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Not Light, but Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom

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Do you feel prepared to initiate and facilitate meaningful, productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you looking for practical strategies to engage with your students? Inspired by Frederick Douglass's abolitionist call to action, “it is not light that is needed, but fire”, Matthew Kay has spent his career learning how to lead students through the most difficul Do you feel prepared to initiate and facilitate meaningful, productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you looking for practical strategies to engage with your students? Inspired by Frederick Douglass's abolitionist call to action, “it is not light that is needed, but fire”, Matthew Kay has spent his career learning how to lead students through the most difficult race conversations. Kay not only makes the case that high school classrooms are one of the best places to have those conversations, but he also offers a method for getting them right, providing candid guidance on: How to  recognize  the difference between meaningful and inconsequential race conversations. How to  build  conversational “safe spaces,” not merely declare them. How to  infuse  race conversations with urgency and purpose. How to  thrive  in the face of unexpected challenges. How administrators might  equip  teachers to thoughtfully engage in these conversations. With the right blend of reflection and humility, Kay asserts, teachers can make school one of the best venues for young people to discuss race.


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Do you feel prepared to initiate and facilitate meaningful, productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you looking for practical strategies to engage with your students? Inspired by Frederick Douglass's abolitionist call to action, “it is not light that is needed, but fire”, Matthew Kay has spent his career learning how to lead students through the most difficul Do you feel prepared to initiate and facilitate meaningful, productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you looking for practical strategies to engage with your students? Inspired by Frederick Douglass's abolitionist call to action, “it is not light that is needed, but fire”, Matthew Kay has spent his career learning how to lead students through the most difficult race conversations. Kay not only makes the case that high school classrooms are one of the best places to have those conversations, but he also offers a method for getting them right, providing candid guidance on: How to  recognize  the difference between meaningful and inconsequential race conversations. How to  build  conversational “safe spaces,” not merely declare them. How to  infuse  race conversations with urgency and purpose. How to  thrive  in the face of unexpected challenges. How administrators might  equip  teachers to thoughtfully engage in these conversations. With the right blend of reflection and humility, Kay asserts, teachers can make school one of the best venues for young people to discuss race.

30 review for Not Light, but Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.J. Johnson

    Excellent. Should be required reading for teachers and parents of ANY teens, anywhere in the US. Truly the best, most thoughtful and practical book I’ve read on anti-racist, student-supporting, compassionate teaching/parenting. Thank you, Mr. Kay.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Epting

    So many books talk about the need for conversations about race in the classroom, and this book gives a solid foundation of HOW to have those conversations. I appreciate the author’s openness about what has worked and what hasn’t worked in his classroom. He also gives an important perspective of thinking about the purpose, planning and intent of having conversations about race with students. This is a great and important read for teachers in the classroom today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookChampions

    The best professional development for teachers is the kind teachers seek out themselves. That's how it has always been for me. And so I am trying to build upon all I learned last year from reading about race and navigating conflict and making change, and seeking opportunities to turn that learning into action. In *Not Light, But Fire*, high school English and drama teacher Matthew R. Kay makes the "earnest attempt to step away from old inertia of *why we should talk about race* into the urgent st The best professional development for teachers is the kind teachers seek out themselves. That's how it has always been for me. And so I am trying to build upon all I learned last year from reading about race and navigating conflict and making change, and seeking opportunities to turn that learning into action. In *Not Light, But Fire*, high school English and drama teacher Matthew R. Kay makes the "earnest attempt to step away from old inertia of *why we should talk about race* into the urgent struggle of *how to do it.*" And yes, the book IS earnest but it is also wise and practical and daring. If you teach and if you value discussion as a cornerstone of your classroom (or even want to add more discussion to your curriculum), I would urge you to give this book a read. I used to consider myself a "dialogic" teacher much more at my last school. Shifting to a new community made leading daring discussions more challenging since I didn't know the culture I was slipping into. The same questioning patterns just didn't work. But this book comes to me at a time I am daring MYSELF to lead others in true cross-cultural dialogue. It comes at a time when we've just rewritten curriculum--finally letting go of *To Kill a Mockingbird* (not without a bit of a fight) and making space for books dealing with race but actually by POC (*Kindred*, *Raisin in the Sun*, *Betsey Brown*). Then, halfway through this book I actually realized I KNEW who Matthew R. Kay is! He coached the Philly slam team the same year I coached the St. Louis team all the way to Brave New Voices in Atlanta. We actually competed in the same preliminary round (they were incredible 🙌). Who knows how, but I now have this book on Kindle, on Audible, and in print. And you know, I don't really mind. It was an inspiring and magical and utterly helpful read. Mass respect.

  4. 5 out of 5

    adeservingporcupine

    I didn’t want this book to end. I’m pretty sure that’s something I have never felt about a professional development book before. It’s like Mr. Kay was listening to me lament every one of my classroom failures last year and then saying, “here’s why that didn’t work, but now try this.” I am so grateful for every one of these pages. Mr. Kay’s expertise comes through right alongside his humility. This book isn’t just a treatise on holding race conversations, it’s good teaching. It will absolutely be I didn’t want this book to end. I’m pretty sure that’s something I have never felt about a professional development book before. It’s like Mr. Kay was listening to me lament every one of my classroom failures last year and then saying, “here’s why that didn’t work, but now try this.” I am so grateful for every one of these pages. Mr. Kay’s expertise comes through right alongside his humility. This book isn’t just a treatise on holding race conversations, it’s good teaching. It will absolutely be in my teacher bag all year next year.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    This is an amazing book that is essential for all educators who wish to engage in discussions of race in the classroom. While I do not agree with every part and still have some practical questions for the author, I appreciated his candor in sharing his mistakes, his successes, and his rubber-hits-the-road teaching advice. Kay is an ELA teacher, but he engages with so much history that I found this book and its advice to easily apply to my history classroom; it would make an excellent Professiona This is an amazing book that is essential for all educators who wish to engage in discussions of race in the classroom. While I do not agree with every part and still have some practical questions for the author, I appreciated his candor in sharing his mistakes, his successes, and his rubber-hits-the-road teaching advice. Kay is an ELA teacher, but he engages with so much history that I found this book and its advice to easily apply to my history classroom; it would make an excellent Professional Development book study for both ELA and Social Studies departments (and the sections on classroom culture can apply to all disciplines). I appreciated his blend of personal stories, practical advice, and justice advocacy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kim Stock

    4.5 stars - highly recommend for teacher friends. The author gives teaching tips throughout the book on how to have race conversions in the classroom.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amal

    One of the books I most highly recommend to educators at any level.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Terra

    I'm excited to hear what our Ed students think of this book when we do our jigsaw assignment. I found Kay's examples from his classroom to be interesting & thought provoking. I'm planning to use the chapter 6 "Say it right": unpacking the cultural significance of names, in future classes that I teach! I'm excited to hear what our Ed students think of this book when we do our jigsaw assignment. I found Kay's examples from his classroom to be interesting & thought provoking. I'm planning to use the chapter 6 "Say it right": unpacking the cultural significance of names, in future classes that I teach!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Horne

    I just finished Matthew Kay’s Not Light, But Fire, and it has replaced Teaching as a Subversive Activity as my favorite ed. book. His voice -- as a regular practitioner of ideas rather than solely a researcher of ideas, as an active participant in the education revolution rather than a distant voice calling for one -- was a buoy in choppy water. I was able to stop, gather supplies, and keep swimming. First, dialogic classrooms are the answer, and the way that Kay runs his class discussions is t I just finished Matthew Kay’s Not Light, But Fire, and it has replaced Teaching as a Subversive Activity as my favorite ed. book. His voice -- as a regular practitioner of ideas rather than solely a researcher of ideas, as an active participant in the education revolution rather than a distant voice calling for one -- was a buoy in choppy water. I was able to stop, gather supplies, and keep swimming. First, dialogic classrooms are the answer, and the way that Kay runs his class discussions is the gold standard -- the titanium standard, the vibranium standard. I finished Not Light, But Fire two weeks before the current Corona closure. In those two weeks, our classroom discussions were more focused, there were more avenues for participation, and I was able to add spice to my conversation methods menu. Not only did he provide welcome and clear guidance on leading meaningful conversations about race, he also bolstered the quality of meaningful conversations -- period. Truthfully, anyone interested in guidance toward tackling the hard questions around race, increasing overall student engagement, and nurturing critical thinking in the classroom should immediately grab a copy of Matthew Kay’s, Not Light, But Fire. His ability to communicate as a currently practicing teacher, his investment in “student ideas as currency”, and his writing talent will make this the best PD that you’ve had in years.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Eshelman

    Insightful, practical, and challenging without driving readers to despair, Matthew Kay's Not Light, but Fire is essential reading for any teacher, though especially English and History teachers. I read this as a part of anti-racist professional development at my school district, and I am grateful for the new ideas that Kay has given in this book. Education books can feel out-of-touch, but Kay is a teacher writing for teachers, so his suggestions and examples have been tested in the classroom time Insightful, practical, and challenging without driving readers to despair, Matthew Kay's Not Light, but Fire is essential reading for any teacher, though especially English and History teachers. I read this as a part of anti-racist professional development at my school district, and I am grateful for the new ideas that Kay has given in this book. Education books can feel out-of-touch, but Kay is a teacher writing for teachers, so his suggestions and examples have been tested in the classroom time and time again. The strength of this book is in its practicality; he spends the first few chapters talking about how to build a strong and healthy classroom climate, well before diving into how to navigate specific discussions about race. This kind of foundational work points to how meaningful race conversations fit into a wider class experience, avoiding the "pop-up" approach that he warns against. After this year of having several tough whole-class discussions, as well as years before that addressing racist language in our curriculum texts, I deeply appreciate the approaches he describes. If you are a teacher, pick up this book today! If you are not a teacher, this can be an interesting book to help you see how to navigate difficult discussions whenever they happen.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leah Mortenson

    Required reading for educators of all kind. I read this with my preservice teachers this semester in our Social Justice Book Club, and the conversations that have come out of it have been inspiring when we all needed that extra bit of push and enthusiasm. I am so proud of my students’ advocacy and passion, and I know it is in large part due to the timely, thoughtful, and perhaps most of all PRACTICAL words of Matthew Kay. Regardless of your discipline, read this book. It will make you more thoug Required reading for educators of all kind. I read this with my preservice teachers this semester in our Social Justice Book Club, and the conversations that have come out of it have been inspiring when we all needed that extra bit of push and enthusiasm. I am so proud of my students’ advocacy and passion, and I know it is in large part due to the timely, thoughtful, and perhaps most of all PRACTICAL words of Matthew Kay. Regardless of your discipline, read this book. It will make you more thoughtful in conversations with family members, friends, and colleagues. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    3.75. I think if I had read this a couple of months ago, it would be a solid 4.25. Look at me getting all specific here. So, this is a wonderful book, especially for ELA teachers. It speaks very directly to what I need to accomplish in my content area and advisory classes. But I have been going ham on nonfiction like this for the entire summer, and I think I'm a little burned out. Kay is a voice we should listen to. He's in the classroom and he knows his stuff. This ed celebs can just go away an 3.75. I think if I had read this a couple of months ago, it would be a solid 4.25. Look at me getting all specific here. So, this is a wonderful book, especially for ELA teachers. It speaks very directly to what I need to accomplish in my content area and advisory classes. But I have been going ham on nonfiction like this for the entire summer, and I think I'm a little burned out. Kay is a voice we should listen to. He's in the classroom and he knows his stuff. This ed celebs can just go away and we can let Kay do the talking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Mr. Kay is 100% the teacher I want to grow up to be. If you are a teacher, even if you have no interest in tackling race in the classroom, if you want to use discussion as a teaching tool, if you want your classroom to be a 'safe space': read this. There are concrete actions, excellent case studies, and very clear arguments for why techniques work/are necessary. Basically everything I need from this kind of book, I already plan to try some of these out, and I would give up a kidney to be able to Mr. Kay is 100% the teacher I want to grow up to be. If you are a teacher, even if you have no interest in tackling race in the classroom, if you want to use discussion as a teaching tool, if you want your classroom to be a 'safe space': read this. There are concrete actions, excellent case studies, and very clear arguments for why techniques work/are necessary. Basically everything I need from this kind of book, I already plan to try some of these out, and I would give up a kidney to be able to attend one of his PD's.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    An excellent, practical guide for how to create classroom environments in which conversations thrive and specific examples of lessons where the theory is put to practice. While not all of the specific lessons will work for me, the general ideas about how to create a dialogic classroom and initiate and moderate conversations that matter were excellent. Exactly the book I was looking for.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maria Losee

    The most important professional book I’ve read this year. Every MS and HS staff should engage in a book study.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Doherty

    The bridge between learning about anti-racism and putting it into practice in your classroom.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carlee Beatty

    Actually full of common sense advice and technique, rather than simply theories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    This PRACTICAL book has been transformative. I have vocabulary to describe some of my good teaching instincts and strategies to develop my weaknesses. This book is an excellent guide to creating a dialogic classroom that tackles hard problems, a classroom that reflects the real world that my students already move in.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ryann Shumeyko

    This is one of the most insightful and well-written books I have read. I was immediately drawn in when Kay pointed out that so often the initiation of a conversation about race is brought up to shed light on the subject. And although light is good and dandy, it's only temporary. Rather than shedding a light on racial issues and conversations, we must (as educators but also as people) find ways to set a fire to race conversations. By setting a fire, we can learn how to dig deeper with students in This is one of the most insightful and well-written books I have read. I was immediately drawn in when Kay pointed out that so often the initiation of a conversation about race is brought up to shed light on the subject. And although light is good and dandy, it's only temporary. Rather than shedding a light on racial issues and conversations, we must (as educators but also as people) find ways to set a fire to race conversations. By setting a fire, we can learn how to dig deeper with students in a way that encourages and inspires change. This takes more than just saying we want to make a difference, but rather doing everything in our power to create a safe space for students to listen and speak. It takes time and strategy, and Kay spends the book walking us through what exactly that looks like in a school setting. I recommend this book to any aspiring teacher, but also to anyone looking to dig deeper into the importance of and need for meaningful race conversations.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James

    At some point I'll try to come back and write a proper review, but I want to say that this is the best book on teaching I've read in a long time, and highly recommend it to everyone. Even if you have no interest in discussing race in your classroom, you should read it because it's ultimately about creating an effective classroom culture and teaching kids how to have constructive conversations about any topic. I look forward to a day when writing like this is no longer relegated to a subcategory At some point I'll try to come back and write a proper review, but I want to say that this is the best book on teaching I've read in a long time, and highly recommend it to everyone. Even if you have no interest in discussing race in your classroom, you should read it because it's ultimately about creating an effective classroom culture and teaching kids how to have constructive conversations about any topic. I look forward to a day when writing like this is no longer relegated to a subcategory of professional development texts for a certain type of teacher. Everything in this book speaks to the work we all do (or don't do) every single day.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Intro- fear of saying the wrong thing or being misinterpreted leading to lawsuit or job loss. Students hold passionate opinions And want to slow down twitter style conversation. 1-ECOSYSTEM: class room environment ready to engage in “house talk” Can’t just abracadabrA “safe space” Teach listening: Listen patiently (hands down, no interrupting, try what makes you feel listened to: eye contact? Nodding?) Teacher models (patience, brian is making a good point. You go next) Listen actively : Joe’s ideas are Intro- fear of saying the wrong thing or being misinterpreted leading to lawsuit or job loss. Students hold passionate opinions And want to slow down twitter style conversation. 1-ECOSYSTEM: class room environment ready to engage in “house talk” Can’t just abracadabrA “safe space” Teach listening: Listen patiently (hands down, no interrupting, try what makes you feel listened to: eye contact? Nodding?) Teacher models (patience, brian is making a good point. You go next) Listen actively : Joe’s ideas are worthwhile to everyone in the classroom community. Cite each other. “Building on...” Police your voice : speak to them (kids not teacher) everyone deserves an opportunity to share. Help kids with strategies (PRES) kids direct questions to other kids (almost there) Kidsfrustrated/ not enough energy to explain the black experience with a white teacher leading conversation. Parallel: women Focus: resistance, not victimhood 3 things to build “house talk level relationships: BURN 5 MIN- informal convo- see each other as humans. GOOD NEWS connections and empathy HIGH-GRADE COMPLIMENTS. Who a person is not what they wear 2 Talking game- interpersonal skills PEOPLE SMART by Mel Silberman: Interpersonal intelligence: EXPRESSING YOURSELF CLEARLY orientation and summary. Label beliefs as beliefs. “Hold water” “good point but I think you’re forgetting...” RESOLVING CONFLICT clarify and head off conflict but conflict means engaged and passionate. Approval isn’t goal- growth is. Conflicts over: facts, data; process, methods; purposes; values. When values- label it and immediately push to center of vent diagram where they agree. Work through side by side not head to head. SHIFTING GEARS agility rating. Practice with controversy articles in ART ED. 3 CONVERSATIONAL PACKAGES- Group SLC 1-1 Think-pair-share Twitter convo Subj matter: MORE THAN A PROBLEM, avoid feb soup Engaging controversies- reasonable, deliberative. Argue your point without Logical fallacies. Threaded conversations. 4- est your PURPOSE Personal catalysts for having the race convo: To assuage our guilt To be cool To point out the elephant in the room For the status that comes with raising an army Just bc we like talking to them Proportions that ensure PURPOSE 1 if the race convo is about a hard problem, provide space and time for students to (1) locate their sphere of influence, and (2) explore personal pathways to solutions. 2 design race convos that encourage students to follow NEW lines of inquiry 3 students should be encouraged to PUBLISH whenever they feel ready. This opportunity must be built into the culture of the classroom LOve their grade wide essential questions: 9: Identity: Who am I? How do I interact with my environment? How does the environment affect me? 10: Systems: How are systems created and defined? How do systems shape the world? What is the role of the individual in systems? 11: Change: What causes systematic and individual change? What is the role of the individual in creating and sustaining change? What is the relationship between the self and a changing world? Many African societies divide humans into three categories: those still alive on Earth, the SASHA (living-dead), and the ZAMANI (dead). Feedback from students is usefuL: What was your favorite discussion? What worked about it? What was your least favorite discussion? What would you change about it? What made you feel safe? What made you feel unsafe? How could I have better helped you meet your goals? What habit of mine needs to go away right now? General recommendations/suggestions:

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    One of the best pedagogical books I have ever read. Deeply rooted in socially just instruction and offers an incredibly rich approach on how to facilitate and negotiate meaningful race conversations in the classroom. I loved reading about Kay's classroom experiences and how he negotiated and reflected on those experiences. One of my favorite quotes from this book was when Kay explains “We must, if we value our students’ right to determine healthy relationships, never accept invitations unless th One of the best pedagogical books I have ever read. Deeply rooted in socially just instruction and offers an incredibly rich approach on how to facilitate and negotiate meaningful race conversations in the classroom. I loved reading about Kay's classroom experiences and how he negotiated and reflected on those experiences. One of my favorite quotes from this book was when Kay explains “We must, if we value our students’ right to determine healthy relationships, never accept invitations unless they have been proffered. We must, through earnest humility, earn our seats. Just as we cannot conjure safe spaces from midair, we should not expect the familial intimacy, vulnerability, and forgiveness needed for meaningful race conversations to emerge from traditional classroom relationships… Familial intimacy depends on both parties feeling like a priority to the other” (Kay 29). All in all, this book is incredible.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Excellent book for anyone who works in the classroom!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    I wholeheartedly recommend Not Light, But Fire to all educators, even those who have already read a great deal on this topic. I student-taught in Matt Kay’s classroom and witnessed versions of many of the conversations he describes. Even though much of it was familiar to me, I still could not put the book down. It’s a page turner! My thoughts on it fall into two categories: 1. I loved it as a teaching book. Too often, books about teaching can be condescending, repetitive, and dry. Even my person I wholeheartedly recommend Not Light, But Fire to all educators, even those who have already read a great deal on this topic. I student-taught in Matt Kay’s classroom and witnessed versions of many of the conversations he describes. Even though much of it was familiar to me, I still could not put the book down. It’s a page turner! My thoughts on it fall into two categories: 1. I loved it as a teaching book. Too often, books about teaching can be condescending, repetitive, and dry. Even my personal favorites are not what I consider juicy reads. This book was vibrant and fascinating. I looked forward to sitting down with it each evening, not because it would develop me professionally, but simply because it was a pleasure to read. I loved how fluidly Kay moves between theory, media context, detailed classroom examples, and nuts and bolts tools for us to "put in our pocket[s]." This mix was powerfully illustrative and useful, and not just for race discussions. Most of the dialogic classroom principles and practices outlined could be fruitfully deployed in any kind of discussion. I loved how scholarly it was. Kay takes his audience seriously and does not waste a moment of our time pointing out the obvious. The fact that he writes about questions and mistakes from his practice as well as victories nicely models the curious, humble teacher stance that is so crucial in a dialogic classroom. Certain moments in the book helped me to rethink aspects of my approach that might come across as scolding. Part 1 brought me into crystal clarity about a lot of the techniques I had witnessed in Mr. Kay’s classes. I'd adopted many of them already, but it was incredibly useful to read his breakdown of the precise reasoning behind them. And the conversational studies in Part 2 were riveting! They helped me plot out how I might be able to achieve discussion goals that have thus far eluded me. 2. I loved it as a book about race conversations. In the height of the George Floyd uprising (at least in the early stages of it), I found myself getting frustrated at the focus of a lot of discourse in mainstream media and liberal social media. It seemed like the smug admonitions to read White Fragility and heed the call of corporate diversity consultants like Robin DiAngelo were creating a misleading problem of emphasis. The hype around that sort of writing seemed to me to be causing a lot of well-meaning white liberals to think that it's all about checking our privilege and listening, or making people feel heard. Of course those things are important, but the obsession with them shifts the focus to a solely symbolic, interpersonal realm. And while that realm matters, dwelling exclusively there can lead us to stagnation. Instead of concrete action, we get a bunch of congresspeople kneeling down in kente cloth. As we celebrate the Black Lives Matter street paintings, some of us stop asking why police are allowed to terrorize people in the name of protecting property. And the aforementioned privileged white liberals, some of whom earnestly want to do their part, are now stuck thinking that systemic racism is purely a matter of perverse psychology. This obscures the fact that while white people's bizarre racial fixations are worth interrogating, our perverse psychology has been carefully cultivated for centuries to serve an economic purpose. The white fragility conversation thrives in corporate media, so perhaps it makes sense that that conversation distracts us from the fact that corporate America profits from systems of racialized exploitation. Prop 22 in California comes to mind as just one of myriad current examples. Astronomical amounts of funding have emerged to push what is unquestionably a racist piece of legislation-- NAACP and Si Se Puede endorsements notwithstanding. If you think about who drives for Uber and Lyft, and also who depends on Uber and Lyft because public transit is crumbling and taxi drivers discriminate, it's clear that Prop 22 will do material harm to marginalized groups and further erode the sorts of solidarity America needs most. And who will benefit? A handful of shareholders and executives. And that's just one example. Racism doesn't spring up in a vacuum because white people are inherently sick. People get rich off of racism (and, apparently, anti-racism). Wall Street depends upon the precarious existence of minoritized people, and it isn’t a design flaw. Matt Kay’s book deftly cuts through all the noise, refocusing the conversation onto concrete experience and action. Not that he is prescribing what actions his students ought to take, of course. But he shows his reader how to host discussions that lead to movement. To borrow Kay’s Frederick Douglass reference, this book gives us the fire we need. He doesn’t simply help his students elucidate the ways they are different from one another. Rather, he offers them opportunities to empathize with each other by thinking critically about their individual and collective experiences. I think each of those opportunities increases the likelihood that they will become genuinely solidary in the struggle--the racial lift as he calls it. Classrooms like Mr. Kay’s give teachers and students alike the chance to better understand one another's humanity. They also give us the chance to allow ourselves to be more fully human, together. And that's hugely helpful towards the racial lift, if you think of racism as an ugly tool that distorts and dehumanizes all of us. This book made me feel profoundly grateful for the experience I had in Matt Kay’s classroom. I'm so glad to know that other teachers can now access that experience in all of its vivid complexity. I strongly recommend this book to all secondary teachers, and to administrators in charge of building-level continuing education. I also think it could be immensely useful for educators at the college and graduate level. In this time, we desperately need to engage our students in conversations about history, experience, and how we move forward. Not Light, But Fire is a must-read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Grabill

    Often PD books feel a bit too detached and theoretical. Reading this recommendation stemmed from the increasingly political climate of the world as well as the demand in the classrooms for authentic navigations and processing of these political realities. Mr. Kay does an exceptional job at not only highlighting the why conversations of race need to happen in the classroom, but also the "how?" It was a great reminder, as well as confirmation, that community needs to precede conversations. The fin Often PD books feel a bit too detached and theoretical. Reading this recommendation stemmed from the increasingly political climate of the world as well as the demand in the classrooms for authentic navigations and processing of these political realities. Mr. Kay does an exceptional job at not only highlighting the why conversations of race need to happen in the classroom, but also the "how?" It was a great reminder, as well as confirmation, that community needs to precede conversations. The final chapter was an encouraging reminder that ultimately this call for social justice isn't an individual battle, but a collective one. Highly highly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This book was thought provoking in so many ways. What I loved most, though, is the care and respect Mr. Kay gives his students. I loved how carefully he considered what his students said and also what he said. I teach math, so I don't have many opportunities for discussions about race in my classroom, but all teachers can learn more from Mr. Kay about how to create classroom norms that encourage dialogue and how to listen carefully to your students. I actually made many connections between his d This book was thought provoking in so many ways. What I loved most, though, is the care and respect Mr. Kay gives his students. I loved how carefully he considered what his students said and also what he said. I teach math, so I don't have many opportunities for discussions about race in my classroom, but all teachers can learn more from Mr. Kay about how to create classroom norms that encourage dialogue and how to listen carefully to your students. I actually made many connections between his discussions and math discussions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Our school used this text as a 4 session book study with our teachers and it generated a lot of thoughtful reflection and discussion. Some of the most helpful sections were thorough examples of Kay’s classroom and the thought process that went into planning and creating race discussions along with creating a safe space in his classroom for them to occur. I work with younger students, so I’m left thinking about these examples and what the equivalent would look like with the students I work with a Our school used this text as a 4 session book study with our teachers and it generated a lot of thoughtful reflection and discussion. Some of the most helpful sections were thorough examples of Kay’s classroom and the thought process that went into planning and creating race discussions along with creating a safe space in his classroom for them to occur. I work with younger students, so I’m left thinking about these examples and what the equivalent would look like with the students I work with and energized to test out some new plans.

  28. 5 out of 5

    fj baggins

    This is a good resource for teachers on building safe communities in their classroom, and holding effective and meaningful conversations on race. The first portion of the book was rich with good suggestions on how to build community in the classroom. The latter half of the book dealing with classroom discussions on race focused too often on detailed descriptions of classroom dialogues Kay had led in his classroom, which were seemed to fill the book with more pages, but neither shedding light nor This is a good resource for teachers on building safe communities in their classroom, and holding effective and meaningful conversations on race. The first portion of the book was rich with good suggestions on how to build community in the classroom. The latter half of the book dealing with classroom discussions on race focused too often on detailed descriptions of classroom dialogues Kay had led in his classroom, which were seemed to fill the book with more pages, but neither shedding light nor fire on the subject.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This was a great read. I loved all of the classroom scenarios that he described. It was easier for me to imagine having these conversations in my own classroom by getting to see into his. The book, despite the heavy content, was very engaging to read with all of the classroom examples. Lots of practical advice for setting up your classroom for good conversations, before, during, and after the discussion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Matt intelligently and practically lays out considerations for creating a classroom where it is safe to discuss race in all its nuances. He demystifies the process of creating a dialogic classroom, but does so with humility and an understanding that we are all still learning. This is a great book to pair with Cornelius Minor’s We Got This for those teachers who are interested in being leaders of equitable classrooms and schools.

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