Dr. Sheldon Eakins:
What's up, folks? Dr. Eakins is here. Today, we're talking about empowering families to lead an anti-racist education. I think this is very important when it comes to anti-racism, education, things like that. What are some things that we can do to empower our families to lead an anti-racist education? Here's some questions that I want you to think about though, because whenever I do any type of training, and by the way, this episode is part of the Parent Engagement Workshops that we have set up. Leadingequitycenter.com/consulting, if you want more information. And also, if you're looking for professional development training in general, you can definitely hit me up. And also if you're looking for some keynote presentations, I'm your guy as well, leadingequitycenter.com/consulting.
So when we're thinking about training and when we're thinking about the work that we're doing as far as equity advocates, we've got to work with ourselves. So here's some questions I want you to think about, some things I want you to consider before we move forward, because I think it's important when we say that we're going to empower our parents, we're going to empower our guardians to lead an anti-racist education at home, here's some things that I think you need to know or some things you need to consider on your end. What was one experience growing up in your family and in what ways has this impacted your view of family and parenting today? What is a tradition, celebration, or ritual your family participates in? Have you ever been treated poorly because of your ethnicity, gender, race, or beliefs? And if so, in what ways? How do you greet someone who shares your ethnicity or race? Is it different than when you greet someone of a different ethnicity or race than yours?
What is one of your fondest childhood memories? And the last question I want you to think about is, when you are not educating what activities help you unwind or get away from it all? I think all of these questions are important. Again, I'm all about self-awareness. In order to do this equity work, you have to be self aware. Now, I'll answer one of the questions. So you can get a little insight of Sheldon Eakins. The question about how do you greet someone who shares your ethnicity or race? Is it different than when you greet someone of a different ethnicity or race than yours? That's definitely a case for me. I live in Idaho. I'm a Black man that lives in Idaho. I represent the 0.8% of African-Americans in this entire state. So guess what?
When I see a brother, when I see a sister that is in the streets, at the store, the mall somewhere, I'm excited. You better not pretend like you don't see me. I'm like, "Yo, what's up?" The old school dap is still in effect. I'm ready to pull that out. That is definitely different when I greet someone of color, when I greet a Black person, for example, than it would be if I greet someone else, because, again, I don't see any Black people out here. So anytime I get an opportunity to do so, I'm excited. But when I tie this all together, when we think about how we're here talking about empowering our families to lead an anti-racist education, again, I think it's important that we dig in deep ourselves to see how we can impact that. Welcome to the Leading Equity Podcast.
My name is Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins, and for over a decade, I've helped educators become better advocates for their students. What is an advocate? An advocate is someone who recognizes that we don't live in a just society. Advocates aren't comfortable with the status quo and are willing to speak up on behalf of others. No matter where you are in your journey towards ensuring all of your students are equipped with the resources they need to thrive, I'm here to help you build your knowledge and confidence to ensure equity at your school.
For today's episode, we're talking about what is de-coloniality. We're going to discuss parent involvement versus parent engagement, the legacy of colonial education, decolonizing your classrooms, and essentials of decolonizing your school. And, again, this is just a portion of one of the workshops that we offer within our Parent Engagement Workshops. So my goal for you today, as you're listening to this episode, is hopefully you'll be able to define de-coloniality, you'll be able to identify parent engagement and cultural differences, and then hopefully, at the end of this episode, you'll have some ideas, some ways that you can increase parent engagement within your school community. Now, as I think about what's important as far as when we're thinking about, well, okay, what is colonization? What is decolonizing a classroom? What does that look like?
I think we need to start with the definition. The definition of de-coloniality is a movement that identifies the ways in which Western modes of thought and systems of knowledge have been universalized. De-coloniality seeks to move away from this Eurocentrism by focusing on recovering alternative or non-Eurocentric ways of knowing, and that's from Future Learn. Going back to the original educational system wasn't created for folks like me. It wasn't created for women. There's a lot of ideology, Western mindsets that has continued to perpetuate within our educational system. So when we're saying we're going to decolonize education, we're planning to disrupt the status quo. Let me take you through a quick history lesson. Now, if you've followed the show, you know that I'm was a former history teacher, so I'm a little biased when it comes to history, and I love to throw this in here.
We can go all the way back to 1779. Thomas Jefferson proposes a two track educational system with different tracks in his words for "the laboring and the learned". What I find interesting is even in 1779 coded language was utilized. Listen to what I just said. The laboring and the learned, what do you think that means? Who's in the laboring and who's in the learned department? Who does that represent? Even in 1779. Today, what do we use? We'll say stuff like "title one schools". We'll say stuff like "inner city schools," or "inner city students". We utilize coded language. This is not new. They were utilizing coded language back in the 1770s. The other thing that Thomas Jefferson added was scholarship would allow a very few of the laboring class to advance. Jefferson says by "raking a few geniuses from the rubbish".
So we're going to set up these two tracks with the laboring and the learned, and then on top of all of that, we'll just take a few, rake in a few geniuses. Because out of that learned pot, there's a few geniuses out of that. We don't want them to miss out on these opportunities. Again, coded language. Sounds familiar to me. If I can for second, let me step on a soapbox for just a moment. It sounds a little familiar when we think about our gifted and talented programs and what does that look like? Well, when we think about the representation in our gifted and talented programs, who's there? The labored and the learned? When we think about how folks, how students get recommended into these programs, such as gifted and talented, we have to consider that as teachers, as counselors, we're gate keepers, when we think about the representation there. Black and Brown students, students of color in general represented in our gifted and talented programs.
We look at the data and we look at the numbers. If you listen to this show hopefully you know that our gifted and talented programs, for example, do not have a high representation when it comes to diversity. I'll leave it there. I'm going to move on right now. Let's fast forward to the 1830s. By this time, most Southern states have laws forbidding teaching people in slavery to read. Even so, around 5% become literate at great personal risk. Again, it was a crime. This was a law. It was a crime for a slave to know how to read, to teach a slave to read. So not only was it wrong for a slave to know how to read, but teaching them the skill set of reading was an issue. By the way, I've got a link for this information. It's in the show notes, raceforward.org. All this information is right there. I'll leave a link in there. So if you want to look at this, because I'm only putting in just a few of the things in the timeline when it comes to education.
Fast forward, 1864, Congress makes it either illegal for Native Americans to be taught in their native languages. Native children as young as four years old are taken from their parents and sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs off reservation boarding schools whose goal, as one BIA official put it, "is to kill the Indian and save the man. Kill the Indian and save the man." Crazy. We had a lot of our Indigenous folks had their hair shaved. They weren't allowed to speak their native tongue, as if whatever language they spoke was a foreign language. Keep in mind, if you haven't noticed, by the way, English is a foreign language. Only in America would we think that it's more important for us to make sure that we preserve the English language, which, again, if you're not from England, then you're not speaking English. Personally, that's just my own thoughts.
If you want to learn more about the American Indian boarding schools, I recommend episode 16: American Indian Boarding Schools and Its Impact on Indigenous Education with Dr. John Rainer. I'll leave a link in the show notes as well, if you want to check that one out. All right, let's fast forward, the Industrial Revolution. Now, tell me if this sounds familiar because surely, surely, because the Industrial Revolution was 1865 to 1900. Surely, things have changed. This is 2021. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. Education is managed from the top down. Outcome oriented, aged based classrooms, liberal arts curriculum, and a focus on producing results. That surely doesn't sound like what education looks like today. It's different now. Let me read that again, because maybe you didn't hear that. Maybe what I just read didn't resonate with you.
Maybe you were washing dishes at the time of me reading this and so therefore you missed it. So I'll say it one more time. 1865 to 1900, Industrial Revolution. Education is managed from the top down. Outcome oriented, age based classrooms, liberal arts curriculum, and a focus on producing results. That don't sound like 2021 I don't know what else it is. So the question that I have for you is, have I created a sense of urgency on why we need to decolonize our classrooms? I'm going to leave another link in the show notes, some resources as well. I think that's important. I think I'll leave some notes for you. It is a resource that talks about how to decolonize your classroom. Now, if you listen to me, you know that I don't like check boxes and I'm not a fan of check boxes. Please don't check box my stuff. I don't believe that we can say, "Okay, I need to do these 10 things and then all of a sudden my classroom is decolonized."
I wish it was that simple, but it's not. This is stuff to get you started, but I'll leave a link in the show notes so that you'll have that available as well. Now, here's the next question that I have for you, something I want you to think about. What's the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement? We often hear these two words and they're often utilized interchangeably, but they're not the same. See, if I say parent involvement that signifies we're doing two. We created this staff night open house, whatever it is, and we're inviting our parents. That's the involvement piece. When our parents don't show up to these events, when they don't show up to certain events or when they do show up to certain events, that's the involvement. Oh yeah. Yeah, I saw this parent. They came in a few times this year. I really want to be a little bit more inclusive so let me just say guardian involvement, but that means that we're doing two.
We're providing something for you and we want you to come versus engagement, doing with. See, when I talk about guardian engagement, I'm saying, "Listen, this is what we want to do as a collaborative effort. Let's come together. Let's interlock." And I'll add another piece to that, because the thing about being engaged as a school community, we are ensuring that cultural differences are assets. So if English is not your first language, if you celebrate certain practices, that's an asset. Sometimes as a school, we expect our families and our community members to get on board in order to be a part of our school community. You need to be this certain way. There's this box that we have put a lot of folks in, but if we're talking about engagement, we're doing with. We're collaborating. We're coming together.
I'm going to shift gears for just a moment, because we talked about the legacy of colonization in our educational system, we discussed the differences between parent involvement, parent engagement, and, again, being inclusive, guardian involvement and guardian engagement. Now, let's shift gears, because I'm going to discuss briefly five essentials of decolonizing your classroom. Again, if you want this full training it's available at leadingequitycenter.com/consulting. Hit me up. Also, if you're looking for keynote presentation, I'm your guy. I'll be a little honest. Hopefully, if you're listening to this show, you won't share this with anybody. Let's keep this between you and me. I'm almost 200 episodes in, which, by the way, I've got some special coming for episode 200. It's in the works. I'll let you know. Coming out in June.
But I have my favorites. I do have a few favorite episodes and my top five. I'm not going to tell you what are my top five, but this particular episode is part of my top five. I'll leave a link in the show notes. But episode 86: How To Decolonize Your Classroom Five Essentials Every Teacher Must Know with Dr. Michael Dominguez. I'm a leave a link in there so you'll have access to that episode as well. Now, keep in mind, I love Dr. Dominguez. He's an awesome scholar, but, man, I had to bring a dictionary with me. This guy, some of the words he was saying, I was like, "Man, I'm struggling here." But I digress. So this part is going to discuss part of that episode. He mentioned five essentials to decolonize your classroom. The first one was finding literature written by a de-colonial scholar.
When we talk about, "Okay, I want to be better as a culturally responsive educator. I want to how I can support my students better," but then we reach out and find books that aren't written by folks with lived experiences. So that's the first step. If we're looking to decolonize our schools, we have to find literature written by the colonial scholar. The next thing you said, the importance of spending time with families outside of school settings. Now, I know, I know, we're in a pandemic. It's tough. It's rough. Shoot, I'm at home. I'm ready to go travel. So maybe spending time with families outside of school settings is not ideal, it's not feasible these times, but if there are ways that you can attend a quinceanera, if there's way that you can attend a bar mitzvah, if there are ways that you can attend a powwow, I recommend doing that. And not just cultural events.
There's extracurricular activities, such as sports, debate teams, chess teams, chess, cheerleading teams. Those things are available as well. If you can, I don't want you getting sick on my behalf, catching that vid. The next thing that he talks about is building curriculum around authentic transdisciplinary problems. How relevant is the content that you're presenting to your students? Can your students identify within their own community the content that's happening to them? The next thing he talks about is checking your language practices. Are we allowing our students to be themselves? And when I say allowing our students to be themselves, allowing them to speak the language that they prefer to speak? I am a person that believes in academic language. We talk about, that's not proper grammar. That's not proper English. I prefer the terms academic language instead. I believe that there's a time and a place.
This is just my personal opinion. There's a time and a place when we want to be able to articulate ourselves in a certain way. But we also don't want to diminish our students' identity and I'll even expand that to our families and to our staff. We don't want to diminish their opportunities to be themselves. The last part is to know and love your families for who they are. I wish I had a mic to drop just now. Know and love your families for who they are. How important is this? I mean, we often hear, "Oh, it's very important to develop these relationships with our families if we want them to be engaged." When we think about the experiences of our family members, we might have parents or guardians who have gone to the school, there are alumni of the school, and maybe they didn't have the best experience, and we wonder why they don't want to come.
How are we providing a welcoming experience for our students and their families when we talk about we're going to empower them for anti-racist practices. This is not let's set up a session, a parent night, and tell our parents how to be culturally responsive at home. That doesn't make any sense to me. How are you going to tell a family how to be culturally responsive? Let's wrap things up. Here's some self-reflection questions for you. In what ways can you get to know your students, their families, and the community better? What can you do? What can you do to challenge your bias and assumptions? What are two takeaways that you have learned from this episode? And how will you create space for difficult conversations about current events and culture? Keep in mind, we've got a lot going on in this world. How are you going to create space to engage in these difficult conversations? What is a short term, medium term, and longterm goal that you have for your classroom?
These are just some things that I want you to think about as you reflect throughout this day. I don't know what time you're listening to this episode, but I want you to think about this. If you are looking for some training, if you're looking for a keynote, leadingequitycenter.com/consulting. Again, today, we talked about empowering families to lead an anti-racist education, part of my Parent Engagement Session. Again, there's a link in the show notes. Either way it goes, if you have questions, you can always reach out to me, [email protected] And I also hope that we can connect on Instagram @SheldonEakins. Or you can hit me on Twitter, @SheldonEakins as well. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunities to work with you. I look forward to what we have to come as this school year is coming to an end. I want you to stay encouraged. Keep fighting the fight. Keep doing this work. And let's continue to be a voice in leading. This episode was brought to you by the Leading Equity Center. For more podcasts, interviews, and resources, head on over to leadingequitycenter.com.
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