Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Welcome advocates to another episode of The Leading Equity podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. I got a good friend of mine, unfortunately he joined the wrong group in his... y'all, unfortunately he's a part of Kappa Alpha Psi. So later... let me stop, let me stop doing that to him.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

It's all good man, it's all love.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I want to bring on my good friend Dr. Kirk Kirkwood. And so without further ado, Kirk, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Brother, thank you so much for having me on. I just want to say, first of all, congratulations man. Advocacy Summit was phenomenal. It is special that you are able to bring together such a diverse group of educators, both practitioners and academics, to talk about their work and to inspire us to be our best selves. Especially in light of recent events man, it was just refreshing to hear that folks are still on the ground making an impact to change the lives of our most precious resource, that is our students. So kudos to you, man.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Hey, much love. Much love.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Even for a Alpha, you all right brother, with me. You all right with me.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I was waiting. I was waiting for you to throw it out there.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yes sir, yes sir.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

And honestly, I tell people this all the time. I say listen, I'm learning just as much as folks are learning too. It's food for me too, and I'm just so blessed that there is a network of people that want to have their voices heard, and they want to do this work and share it with people. And so just being able to provide a platform like that, it's an honor. So I'm really excited for how things went. We reached a lot of people. Thousands of educators went through the summit, and again, it's just a blessing.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Shameless plug too, for those who are listening. If you haven't purchased the $69 combo pack, go and get your pack right now. There's no way in three days you can take in, soak in all that information. Break that bread, and pay that money, and get that, and just increase your learning and understanding. That's well worth it. $69, you can't get two Big Mac combo meals for that, so that's a phenomenal deal, brother. So I went and got mine, so I'm looking forward to the weekend. When we start or driving or commuting back to work, it's going to be a part of my commute. So for the listening audience, go get your copy right now.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yeah, yeah. You know what, I got to put you on staff man. I appreciate that one.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

That's what I do.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yeah, okay. All right, all right. Let's get into it. I appreciate you on the plug, so yeah, good looking out on that. Good looking out.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Serious, yeah. Serious.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

So we're going to talk about math and math literacy specifically. And before we do that, I forgot. I know who you are, but I want to make sure everybody else knows who you are as well. Why don't you share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

For the audience, my name is Kirk Kirkwood. It's a tongue twister. You don't know this, but Rufus Kirkwood Jr. is my legal name. My parents never called me Rufus, but my dad wanted a Junior and he won that argument, but they've always called me Kirk. So I've gone by Kirk Kirkwood since I was young. But I am currently the director of CalStateTEACH. We are the CSU online multiple subject credential program, and we also have an induction program. We are statewide, servicing folks far north and far south, hopefully impacting them in a positive way, preparing them to teach, to engage, to critically think how they can inspire and motivate their students to achieve their greatest dreams. I believe I have the dream job man, just working with future teachers, future educational leaders. And we have a phenomenal faculty supporting this work, a phenomenal system wide director, and the [inaudible 00:04:27] is behind us.

               So it is really a powerful, powerful program. And I'm not just saying this, but for the audience, our program is participating in a year-long equity institute with Dr. Eakins, and even when you're not present Dr. Eakins, faculty say time and time again how they appreciate the conversations, the dialogue, the discourse around equity minded practices. And so for them to challenge themselves continuously, and engage in conversations and to present themselves as vulnerable individuals, it speaks to the volume of our program. So to direct the program, I am extremely humbled and grateful. My areas include Oakland, which I love. I'm a Raider fan. I was sad when they left Oakland. Oakland all the way down to Imperial Valley. So for those who don't know about that, that's like the northern bay area and all the way down to southern California.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Nice, nice. Well-

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yes, sir.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Listen, I love working with your group, so I've got to give a shoutout to Dr. Connie Davidson [crosstalk 00:05:39] connection.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Oakland's finest.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yes, yes. She's awesome. And so yeah, without her and just kind of connecting the two of us together, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with your team. I remember a couple sessions ago, I had a whole PowerPoint presentation, and I was ready to go. I went through like two slides, and then we just ended up having a whole nother dialogue. And it was, like you said, some really good discourse, really good, really good topics that were coming out, and great feedback from the crew that was there. So it was all the-

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

[inaudible 00:06:15]. You didn't believe me, I told you.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

And that's what I like to do, that's what I like to do.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yes, yes sir. You do.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I love to be able to talk around these topics, and whether you know it already or if you're just learning, you could just see on the Zoom, folks was just soaking it up. And it was just really great dialogue. And so again, that was a great moment to have. So again, I definitely appreciate the work that's happening over there. Because you are involved with preparing our future teachers in California in that area, and that's very, very important.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah, yeah. I can say it is an honor, man. And one of my mentors said it is a vocation, a calling. One of the greatest callings on one's life, and that is to take care of the most vulnerable, most precious resources in our society, our children. And what I like about our program and our stakeholders, we don't take it lightly. We are serious and committed to this work. And so having someone like you to come alongside, to increase our awareness or strengthen us in our resolve and our commitment, it only just enhances the work. It's enjoyable. We smile and we laugh. We enjoy what we do.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yeah, yeah. So we've got to talk about some equity stuff, so let's jump into some math literacy. So in your work, what you've got going on over there, what are some of the biggest challenges that you're coming across when it comes to math literacy?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Well, you know what, I'm going to take it back to my youth. And it's not going to be a long journey, but I just want to take it back. Coming up, I grew up in Inglewood California. And Inglewood is different today than it was back then. In fact, if you go to the LA Times circa 1991, or you Google Morningside High School student protest in 1991, it describes in detail our experience. That is, dilapidated buildings, just horrible restroom facilities. We had more subs than we had credentialed teachers, and you can just see unfolding before you, before we knew what it was, the school to prison pipeline. They weren't preparing us for college. And I don't fault the teachers, the subs, or my peers. It was, as we know, a systemic issue.

               And I'm saying that to say that, as a youth in '88, '89, I had a decision to make. Where was I going? And as most youth, I wanted to fit in. And for me, I wanted to roll with the Bloods, Crenshaw Mafia Bloods. [inaudible 00:09:09], "I like these guys." But at the same time, I loved math. So literally sitting in the back of my ninth grade classroom, trying to associate with the Bloods. Literally had 40 ounces in the bag drinking and all that stuff. I had a dynamic teacher by the name Henry [Kayapos 00:09:31], Greek dude in the hood, and he's teaching his heart out. And so I was interacting with him from the back, and the Bloods caught wind of that. In their own colorful language, they said to me, "Don't ever let us see you in the back again, little so and so. Sit in the front."

               And it was that intervention and those words that helped me to understand the importance and the value of math learning. Because there was a clear paradigm, from geometry in the ninth grade, algebra two, pre-calc and calc, that led me to be accepted to several institutions including Howard, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and Hampton, and I chose UC Riverside. So I knew from my own experience how important math is in terms of the college going pipeline. It is the one subject where you can clearly distinguish between those who are going to college and those who are not.

               Even in the 21st century, I can look at someone's class schedule. And let's say if they're in the 11th grade, and I'm seeing English 11, okay, everybody has English 11. I'll see biology or chemistry, okay, that's cool. And then I may see for US history. But if that math in 11th grade does not say [inaudible 00:11:07] algebra two or pre-calc, that is an indicator to me that that pipeline to college does not exist. And for many black and brown students, they are enrolled in remedial math from ninth to 12th grade. That's statistically proven. From ninth to 12th grade, most of our black and brown students are enrolled in remedial math.

               So the question is, how does this happen? Well early in the K-6, K-8 pipeline, we realize in a real way that our students were under prepared. They didn't have the teachers equipped to empower them. And we're like, okay, is it the students? They just don't like math? Well, we were led to believe in our communities, specifically black folk. I'm talking about my community now. That we're just not good at math. How many of us have aunties, uncles, grandparents, that say, "Oh, I don't like math." Or when you bring it home, "Oh, that's that new math. I can't help you with that." And that becomes a conversation in our community discourse about how we don't like math.

               And you're like, how did we get there when, in early civilization, come on. The pyramids. The early mathematicians, the first mathematicians looked like you and I. So how did we get to a point now in this nation that the folks that, according to assessments in California in particular, were at the bottom of every metric in math, underperforming year after year after year after year after year, are black and brown children? And so that's the equity issue that I realized, quickly realized. And I knew that something had to be done to address that.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

And you took me back, because I would say probably about maybe 10 years ago, maybe a little bit sooner than that, maybe five or six years ago, the big sexy word at the time was achievement gap. You don't hear it as much, but that is definitely something that used to come up all the time, especially with statistics and data being brought up. And you ask, why is that, right? Why is that from the middle school pipeline up and through high school, we have "remedial math" that's happening in our black and brown communities? And then the thing about it is, have we really thought about why that is from a, how many of those schools, those students that are "needing remedial math" have had access to highly qualified teachers? But we spend our time talking about this "achievement gap," but we don't assess resources. We don't talk about when it comes to privilege. We don't talk about different things that are impacting those communities. It's more than just math. It's not just the subject, it's not just content. It's more than that. And data doesn't always tell the whole story.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

No, it doesn't.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

[crosstalk 00:14:13] says that. He says, "Look, data doesn't tell me the whole story."

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

No, it doesn't. It doesn't.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I can look at numbers, but what does that mean to me but okay, there's some things that we need to work on. But you said we often blame the kids for it.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah, man. One of the coldest documents in the US Department of Education is the Nation at Risk Report, right? And it details our failure to prepare innovative thinkers. And it cites [Butnik 00:14:46], I think it was 1957, [inaudible 00:14:49]. And what is the US doing? So immediately, the US Department of Education indicted K-12 schooling systems for failing to prepare innovators and leaders in technological advancement. So here comes now the need to have a merit based instructional paradigm. Cream of the crop, crème de la crème. And then those who can't cut it, we've got something for you. But we're really looking to advance a group that can propel US systems forward.

               And then you've got the concept of model minority, because by and large there's a perception that Asian students can help to advance innovation and technology, test scores off the chart. And you've got white folk who understand the system because it was designed by them, for them, who are climbing that ladder and doing well. And then like you said before, black and brown students. And so you have the achievement gap narrative. Can you imagine that, and one of my faculty told me before, as a third, fourth, fifth grader, being black and brown, always being subject to the achievement gap narrative? Always. And they understand this. Always being led to believe that you are behind, always trying to catch up. The day they walk in school, the achievement gap narrative. The day they walk in, "You're far below proficient." And specifically in math, our schooling system hit them with these data. "You're behind, you have to catch up to your Asian and white peers," and they wear this, and it becomes a weight.

               And then we wonder why our kids resent the notion of schooling. I don't know, and I've got a lot of cousins and I love them. They bad as all get out. I love them. But when I asked them down the line, "Do you like school?" Out of five, maybe one said, "Yeah, I like school." I'm like, that's messed up. That is messed up, because we're teaching them to advance US systems, and they have to be at a certain level to be innovative. And then those who can't make it, oh well. And most of them resent the notion of school. And I'm like, wow, because I can get those very same cousins in a space, and we can engage in conversation, and I can get them to love learning. So I know it's not them, it's the schooling system.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

It's the schooling system. And I tell you one thing, I love playing some dominoes.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yes sir.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

But when it comes to that counting, and trying to get them fives, I struggle sometimes. And I could play with a sixth grader, seventh grader, and they would just knock me out the water, because they... so the skill is there. I know it's there. How do we bring it out of our kids? And I think that's one of the biggest challenges, like you said. We can sit around, I can take the same kids, my cousins, and we can sit there and chop it up for an hour or so and we learn some stuff. Why can't that happen during the school day?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah. And so when I talk to teachers and ask them that very same question, they say, "Well, we have a lot of pressure. We have standardized tests, just really just hanging over us. And through NCLB or No Child Left Behind, when our test scores are low, we have low self esteem." Teachers, grown people, are walking around worried about an assessment that has nothing to do with what they did from the beginning of the year. But administrators and teachers working their behinds off, but at the end of the day, they get a low test score and they're told, "Man, you're an underperforming school." So students are walking around with low self esteem, and the teachers and administrators are walking around with low self. Like God, that's messed up.

               And so in their mind, like I said, we got standardized testing, we got common core. So we don't have the time really to really work and support students, because we have all this pressure to perform. And really, what they don't know is that them trying to perform is the problem. Meaning them trying to get teachers to rise and meet the need of the test is the problem in and of itself. And so what I've learned to do over time is to deconstruct that, and to reimagine the schooling system, and to assure teachers that really, if you care and love for that kid, that kid will do better than if you teach them 100 standards in 100 days. I guarantee that that love and support of students will bode well, and allow that student to grow in ways that you could never imagine over and against trying to ensure that you meet all the standards, and all the benchmarks, and all the pacing guides that your district is giving you. And then that standardized test. But they feel tremendous pressure, and I can't blame them.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

It's accountability. Your bonuses depend on, tenure, all these. There's pressure, and we're talking about folks that are dealing with single incomes, we're talking about folks that are just trying to make it, so they kind of feel like they've got to do it. They have no choice really, and at the end of the day, like you said there's all this pressure. And we could get into the different biases that are there [crosstalk 00:20:30], you're trying to be the favorite, or you're a veteran and you're supposed to be at a certain place. There's so many variables that we [inaudible 00:20:39] jump into. But at the end of the day, there's a lot of pressure. So Kirk, here's my next question then, because you're preparing future teachers. So when it comes to future math teachers, how are you helping them reach black and brown kids? What's the strategy?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

So, and I haven't been in academia for a long time, I think which is a blessing. Because in the conversations I see, and I'm not trying to put myself over and against, but there's a lot of status quo thinking. And there's a lot of bureaucracy, and a lot of responsibility that has to be done in administrator roles. And the fortunate thing about me is I come from a grassroots solution based nonprofit mind, mentality. And so I'm immediately critical of the work that I do, and the work that I seek to do to support. So I recognize quickly in our credential program, as we're preparing K-6 teachers to go into the workforce, this is not enough time for them to be phenomenal teachers.

               So fortunately, I conducted a study on math literacy, and I studied Bob Moses and the Algebra Project. And just a little history before I get into the solution. For quite some time, about, oh God. It was 15, 20 years ago, there was the Algebra for All movement. There was a perception that if a student has algebra in the eighth grade, then he or she, they will be prepared for college. And so I remember Chicago Public Schools had algebra for all in the eighth grade, California was flirting with it but didn't necessarily get there. So there were a lot of states, and Illinois and a lot of states that were moving in that direction, but it didn't take. It didn't take, because schools weren't equipped, students weren't prepared.

               And so Bob Moses quickly realized that it's more than just schools. Parents, communities, have to be involved in math teaching and learning. One of my favorite researches, Dr. Danny Martin, says a math classroom can be a hostile, and I think he said violent place. So in order to break that down and create an affirming space, Bob Moses said, "I'm tapping into community agents, and I'm bringing in parents on Saturday, and we're just going to have conversation, and we're going to build out math literacy. It's not in a classroom so it's not hostile. Mom and dad there as well, family is there as well, and we're all learning and loving math."

               And that was the only paradigm that I've seen at a larger level truly advance math literacy in a community of black folk. So I was thinking about, how can we replicate it? So what I wanted to do was use that model as a means to empower K-6 teachers. So the first thing we did was we issued a kind of survey, to assess experiences in K-6 to see if really what we were thinking was true. And it was really about their comfort level with math, their ability to teach math. And I think I surveyed about 75 at the charter school in Los Angeles, and the results came back stating that indeed, these teachers were traumatized in their own experience. Some teachers said that, I mean they're a current teacher, but when they were students they were called stupid, dumb, placed in a corner, repeated several years of math. And as a result, anxiety and frustration and fear built up.

               And so then after that, [inaudible 00:24:37] had a Zoom call, virtual call with them just to talk about their experience. And tears were literally coming down folks' face, because they were reenacting or re-envisioning the trauma they experienced. And they were saying that, "When I go into the classroom to teach math, I freeze up. I literally follow the script and the book." Now, remember the book was written by folk that do not think like and behave like and understand the experiences of the folks in the classroom. And immediately, there's a disconnect. So you have teachers following the script, and they're trying to keep up with the pacing guides. And they're saying, "We can't continue to do this no more."

               So what we did was we developed the Math Literacy Project. It is a year-long professional development for math teachers, K-6 teachers who teach multiple subjects. So acknowledging one, that they weren't prepared in their credential program, two they have experience and trauma that they bring to the classroom, three they lack the efficacy and the esteem to really bolster the confidence of their own students. So that's the overall background or the context to the design of this program.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Okay, so you said you were able to get that background information and feedback. So what does the project look like? Okay, so now I know we have a lot of teachers that are teaching multiple subjects, K-6, and a lot of them struggle with math but they have to teach it because it's a part of elementary school and all that jazz. So how do I cope? I don't know if cope is the word, but if I have this trauma, how do I kind of press on and be able to feel effective in my math, and have that confidence with math literacy?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

So the first thing we've done, and we built out this curriculum, which I believe is just very robust and phenomenal. But the first thing we do in kind of deconstructing or addressing their experience is by examining our own biases, histories, and experiences with math learning. So that's the very thing we do with this professional development. It's an hour and a half. We explore intersectionality with race and math, and ethnicity and math. We explore intersectionality with gender, especially a lot of our women teacher of color really based on my study has the most trauma. Because they were told as women that math has no place for them.

               So we get behind all that, and we bring all that to the surface. And we bring in literature, and article to look at why these exist. Why is it so much failure for folk of color in mathematics? So that helps to bring the tension down, to ease the minds of teachers and educators to know, it's not you that's experiencing this trauma alone. In fact, there's a collective of individuals that have this trauma and experience, and it's real. And one could argue it is by design. It is designed to weed out a select group of individuals, and to advance another group of individuals. So the fact that you are contributing to, unintendedly, this paradigm, is no fault of your own. And here's the literature to show, let's bring in [inaudible 00:28:18] to talk about biases and stereotypes in math learning. Let's bring in Danny Martin to talk about experiences in intersectionality in math learning and teaching. And let's talk about what this means for you as a teacher now. And what that has done is allowed teachers to become more insightful, to become apprised of their own role in positionality, and then to begin to make moves around those very things that held them hostage as math teachers and math learners.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Nice.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yeah, so one of my favorite books is Whistling Vivaldi by Dr. Claude Steele, where he talks about stereotype threats. And he talks about the research that he did, like our women of color and how stereotypically, girls, women, are told, "You're not supposed to be good at math." And then they've got to take a test, and they're supposed to do well on the test. But in the back of their mind, they have this thought, that stereotype threat that they are not going to do well. And he found that just being able to tell folks before they took the test, tell these women, "Listen, it's a stereotype that you're not going to do well on this test, but we know that that's not the case." Just kind of motivate them in that way. And the results of them doing that test was way higher than it was had they not had that, just to say, "Look, this is not true, but this is what society is saying is that you're not going to do well on this math." And they prove everybody wrong. So I could see how, when you talked about how it was alarming to you that... or if it was alarming, but it was noticeable that the women of color seemed to have the most trauma. Because that is something that a lot of women that are educators right now, especially our women of color, have experienced growing up in their grade schools.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

And the truth shall set you free.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Yes.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

So the truth then becomes apparent. And then you have someone who was frustrated now becomes enraged in anger by the fact that they were duped into believing that they were incapable of doing well in math, that they were a part of a single dynamic or a construct of teaching that did not resonate with them. And so then they begin to look at, what are they doing in their own teaching and professional experiences? And they do not want to do the very same thing that was done to them. A good teacher will never want to do that. And so now, we talk about corrective actions. But I don't want to minimize that first part of that math literacy, because when someone tells you that it's not you, it's the system, that's like The Matrix. The red or the blue pill. And so when Neo first takes that pill, no one talks about that. He's going crazy. He's like, what is going on here?

               And so that's the same thing for The Math Literacy Project the first time, and you have folks who are in tears, who are enraged, who are frustrated. And then some will resist, like, "No, it can't be." Neo's like, "No, no, no." But no, yes it is. And so it really becomes a powerful time of discourse and conversation that plays out over time. I don't just give them that truth one time, but over time we begin in articles and research and things of that nature. But it becomes very powerful for them.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Okay. Let's fast forward. A teacher goes through the project, and they come out, graduate the program, however it looks, and they go into the classroom. Do you have any research that shows the effectiveness of the project? Meaning like-

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Well... go ahead.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Students' test scores are going higher, or their math scores are increasing, or is there anything that you have worked on that kind of shows the effectiveness?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

We don't, because this is the first phase. This is hot off the presses. So what we're going to do now for the second semester, because we brought in the insight September through December. We brought in the research, examined our own biases, implicit biases and all that. Now from January through April, it's still a pilot, is now we're going to teach them to develop and exchange culturally relevant, conceptually rich students in math resources and lesson plans. We're having them join National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, we're going to have them to tap into existing lesson plans that are student centered, and we're going to have them test out project based learning. All that will happen January through April, and we're going to move away from a full day of direct instruction in mathematics.

               So that's yet to be seen. But I can only anticipate from the first semester, based on the enlightenment, when you have a K-6 teacher who emails me and says, "Thank you so much. I'm inspired to get my math credential." And we haven't even gotten to the math. Or an administrator says, "Thank you so much for this discourse, I'm now inspired to do my doctoral study. Can you recommend something for me?" Or when you have folks, I mean the chat rooms, doc. It's lit up, because folks are now inspired. So now the time will only tell, January through April when we help them to construct these lesson plans and exchange what this will look like. One can only help that as we help the teachers, it will impact, positively impact their students.

               We're already seeing that play out, because attitudes and dispositions have changed, and people are much more comfortable now. But in terms of student efficacy and student work, what we plan to do in the summer of 2021 is to build out a project for them. Because we know, as students, they're open to anything. And so we don't want them to have the same experiences that we've had.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Wow.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I look forward to following up with you, maybe this summer or sometime later on this year, because I want to know and I know folks listening, they're going to want to know how things went. Because I'm excited just hearing what you're saying, and I'm glad that you did the background research. Sometimes we feel like we know what's needed, but you did the research first, and then you pulled in the surveys, and you collected that data. And then not only did you just... you didn't rely on just stats. You actually had those sessions where, like you said, the chat is going. You had teachers really sharing their stories, so you're getting a well rounded approach to what is needed in order to help our teachers who will ultimately serve our students. Again, we're going to have to follow up on this one.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Definitely. And not only that, but teachers not only share their stories, but they said that they need this, right? And so I'm so confident in this program, that we're looking to spread out statewide. I'm that confident. Because even if we can do the first half, then that's not enough, because math teachers are asking, "What now?" Now that you have the light, Neo now is exposed. Now he has his mission. So I just know that first half will help advance most teachers forward, but that second half really will give them the requisite tools, the knowledge base to really understand. Now they're looking at state standards differently. They understand that the council of governors, associates, whoever wrote those state standards, common core state standards, did not look like you and I, one. And then two, didn't acknowledge the lack of engagement in math learning.

               So there's a whole missing piece there. What does Danny Martin call it, white institutional space? Something like that? There's a whole piece missing in current content standard. So now they're encouraged to say, okay, if there's a missing piece here, what do we place there? That's where you get creative. That's when you bring in the bones, dominoes, and we can count by five. You see what I'm saying? That's when we play, oh, you can play some UNO and the counting skills go up. So that's where we really get into it and say, okay, now we can bring some flavor. And then the parents, you can have parents come in for game nights, because that's part of the case study. Parents coming in now, and say, "Oh, I like math. Math is my favorite subject," and that's what I want to hear from our students.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I love it.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

You can't go from a history that we had to saying you don't like math. Nah, we getting back to the day where math is my favorite subject. And I have that bias, because I love math myself.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

All right, all right. Well, okay, so Kirk, I feel like you and I could chat about this subject all day.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

All day long.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

But I try to keep my shows about 30 minutes or so, and so-

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

We're way over 30. My bad.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

But you know I could sit here as providing a voice in equity and education, and I'd love for you to share one final thought before we start wrapping things up.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Yeah, one final thought, and it has nothing to do with math and everything to do with math. I think what we witnessed in the riots a couple of days ago, and I think I shared this with you as well, is not an indictment on the individual but the schooling system. A pervasive sense of ignorance has saturated this country. And so to move away from that for your audience, we need more teachers, specifically critical thinkers, specifically teachers of color, and I'm going to drill down one more. We need more black folk to teach. In California, we only have 3%. And I'm saying that because when I talk to millennials all the time about teaching as a profession, they're like, "Nah, fam. That's not for me." And I'm like, you can't be on the front lines all the time, because at the end of the day our students are going to return back to that classroom, and will be indoctrinated by someone's philosophy. You're going to let it be the folks who are out there rioting, or is it going to be you? So my final word to your audience, if you are considering teaching, please pursue. Please pursue that profession. We need you in the field.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

Are you going to let the ones out there rioting, or are you going to be in that classroom. I love that. Reminds me of, Malcolm X said, "Only a fool would allow the enemy to educate his child."

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

That brings chills to my spine every time I see that quote, man.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

So, okay. If we've got some folks that want to connect with you, maybe learn more about the project or just reach out with you online, what's the best way?

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Man, they can hit me via email. [email protected], [email protected] We want to take this project, my vision really is nationwide, but we're going statewide right now. I just solidified a deal with a superintendent up north, so it's going places. So we want to spread it out, because we want our students to really grow and to develop. So please feel free to reach out to me so we can continue to allow this program to grow.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

All right. So I'm here with Dr. Kirk, or we'll go with-

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

[crosstalk 00:40:01].

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

I almost said Rufus. But I'm here with Dr. Kirk Kirkwood, and it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Kirk Kirkwood:

Blessings to you man, thank you for what you're doing. We really appreciate it.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins:

This episode was brought to you by The Leading Equity Center. For more podcast interviews and resources, head on over to leadingequitycenter.com.

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