real Story

Runing the Negro Out. Tulsa. June.

I was just a kid, but I remember it. Like yesterday.

We moved to Tulsa after World War One. It was a good place for us colored people. Yes, it was segregated, but hell, it’s America, what place ain’t?! There was oil boom and more than enough land, so our people set
up shop in Greenwood — some called it “Black Wall Street” and others “Little Africa.” Me? I preferred Greenwood … because that is that.

After we moved, people managed to establish storefronts, hotels, banks, and movie theaters. Businesses and homes had indoor plumbing — which White folks didn’t even have in their neighborhoods. And we created a wonderful school system for the young’uns. We was doing alright. … I guess we should’ve known how successful we looked to all those White folks.

Cause then something terrible happened.

Sarah Page, a White woman, accused Dick Rowland, a Black man, of assault. Law enforcement come over to arrest Dick and, not long after, a lynch mob formed. Black folks gathered and headed for the courthouse to stop the mob, but that just didn’t sit right with White folks … so they went into our neighborhood and attacked.

They weren’t alone.

The local sheriff deputized all White citizens; he went on to ask both local and national law enforcement agencies to put us in our place. Planes shot at us from the sky. Our houses were burned. And our people were slaughtered. For 24 hours, they looted and torched 40 square blocks of Greenwood—destroying more than 150 businesses, along with hospitals, schools, churches, and 1,256 African American homes.

The death toll was over 300, with several thousand injured and thousands more left homeless; we would live in makeshift tents for the next year.

The people of Greenwood were terrorized for living a life we shouldn’t’ve been living: the American Dream. Maybe things will change in the future. I hope so.

So much love in our community was destroyed by so much hate. (Sulzberger, 2011)

February 2012. New York, NY


Jamel and I rocking the Apollo together in 2016


Maggie is working on Blue Bloods and I’m on Are We There Yet? We moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 2009, right before our twins were born. It’s a mostly West Indian and Ghanaian community with Black-owned shops, homes, and restaurants. We feel very lucky to have found each other and this neighborhood. Here, we see the potential for a future that isn’t filled with hate but with mutual respect and admiration. 2001 and 1921 are not forgotten, but it seems like we’ve learned from history. I feel optimistic.

Anyway, I have downtime between episodes, and I need to be teaching again. It always rejuvenates me — I feel like I’m making a difference. I’m about to start working with a new program that uses hip- hop to help high school students pass the Regents Exams they’ve previously failed. That program is Fresh Prep, and prior to teaching, I observe a Fresh Prep vet.

“Wassup, I’m Jamel.”

“Yo, I’m James.”

This meeting marks the beginning of my friendship with a man I now call my brother, yet another partnership that feeds me.

And this is the official beginning of the Fresh Professor.

Almost …

James Miles is a Master Teaching Artist who has worked in arts education for more than 15 years. He has facilitated workshops and designed curriculum for the New Victory Theater, Roundabout Theatre, Disney Theatrical Group, Theatre for a New Audience, Center of Arts Education, BAX, Brooklyn Arts Council, Opening Act, and (Out)Laws & Justice. He has worked as an actor, an accountant, a comedian, and a model. James is an adjunct professor at NYU and the Director of Education at Urban Arts Partnership.

• Sulzberger, A. G. (2011, June 19). As survivors dwindle, Tulsa confronts past. The New York Times, p. A16.



Guest Post by: James Miles

Blended (Social & Emotional) Learning

Blended (Social & Emotional) Learning

As of 2010, approximately 4 million students were impacted by online learning components embedded into their daily curriculum, cementing blended learning principles in schools across the world — and that number is growing. Exponentially.

It is no secret that technology in the classroom has the ability to engage students like no other learning tool. Technology has become so ingrained in our society’s culture that students gravitate to the educational programs that have resulted from this growing accessibility to technology in schools.

But when you begin to place a stronger emphasis on social and emotional skills in your curriculum, a new question comes into play: how can emotional exploration and expression specifically function without a human being present to guide participants through challenges, ideas or stressful moments?

The fact is, emotional exploration and expression along with other components of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) require participants to reflect and build trust with one another. From students to school leaders, this can be extremely difficult work, but when done effectively and expeditiously can lead to significant improvements in academic achievement and school climate.

So in rephrasing the question, is it possible to implement SEL in the classroom through blended learning techniques?

The answer is yes: through bite-sized integration of emotional identification, expression, and management into our classrooms, virtually facilitated and practiced daily.

Not only do children seem more willing to open up and connect to a video where the facilitator is not physically present, but the educators themselves are also benefitting from the fact that they do not need any special background in mental health.

Even better: teachers prefer it too. Ease of implementation is key; the relief of the pressure to lead and the ability to participate along with the students are a few other major factors in why we are seeing more and more teachers incorporating Blended Learning into their curriculum.



At Move This World (MTW), we equip educators and students with the tools to address their social and emotional wellbeing in order to create a healthy school climate where effective teaching and learning can occur. In addition to training and consultation, these tools provide a grade-specific virtual experience and make Social and Emotional Learning in every classroom as easy as pressing “play.”

Thankfully, we have had the pleasure of seeing the effects first-hand. A few weeks ago in Baltimore, one of our trainers conducted a site visit and was immediately ambushed by smiling faces once they took notice of her Move This World T-shirt. Not only were they ready to show off their 10 Emogers, one of MTW’s emotional management strategies as part of our ritualized practice of SEL, but they were also curious as to where the “real” star was — Elliott, the lead in our virtual tool videos.

Elliott has become somewhat of a celebrity among our nationwide partner schools, allowing us to truly comprehend the strength of the program and the lasting effect daily practice truly has. And of course, it’s always fun to see the faces of hundreds of screaming kids when Elliott stops by for a surprise visit.

Guest Post By: Move This World

Move This World connects human beings to their emotions through movement. It is through movement that we enhance and inspire social, emotional and civic skills. In providing education and company leaders the tools to teach these skills, Move This World creates healthier environments around the world. These tools have helped address the social and emotional wellbeing of 150,000 people, including students in over 300 schools, to date. Its technology-enabled platform provides 24/7 access to easy-to-use instructional videos along with trained coaches for support from anywhere, classroom visuals, data analytics, a resource library and much more. For more information, visit: https://www.movethisworld.org.

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Original publish date: 2/25/16 on character.org

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.