Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:00]:
Safety is the foundation that nurtures our students' sense of love and belonging, paving the way for their positive self esteem, self actualization, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge and comprehension. The bare minimum. K. Now what happens when you have safety? The child feels safe in their environment. Students are more likely to engage in learning. Students are more likely to take educational risks. Furthermore, students are more likely to engage in their own learning. How many of us have had the opportunity to work with students in which they're in their environment.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:49]:
They feel comfortable. They feel safe. Again, basic necessity, and you just see them light up when you when they're working in their at their own pace, when they're working on projects that are relevant to them, that that they can relate to. Not just what a teacher says they need to do, but these are things that they want to do. I've learned the power the power of learning from my students. Kids will love to teach you stuff. My son I mean, I was just talking to my daughter this morning and and my son. We're talking about anime.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:01:26]:
Telling me all about this brand new animated they're they're watching, enjoying it. Just the passion, how they light up when they explain, daddy, you gotta watch this new one. K. So as a result, these are just some simple things, but it's a bare necessity I mean, bare minimum when it comes to sense of belonging. Okay? Now I'm I'm saying this, But the question I'm gonna ask you is, well, what does father Abraham say? K. Now when I say father Abraham, Talk them off on the song. Right? From the bio. We're talking about this father Abraham.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:02:07]:
Abraham Maslow. K? What does Maslow say? Maslow talks about self actualization. K? Our physiological needs, like the basics. Right? And then you see safety is right there right there and almost in the middle. Next level up. These are what we all need. We're human beings. K.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:02:28]:
Yeah. It's it's important to learn about math and and writing skills and reading skills, all these different things. However, at the end of the day, gotta have these basic needs. Self actualization, because when you get to self actualization, It's that desire to become the most that one can be. And not only that, I'll add to that. Okay? And and then I'm I'm a add to what father Abraham said. When self actualization happens, students also have developed a level of respect for you in which they will not want to let you down. Kids will wanna come through for their teacher when they respect you, when they respect themselves, when they have that self actualization.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:03:11]:
They're not gonna wanna let you down. That's when you want I mean, I'm I'm telling you, get to see your kids thrive in their environment where they feel safe, where they feel included, where they feel as if they belong. And as a result, the return of favor, won't wanna let you down. They're gonna do their best. You're gonna push them. They're gonna do their best. They're gonna do all that they can to be successful. K.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:03:38]:
Because they had the desire to become the most that one can be. Don't matter what age they are. 4 years old, 40 years old. Don't matter. They're gonna strive to be the best that they can be. Alright. Now follow my story. Are you familiar? I messed around and taught 2nd grade 1 year.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:04:07]:
I had so much fun, But here's what I'm bringing this up, and especially when we're talking about how this relates to safety. Now when I was teaching 2nd grade. Now I was trained middle high. I did my student I did some student you know, when you go to your teacher prep program, you gotta do some observations, you know, at all level just to make sure this is the level that you wanna be at. I knew. I knew. I said, listen. I wanna be middle and high.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:04:33]:
I love middle school because I'm not the tallest guy, and, middle schoolers, typically, most of them aren't towering over me. High school's a little different story, but patience wise and things like that, elementary but, You know, I I give all love to all my elementary folks out there. But here's the thing. I'd I identify as a black male. If you know statistics when it comes to teaching when it especially in elementary, I don't know what the percentage is, but it's really low when it comes to black males. So as a teacher, you know what happened when parents found out that 2nd grade teacher was gonna be a black male. A lot of parents had black kids. For example, even and and and even still.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:05:21]:
Right? Just general population when it came to parents. I mean, they were almost fighting to put their children in my class. And keep in mind, I hadn't had like, I wasn't an elementary teacher. Like, I didn't have that training. I didn't have that background. But I had a lot of students, a lot of the black boys that were in my class that I I mean, I still keep up to to this day. I mean, I had a set of twins. I had I had some little I taught one of my boys how to ride his bike.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:05:48]:
I mean, there's, like, little things that, when it yeah. You teach science and math, reading, but then you also get that mentorship. You your your your students get to see someone that looks like them. They get to see, they get to have those opportunities to learn from someone, and then you get that mentorship. So it goes back to that safety. Right? At least for that 2nd grade year, they can reflect on that teacher that they had that looked like them. I remember this this kind of makes me think about when I was working in higher ed. I was a as an adjunct teacher.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:06:23]:
And I remember teaching a doctoral course, and I had a student that was black. And she literally said, I have gone through my entire Educational career. I've gone k twelve, bachelor's, master's, and now I'm finally working on my, EDD. This is the very first time I ever had a black professor ever. She felt safe. She felt safe to to to She told me. She said, listen. I honestly I mean, like, the folk the the company that I'm in.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:06:53]:
You know, there there's all these professionals. They got folks that have been in their positions for years, their leadership. You got faculty folks. You got administrators. Who am I? I remember having conversations with her, And I'm I'm telling her, I said, listen. Y'all are all at the same level. You all have an opportunity Get a 4 point o or g an or an a in your course. You all have the same opportunity to turn in your assignments and your homework.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:07:22]:
You are at the same level of everybody else. Just because they have a professional experience or career that's different than yours or they're older than you, or they have accomplished this and that. It doesn't matter. Y'all are in the same class. But what happens sometimes when we aren't in the majority in our in our, when we're not in the majority, when it comes to our cohorts, when it comes to, these different roles. Then imposter syndrome starts to come in. I shouldn't be here. Who's who am I? Who am I to be in this space? So going back to the idea of safety from my 2nd grade year, from teaching 2nd grade that year, and and and working with I mean, I still keep up with those boy.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:10]:
They just graduated a couple years ago from high school. But those are memories that I'll never forget. Now we're gonna be talking about niceness. I'll tell you one thing I struggle with when it comes to 2nd grade is that telltale was rough. Telltale was rough. And I remember having those conversations with kids about being nice to each other, but that's not the niceness that we're gonna be talking about today. We'll get into it in just a moment. We're gonna transition first to the art of assimilation, and I'm gonna connect safety and assimilation.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:44]:
So follow with me. Stay with me. Okay? Here's the thing. The connection between safety and assimilation. Now first of all, assimilation refers to the process through which individuals and groups of deferring heritages acquire the basic habits, attitudes, and mode of life of an embracing culture. Now I found this. I ain't I ain't gonna lie. I I I quickly did a a quick Google search, pulled up the dictionary version because I I struggle with this embracing culture.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:09:17]:
You know, whenever I find a dictionary references to certain words and certain terms. You know? I struggle sometimes with some of the definition because as I look at Here it goes again. Refers the process through which individuals and groups of deferring heritage. So meaning you're not part of the dominant culture, but they acquire the basic habits, attitudes, and mode of life of an embracing culture. That is not always the case when it comes to simulation. I can give you some examples. Native American boarding schools ring a bell. I don't think that was an embracing culture if you will.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:09:53]:
So I struggle with this definition as I'm as I'm I'm as I'm thinking about it because what was the term? Kill the Indian, save the man. Who wrote that definition? Probably wasn't people that looked like me. Maybe it was the embracing culture. Maybe it was the embracing culture, but I struggle with this term because that's I don't think that that's accurate just because it's in the dictionary, and dictionaries are credible sources. However, struggle with this definition because when it comes to simulation, In my mind, if I was to rewrite a definition and literally try to put something together right now, an assimilation process often especially in a school setting, requires 1, especially those who are not part of the dominant culture, 2 to transition from what they're used to in order to fit in to a culture that may or may not be embracing. But Even the word embracing is is a struggle for me because I feel like that's always the challenge. That's I that those are the comments that you hear all the time. Oh, why don't they why don't they come and join us? Oh, oh, they're they're over there in the back.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:11:02]:
Why do they always go to the back? Why do they always hang out with each other and they never come and join us. See, we've invited them. We're embracing them into our culture. You hear how this sounds like when you say when you say that out loud? You hear how that sounds? Ain't that crazy how they they even our definitions from credible like, from the dictionary, coded language? From the dictionary, you got coded language. Let me step down for a second. You know, I start to free sometimes. I'm telling you, I'll get me going. I start preaching, but let's move forward.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:11:40]:
Because like I said, you're you're essentially trying to fit in with the assimilation, and sometimes we don't wanna fit in. Mike, I think the the the boarding schools is a is a prime example. They they the the the students there were mistreated, horribly treated, and they were forced to get rid of their lang they couldn't speak their language. Right? That's part of assimilation process, but that's not an oh, that damn sure not gonna be in the Merriam Webster. They had to get rid of their language. They had to cut their hair. We received all kind of harsh treatments. That's not fitting in either.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:12:15]:
And the damn sure is not sense of belonging where they feel accepted, supported, and included. So fitting in versus sense of belonging. What does that mean? Main students navigate school at the expense of the staff. What does the staff believe is the right way to walk down the hallways? Is the right style of dress? The right length of dress maybe? When I say style of dress, I mean, just like what you're wearing, but then then it made me think about, like, your actual dress. How high can it be? How long can it be? Is it according to the male gaze? Is it according to who deems things professional? Your hair needs to be a certain way. I just saw I don't remember which state it was. It just passed the crown law. Just the fact that we have to have a law.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:13:01]:
The crown law. Just the fact that that's the thing. 2023. What's acceptable? But again, simulation. Let's keep it real. Not everybody's hair grow the same way. My hair doesn't grow straight long, and I can do this. I can't.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:13:15]:
Just now my hair grows. So there's certain I mean, even if even if I left my identity behind me. At the end of the day, there's a lot of things that I just will never be able to do as part of what the dominant culture believes is maybe professional, acceptable, mainstream, popular, whatever terms I wanna use at the end of the day. How about this? Fitting in requires us to adjust to spoken and unspoken rules, those norms. They're not always on the wall that says, okay. You must do this. You must do that. Here's the classroom protocols.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:13:53]:
Someone has unspoken rules. Something such as I mean I mean, I I I I particularly don't like it when people chew with their mouth closed. I'm sorry, with their mouth open. It bothers me. That's one of those unspoken rules. That's probably a terrible example now. Oh, Joe. Wait.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:14:13]:
Just I just pet peeve. That's a pet peeve for me. But at the end of the day, there's those there's those things that you have to do. Otherwise, you're considered not behaving correctly. Bottom line. Regardless of a student's age, gender, any other aspect of their identity. As a human being, the most detrimental experience for their mental and physical well-being is a sense of being unseen or unimportant. When we look at what niceness looks like from an educational realm.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:14:49]:
Well, the conversation needs to be, well well, nice to whom? Who's Who's really the one that's benefiting from this niceness? Niceness compels educators to focus on the dream, the possibility, and the effort of each individual student. Niceness deters educators from grappling with the red flags that consistently emerge in achievement, behavioral, and other data. Please pay attention to this last piece. Niceness, in other words, both enables avoidance and shields educators from doing the hard work of confronting inequity. We're gonna break this down a little bit more. Gotta get the book, by the way, folks. I I don't have it, but it's in my cart. The Price of Nice.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:15:39]:
It's really, I've heard a lot of good reviews, and I kinda stumbled across it this week as I was doing my research for today's topic. What does niceness do? Niceness prioritizes the comfort of individuals with dominant identities. K. Think about your setting. What are your schools look like? Those who are in dominant the dominant culture, for example. So it it places it back on, oh, well, we don't want to hurt Such and such person's feelings maybe. The the I tell you, I I I wanna work with folks sometimes and then, I'll get the comments, you know, Well, my staff isn't ready yet. Who is the one that we're not trying to make feel bad? Students or is it us? Placing the comfort on the staff, and this doesn't focus on students.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:16:28]:
We go to school. We work. School is for the kids. But when it comes to niceness, if that is the culture that we have where it's like, it's all about, you know what? We wanna make sure that my staff is prepared or we got brand new staff. We got this. We got that. We're not ready. Oh, I I don't know how to to say this or word this without hurting people's feelings.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:16:51]:
So when we do that, we avoid situations in which we can really tackle and do the hard work. It's not easy to do to change Generations, to change historical or systemic challenges that impact those who are not part of the dominant culture. It's not gonna happen overnight. You gotta you're gonna have to pull roll up your sleeves sometimes In order to do this work effectively, if we're focused on niceness, we don't wanna hurt someone else's feelings without saying what it is and we're tiptoeing around and we're using coded language? Was it the embracing culture? That's a that's a with the way we're talking, we're not gonna effectively address the issues that need to be undone. Bottom line, What else happens with niceness? Niceness hinders progress towards dismantling inequity. It hinders progress. How are, again, if we're so worried about feelings, how are we gonna effectively make change? Oh, well, you know, we we wanna address we wanna address these these equity issues. We got we got give you an example.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:18:07]:
Gifted and talented programs. Big equity issue a lot, especially when it comes to representation of our students of color. Not And not just the recruitment side because we we'll talk about, oh, we don't have representation. We don't have students there, so we need to recruit them. But how do we get them to stay? Because if you're going off a oh, well, we need they they need to be a part of, part of our, what is it? Embracing culture. But why don't they join our clubs? Why don't they join? If that's the mindset that you have, that's gonna be a challenge. That hinders progress. And we recognize that, you know, we don't have based off the numbers or based off that's we can even talk about staff.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:18:49]:
We got a school that's 80% of color, yet our staff is nowhere near that, including our leadership. Nowhere near that. We don't have anybody of color in our leadership, but we won't address it. We'll tiptoe around it. We won't specifically name it. What happens? It hinders progress towards dismantling inequity. You cannot run strategic planning on niceness. I swear it it when it comes to having conversations about race, when it comes to having conversations about social justice, that is that piece.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:21]:
It's always seems to be like the big struggle. If we were overhauling our curriculum and instruction, if we're overhauling financial something, we can have that conversation. We'll be late, you know, upfront. Here's stats, your statistics, and all these charts, all these things will be up. Well, when it comes to the isms, we'll talk about the ism in just a moment. When it comes to those things, tiptoes, because of that niceness. We don't wanna call anybody out. Can't call out mister Jones, but miss Jones needs to hear this.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:57]:
Shoot. Miss Jones is not in this webinar right now, but he should be. Last one, niceness disciplines those who attempt or even consider disrupting structures and ideologies a dominance. So when we say something, we get penalized. It it it I cannot make this up sometimes when I hear stuff where people like, okay. We have a diversity, equity, inclusion office or organization, or we have a position at our school or at a district level. And when that person tries to get some work done, Oh, we why did we even hire diversity person? We don't even need 1. Or we see situations where They do have a DI person, and unfortunately unfortunately, statistically, those DI positions are 1 to 3 years.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:20:51]:
Folks leaving. I I don't know a lot of diversity and equity inclusion at the k twelve level. I don't know a lot at the k twelve level, especially if they're persons of color. They have these positions that stay in those positions for more than 3 years. I have a a lot of folks that I I I communicate with that do this work, and they're gone. And then the sad thing about it is those districts or those schools that, you know, that person exits, they don't replace them. They they won't even open a position up again. The position that initially didn't have hardly any funding.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:21:24]:
It was just that person who was responsible for all of the die DI work for the entire district, Thousands of kids, and they're responsible for for everything DI related. Just them. No onus is on the superintendent. None of those kind of things happen. And so what happens? That staff member gets burned out because at the end of the day, you can't even make folks do stuff. They can highly encourage you to be culturally responsive. They can highly encourage you to utilize universal design for learning or provide, more set, assistance in special ed programs. But the there's no hiring or firing authority, so they can just highly encourage you, but they can't make you do it.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:22:03]:
There's no backup from for them, and it burns people out. I've seen folks get penalized for speaking up. I had my DIF folks tell me, man, I swear, I I am hitting a brick wall. I'm just I I no matter what I do, I mean, I expect pushback. I'm in a tough position. That's fine. However, I can't get nothing done. Nothing.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:22:25]:
I always tell them, use the kids. Kids can't get fired. Robin D'Angelo says, niceness without strategic and intentional anti racist action is not courageous. It's almost like trying to put a band aid on a a large wound or something like that. But without strategic and intentional anti racist action is not courageous. If you didn't listen to me, at least hope hope you listen to Robin, doctor DeAngelo. At the end of the day, I think that's really important. Let's wrap this up.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:22:55]:
Racism, sexism, Homophobalism. Is that a one? Is that a ism? That's homophobia. Let's put all the acts of isms and o us. Phobias. Phobias. K? That ain't nice. When someone is mistreating another whether intentional or not. Right? And and I and I tell folks this because people would tell, oh, I didn't mean that.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:23:18]:
I didn't mean hurt your feelings. What is it? The impact versus intent versus impact? But these acts aren't nice. They're not. They're not nice. So if you're telling me, well, I'm so concerned about hurting other people's feelings, but then you're not cons as the you but you're not matching that same energy when that, victim was hurt. We're not putting that same intensity on it, the perpetrator. That's a problem. Next 1, deflections hinder acceptance.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:23:51]:
Doctor Dacones, what do you mean by that? Oh, what what does that mean? Deflections. Okay. Well, what could that be? Oh, we don't have an issue here. At our district, not our school, not my classroom. It hinders acceptance. Place the blame on some old see those parents? Parents don't care. Kids don't care. They don't log in.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:24:13]:
They don't turn their homework. It's the kids fault. Reflections hinder acceptance. At some point, we have to admit, you know what? We could always do better. I love to do my equity assessment because I'll get people that to tell me, not us. And I just say, okay. Well, let's just take a look. Let's do this audit real quick.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:24:36]:
Let's do this assessment. Let's just see if there's any small, medium, or long term goals that we can create. I believe that there's always room for growth, including myself. Someone who does equity work, who who does trainings, does workshops, does speeches, workshop, all the all these things. I'm I'm constantly learning. Like, I spent all week looking into niceness because I don't know everything. I'll accept, admit. I don't know everything.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:25:03]:
Not gonna push it off and say, oh, well, well, I know a lot about racial equity. Well, I I know a lot about this. I'm doing really well. What happens when an incident happens? Right? You know, a a big company, You know, acts of racism happens. They're in the news. School district, something happens. You know, swastikas in the bathroom, defacing something, or you see you know, all these different things happen, racial issues. The statement goes out from leadership.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:25:34]:
Oh, we're doing we're currently training our our teachers and staff on diversity and equity. You know, those they throw those words in there. Slide those. Slide to sleep those words in. Diverse and equity training for our teachers. For your teachers though, This happens to the kids. What about the students? What what what what are you doing for your kids though? Because kids are smart enough to know not to tease the kids in front of a teacher, so you can give them all the p d's you want, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the student's experience is gonna change. But we'll see that.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:26:11]:
And the other piece to this, at the end of the day, we should not be waiting for an issue to take place before we say send out that statement. You know, our school district believes and and supports all students no matter what your gen you know, the the the typical the typical language. No matter your race, gender, identity, age, sex, sex, religious facility. You know, the the typical standard chat response. That's reactionary. Instead, we need to be proactive. Right? We need to be proactive. Let's get ahead of it this time.
Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:26:50]:
How do we make sure that every student, each and every student, no matter where they're coming from, new new Americans, whatever They represent their identities and their multiple identities. How do we make sure that they have a sense of belonging in which they feel accepted, supported, and included? Those are my final thoughts for today.
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Leading Equity delivers an eye-opening and actionable discussion of how to transform a classroom or school into a more equitable place. Through explorations of ten concrete steps that you can take right now, Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins offers you the skills, resources, and concepts you’ll need to address common equity deficiencies in education.