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Over the last two months, the voices of Oak Park educators LeeAndra Khan, the principal of Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, and Paul Noble, an Oak Park and River Forest High School English teacher, have carried way beyond the school walls.

Last month, Khan’s poignant essay about her experience “Being a Black Principal in Today’s Racial and Political Climate,” was published in Catalyst Chicago, an independent news site that reports on urban education. 

The essay, published online July 27, is deeply personal. Khan tells readers about her son, “who attends one of Chicago’s best schools and isn’t an achievement gap statistic,” but who is still “one of many black boys who have been suspended from school as early as third grade.” 

It’s also frank. 

“Speaking up for your race is often viewed as exclusionary and you can even be accused of being a racist,” writes Khan, who was also on a radio station, WVON 1690, earlier this month talking about her experiences as a black principal. 

Noble’s intimate essay, “A Wish for My Daughters,” was published on the New York Times’s website on Aug. 19. 

Noble’s writing is visceral, inviting readers to sit on the shores of Lake Michigan that contour his seasonal home in Douglas, Michigan. Noble’s description of his 6-year-old twin daughters swimming on a “daunting” and “windy day” ranks with anything you’ll read from one of the paper’s regular columnists.

“You know intuitively that if the waves are coming at you with great force, they’re receding with the same violence,” Noble writes. “It’s no small thing to let my 6-year-old twin daughters swim on a day like this. I’m sure the metaphor is as ancient as the first father to stand beside his kids on some prehistoric beach: Parenting is about letting your children stride, then swim, further and further, into deeper and more dangerous waters.” 

Michael Romain 

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