Sheldon:              All right, folks. Dr. Eakins is here with another episode. If you missed this past weekend, we had educator therapy, and if you missed the sessions, no worries. We can definitely get you caught up. You'll just have to grab the all access pass, and you could find that link on my website, We had eight sessions. Wow! There was so much feedback. Twitter was on fire. We had some really awesome sessions. Again, this event was for the educators. We've all gone through some things, and so this moment was for us to engage, talk about self-care, talk about mental health, talk about having peace and love. So if you want to grab the all access pass, you can go ahead and get at it on the website,

                              Today's session, we're talking about side hustles and looking at your next five years, what does that look like. I don't think COVID is going away. So today's guest is Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, and he is a 15-year veteran, urban educator, and the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, an educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services to K to 12 school districts, educators, colleges, universities, and educational nonprofit organizations.

                              In this conversation, we discuss what does the next five years look like for you, considering maybe starting a side hustle might be in your future. We look at some ways of you know what, if consulting is not your route, maybe blogging or podcasting or creating a YouTube channel are some options as well. Then we wrap things up with maybe some ideas of getting started with sharing your knowledge.

                              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.

                              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. All right. Today's special guest is Kwame Sarfo-Mensah. He's here with us today. Bought and seen his stuff, Identity Talks. He has books. He has a lot of work that he does. He has his own podcast, and I'm so glad that we can finally meet and connect. So I'm excited to bring this conversation to you. So without further ado, Kwame, thank you so much for joining us.

Kwame:               Man, thank you, Sheldon. It's an honor to be on the Leading Equity Center Podcast. Love your work, love what you do, brother, and I'm happy to have this conversation with you.

Sheldon:              Pleasure is always mine. I know who you are and I follow you on Instagram and everything, and I see all the good work that you're doing, but for those who aren't familiar with you, could you share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do?

Kwame:               Absolutely. So I am Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, and I've been in education for the past 15 years. I started teaching in Philadelphia as a middle school Math teacher, and then transitioned to Boston where I taught for another five years in that same capacity, but over the past couple years, I've transitioned from the classroom into educational consulting and more content creation. So I'm the founder and CEO of Identity Talk Consulting, which is a platform, not just a firm, but a platform that provides professional development and consulting services to teachers and schools throughout the globe. We offer in-person professional development. We also offer coaching and consulting online and in-person, and outside of those services, we also provide some multimedia content through our podcast, whether it's the Identity Talk for Educators live podcast or Radical Math Talk.

                              We also do events to support teachers who are either in the process of transitioning out of classroom and into another capacity professionally as an educator. We also provide other support to help our teachers, especially during this time of COVID. So we do a lot on our end.

Sheldon:              Well, thank you for the work that you do because, yeah, I remember when COVID first hit back at March 2020, I mean, schools were shutting down and then a lot of folks were just trying to jump onto this online piece, and it's just like a lot of our teachers weren't getting a lot of training regarding how to ... It's just so different. Being in class and creating lesson plans is not the same as creating online classes and lesson plans. So I remember when that first hit. So fast forward, we're in January of 2022, the pandemic is still thriving and still doing its thing, and we got a lot of teachers that have been since the beginning, we got some brand new teachers that are trying to maintain or trying to figure things out.

                              I wanted to chat with you regarding you've transition out of the classroom. I've also transitioned out the classroom as well, and it's fortunate enough for probably both of us that we have been able to make some pivots, but we're still passionate about education. So we're not necessarily leaving education altogether nor are we advocating for us to leave, teachers to leave education altogether. However, I'd like the idea earlier you mentioned before we started recording about what are some options for us as educators who love the students, who love working with parents, who love working in their communities and doing this work and still want to educate, but maybe they don't want to be restricted by, I don't know, CDC guidelines these days or other district policies that are just holding us down. So want to throw out my first question which was like, what are some of your initial thoughts, especially with everything going on, for maybe some options for educators?

Kwame:               I think as far as initial thoughts, if you are someone who's currently in a classroom and you're enduring all the trials and tribulations that everybody is aware of at this point with COVID, this is really the time to start thinking about your next five years because the educational landscape is changing. It's been changing. That was the case even before COVID came into our lives, and if you're someone that's now starting to think about it, you're already behind the eight ball. That's one.

                              So as far as options, there are many ways that you can leverage your skills as an educator, many ways, and I feel like teaching is one, the most transferable professions out there. The skills that we possess as educators can be transferable to any industry out there, whether you want to go into leadership, whether you want to be an engineer, whether you want to start a nonprofit or do something totally unassociated with education. You can do it because of the skillsets that we have as educators. I truly believe that.

                              So there are a couple ways you can go about doing it. If you go on social media, you have educators who are still in a classroom that are creating content, visual content that's serving as PD for teachers and educators like ourselves. We see this content and it's like, "Wow! I'm getting more out of this than a sit down PD with my district." We have a lot of teachers who are doing that. That's a lane you can go.

                              You have educators who are tutoring online, right? That's another lane. You have educators who are consulting like ourselves. We consult with schools and we also consult with individual educators, and the great thing about consulting is you can make up your own hours and you end up getting a lot of money for very little time that you spend with the school or the individual, and you're thinking to yourself, "Man, why didn't I think about this when I was still in the classroom? I could've been making bank if I had thought about that from the beginning," but it's never too late to come to that epiphany, never too late.

Sheldon:              I would say a lot of us who are educators, especially those who went the traditional route, went to college, got your teaching degree, got certification, all that stuff, a lot of us probably didn't enter into education because we were looking to get rich.

Kwame:               Not at all.

Sheldon:              I think a lot of us had the understanding, "You know what? I'm here because maybe I want to make a difference in my community or I want to get back or maybe I just want to learn to support." Some of us just like kids. I learned how much I liked kids when I transitioned out of the K12 realm, moved into higher ed, and don't get me wrong, I love working with adults and I love doing training, but I also miss the connection and relationships with students. So I went back to K12 because the kids are what really feeds my energy and just learning about the latest trends and hearing songs and just interacting with the kids, those are things I missed, just being in the hallways and classrooms, and things like that.

                              So again, I would say a lot of us didn't get into education because we were looking to get rich. I remember taking students on field trips and learning about different careers. I was just like, "Oh, you're what? Six figures straight with associates degree?" and some of the job I'm like, "I'm in the wrong business," but then at the end of the day I'm like, "Wait. I do like being here because I like the kids." Just seeing their excitement about the various careers that are available for them and the opportunities, that is to me was always awesome.

                              So I love how you're starting the conversation with there are different options. What would you say for someone that maybe they're in this situation now and it's maybe causing some stress or maybe even some financial stress, and maybe they're looking at starting off maybe as a side hustle as opposed to going all in?

Kwame:               So that's actually a great question because that's how I started in my journey. So just to give the bridge version because I know we only have a half hour, my journey started off with a book, and the name of the book was called Shaping the Teacher Identity. I wrote it while I was on paternity leave with my son who's now four years old. So y'all could do the math there. I only wrote it because I felt like there was so much that I needed to reflect and process and really put on paper because for the first eight years of my full-time teaching career, I never really sat down to reflect on all those years because I'm always on the go.

                              So to have this extended time to sit down and reflect, I just thought it would be a great opportunity to capture everything on paper, but also to impart some wisdom, some lessons, some tools that I can share with other aspiring educators and early career educators who might have gone through some of the same obstacles that I had to overcome early on.

                              So I wrote that and that got published, self-published December 2018 and I'm like, "Whoopee-doo. I wrote a book." Never thought that was going to happen. I'm happy. Then a friend of mine is like, "Hey, you should consider thinking about a way to disseminate this great content because this can help people. This can help a lot of teachers, and not everybody reads a book, especially now in this technologically advanced era. So maybe you should do a PD series or something."

                              So I said, "All right." So I started to do some PDs for free in neighboring school districts, taking days off from my nine-to-five job at my district, and I let them know what was going down. So I was really discreet about that because that's something I'm not supposed to do, but it's like, "Listen, they're about to give me an honorarium. I'm not going to decline that. That's money."

                              So I did that and I started just talking at different venues, nonprofits, even at certain colleges in the Boston area just to build some authority, just to get some things added to the profile because I'm transitioning. No one knows who I am. I would even coming to the school with 10, 15 copies of my book, selling it to my colleagues, selling it to people on the street with my Square ready to go. So I was straight hustling, conferences everywhere.

                              So ultimately, it got to a point where I started my LLC, Identity Talk Consulting, May 2019, and started to make this like a real thing like, "All right. I'm going to get a website. I'm going to provide some services, get some rates going," and it's evolved from there. So I went from writing a book to then starting a podcast based on the book, to writing a second book, to then organizing a whole summit, a PD summit during the pandemic with guests that were from our podcast and served as presenters for this summit.

                              Now, just last month, I scored a book deal with Heinemann because they have been seeing the content that I've been doing, and now I'm writing a book for a major educational publisher. So for those who don't know about Heinemann, if you are in K12 education, that's a big deal. You know what I'm saying? All that started with a book and it just evolved over the course of two and a half years.

                              The thing that I learned throughout this journey, I'm still learning, is that the more I present myself authentically, the more good things are happening. When I was still in the district, I was frowned upon for wanting to do more, for wanting to show my students the truth about society because I taught in a predominantly Black and Latinx school, where a lot of kids looked like me and they had to be exposed to individuals like myself, Black men like myself who were successful, who owned a home, who went to college and still had the swag that they had, right? They didn't see anything like before. I was an anomaly in many ways.

                              So to be able to show them that, "Hey, I'm more than a teacher. I also write books," because I was showing my kids the books and they were like, "Yo, Mr. Safro-Mensah, that's cool. I want to buy a book." That right there meant more to me than any assessment that I gave them in Math class, that moment right there, because I knew that I would present them with an option that they wouldn't normally see at that particular age, 12, 13, 14 years old. Usually it's like, "I want to go into the entertainment business. I want to go and become an athlete," but I'm presented with something that they had never even considered and changed their perception of who an educator is.

                              We don't live in a classroom. Actually, education is something that we do. It's not who we are. We're multidimensional. We do different things that help to disseminate the messages that we teach our students, and buying the book was just one of them for me. So I mean, I said a whole lot there, but I think you get the gist.

Sheldon:              No, no, no. You're good. You're good. I'm listening to your story and it's very similar to mine. I hate writing, personally. So I opted to go with the podcast because I was in a spot where I was like, "You know what? I love what I do, but I want to help more people, and I just don't know necessarily the language. I don't have the ..." So for me, it wasn't a bunch of like you mentioned you had a lot of experiences over time as an educator, you wanted to put that on paper.

                              My thing was I live in Idaho and I had a lot of my kids of color that would come up to me. The few kids of color are out here, but the kids of color would come up to me and tell me different stories and tell me what their experiences were. Sometimes I feel like I was the only one trying to vocalize and try to help them, and then other time I would get stuck and I was like, "I don't know how to help you."

                              So that's why the podcast started, but May 2019 was when I decided to, "Let's go ahead and let's see if consulting could be a thing," because I started getting invited to do speaking engagements and all that stuff. I remember I didn't know how to set rates. People would ask me how much would I charge to do something and I had no idea. This was not in my purview, but it is happening now.

                              For you, how did you start coming up with rates, and has that changed over time? Is it the same rates from before? Where did you get that knowledge or was there a mentor or somebody that you started to talk to that really helped you really take the business side of things to another level?

Kwame:               It was a combination of things. I think for one it was trial and error. Here's how I knew that my rates were just too low. I was doing a speaking engagement at Boston College. So pretty pristine university here in the Boston area, speaking to some teacher candidates who are about to enter the classroom, talked with them for about an hour, and I did it for a $200 honorarium.

                              Now, for those who aren't familiar with honorariums, it's basically like a gift, a monetary gift that the institution gives to a guest speaker, right? This is Boston college. They got a lot more than $200 to give to an individual. If I was somebody else, they probably would've given probably 10, 20 times as much, but me being modest and not having an understanding of what rates are, I just said 200 because in my frugal mind, $200 is something that that's a big deal for teachers. We get excited for $200.

                              After that experience, I started to just look around and try to find some comps, right? What are other consultants charging? That was even hard to do because most consultants don't reveal their cost for their services on their websites because it's a variable cost. It changes depending on the client, depending on the factors that the client's coming in with, the type of work that they want you to do. So you don't want to have a set amount when the expectations vary depending on the client.

                              So that was something that I learned is not to post your cost on your website, but there are ways that ... So I started to do hourly to start off, but then that didn't really work out because you can get a whole lot done in an hour and still get short change. So I've landed on doing it based on the project, the body of work, basically. How many hours am I going to have to spend creating maybe a slide deck or a presentation? Are there going to be followup sessions with this client or organization or educator? How many educators am I going to be presenting to? Is it going to be just 25 educators or a whole district of 2,000? I've done both of those, right? How long is my presentation? How long is this engagement going to be?

                              So those are just a few of the major factors that you and I know we have to consider when we are considering the cost of our services. So there's no exact signs to determine in that. You just have to do a trial by error and then come up with a benchmark that works, and once you get the benchmark, you can build from there, but I did have some coaching from a business mentor. Her name is Dr. Bertha. McCants. We call her Dr. B. and she gave me a lot of game on how to negotiate with corporations, how to negotiate with districts and other big organizations and come up with a cost that matches my work as the presenter, as the person who's coming in to work. So it was a combination of different things that got me there.

Sheldon:              I hear you on that. It's funny because coming from education, people tend to expect things to be for free, "Oh, you're an educator. Why are you trying to make money? Why are you doing this?" knowing good and well that our salaries don't necessarily reflect our worth, our skillset, our knowledge as content experts, but I remember being in those similar situations where people forget. In some people's minds, especially when they're doing a conference, so I'll get people reach out and say, "Hey," I get an email once or twice a week, "Hey, I have this conference that's coming up on such and such date. I want to know how much you'll charge," and that's all they'll give me. That's the pitch or whatever.

                              So I respond, "Is this virtual? What is the time zone? Do you have a time slot?" because sometimes I have an event already planned, but if it's virtual, I could possibly do two events. "How many people? Is this going to be just for your school? Is this for your district?" That makes a difference as well. So I remember being in those situations where it was like I didn't know any of those kind of questions to ask. Sometimes I would have someone who's not the decision maker, financial decision maker will reach out and ask me these questions and then I realize, "Wait. So we just met and then you have to get this approved by the person." Would've saved us a lot of time had we just all just been on the call one time as opposed to me having two or three meetings just to decide whether or not we want to go this route.

                              So I think all of that makes so much sense and I've had to learn over time, but what people sometimes forget is they just want you to just 60-minute session or 60-minute keynote or training here, but they forget about the backends, the prep, amount of time that I have to do to, like you said, create those PowerPoints, to practice and rehearse this keynote address. It's not like I just put together a bunch of bullet points and just walk on stage. No. I have to rehearse these things. I have to practice because I need to be presentable and hopefully down the road I'll have more opportunities, but that could take, a keynote address and all that could be about 10 hours worth of stuff, not including my travel, not including, and I live in rural Idaho.

Kwame:               Come on now.

Sheldon:              So for me to get anywhere, for me to get anywhere is pretty much a day. So all of that stuff, people don't necessarily understand in the backend. Just if you are considering doing a side hustle, getting your feet wet, seeing if this is something maybe I just got a house, you know what I mean, I got something else and I want to be financially sustainable, but they forget about the little backend stuff that goes with, "Oh, I just saw you on stage for an hour," but, yeah, there was a lot that went into making sure that that was a good performance, a good presentation that's going to hype up your staff, your team, and get people motivated to actually do some actionable steps after I leave the stage.

Kwame:               Yeah. Man, you said a whole lot, brother, and these are the things that you have to negotiate when you're talking with these different school districts is the travel. Are they going to pay for your ticket? Are they going to reserve the hotel that you're going to stay in? I can remember one time I actually did a presentation all the way in Virginia, a rural part of Virginia, close to the Virginia-North Carolina border. I can't remember the name of it. It was called Halifax County. Halifax County, Virginia, rural as I don't know. I had to fly into this small airport in Arlington, Virginia and then rent a car and drive another two hours to this small bed and breath of spot that was 15 minutes away from the school that I was going to be presenting at.

                              It was one of my first gigs, one of my first opportunities. So it was like, yeah, I got a pretty good amount for doing that, but the amount of effort it took me to get to that place, man, it was just a lot, and it wasn't something that factored in all the way, but this is something that I learned, a learned experience, nonetheless.

                              I do want to mention another thing. Let's say that you don't want to consult, right? Here is something that's more, for lack of a better term, lower scale, but you can still make a good side hustle out of it. Blogging, blogging. For those who are listening, you already have expertise. You've been doing this thing for a minute. You can share what you do in the classroom. If you can share what you do in the classroom in a 500-word blog and have it posted in a platform like Edutopia or, in my case, there's Education Post, there's Citizen Education. So I'm actually a columnist for the brightbeam network, which has the sister companies, Education Post and Citizen Ed. Shout to Chris Stewart who's the CEO of all that.

                              I was blogging because I figured, "All right. I can just share my expertise this way." So I started right for Edutopia because I knew that Edutopia has a big platform. So I wrote a few guest posts for them, and for each post that I wrote for them, they gave me $50. It's not a whole lot, but it was something that really got me thinking like, "Yo, they're paying me to just share an opinion and to share my knowledge as a teacher. Let me find out what these other platforms are doing."

                              So I started to look around and see who else has a blogging section. So I looked at Teaching Channel. I looked at Education Post. I looked at Citizen Education. I looked at Education Week, all the major education media platforms, and I realized that, "Man, they actually have a staff of writers who write about this stuff day to day. If I can get a few hundred dollars doing this, that's a pretty nice side hustle that can amount to something big."

                              So in my case, I knew that with Education Post it was a bit more raw. I could really speak my mind with that platform. Whereas with Edutopia, it's a bit more fluffy, and I like Edutopia because they do provide some great material, but in terms of getting to the raw stuff, that's not the right platform for that. I realized that because there were certain entries that I submitted and they're like, "I don't know, Kwame. I don't know it's going to work," and that's what I knew that I needed to look for other places to really provide that perspective, and I landed on Education Post, started a post there over a year ago. I was just a guest blogger, and the more and more I posted there, the more people saw my work, and then it got to a point where the senior editor reached out to me and said, "Kwame, we'd love for you to be a columnist for our network. Nothing would change except that for every post you put up, we pay you," and that was it. That was it.

                              So now, I get paid every time I write, and it's only 500 to 750 words. I'm getting paid for that. So that was just something I did, but I realized that, man, there are a lot of other folks who can really benefit from this. So I actually went ahead and created a workshop to help more teachers learn more about this, and that's something I plan on offering sometime this year, well, multiple times because there's more of a need for it now. So yeah.

Sheldon:              Yeah. I like that. I've had an opportunity to guest blog and I've talked to other folks that consult or have something, and they said you get on some of these major educational blogs and people notice that and they start to reach out, and then some people will say, "You know what? That's great, but you also have your own stuff." A lot of those guest blogs will allow you to post on their site and then you can also post it on your own pub, your own personal website or your own website and just say, "This was initially posted on such and such website. Here's a link."

                              So basically, you get twice, right? So you do the major one and then you can blog it on your own blog. Again, folks will see your content, start seeing your work. For those people like me who hate blogging, podcasting is one route or YouTube channels or another route as well say you're still creating content and you're doing what's comfortable for you. I hate blogging, but I know that there's a place for it. It's just not my thing. I don't like to write, but I know that there's other options. Even if you don't like to write, there is podcasting, there is YouTube, there is TikTok now. I'm seeing a lot more folks getting on TikTok and building up their following that way. So there's various options that are out there.

Kwame:               A lot of avenues, a lot of avenues, and it's all about what works best for you. So for me, I'm not the type that is going to be doing a TikTok video, pointing at the captions and dancing to music. That's just not how I get down, but for those who do it that way, that's awesome. I actually love that kind of content. I love watching that. I just know that that's not something that I see myself doing. Doesn't mean that I'll never use TikTok, definitely not, but I'm going to use it in a way that best fits who I am as far as my personality and things of that nature because in the end, you still have to be authentic.

Sheldon:              Yeah. I'm glad you said being authentic. I think sometimes we chase people. There's those figures, there's those people that we admire and we're like, "I want to be just like them." Sometimes I'll work with some folks who are interested in being podcasters and they'll tell me things, "Well, I had this idea for a podcast, but there's too many of them already. It's saturated," and I tell them, "It's you. It's your voice. There's only one you. There is no such thing as saturation." In my opinion, when it comes to podcasting, because people come to your show, they subscribe to your show, they know you come out every Tuesday or whenever you come out because they know, like, and trust you, they like your voice. I can't tell you how many times, Kwame, people have reached out to me or I meet them for a zoom call and they say, "Man, I feel like I know you already because I've listened to all these episodes already, and I just feel like I know your story. I kind of know who you are and that's why we're here. That's why I want to work with you. I want you to do some training. I want you to come out," or whatever it is.

                              That, again, doesn't happen overnight. I've been in the game four years and I still don't think I'm at a place where I want to be, but it's just continue growth. It's just being consistent and doing this and knowing that if you stick to it, your audience will grow.

Kwame:               Man, man, I'm glad you mentioned that because with podcasting, I've only been doing it really for two years. When I started doing it, it was really just me going on Zoom and inviting educators to talk with me while I was in Ethiopia because I needed to fill the void that was left from not being in the classroom anymore. So I figured, "Let me just start talking to different educators across the globe," and that's why I did it. So if anyone goes to my YouTube channel, which is just under my name, Kwame Safro-Mensah, you'll notice that those first 20 episodes are super raw. You're not going to see the fancy background and all the other effects. This is just me going on Zoom, hitting record, talking at individuals, hitting record again, uploading on YouTube. Just super basic, but the conversations were just as good back then.

                              I didn't have the technical skills. I didn't know how to edit. I didn't know how to make it look official. So those were things that I learned along the way. Now, I'm a Canva addict. I'm on Canva all the time. I create my own flyers. I create pretty much all the features that people see on my podcast. What's crazy about the podcast is it's really your classroom. It's your classroom, but it's a co-creative space where you're not the one who is sharing all the knowledge. You are exchanging knowledge between your guest and then they're bringing knowledge on to you.

                              What's great, Sheldon, is that it's allowed me to get contracts with different districts because it's a form of networking. When you are doing a podcast, yes, you're the host, but you know what? It's like a job interview in a sense because pretty much you're showing your guests who you are, what you know because many of the guests they've never met you before. When they get on this stage, this is us conversing for the first time. So once they start to get to know you just through the conversation, they're like, "Kwame, I really enjoyed our conversation. We definitely need to connect, maybe do a project together or maybe let me share your information to another person who's looking for someone to do that."

                              So the podcast is not just a conversation. There are many benefits to it if you really do it right and you're consistent, as you mentioned, and you're intentional about the message that you want to put out there. Man, even if you don't have the most views or the most listens, if you have a community of folks who listen every week, that in itself is powerful no matter how big or small it is.

Sheldon:              I would say the biggest benefit for me, and it's priceless, I just published 225 today.

Kwame:               Wow.

Sheldon:              My network, the amount of people I know, some of those folks have been on a couple times, but I mean, let's just call it 175 different people that I've interviewed. You think about the network and that's from equity, right? So you got early childhood, you got higher ed folks, you got professors, you got Math, Science, STEM, all these different content areas that have been on my show. So now when people reach out or if I'm in positions where they a PD or they need somebody, I'm on that list of people that they would reach out to because, again, I've tried to form connections. I don't just hit record once I connect with someone. I mean, you and I talked for about 20 minutes before we even hit record.

Kwame:               Sure did.

Sheldon:              So when we think about how I try ... It's not something I'm trying to be selfish about as far as like, "Oh, I'm interviewing someone because I want to get something, I want to gain something from them on the backend." It's not that. It's just more I want to learn just as much as I want to connect and network with people, and when people ask me what is the biggest benefit from podcasting, that's the first thing I think of. It's the network. Man, I know so many people in so many different areas and I have mentors that have come from podcasting. I've had the opportunity to meet some people that I've really look up to and now I'm connected with them now, and I can text them and ask questions. That experience to me and, again, it's over time, but to me alone has just been the most beneficial piece to blog, not blogging, to podcasting.

Kwame:               I believe so, too, because through each network you are building a fund of knowledge that you didn't have before. Just through the episodes that I've done in my podcast, I've learned so much about colonialism as it pertains to the indigenous communities. I've learned about anti-Blackness in a deeper way. I've learned from people in academia, learned from early childhood educators, secondary level educators. I've learned from paraprofessionals. I've even had some people who are not traditional educators, but they still contribute to education space in different ways.

                              So I've had a wide range of people who pretty much crossed the intersection of race, intersection of just gender, sexuality, language, what have you, whatever identifier you want to use. I've been able to have conversation with them and I feel like I know so much more about who different people are that I'm able to contribute more, and I'm able to go deeper into some of the more pertinent issues that are impacting our space.

Sheldon:              Man, listen, you are blowing my mind because that's the other piece, the amount of knowledge that you have. I mean, to me, if I read a book, and let's say I'm reading an education book or let's say I read Dr. Bettina Love's book or Dr. Geneva Gay's book and I can have the opportunity to actually have them on the show and ask them questions and then get where their mindset was at, how they came across this work.

                              To me, one of the things I always liked, probably my favorite type of interviews is when I come across an academic journal and I read someone's work and they've done this research and there's all these statistics, and there's some things. Again, blowing my mind just from reading the content, but being able to invite someone on a show who's written this and having them on the show and asking them questions and then learning, like you said, going even deeper into that, I feel like now I just acquired so much information and knowledge that I want to share with people so that when it does come time to do trainings, when it does come time to do webinars, I'm just at a place where it's like, "Man, I've actually talked to the author and I've been able to learn from them personally firsthand," and then being able to share that on the podcast. I'm not keeping it to myself. It's something that I can share with folks.

                              Again, a lot of this for me has been about getting me to think about things outside of my own experiences, outside of what I know, but just looking at things from different perspectives because when you talk to more people, when you engage on those kind of conversations, you get to see their perspectives or you get to see things that come up and you just never thought about, but now you have that and it's like, "Okay. I need to make sure that that's added to the trainings that I do because I know that there's multiple perspectives and not just my own."

Kwame:               That's the thing about having the different guests on a podcast is that it's not just you asking them questions, it's you trying to get a deeper perspective on the things in which they are subject matter experts in or they just have a wider fund of knowledge than you do in, right? With a lot of these episodes, I come out want to interrogate further some of my own prior knowledge of these different things and want to get to the bottom of it. So whether it's me reading more books, focus on it, whether it's me trying to find other educators and other individuals who can provide that deeper perspective that I'm seeking, it can go in different directions. So I mean, the podcast is really my classroom for me to learn as a student while at the same time being a host and a curator of the conversation.

Sheldon:              Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I'm with you on that. I like that you said that sometimes after an episode, after an interview, you want to further your knowledge and find more information. I think that makes a lot of sense. Kwame, I definitely consider you as providing a voice in Leading Equity, and I love that you shared your thoughts on blogging. I love that you shared your thoughts on revisiting, again, we're not advocating for folks to leave your classrooms or any of those kind of things, but we do recognize, we do recognize that during this time, what we have going on in our country, what we have going on in our schools and COVID and everything else, this is on a lot of folks' mind. This is a conversation that's on a lot of educators' minds.

                              I know personally I had to figure a lot of things out on my own, and some of us are at that point where it's like, "I don't know where to start." Where would you start, Kwame? If you were to do this all over again, would you go the book route first, then blog or then podcast and then blog or would it be a different order?

Kwame:               I would say for myself the way the process happened for me was meant for me. It was supposed to happen the way it did. So I don't think I would change how it happened because it did get to where I am. So it works somehow, but for anybody else who is considering going this alternative route, I would say the first thing you need to figure out is what is your message? Who do you want to serve? Really being specific about the demographic you want to serve, being really specific about the type of work you want to do. So you have folks who do equity work. Is that the way you want to go down? You have folks who are focused on rewriting curriculum for other people. Do you want to go down that route? You have folks who focus on their subject matter, whether it's Math, whether it's Science, whether it's literacy. Do you want to go that route?

                              So being specific about the type of work you want to do outside of classroom, being specific about the specific type of individuals you want to support with your work, and just really being specific about the services you're going to provide for this community. How are you going to add value to the community that you want to serve? Because ultimately, it's not about what you think they need, it's about what they tell you they need.

                              So whether you do a survey with people who are in that prospective community or however you want to collect data, you got to get a sense of what the people need, and that's going to inform the direction you go with whatever business, whatever project that you decide to pursue.

Sheldon:              Love it. I think if we were to sum that all up, it would be just what are you most passionate about.

Kwame:               Yeah, pretty much.

Sheldon:              Because, I mean, I like education, but I can't be an elementary teacher again. I did that one year and that's not happening again, right? So I'm not going to be a consultant on second grade, but, however, I am passionate about equity. I am passionate about ensuring that social justice is at the forefront. I mean, those are some of the things that I'm passionate about. So I think to sum it up is finding those things that you're most passionate about and finding that need and listening to those potential clients and asking, "What are your needs? Is that something that I can do?" I think that is helpful.

                              I wanted to add one more piece because I had a person that I work with and they are working on their master's degree and they want to blog. I said, "Well, you can and use a lot of those papers that you're doing the research on and you probably can't publish it right as is, you might have to change up the words just a little bit so that it's more in layman's terms. However, that's content that you ..." I mean, if I had known things differently when I was working on my masters and even going through my PhD, I probably would've wrote a lot more in a way that I could possibly publish as opposed to just my professor sees it or my fellow classmates see the work, but writing in a way that's you know what? I can repurpose a lot of this content that I've created for my academic side, for my degrees or certifications and things like that and I could start blogging because, man, a lot of those papers we got to do was 10, 20-page papers, and there's a lot of content that we could utilize to repurpose in a blog format. So I wanted to add that piece in as well.

Kwame:               Oh, very valuable point there, too. That's been the tension that's been brewing in academia because you have a lot of brilliant minds. Some of them I've had a chance to interview. I've had a chance to interview folks like Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, who's going to be in your Education Therapy event.

Sheldon:              Yeah. I love her.

Kwame:               I love to see Yolanda. Just full of love. I've had a chance to interview Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, Dr. Jamila Lyiscott, Dr. Courtney Rose, the list goes on and on, Dr. Angel Jones. The way that they use their platforms on social media to still disseminate this information, these are people who are on tenure tracks in their respective universities. They are reframing and redefining what scholarship is within the academia space with the way that they use their platforms, and guess what? They're being rewarded for that. They're getting more acclaim for it, and people are starting to take their lead and do more of that work.

                              So I think if you're in the academia space, we have to distance ourselves from the archaic ways in which we view scholarship and really be more expansive in our view of what that can be in the public space.

Sheldon:              Agreed, agreed. Kwame, man, you and I could probably talk about this all day.

Kwame:               Yes, sir.

Sheldon:              I definitely consider you as providing a voice in Leading Equity. I want to just give you an opportunity. Is there any final thoughts that you wanted to share?

Kwame:               Yes. For those who are still in the trenches, on the front lines, still going into classrooms to serve our children, whether you're in-person, whether you're doing it virtual, just know that I'm with you, and I'm here for you, and if you need anything at all, I don't care if it's a word of encouragement or any kind of support, you can always reach out to me and just know that we see you. You are seen and we're going to continue to advocate for y'all.

Sheldon:              Definitely. I love of those words. If we got some folks that want to reach out, what's the best way to connect with you online?

Kwame:               Man, so my social media home is Instagram. So you can find me at Kwam_the_identity_shaper or you can just go to my website, and you'll be able to find information about Identity Talk, our services, all of our online programming from the podcasts to some of the e-courses we provide. It's all on the website. So those are the two main places you can go to check me out.

Sheldon:              Nice, and we'll leave links in the show notes as well.

Kwame:               Yes, sir.

Sheldon:              Kwame, it has been a pleasure. I'm glad we're able to connect. Thank you so much for your time.

Kwame:               Man, thank you, Sheldon. That's been great.

Sheldon:              This episode was brought to you by the Leading Equity Center. For more podcast interviews and resources, head on over to

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