By Mica Pollock

Rethinking What We Say About — and To — Students Every Day

Schooltalk (2017) offers education communities foundational support for learning and action. Use Schooltalk as an onramp to Everyday Antiracism or any other professional development tool.

We ask one question as an onramp to improving student supports: Do our communications help support equity, or not?

Appropriate for teachers, administrators, system leaders, and graduate/undergraduate students alike, Schooltalk offers accessible digests of cutting-edge research, reflective THINK/DISCUSS questions, and
activities for equity-focused professional development, critical thinking, and action to better support students anywhere.

See how others are using Schooltalk here.

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Every day in schools, language about students used by teachers, principals, guidance counselors, or other school professionals shapes who gets which resources, treatment, and opportunities to learn. Our “schooltalk” too often repeats damaging “scripts” about children, leaves inequality intact, and treats students as less worthy or without potential. Countless students are mis-seen and undersupported–and, ultimately, we all lose.

By juxtaposing common scenarios with useful exercises and concrete actions grounded in years of education research on race and inequality in school, Schooltalk turns our attention to the oft-dismissed consequences of daily “schooltalk”: the tossed-off remark about the community in which a student lives; the way groups—based on race, presumed ability, and income—are discussed on data spreadsheets or faculty dialogues; the assumptions and structural communication breakdowns between educators, students and families that cause kids to fall needlessly through the cracks. Schooltalk will also empower educators by showing how school communications can be “redesigned” to support antiracism and equity — the full human talent development of each student and all groups, every day.

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How are schools using Schooltalk to make change?

Click here to join a conversation with Mica Pollock about making change where you work with Schooltalk.

Supplemental Tools for Using Schooltalk

Share Schooltalk with students!

Thoughts from middle and high school youth on youth-friendly segments of Schooltalk are forthcoming. Here’s one youth’s initial take. 

Schooltalk Slides

Here are the slides I typically use in Schooltalk talks. Feel free to use them.

Action Planner

And here’s a scaffold to help folks apply texts to make change where we work: the #Schooltalking Action Planner.


This is a brilliantly crafted text, sure to be a classic in education. We need this book now more than ever. It should be required reading in every teacher education program in the United States of America.

—H. Richard Milner IV, author of Rac(e)ing to Class

Reading Schooltalk is like sitting down for coffee and frank conversation with a trusted friend about what matters most in education. . . . This beautiful book will make a difference in how people consider what until now they may have thought of as simply innocent ‘talk.’

—Sonia Nieto, professor emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Schooltalk shows how everyday communication is a powerful and necessary tool for equity for America’s students. Everyone involved in education, from paraprofessionals to teachers in the classroom to district leaders, should consider the lessons of this highly readable book.

—Maureen B. Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center

[Schooltalk] so seamlessly travels from the societal to the institutional to the group level to the personal level and back out. It’s replete with tools [and] an invaluable resource to teachers as they think about the day to day reality of their classrooms.

—Ali Michael, University of Pennsylvania

In her powerful book Schooltalk, Dr. Mica Pollock challenges educators to take the simple yet bold step towards equity through mindful conversation with and about all students. . . . As educators strive to create inclusive schools, this book stands out with clear instruction for reflection and action. I have recommended Schooltalk to hundreds of educators as a must-read resource for teachers, bus drivers, counselors, advisors, parents, trainers…anyone who touches students’ lives and is purposeful about contributing to their success.

Laura Lomax, Vice President of Programs, Pearl S. Buck International

“Our project team recently did a book study of Schootalk. This precipitated many deep and impactful conversations internally that resulted in our coaching team deliberately setting out to listen for scripts during coaching sessions that don’t serve students, and then creating opportunities to surface these scripts with our coachees in order to move towards alternative ways of thinking and talking more in line with their hopes for creating conditions where all students get what they need to thrive.”

Michele Reinhart, Center to Support Excellence in Teaching, Stanford Graduate School of Education