Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:00]:

Today is how did we get here? Why things like exclusion exist? You know I'm a history person, so I'm a give you a little bit of history stuff, in addition to some strategies at the end. Because I I'm not one of those people that a I'm not a fan. I'm really not a fan of, you know, all these bad stats And, oh, the world and dire education sucks and not it's just not my thing. It's just not that's not my strategy. It's not how I go about things. I do like to try to point things out and say, hey. Here's where we're at or maybe so here's a perspective that you didn't consider or think about. However, I I don't want to be like, I don't wanna be one of those negative type of dudes.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:38]:

Right? That's just not my style. So we're gonna present some stuff. After we present, we're gonna come back with some strategies, and that's very important. So if you follow the shows, you know how I get down. As always, order your copy of my current book, Leading Equity, Becoming an Advocate for All Students. You can grab that. So let's start with how do we get here? Let me ask you a few questions. I'm gonna I'm gonna ask a few things here.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:02]:

Now As far as as long as I've been in education, almost, what, 15 more than 15 years at this point, been in education in some capacity. And as a result, I mean, you hear certain terms. You hear certain topics. You hear a lot of statistics. And I'm gonna ask you some questions. Alright? Have you heard This before, black, brown, and Native American students perform academically at lower rates in their counterpart. We hear this a lot. You know? Achievement gap.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:33]:

And y'all know I'm not a big fan of that term, the achievement gap, because it doesn't tell the whole story. K. If you just look at standardized testing, you just look at those scores. They're, oh, yeah. Look. This this this group of folks, they're they're performing less than the other group of folks. I'm I'm not about that life because, again, it doesn't tell the whole story. Alright? Or or I I wanna throw something out you out out at you as well.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:58]:

How about this? Our black and brown students are underrepresented in our school programs. We hear this a lot. Right? We hear the conversations about The lack of representation in our honors courses or AP classes or maybe even our international baccalaureate classes, even in our schools. Right? And and we'll I'll touch on that in in in just a moment as well. Alright? And then the other one that we hear A lot is our teachers of color are underrepresented in educational leadership administrative roles. We're not seeing a lot of black principals. We're not seeing a lot of brown principals, administrators. Right? Seems like our our our black males, which represent, I believe, 3% of education, Are are all you know, the only positions they get are deans or, you know, some sort of athletic director and those kind of things.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:02:48]:

Right? So we hear a lot of these conversations, but here's the thing. What people don't often talk about Is how we got there? Why is it that a lot of our black, brown, and Native American students perform academically at lower rates than their counterparts. Or why is it our black and brown students are underrepresented in our school programs such as honors, gifted, and talented thing, but overrepresented overrepresented in our special ed program, or why is it, again, our teaching force is not does not reflect the demographics of our students at the end of the day. We don't we don't always talk about how history has impacted the way things are, right, and has made it a reality of where we are on in our educational system. It is not an accident, and it's not post COVID. It's way before. K. These things about our our our these these conversations aren't new.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:03:48]:

This was very Intentional. Okay? If we look at it from historical standpoint. Well, Shauna, what do what do you mean? What do you mean when you talk about this is intentional and historical standpoint. Well, I I'm you know, I'm glad I'm glad that y'all asking these questions because, I think these questions are very important. Because, again, we could talk about statistics, and see why things are that way. But when we go back, we go back to how our educational system was set up, wasn't set up for everybody. Let's keep it real. What's set up for everybody? Alright.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:04:19]:

So let's let's dig into this for a second here. One of the things that I do Is I anytime I do an equity assessment because people would tell me, oh, we don't have any problems. I I say, alright. You know, They'll bring me out to their school, and I'll work with their school, their district, or whatever it is in a larger capacity, and we take a look at different areas within their systems. We we look at their mission, vision, and belief statements. We look at their leadership in the structure leadership. We look at professional development. We look at recruiting.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:04:51]:

We look at representation. We look at our communication and feedback strategies. There is a piece within our professional development and, within my assessment that I provide that asks 4 very intentional Questions. They're very intentional. Question number 1 is staff members within our organization are provided with Opportunities to do the work of identifying their implicit bias. Okay? That is very important. Our our staff members provided those opportunities. K? Because if we don't start with ourselves, we're gonna miss out.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:05:31]:

Right? And I'm a big proponent of self awareness. How can you do equity work if you're not even if you have no idea where you are personally coming from? K. The next question that I ask, and I this is very, again, intentional and very important. Our staff is aware of the social and historical context in which our organization operates. Fill in the blank. Our school, our our district, our department operates. Why is it important that we know the historical context behind our schools? We had to keep in mind that ours are generationally how a parent, a guardian, grandparent, great grandparents, How they experience school does in fact impact our students, especially if they are on their direct care. A lot of our students live with their grandparents.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:06:32]:

A lot of their stew our students live with their great grandparents. That's not uncommon. They're aunts. They're uncles. This is a situation that we see and how they those parents interacted with their school and their educational experience Does make a difference. If our school was once certain demographics, predominant demographics, and that has shifted over time over generations that makes a difference. It's very important that our staff understands and has some background information regarding the historical context that could include under representation, disenfranchisement, or mistreatment. I should say and or mistreatment.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:07:19]:

K? How about this? Our staff are educated on the concepts of bias and discrimination and their potential impacts on the educational system. Again, how do we go forward if we don't know where we're starting from? We're all on the journey. Specific types of bias and discrimination may impact an educational system setting, including colorism and microaggression. We don't talk about colorism. People think that colorism isn't the thing. I I'd I'd I'd challenge anybody that feels that way because When we think about how it's unfortunate that our lighter skin students or darker skin students are are treated differently often. Those things happen. When we think about what literacy looks like, going back to the historical context, and we think about who was allowed to be able to read at the end of the day with technology.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:17]:

And at the end of the day, when it comes not only technology, but just a lot of things when it comes to literacy. Those are very important. Okay. We live in an age of tech. I'll just tell him, I'm talking to my, my own children. I was like, look. I I I didn't grow up in cell phone age. You know? We didn't even have flip phones when I was in grade school.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:37]:

But during those times, You know, we had pagers. We had beepers. Right? No. That that was the thing. Technology has changed. It moves a lot quicker. The way we critique, the way we synthesize and construct knowledge, it it's a lot different than it was, but our educational system is still the same since industrial revolution. The last question that I ask is our organization supports Asset based pedagogy by motivating staff to acquire the knowledge and dispositions that will allow them to build on students' Assets.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:09:14]:

In other words, we are willing to take our students where they are. We're willing to meet them where they're at. And When we meet them where they're at, we embrace them. It's talents. The there's I can't say it enough. It's so important that Whether whether student is in the 6th grade and they're reading at a 3rd grade level, they can read. That's important. For years, Education has been used to oppress.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:09:42]:

Well, well, how how has it been used to oppress Sheldon? Let me tell you. K. We talked about the embracing culture. Quotations there. Embracing culture. Assimilation. You have to fit within this mold. This is what a typical student is supposed to be like.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:01]:

Forget your cultural background. Forget you the all that. What Language, identities, all of that. Forget all that. This is put that at the door. When you walk through our school doors, That doesn't matter. K? You need to in order to be loved and in order to be a part of our school community, you need to be, assimilate it into the embracing culture. The other way, segregation.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:25]:

Brown versus board of education. You know, and the sad thing about this, all of this, we talk about simulation, especially when our, Native American community. Right? The the boarding schools. We talk about separate but equal and segregation and Brown versus Board of Education. That was, like, just over 60 years ago. Just barely. Right? So we're not that far from that that era. Couple generations.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:54]:

That unfortunately is is, again, is still prevalent in our school system today. Our schools are still segregated. I know I I did an interview with and I can't remember his name at the top of my head right now, but it was a I did an interview in regards to what happened with Brown versus Board. Right? So our set you know, our schools are integrated. And as a result, a lot of our black teachers lost their jobs. Right? Because with the integration. A lot of white parents didn't want their their kids to be taught by black teachers. So there's a lot of pressure on principals and administrators.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:11:31]:

So a lot of our our black teachers lost their jobs, and as a result, where they end up going, a lot of them ended up going to work on reservations. Again, that's not always, talked about. Right? But we still see our schools are highly segregated. How? Well, you got white flight. You got, you know, we have charter schools that are some of our charter schools are very selective. You know, entrance exams and and placements are very competitive to get into. You have a lot of private schools. All these kind of sets settings impact what our school classrooms demographics look like.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:12:11]:

K? When we think about going back to the achievement gap, and I always again, not a big fan because we don't always talk about the opportunity. When we think about which schools have highly qualified and experienced teachers, and the technology have all the resources necessary. We know this on inequitable. We know that. So even Sixty plus years after Brown versus Board of of Education, we see our schools are still segregated. Redlining also is another proponent of it. Let's go into exclusionary practices in schools. What are some I guess I guess you could look at it as some some things that we do.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:12:59]:

Right? One thing that we do, and I've and I'm I'm a victim of this, is failing to decenter ourselves. K. And now I was one of those teachers. You know? I I I was used to being taught where, you know, the teacher stands in front a class, the whole Sage on the stage. He just does her lecture thing. They give us the information that we're supposed to learn and then they ask for that back, that information back via a test, quiz, exams, whatever, homework. Right? Those are ways that they expect us to do it. However, we need to change our mindset and move into a more D colonial mindset.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:13:47]:

So if we're trying to decenter ourselves as an adult, as educators, as human beings we need to consider, okay, am I doing all of the heavy lifting if you will? Because school is for the kids. It's not for me. Yeah. I have standards. Yeah. I have, benchmarks and all those kind of things. Some things We can't get around. And even I I would say, you know, a lot of us as educators, we We have a lot of similar identities for our students, and we feel like, okay.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:14:22]:

Well, I can identify with a lot of my students. And so as a result, I'm going to I know what they need, or we have that mindset of, my kids can't do this. And so I'm just gonna give them when I know that they can do. Right? Instead, we need to co learn or co teach. Right? Learn from our students just as much as they're learning from us. Otherwise, we're excluding them in that process, in their, in their own learning process. Another thing that we do, some people don't think about how important or detrimental, if you will, an exclusionary, if you will, when it comes to allowing kids to sleep in class. Oh, well, you know, I mean, honestly, a lot of us will say, you know, well, it's easier If Johnny is sleeping, then if he's awake.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:15:14]:

However, those are some practices that are exclusionary, and often we see a a disproportionality when it comes to who's sleeping in our class. Are we spending all of our time, for example, maybe chasing folks down with taking off hoods hoodies and and hats and all that, which has absolutely nothing to do with the academic Farmers. Why someone's dressed? But I digress. Something to consider when it comes to exclusionary practices is we have to keep in mind that everything a child does is some form of educate I'm sorry, some form of communication. So that means that if we aren't paying attention, we may miss that message. What is a student trying to tell tell us when they are sleeping in class. Are they telling us that class is not engaging? Are they telling us that maybe they worked 2 shifts last night. Alright? But those there's whatever form of communication that's out there that our students are are displaying.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:16:22]:

K. The way they walk into your class, the way that they move. You know, when we talk about having a social emotional learning lens, Right? That's a check-in. See how students walk into our classroom. Do they seem like they're smiling? Do they seem like they're in a good mood or not? They look tired. Do they look hungry? You know? Do they look frustrated? That might set the tone for the class period. We don't always have the time to pull kids to the side and ask them how their day is going. But if we can find ways to check-in with our students in between transitions maybe or I just you know, a brief little moment just to kinda give them a little eye contact and say, hey.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:17:02]:

You good? Like, you know, quick one. Those kind of things, but everything that a child does is a form of communication. Let's talk about shifting into a sense of belonging. As always, the formula is very simple very simple. Three things that every student must have in order to have a sense of belonging at their school. It must feel accepted, included, and support it. So how do we decent ourselves? Because I think that's really important. When we're thinking about What it looks like when we're when we hold all the power as, let's say, you're in a classroom and your teacher, we had to keep in mind about the compliance versus communication.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:17:48]:

If I'm in power and I ask my students a question, Am I gonna get the answer? A truthful and honest answer. Let me think about it from your position as an adult. Let's say Your boss is your principal. Or let's just say you're working in a position where you have a supervisor, and we don't wanna hurt our supervisor's feelings or maybe they have not created a space In order for us to feel comfortable to tell the good honest truth, you say, how am I leading or or how was that staff meeting last week? Oh, yeah. It was great. Good job. Maybe deep down inside. We don't think so.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:18:26]:

A lot of our students feel the same way. They may not feel comfortable with sharing. You know what? Honestly, I didn't like the class last week or honestly, I don't like the class at all. Well, I don't think we have a good con, good, good relationship. Students aren't gonna may not want to tell you that kind of stuff because they know well, if I say something, my teacher may retaliate. And I might fail this class. Well, I might fail my next test, and I need to to do well in order for me to get scholarships or be able to qualify for this or qualify for that. So if I ask how their day is going, for example, I might be well intentioned.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:10]:

However, because I hold a certain level of power, Is that student gonna tell me the truth? Going back to the idea of we teach in a certain way where it's like, this is the rules. I'm your teacher. I'm telling you what you need to learn, and then there's no participation beyond just, taking notes or soaking up all the information that we're instilling upon our students, and we're not learning from them. It's not a collaboration style that can cause challenges, which leads me to my next point. We need to allow our students to check us. What do you mean by check? Yeah. That's be rude or disrespectful. Well, here's the thing.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:52]:

I learned this a couple years ago. The the just a simple phrase of saying, I invite you. Very simple. I invite you students if you disagree Or if you need more time, if you don't like this assignment, if you don't like how the class is going, I invite you to share with me. Creating that space for our students to know or feel comfortable with, hey, teacher. Let me talk to you. I I I have some concerns with regards to the content or I would love to, Wouldn't it be cool or do you mind or could we add in this or that? I just read this book at home. Could we bring it into the classroom? Now if you notice I put in your body language is as important, right? Because we could say this all we want.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:20:38]:

You know, I invite you or we can put it in our syllabus. It says, you know, please, I really value your feedback, blah, blah, blah. We say these words, but how does that action reflect those words? Is our body language in sync with what we say? The student calls us out and says, hey, teacher. I I I I'm not a fan of this. Are we are we crossing our arms? So is our body language shifting is, are, are, are we, we huffing and puffing even though we just say, Oh, we invite you in all these things, but are we able to, again, do what we say? Actions literally can speak louder than words. The last 1 we had to keep in mind is reality Is relative. That's right. Reality is relative.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:21:36]:

What does what does that mean? Right. Here's the thing. Our schools are in communities. Now a lot of us do live in the communities that we're serving. Some of us do not. We could live literally 2 doors down from one of our students. We could share the same racial identities, the same gender, those kind of things. But what goes on in their home is gonna be different than what goes on in your home.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:21:59]:

So even if we live on a live on a same street or share similar backgrounds, Their lived experiences in reality is not gonna be the same as yours. Now why is that important? Well, At the end of the day, our students will opt into learning. If somehow we could demonstrate it, what we're teaching can help them craft a better reality. Not only that, is if we're able or mindful or in tuned to what our students are, are, you know, what they care about, what they like and their interests. Not only that, but a lot of our students will be more engaged if their learning allows them to do something for people that they love. I always look forward to when when my kids were younger. They have father's day or or certain gift like, the teachers would have the students Have my kids put together some sort of arts and crafts. They do it for their mom.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:22:57]:

They do it for me because and I see how the kids go all out on these projects. They're doing something for somebody that they love. You know, if I'm if I'm doing something for my community, I'm bringing in a project for the students to do, and it's for the community. They love their community. They love their neighborhood stores. There are certain, you know, the clubs or organization that they go to after school and they're doing something to support them. Yeah. They're gonna they they're gonna enjoy that.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:23:25]:

But sometimes people will stop right at the same stop at the idea. Well, you know, I have sent my background as my students, so I know what they need. But again, there's not that participation from our students. We have to collaborate with them as well. Alright. Final thoughts. Because people will tell me, oh, I I I don't know how to connect with my students or It's just it's just too much work and all these kind of, you know, excuses. People will study for hours trying to find the perfect cookie recipe.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:23:57]:

But then they want to have 1 conversation with you to figure out how to reach the community they serve. They'll put in the effort and time. They'll go down a rabbit hole on some YouTube. They'll go down a rabbit hole on various channels and and and and do all the studying and find out this information. We put an effort and the things that we care about. We put an effort and find the time for the things that we care about. So if we're not putting in that time to learn from our students and find out what they like at home or, again, collaborating with them instead of just being sage on the stage, then we could be missing some opportunities.

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