I’m going to share with you some key takeaways from my experience this past school year.  Finally, I made it to the top of the “Rocky” stairs in the school year. I really had to learn how to advocate for myself, and I feel stronger doing it that way. I feel like in the world of education, we are at the cusp of concierge-type of instruction. You could do the traditional in-person schooling, or if your families are jet-setters, they will keep their lifestyle of traveling, and students would learn wherever they were.  I feel like we have to get comfortable with this new model of education and education as a whole. 


So my whole purpose of this blog is to share my love and passion for Multicultural education and cultural competency. 


We’ve been through teaching virtually like, trying to fly a plane with train parts, right? And this stuff was very, very hard.  I like to reflect, and I remember thinking to myself, we need universities to start teaching Plague classroom management courses in their education departments. Of course, we had no idea what was happening to the world. So we were all in crisis mode. When we shut down in Minnesota, I felt that we were trying our hardest to figure out this system of how are we going to translate all this stuff that we need to teach our students before the end of the school year?

 And how are we going to navigate that? Traditionally in August, I’m searching Pinterest; for fun ideas for revamping my classroom. That’s when I read my favorite classroom management book, The First Six Weeks by Harry Wong. I have it tabbed and highlighted.


 We were trying to grapple with things that were happening socially. We’re trying to grapple with things that were happening with our health and our neighbors and friends. And we were protecting our own selves and our own little bubble. But as educators, we’re also thinking of how are we going to get through this fall? How am I going to approach my teaching style, how is my style, my methods? How are my kids going to interact when we’re in the middle of a pandemic in the fall? So when I came into the notion of, 


Okay, I’m going to be teaching distance learning. I got myself into that learning mode of literally trying to find things on YouTube, on how to do these learning platforms, that would be easier. We didn’t know what type of learning platform we were going to start out within the fall. But when we finally got to that, I spent a lot of my time trying to map out a schedule. 


Then I thought about what my three mentors & Oprah would do in this situation. My three mentors were Mr. Martin, my high school business teacher. Mr. Rob Tronson, the news director at our local tv station where I interned my senior year of high school, and Mr. Goodspeed, the news director and my boss at an ABC news affiliate where I went to college.  

These three mentors really believed in me, and I know Oprah will too when we meet, LOL.

 When this pandemic hit, I decided, you know what, I’m going to use my first loves, broadcasting & producing. This was my first career before I became a teacher. It felt like riding a bike again. Producing a broadcast is very similar to teaching online. You have to keep things in perfect, consistent time.  At the beginning of the school year, I noticed that my SEL (Social Emotional Learning)strategies were the primary production to start my students’ day when I’d have my morning meetings.

I took it upon myself, and when I was teaching my live synchronous lessons, I noticed that the kids had the power to log off.  I can’t control what the students will be listening to or learning or had to leave for the reason that is out of my knowledge. So what I decided to do with my love of broadcasting was that I chose to double-time with my love of filming. So I would teach live. And then, I would pre-record my lessons, pre-record my reading, pre-record my math, pre-record my science and social studies. So if a student is not available or didn’t come to my Google meet, I still have to show them the standards and benchmarks. I still have to teach them the standards and criteria.




 Because in person, if they’re not physically in your classroom, they are not present, they are not participating. So all those recordings that I would have, I would push out. If my students there at my synchronous live class forgot something, they could always replay it back. And that’s something I found very valuable. 


Another thing that I love to do is read aloud. Since we only have a limited amount of time To read aloud, I decided to do it like a podcast. I’m going to whip up my GarageBand. And I’m going to record myself reading a chapter. And my students loved it. They give me great feedback when they were on the learning system.


 Those are my tips and reflective practices of keeping communication open for your families. Put on your inner Oprah, believe in yourself, and have fun with it. You are your best advocate educators; you know what is best for your learners. No matter if you are in person or teaching virtually. You know how you want your classroom run, and you run it well. Thank you again for reading my blog.

The People Could Fly Book Review

I wanted to share with you a fantastic story. The People Could Fly, written by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. This book is also a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. So you know, it has to be good. The People Could Fly is a fantastic depiction of African folklore and African American history. It talks about the mythical feel of when things were hard. There was a slave who had the feeling and notion that people could fly. The story’s hardships would be too much that they wanted to fly away into the heavens and escape the harsh punishments of slavery. I have created an excellent companion lesson plan that goes along with this book. 


So if you have this book on your shelves or in your library, or if you don’t, you can order it online and check out my lesson plan that goes along with this book. I recommend this book to be read to students in second grade and up. I feel like primary is not quite there yet when we’re trying to understand the history. I know our history is arduous to share and talk about, but I think it’s appropriate for a second grade and above developmentally. 


I use this book when I’m talking about slavery in my classroom because it shows students the harsh reality of what slavery was like in a way for elementary students to comprehend and process. I use this book to showcase the African folktales because, you know, as well as I do, oral tradition is one of the fabrics of African culture. This book is beautifully illustrated and shows black people in the regalia and wings of angels flying in that magic. I also want you to see that you have checked out the words and understand them when reading this book to your students. I want educators to be mindful of how students could react to the story. And this also opens up an excellent discussion. If you’re not quite sure of what discussion questions that you need. I already have that written in my lesson plan for you. Take this book and take all the other multicultural resources that you can find in my shop. I have lots of curriculum guides and lesson plans. I even have available presentations, and you can listen to my podcast Cultural Curriculum Chat with Jebeh Edmunds wherever you listen to podcasts as well.

How can a teacher promote Multicultural Education in their classroom?

Teachers can use these tools to promote multicultural education in the classroom. There are so many strategies out there that it could feel overwhelming where to start. Access to diverse resources in your classroom is just the starting point. I’m going to share how you can bring this philosophy to life with multiple perspectives at the forefront. 

Students need to connect to their teachers, to their fellow classmates, in a way that is in a belonging classroom. Teachers need to create a classroom environment where children feel safe and have a sense of belonging—the way a classroom is decorated with posters that reflect the different ethnic and language groups. Simple greetings and phrases from multiple languages will help foster that sense of belonging. 


Next, teachers need to better understand their students’ backgrounds by investing time developing those relationships with their students. Because all students are different and learn differently, we must teach to encourage multiple concepts with accommodating different learning styles. In my own classroom, I love teaching project-based units of study. One of our Units was titled African American Biography Hall of Fame. I gave my students a list of different African American leaders, scientists, activists, lawmakers, and other contributors and researched their person. When research was over, they could create a poster, skit, or slide presentation.  Allowing students to choose to examine the names given opened their eyes to people they haven’t learned about yet in school. 


From books, project-based units, and assessments, educators need to look into historical and current events using multiple perspectives. What group was harmed or affected could be a person who identifies with that group? Educators know this can be hard to discuss or scramble to have a one-sided approach to teach. We need to know that uncomfortable events required to teach are critical in bridging the gap of understanding. There is still a divide in even teaching a particular event with the notion of ‘let’s not and say we did’ Crossing our fingers to seeing if they’ll cover this subject next year is not productive.  


When studying and researching specific topics, make sure that you have multiple resources to help show the event from all the affected groups’ lenses. For example, when I teach about slavery, I first start with the unit on Ancient African Kingdoms. We often begin with slavery in our educational system, which broaches stereotypes that Africans deemed less than human. I then intertwine the lens of the Age of Exploration with the perspective of what motivating factors were for the Europeans to colonize the Americas. I then combine that with the Americas’ Indigenous peoples and how their traditions and life came before European contact. Then we delve into what happens when these groups all encounter each other. 

Foods and Festivals are great but let’s take it up a notch.

My students study a particular country to learn about their resources, cultural qualities, and governments’ system before celebrating with foods to share. I can’t tell you how big a fan I am with food and celebrating, but what good does that do to my students if they have no context of why we are eating or celebrating a particular holiday. Teachers, this is where things could fall flat if you don’t have your students take the adequate time to study these events, or you might end up with (Wow, hummus and falafel day, then back to algebra)  Students need to know the importance of where that food originated from and why. 

Invite families and community members


Our families are a great resource to continuing your Multicultural knowledge that should be used all year long, not just for ethnic holidays or months.  Families really love to be included in their child’s learning. This also allows all students to see different groups of people and their roles in our community. This helps dispel a lot of stereotypes of what a person of color as a parent is. The more our students see people that may not reflect who they are, this is an excellent way to continue the experience of what our world actually looks like. 

Make sure that you are making your curriculum rigorous that engages the social classroom community.  If we want our children to learn to be critical thinkers, we must give them tools to learn from multiple perspectives to be culturally proficient. These are just a start to get you on your way to begin your Multicultural educational journey. You can find out more resources on my website. 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Book Review

I wanted to introduce one of my favorite autobiographies, the Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer. I love this book because it talks about a boy’s determination to solve a problem. Does that sound like engineers out there? It’s a great story of engineering, perseverance, and resiliency. There are two versions of this story. And I forgot to mention it is written by the Boy himself, William Kamkwamba, and he is a native of Malawi. I love that it has two versions. You could get to the chapter book version. And I use a chapter book version when I teach my fifth-grade class for my read-aloud. When I use the picture book, it is perfect for primary-age students because they can see the illustrations and make those connections. The text with my expertise in finding multicultural books throughout the world incorporates that in my classroom, students get a different perspective of how day-to-day life is for kids worldwide. I use this book as an example. Because traditionally, throughout the continent of Africa, students have to pay for their elementary to high school education and even in college.

My parents were born and raised in Liberia. And they told me growing up that they had school fees and tuition that they had to pay for things that we take for granted in the United States. There was a natural disaster of famine in his home country when we have free public education, and 1000s of people die during that big famine. What I also wanted to show my students is with hardships and challenges, you can still persevere. And this book really gives you that firsthand account of what it’s like to strive. This was one of my students’ favorite books that I read out loud to them. And I wanted to share with you all one of my famous autobiographies. William Kamkwamba also did a TED talk, which I think is very important to watch. I even made a curriculum lesson plan that is a companion to this book. So when you get your book, wherever you find it, please go onto my website, order your lesson plan that goes along with this book. I have many standards that are compatible with your needs in the state that you belong to.

And I also have great thought-provoking questions that will help you from primary to upper elementary, even middle school to help you form good discussions around this book, no matter how hard he worked. He had people in his community, even his mother, who doubted his hope and dream to get a windmill into his town to irrigate. The crops drying out and die by students were rooting for him every page of this book. It is so important to show your students different perspectives around the world. And great discussion of what you can do when you put your mind to something. This book has to be on your shelves. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Check it out and check out my companion lesson plan in my Shop.

The Undefeated Book Review

I wanted to share with you one fantastic poetry book called The Undefeated. Kwame Alexander writes it. I’m a massive fan of his books.  This book of prose is illustrated by Kadir Nelson, a big fan of his beautiful students and teachers’ beautiful artwork. Understanding what African Americans faced during this time and during our time now, I would recommend you use this book for your poetry unit within your curriculum talks about lots of repetition, rhyme, and alliteration. It does show with the illustrations—the breadth and the depth of the feelings and the emotions with these different people. I tell you, this book is, of course, believable see, I got a “Un” for you right there; it is unbelievable to get the book The Undefeated. You will not be disappointed. So check out my shop on my website  so you can order your companion lesson plan The Undefeated is a great book to have in your classroom library. 

My Favorite Multicultural Book List to Boost up your classroom library

I’m sharing my favorite multicultural books to boost up your classroom libraries. The first book I’d love to introduce to you is a true autobiography called The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. Now I recommend the picture book for primary-aged students. And for secondary age, there is a chapter book version. William Kamkwamba, who the story is about, and Brian Mealer; pictures are by Elizabeth Zunon. The cool thing I like about this book is it talks about one engineering, how do you solve a problem? And another exciting thing about it is how this boy used his engineering skills to help save his village. Now there is a movie, but I highly warn it to have you watch it at school. I recommend that they scan it at home with their families because there are some themes about tragedy and hardships that are not suitable for the classroom.


I love Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson.  I’m a huge fan of Jacqueline Woodson. It talks about a new student coming into a new school and how her peers treat her also gives a great discussion on how we treat each other. Now, for your secondary kids, I always start where my favorite read-aloud of all time is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. It’s a great read. It’s got elements of trying to connect with your family’s self-identity and social justice. And it takes place in the 1960s in Oakland, California, during the Black Panther movement is Nelson Mandela’s favorite African folktales. There are a  plethora of folktales from all over the African continent. Also, what I love to read is, there’s small enough that you could do a quick read-aloud while your students are eating their snack. It’s funny. It’s a lot of fun. And then you can have the children pick up the book and read it themselves.


I love books with characters in them, but this one, in particular, is Ell Ray Jakes. It’s by Sally Warner.  I recommend this book for middle readers. I would say probably between second to third grade. What I love about EllRay Jakes is he’s a great pal. But the themes about this book, what I like is that kids like him that look like him or not can relate to his ups and downs in elementary school. So definitely check this book out. I’m a dancer. I love doing ballet when we grew up. That’s all we did. And I always am a big fan of Misty Copeland. The book she wrote with Christopher Myers is called Firebird after one of the most famous productions that put her on the map. It talks about Missy Copeland talking to another young girl who’s a ballerina and helping her achieve her dreams. And another one that doesn’t have to wait till February is young, gifted, and black. What I love about this book, it has pages of black heroes from the past and the present.

 But there are some people that you probably never even heard about before. I love that there is one page you can have students use as a starting point for their research. And what I also love about it, it’s fun quick. You get to know factual people who do exist. And what I also love is this from contributions of every facet of humanity. So these are my favorite must-have books that you have to have in your classroom library. Because like I always say, the more we know about each other, the better we can understand who we are. If you’d like more, I have a whole library of lesson plans and multicultural material to help you build your classroom community right here on my website.

Cupcakes & Teacher Contracts

 I just wanted to share one of my favorite rituals in my classroom with you. It’s birthdays, and everybody loves birthdays, especially my students. They love to be celebrated on their special day. In my classroom management handbook that I send to my parents, I expect what to expect when it comes to birthdays. Yep, I’m a mom of two busy boys. And I get it when students want to share their birthday with a treat. And I’ve got a story for you that I will never forget for my classroom management plan. I always let my parents know right up front what my expectations are for the school year, from assignments to get in touch with me during the school day, and even birthdays, yes, birthdays. Now my colleagues always give me a hard time in the right way. Because they know there’s a ‘no cupcake rule’ in my classroom. And why you might add? Oh, Jebeh, it’s their birthday, don’t you want to celebrate them and have them have a sweet treat just a little bit. Listen,


I love some good buttercream. And I love cake like everyone else. Even my husband got me a cake that literally was the size of his truck bed.


I love the cake. But to me, as an educator, the cake can go. I wanted to promote something healthy and fun and activities for all of my students. Let me give you an example. In my first year of teaching, I  had the conviction of knowing that food sensitivity on the rise; I thought to myself, my ideal classroom will be inclusive for all of my kids. So I decided to get rid of the birthday cake rule. I didn’t say we weren’t going to celebrate their children in my classroom. Oh, we’re gonna celebrate. But we don’t need sugar to honor them for that day. Think of this as an educator, especially when I first started teaching six and seven-year-olds. When I taught first grade, parents will go down the hallway with their big sheet cake, and in my colleagues’ classrooms, bring a knife. The teacher ended up cutting up all the cake pieces for the students, and the parent leaves. And they’d show up at like 8:30 in the morning. To get the kids sugared up, say,” bye.” And go.


And then that teacher has to deal with the sugar crash before lunch. And as a teacher myself thinking about this and visualizing it. Oh, my goodness. I’m not a teacher. Now. I’m like a Chuck E Cheese, and I did not want any part of it. With the rise of food allergies and food sensitivities. Can I imagine myself cutting a piece of cake for one child and tell the other one? Oh, no, because you can’t have it, you don’t get it. Do you really want to see a six-year-old kid cry? Do that to them. So I decided I’m gonna do a fun little Liberian birthday dance. It’s not patented. It can be any song you want. But what I decided to do for all of my students when I first started teaching was a birthday song. My favorite birthday song that I’ve used, and I don’t have any rights to it, is Prince Nico Margba Happy birthday. And that is the title of the dance that we dance to. And it can be fun and festive. And I tell you my students loved it every year because we are doing the birthday dance, Mrs. Edmunds, and that’s what I wanted to instill in my students. Let me tell you when I implemented my no cupcake rule.

  I was the only black teacher in the building. It was my first year teaching in the classroom with my own group of ducklings. And that mama came up with her Angry Birds cupcakes. And I looked her in the eye and said, No, cupcakes are not allowed in this classroom. What?! she got mad. She was furious. You’re telling me my child can’t have cupcakes? It’s his birthday. And I looked at her, and I said, Yes, ma’am. He can have cupcakes at home. And you did sign my parent handbook saying that you read my expectation was no cupcakes and that your child will still be celebrated, but just in a different way. She huffed and puffed went right to the principal’s office. And I handed her a copy of her signed expectations that I told her that “you said you read it, you signed it. And now, cupcakes on you. ” And I marched back in there. And I tell you, butterflies in my stomach. 


I am not confrontational at all. Her little boy was none the wiser. We played our music, we started making our dance moves to my made-up choreography names like “wash the windows” and “sweep that floor.” And we “broke our back and then break it.” We did the “Shaky- shaky.”  Then we went back to do our Dolch words.  She saw the contract that she signed. She saw her signature. And she left that day with those Angry Birds cupcakes and didn’t look back. That was my first year of teaching. But I guarantee you every single year that I have that no cupcake rule, there’s always one parent, and my colleagues and principals, and I just laugh,because Jebeh has copies. Jebeh has proof that you signed it, knew the rules, and still thought you could sneak one past her. 


And so to me, teachers and educators, whatever you decide, do it. And you know what I know for a fact, some parents probably told my principals, we don’t want to be in her class because she’s got a cupcake embargo. And you know what, I feel sorry for your kids. Because if that was the only thing you didn’t want to have me in? Well, they missed out on a lot. And you know what, go with grace. That’s all I have to say on that piece. But I will never forget my first year teaching my little firsties that year. And she came in angrier than those Angry Bird rings on those cupcakes. But I stuck to my guns. I knew what I was doing.


Because first and foremost, I wanted an inclusive classroom community that didn’t have to worry about their own dietary restrictions or sensitivities to make themselves feel othered. Because of what the norm was, it’s time to change the standard, people. And we can do it. When my principles in my building knew my expectations from the jump. They were there to support me as an educator. And I even made little quip cupcakes that aren’t in my teaching contract. So I don’t need to have cupcakes in my classroom. And you can hem and haw all you want. But trust me, my students are happy, they’re engaged, they are getting recognized.

I’ve taught in buildings where the poverty rate is over 85%. I cannot tell you how many times families have come to me and say, Thank you, Jebeh. I can’t afford to get cupcakes for 22 kids in this class. 


That’s one less thing I need to worry about. of all the stuff I need to deal with. When you are an educator, you cannot assume that.  Because I’m in where I’m at, as an educator, not all of my students, families are in that same boat. Not all of my students, families are thinking, Oh, my son’s birthday is coming up, I have to deal and get my son or my daughter’s birthday set up for my family in any way that I see that is okay. But then I also have to do the exact expectations at school. That is really very sensitive. And when you feel like a parent that you can’t provide for your child, and you’re barely making it at home, you have that extra stress on top for school and alleviates that pressure. 


As an educator, first, I implore you to think about how you do celebrations in your classroom. Also, keep in mind, families come from different religious backgrounds. Families probably don’t celebrate their birthdays. So you also need to be sensitive to the fact and ask your parents how you would feel if we celebrated your child in an appropriate way for your family? Because the last thing we as educators want to do is we always have our good intentions. But we do seem to trip over that as well. When you move forward, especially in a time like this, you can still celebrate your students in a fun, engaging; you can do dances that are different genres. It doesn’t have to be an African song, but I want you to think outside of the box for once and leave the treats at home. 

How to be a culturally responsive educator

There’s a big push for social justice and activism, which is fantastic. I also want you to think about this movement. How can you as a teacher be culturally appropriate and culturally present? How do you respond to situations when it comes to educating your students? I want you to learn today when it comes to being a culturally responsive teacher doing a self-audit.

Self-audit can help us determine our own implicit biases. We all have implicit biases. We are born with these file folders in our brains, where we have been receiving messages since we were young children. Messages through media, your family members, and your community as a whole influences your implicit personal bias. Subconsciously, we are reflecting those biases out loud with the community around us.

Educators need to learn through this process to be culturally responsive. We need to see what you are doing that could be causing harm to your students? Ask yourself, what am I doing that is subconsciously harming my students that I would not intend?

Perhaps your students received your words or actions in a way that could be culturally insensitive. Take the time to reflect and do the work. You know, you can’t move forward in life if you don’t do the work yourself.

“Self-audit can help us determine our own implicit biases.”

What is Multicultural Education?

In the 1960s, African Americans and other ethnic populations started to create a movement away from what was being taught. The biggest challenge was going against the normative assimilations shown to students and the rest of society. 

By the 1970s through the 1980s, the term Ethnic Studies rose with more opportunities for educators to connect their ideas and resources that went far beyond college campuses around the country. In 1992, more publications based on Multicultural Education became one of the requirements in the Educational field. Over half of the teacher education programs in the United States were required to implement these multicultural education programs to get accreditation. 

The 5 Categories of Multicultural Education 

  1. Teacher Learning: First and foremost, educators need to have a deep understanding of the various ethnic groups in our society in terms of race, ethnicity, language, and social class and ways how it interacts with student behavior. 
  2. Student Learning: A good school climate weighs how the building uses all of its students’ learning experiences. Great examples would include understanding multiple perspectives when learning about historical events like the westward movement and learning about the various points of view from all the different ethnic groups at that time.
  3. Intergroup Relations:  Members of various groups should work within to improve relationships. Educators can use flexible grouping methods to combat stereotypes within the group for better understanding. 
  4. School Governance, Organization, and Equity: Describes how a school’s policies and practices are implemented to promote a more inclusive balance with approaches that engage in service to both the community and school organization as a whole. 
  5. Assessment: Teachers know that we need to use multiple systems to understand students’ areas fully when we assess our students. The knowledge base teachers have with formative and summative assessment practices are highly encouraged to use project-based assessments beyond the traditional measures of student ability. 


I highly recommend that you read more about Dr. James Banks’s work and please discuss these principles with your staff. I remember going to professional staff development, reading, and studying these principles. I wish that we all can do more and use the steps to better understand and help our students from diverse racial, cultural, ethnic, and language backgrounds. 

Our society is changing rapidly. It’s up to us to better understand how to accommodate those changes and practice equitable ways to dispel stereotypes and keep our implicit biases in check when interacting with our various groups in the classroom. 

"Red wall background with peeling plaster in the shape of Africa, has great patina"
Close up of liberian post stamp showing a butterfly




The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Book Review

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Book Review

“The importance of sharing different perspectives worldwide is vital to your classroom community.

The Boy, who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer, is one of my favorite autobiographies to teach in my classroom. This book is about a boy’s determination to solve a problem. It’s a great story of engineering, perseverance, and resiliency. William Kamkwamba writes it, and he is a native of Malawi. I love that it has two versions. I use a chapter book version when I teach my fifth-grade class for my read alouds.

I use the picture book version because it is perfect for primary-age students to see the illustrations and connect with the text.
With my expertise in finding multicultural books throughout the world for my classroom, students get a different perspective of how day-to-day life is for kids worldwide. I use this book as an example. Traditionally, throughout Africa’s continent, students have to pay for their education. My parents were born and raised in Liberia. They told me growing up that they had school fees and tuition that they had to pay. The story’s premise was a natural disaster of drought, which brought famine to William’s home country.

What I also wanted to show my students is with hardships and challenges, you can still persevere. And this book gives you that firsthand account of what it’s like to strive. This story is one of my students’ favorite books that I read out loud to them. William Kamkwamba also did a TED talk, which I think is very important to watch.

I even made a curriculum lesson plan that is a companion to this book. I have many standards that are compatible with your needs in your state. I also have great thought-provoking questions that will help your elementary and even middle school students form good discussions around this book. No matter how hard he worked. He had people in his community, even his mother, who doubted his hope and dream to get a windmill into his town to irrigate.

The importance of sharing different perspectives worldwide is vital to your classroom community. This book has to be on your shelves: The Boy Who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Elizabeth Zunon illustrates the book. Check it out and check out my companion lesson plan for purchase on

What kind of a name is that?!

What kind of a name is that?!

How changing an implicit bias question into a positive cultural interaction with your students.

I dreaded the first days of school because I knew my teacher would have a hard time pronouncing my first name. It always started with the teacher nervously chuckling aloud while trying to pronounce my name.  When they gave up, the teacher would ask, “What kind of name is that?” At first, I felt ashamed of my name, I remembered why my parents chose my name in the first place. I was named after Chief Jebbeh Ijay of the Vai People of Liberia. She was my great aunt. My father said Aunty Jebbeh was highly respected and well known throughout our nation. My parents told me that you name your child after someone who had played an essential role in your life in our culture. My father saw the reverence in his aunt in a nation where women were highly revered and respected (as they should).

“I was this little immigrant from Liberia in Minnesota in Middle School. I was the only black girl in my class with a name that my teacher couldn’t keep a straight face with. Can you imagine how our students feel? They are already nervous about their first day of school. They didn’t name themselves, but the people who did call their child that name for a reason should be respected.”

I have been an educator for well over a decade, and I’ve been to countless cultural competency and bias training with my colleagues. I’ve even trained organizations in both the education sector and governmental departments. Each time I teach others, it all boils down to one philosophy about how you can improve your classroom community with diversity and inclusion. Here it goes….”Assume nothing, learn everything.”  If my teacher on that first day of the school asked me about my name without any assumptions and intending to know my name, it would have made me and other students like myself feel welcome.