From the Podcast Archives: A Conversation with Leadership Coach Beth Napleton

Welcome back to the Cultural Curriculum Chat. I am so excited to share with you my discussion with Beth Napleton, leadership coach, consultant and founder of Beth Napleton Consulting. Beth offers senior leaders in education and mission-driven organizations a clear path to excellence through individual executive and group coaching experiences. She is a national award-winning educator and has been in the field for over 2 decades, having trained over 1,800 teachers and leaders to success.

 

About Beth Napleton

Beth grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, where she experienced a mostly white and Catholic environment. In her childhood and beyond, she found herself relying on reading as a form of escapism into other cultures and histories of the world. She began to feel like there was so much more out there in the world than her current space at the time, and it became her entry into multicultural education, which she would pursue later on.

 

As she made her way into college, she immersed herself in American Studies, “focusing on what Dr. King called ‘the art gap,’ righting the ways things maybe are and ought to be,” she says. Beth began to feel as though it was where she belonged and that there was no better environment for this than in the classroom. So, she joined Teach for America and became an educator in the Washington Heights Community in New York City when she began her career. 

Beth’s Education Experiences

Beth happily touches on her teaching experiences, saying that when she started teaching in communities with 90% of her students being immigrants from the Dominican Republic, the largest community of Dominican students outside of the capital of DAR at that time. She started to notice how hard it was for students within the Washington Heights community versus her sister, who had a more rigorous education at the time and how the odds of being able to get into a good college, SAT scores or even medical school were a lot harder and a bigger hill to climb for those at Washington Heights and how backgrounds, family income and other factors affect education where it shouldn’t.

 

Since then, Beth has tried throughout her career to right the wrongs of the system, advocating for children and the education and experiences that they should be entitled to and not shooed away because of their family’s income or lack thereof. Beth recognized the tremendous gap in experiences for students based on their backgrounds alone and how problematic it has become. 

 

The Role of Teachers

Similar to my thoughts, Beth understands the need for more diversity within a classroom. Not every book that is read should be from a non-POC author. Dive from Dominican authors, and don’t stop there. Go to Asia, Australia, and Egypt; take your kids somewhere they’ve never been before through the literature you introduce them to and teach. Help them understand how big the world can be. 

 

Beth’s Advice

Beth reflects on her experience working with a charter school in rural North Carolina, where she watched her students grow as the years went on, which impacted her greatly. Her advice to young teachers, they think they’ll experience the gratification of teaching for one, two or three years when teaching but it comes after that when your students are alumni and come back from high school or college, and you find them working alongside you. Beth says, “This is really when you feel that sense of fullness or completion and the arc of development and the interconnectedness of life and all the magic of it”

 

If you want to learn more about Beth, her website is bethnapleton.com which includes resources, videos, blogs and more.

 

Thank you so much for listening to this installment of the Cultural Curriculum Chat. If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to my YouTube channel at Mrs. Edmunds’ Cultural Corner for more podcasts, videos, and other multicultural and educational content. 


See you next time!

 

Learn more about Beth Napleton here:

Website:  https://www.bethnapleton.com/
Take her leadership quiz: https://bethnapleton.involve.me/leadershipquiz

Instagram: @beth.napleton

Listen to our Podcast interview below: 

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1495555/13288453

Three Free Ways of Understanding DEI

Are you struggling with the concepts of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) without emptying your wallet? Here are three FREE resources for you:

Podcasts

Podcasts are a great resource for anything, whether for informative or entertainment purposes, and DEI is no exception for multicultural education content. My own podcast, The Cultural Curriculum Chat, is one of many podcasts that focus on the subject of DEI. Don’t be afraid to research and find BIPOC podcast hosts like me who resonate with you to give you a more whole, authentic perspective.

Journalism

Understanding your feelings and the role of DEI in anti-racism and social justice takes time, and this is where journaling is a great resource. Understanding the journey you begin in incorporating DEI and where you’re going is essential in taking up this work. So when you have an idea or a spark, remember to write it down somewhere.

My Free Workshop: 3 Massive Mistakes to Avoid When Learning About DEI

I have conducted a workshop to help those just like you who may not know where to start or struggle to understand DEI. I also understand companies’ biggest mistakes when implementing DEI efforts and provide actionable solutions to avoid them. I understand how overwhelming you may feel entering this space, but these tips are here to help you get the ball rolling and take action in ways that won’t cost you a single cent. 

If you’re looking to hear more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, check out my YouTube channel at Mrs. Edmunds’ Cultural Corner.

Last, I have also conducted a free workshop titled  3 Massive Mistakes to Avoid When Learning about DEI. Our workshop is designed to help you understand companies’ biggest mistakes when implementing DEI efforts and provide actionable solutions to avoid them. There’s no way to be overwhelmed in this process, but I can understand how you might feel that way. These tips can help you get the ball rolling in taking action that doesn’t cost you a dime.

 

From the Podcast Archives: My Conversation with Instructional Coach Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Welcome to the Cultural Curriculum Chat, Jebeh Edmunds here, and I’m sharing my impactful conversation with Mrs. Nita Creekmore. Nita is an instructional coach who resides just outside Atlanta, Georgia. She has been in education for 18 years with a Bachelor’s in English Master’s in Elementary Education and is an educational specialist in supervision and leadership. Nita believes that relationships always come first and building relationships is foundational. She also believes in the importance of self-care and diverse reading habits, allowing students of all ages and backgrounds to transform the world. I am so excited to share this transformational chat with you all!

 

Nita’s Background in Multicultural Education

Before Nita began her teaching, as a student teacher, she collected a lot of books and at that time, multicultural education was only taught through learning history, but Nita believes that books are the gateway to helping us learn things. She read a book on dance by Debbie Allen and began to look at children’s books and literature critically. As her career went on, she began to want to learn about her students’ identities more, where they came from, and to value and celebrate them, which in turn, became a habit.

 

Nita’s Take on the Current State of the System

Even now, Nita notes that there is still a lot of work to be done in multicultural education. She says that educators must understand that “it’s not just something we add onto the plate; this is the plate. It’s the thread, it’s the threat that builds our kids’ confidence.” 

 

Nita also noticed how especially in Georgia, teaching about colonialism, dressing up the part, colonial outfits and hats and aprons, but there are still under or non-represented cultures; what about Native and Indigenous People? What was happening at that time, where were your people and ancestors at this time? Schools aren’t teaching the voices of everyone, educators are still teaching the majorities rather than the minorities of these periods. And this is where literature is the key, literature is the connection from kids to other cultures and other worlds, teaching them how to be empathetic human beings.

 

The Role of Teachers

Nita says that teachers have to get out of their comfort zone. Educators need to ask their kids the question, ‘Whose voices aren’t heard?’ despite how uncomfortable it may be. Educators are just as responsible for bringing up these issues as kids, who rely on educators like us to bring these topics to them and ask them, ‘How do you feel about this? Why is there no representation here?’

 

Nita says that teachers should also be in a constant state of learning, learning about new cultures and new worlds to bring back to their students and impact students and communities alike. That is where everyone becomes threaded and together in multiculturalism. When we thrive, our students thrive.

 

Nita also shares with us her brand, Love, Teach, Bless, with a tagline that says Inspired Educators Inspire Educators. She shares with us that after 13 years of teaching, she began sharing the things that inspired her. The tagline comes from a community standpoint, as sometimes in a journey when your spark goes dim, who is there but your community to keep that fire going? 

 

Nita’s Book Recommendations

Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching by Kimberly Parker discusses working toward justice through culturally relevant teaching.

 

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan which makes you reimagine how you take data and what data you take for your students and the book centers equity. Nita says she chose these books because when educators are taking data and assessing tests, they are looking at it through a singular lens. When it comes to multicultural education, it needs to be looked at through a multicultural lens to obtain multicultural data.

 

If you want to learn more about Nita, follow her and her brand on Instagram at Love, Teach, Bless.

Thank you so much for listening to this installment of the Cultural Curriculum Chat. If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to my YouTube channel at Mrs. Edmunds’ Cultural Corner for more podcasts, videos, and other multicultural and educational content. 

 

See you next time!

 

 

You can find more information about Nita Creekmore below:
https://love-teach-bless.com/

Nita Creekmore on Instagram @loveteachbless

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1495555/11941863-season-3-episode-1-my-conversation-with-instructional-coach-mrs-nita-creekmore.mp3?download=true

 

From the Podcast Archives: A Conversation with Author Tiffaney Whyte

Here’s another podcast episode in the archives that I share with you on the blog today. Take a read, then take a listen below 🙂 
Jebeh Edmunds

Hello, everyone. This is Jebeh Edmunds, and welcome back to the Cultural Curriculum Chat podcast. I am just so excited. I have a wonderful teacher who shares her bright light with her students and infuses inclusion and multicultural educational practices that we can learn from every day. Welcome Tiffany White. I’m just going to share real quick about Tiffaney. Tiffaney Whyte is an author, an elementary special education teacher, business owner, and mother of two young adults who reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Tiffaney is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She is passionate about spreading joy and positivity in her classroom. Tiffaney created her brand, the D’Avian Blu Innovations, to empower and motivate fellow educators as they cultivate young minds. Tiffany’s motto is do what makes you happy, create joy for yourself. When you find that, keep going and don’t stop. In 2014, Tiffaney started her Teachers wear Yellow on Monday campaign. This initiative promotes joy and positivity among educators by having them wear something yellow every Monday of the school year. I’m just so honored to have you in the guest chair. Tiffaney, welcome. Welcome, welcome.

Tiffaney Whyte

Thank you for having me here.

Jebeh Edmunds

Thank you. I just have been a big fan of your work. You’ve got a wonderful book out called Nicole and the Fifth Grade Desk. I can’t wait to order it. And you have lots of strategies for educators, your T shirts. Everything you just embody is inspiration that just keeps us going, especially in this work. And can you share with our audience, Tiffaney? What is your story? I know you’re from BK, but what else that helps us learn more about you and your work?

Tiffaney Whyte

Okay. My name is Tiffaney. I am an educator, mom, sister, aunt, all of those things. My story is that I always wanted to be an educator. Growing up, I always wanted to be educated. That was my lifelong dream, and I accomplished it. My story is I have two children, two young adults, as you said, and I just love bringing joy and positivity to everyone that I meet. It’s important for me for someone to feel something when they meet me or for me to feel something when I meet them, especially the young adults and the young children that I work with.

Jebeh Edmunds

Every day. What did you observe in your formative years before you became a mother and an educator, was there something missing that you wish you had in education that reflected you?

Tiffaney Whyte

Here’s the thing. There was nothing missing in education that I didn’t have that didn’t reflect me. I went to school in Brooklyn, New York, very diverse community. All of my teachers looked like me, sound like me. They were of West Indian background. I went to a seven day Adventist elementary school from pre K to eighth grade. Every educator that I had looked like me until I went to high school. When I went to high school, I had educators of different backgrounds. My educational years were wonderful. The teachers were of Caribbean descent. One thing they would say is, Listen, your mother already told me what to do with you when you act up. I already knew that. It was like a real community. I love my elementary years. I love my high school years because they really embodied the culture.

Jebeh Edmunds

That’s amazing. Like you said, too, your educators around were a part of your community as a whole. I feel like a lot of us educators need that parental support and backing and that your teacher said, Yeah, we have your parents backing, so don’t try it.

Tiffaney Whyte

They tell me often of that.

Jebeh Edmunds

I.

Tiffaney Whyte

Do. Yes.

Jebeh Edmunds

It’s with love, too, to say, if anything, everyone is surrounding you and we’ve got you. I just love that. I love that story. That’s very positive. As a parent, what experiences have you embodied yourself and reflected as a parent and as an educator with your students now?

Tiffaney Whyte

I was a young adult parent. My daughter’s 24, so that just tells you I was a young adult parent. As a young adult parent, I had to navigate through a lot of stereotypes, and I had to navigate through what I wanted to do in my life and how I can accomplish those things. I really had to take a step back and look at my environment and look at the people around me and look at what were they doing that I didn’t do or that I can do. I teach fifth grade, but a lot of the times I have to tell my students just a little bit about my story. I have to tell them that I am an educator, but sometimes you do not make mistakes, but sometimes you do take learning curves. Even though you have those curves, you can still accomplish the things that you want to do. I did. I had learning curves. Being a young mother, first year college student, I had a lot of learning curves, but I still was able to persevere and still make my accomplishments, my greatest accomplishments. And I am super proud of myself for that.

Jebeh Edmunds
Yes, that’s amazing, Tiffaney. And I love how you reframe that mistakes. There’s a lot of shame behind the word mistake, but how you say learning curve. And as educators, we’re constantly lifelong learners. When you said fifth grade, I mean, you already have my fifth grade teacher heart because I taught fifth grade, too. It’s like, oh, we would have been awesome teammates.
Tiffaney Whyte

I love teaching fifth grade. I’ve taught kindergarten, I’ve taught first grade, second grade, third grade. I taught high school. High school one year. But it’s something about teaching fifth grade that just lights me up.

Jebeh Edmunds
I love it. Thank you so much because those fifth graders, they need to know, especially getting over that transitional period to junior high, middle school. It’s like, you’re going to have a lot of learning curves, but don’t let that deter you from your ultimate hopes and dreams. I really like that. Another thing I found on your platform that was really affirming is your affirmation cards on your mirrors and how the words, I’m droopy, I’m popping. Those are like fifth grade young people talk and that they can see themselves and stand up a little taller, sit up a little taller. The materials and the content that you’re sharing with a lot of us teachers is such a gift because a lot of us educators are thinking, Okay, what can we do? Especially halfway through the school year, how do we boost morale? You have things that are quick and easy to do, and you can do it in a minute to get things ready and going for your students. Is there anything else that you can suggest to us teachers that is specific to multicultural education and inclusion practices that they could use?
Tiffaney Whyte

I’m going to suggest very simple things. I love music. Music is like my heart and my soul. I feel like music always bridges everybody together. If you’re having a down day, a happy day, you put on a song, and everybody gets into the groove of music. You can always incorporate any cultural music and people would love it. Music brings joy, music brings sadness, music brings happiness. But I love incorporating music into my daily work. Every morning, I’m listening to music in the car, whether it’s rap music, Soca music, reggae music, track music, whatever. Then when I come to school, I’m doing the same thing, too. I’m in the hallway, so I have hallway duties. I make sure that I’m playing music, I’m singing music. I can’t sing, but the kids tell me every day that I’m a great singer, but I’m not. I love it. I try to encompass everything music. At my school, it’s not diverse in culture. When I play music, I make sure that I play a diversity of music because I want to always bring in my culture into anything I do.

Jebeh Edmunds                
I love that. You said music just brings that energy and it keeps kids engaged. I’m from Liberia originally, and I emigrated to Minnesota with my parents. And even doing some afro beats during brain breaks and things like that to keep them going. And then we’re journaling, and there’s a mandarin flute in the background or some Celtic music in between snack. You’re right. It’s a great transitional period of starting your day, keeping things going. I just love that. And yeah, you sing better than me. I’ve seen you post a post. You are singing at the top of your lungs on good 90s hits. And I can just imagine your students, oh, man, here we go. But that’s the thing I feel like as an educator, you really want to hook your students in. You kind of have to go all out, you know, to really have them remember you and how you make them feel at the end of the day. 
Tiffaney Whyte

yeah, because it’s all about relationships and how you make, you know, I read something the other day that said that education is not centered. It has to be relationship centered. And I was like, Wow, that’s important because relationships with your students is how you kind of navigate how they’re doing, what they’re doing and what they’re going to do for you. Yeah. You know.  

Jebeh Edmunds  

they show you their best when you give them that safe space and that, you know, that feeling of, Oh yeah, let’s try it. So yeah, sometimes I’ll do the Tootsie Roll in between handwriting way back in the day. But those are the things you have to try. And I just know even my students that are adults now come back and go, Oh, we used to do the birthday dance. It’s like, Yeah, things like that. You know, that relationship piece. Oh, thank you, Thank you. Yes. You have talked about music. You have talked about, you know, learning curves. Let’s share more about your work as an author. I love books and I can’t wait to read your book. I just ordered it, so I can’t wait to read it and put it on my YouTube to go, Yes, I know her. 

Tiffaney Whyte

Thank you. Thank you so much. Nicole. And the fifth grade desk was inspired by my students and my niece. Right. So my niece had the hardest time with school and my students. I feel like that transition from fifth grade to sixth grade can be a very tiresome one. So I came up with the A desk that talks to them and the desk is going to tell them about the first day and tell them all about the great things that we do in fifth grade and tell them all about the great things that your teachers are going to be and how you’re going to feel. And then it does have some educational background because we talk about figurative language, try to add some standard and some content in there figurative language. And the most important part is that desk don’t speak, right, They don’t talk right. So to have a desk talk is the epitome of figurative language, right? So it’s just an all around great book about a student that looked like me having a conversation with a desk and a teacher that looks like her. So I really I loved writing Nicole in the fifth grade. Jess It just came to me one, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but I was like, Oh, no. And then I was like, You know what, Tiffaney? This is a great story and I think everyone needs to read it. You know, despite that, it says fifth grade. It can go for any grade level because students are always scared in the beginning of the school year and middle of the school year and in the school year, because I have students start I had a student start last week, Monday, the first day of school, first day of my school. So. You can always read Nicole in the fifth grade desk.

Jebeh Edmunds  

I’m so excited. And trust me, I can’t wait to share it out. And I will definitely send the information of where you can order Tiffaney’s. Nicole in the fifth grade desk. I just love it how you’re saying we’re seniors of the building, You know, like. Yeah, yeah. Sit a little taller building. I just love that. And you’re right. Every grade level, you know, elementary school, high school, middle school, there’s always that new kid that comes in. It’s uneasy. Even if you’re all new on the first day, we all have those jitters of what to expect and what to do. And I can’t wait to share this book with the audience and any other things before we wrap up. Tiffaney, it’s just been so nice to speak with you and hang out with another fellow educator this morning and anything else, any other.  

Tiffaney Whyte

grade, fifth grade fellow educator just so thankful. This journey has been an amazing journey and it didn’t start out that way. The reason why I started this journey is because I was down about teaching and I felt like I didn’t. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated or I felt like I was being picked on and I wanted something to motivate me. And this journey motivated me. And in fact, it motivated me to motivate other people, right? So that’s why I always try to make sure that I’m positive, upbeat because I want to motivate educators because our job is very tiresome. Sometimes it can be helpless, selfless, and I want to make sure I motivate us all to appreciate and love the things that we do.

Jebeh Edmunds 

and you are a miss Queen motivator, I tell you, I look forward to every Monday going, okay, I love that shirt. Oh, I like that one. Okay. I got to just be brave one of these days and tag you. Go ahead.  

Let’s do it. Yes. Oh, thank you so much, Tiffaney. I really appreciate you on our show. And yes, cultural curriculum chat friends, I will send all of Tiffany’s information of how you can follow her and purchase her book and all of her amazing brand of Davion blue innovations and to keep us motivated because. Yes , oh thank you so much Tiffaney . I really appreciate you on our show.

And yes Cultural Curriculum Chat  friend I will send all of Tiffaney information how you can follow her and purchase her book and all of her amazing brand  the Avian Blue Innovations and to keep us motivated because yes we all are halfway to the school years alright. Thanks again

If you’d love to listen to this podcast episode. Click the link here

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1495555/11874324-season-2-episode-21-a-conversation-with-author-tiffaney-whyte.mp3?download=true  

 

 

Tiffaney created her brand “De’AvionBlu Innovations to empower and motivate fellow Educators as they cultivate young minds. 


You can purchase Tiffaney’s products on these links below:


https://deavionbluinnovations.com/


https://www.amazon.com/Nicole-Fifth-Grade-Tiffaney-Whyte/dp/B0B8BPKFZ6

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

I’d like to reintroduce myself because I love providing so many of my clients with vetted multicultural resources and creating multicultural resources to promote positive change. Now,  when it comes to my learning style, I love to research, and I also love to connect with folks. That’s why I’ve been an educator for over 18 years. And when I connect with folks, I’m a storyteller and go through my own experiences to share situations that I have been in, in the workplace as a community member, as a wife, and as a mother.

The resources I create for my trainees and clients to continue understanding that we are black, indigenous, and other people of color who deserve to be seen, heard, and valued. Our neighbors, relatives, and friends are going through similar situations, and we need to unlearn and relearn the best strategies to make those authentic connections. Now, if you would love to learn more because I have served over 40 organizations, I’m just getting started more about my training style and to see if it’ll fit you.

Go down to the link below for more information.

https://jebehedmunds.com/jebeh/staff-development/

 

I’d love to have you on my schedule. Take care, and I’ll see you soon.

FROM THE PODCAST ARCHIVES: MY CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR SILVANA SPENCE​

From the Podcast Archives: My Conversation with Author, Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton

 On today’s blog I share my conversation with author, illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, I’ve been such a fan of her books, that I’ve shared in my classroom library over the years. Take a listen below.

JE: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the culture curriculum chat podcast with your host Jebeh Edmunds, I cannot wait to share with you all. An amazing author and illustrator whose energetic prose and pictures will motivate you and inspire you every day. We have with us in the guest chair Mrs.Vanessa Brantley Newton.. Welcome, Vanessa.

VBN: Jebeh It’s such a joy and pleasure to be here with all of you. Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s, it’s indeed a pleasure.

JE:Thank you. So before we get diving into it, I’m gonna share your background real quick with our audience. Vanessa was born during the Civil Rights Movement and attended school in Newark, New Jersey, being part of a diverse tight knit community. During such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read snowy day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read. So they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader. So I loved reading your biography of Ezra Jack Keats snowy data is one of my favorite books. And can you kind of share with our audience that spark that catalyst for change that made you the author illustrator that you are?

VBN:Oh, my gosh, it’s such an awesome question. And every time I give an answer for this book, because I’m asked that question so many times, it was the 1960s when this book came out, and I actually 1963 the year I was born, and gone to predominantly white schools where I was the only black child in the classroom, and not seeing yourself. As a child, I would walk up to my mom and I would often ask her, Am I invisible? You know, something, something wrong, people can’t see me. And it was because we weren’t granted children’s books where we could actually see ourselves. Everything was if you remember, and you’re my age. I’m 60. This year. Dick and Jane? 

JE: Yes 

VBN:He dumped the magazines, Jack and Jill magazine, and all of these different magazines that came out focused on white children and their stories, you know, and so we as brown children, black children, never really got to see our hair textures, skin, what our parents look like, because I was raised with two parents and two parents who were Christian, you know, and so family was everything, whether you were Christian, Muslim, whatever. Family back then was very important. And my mom and dad would not spend their money on books that did not reflect that. Mrs. Russell, one of my favorite teachers, had one of the biggest afros I think I ever saw in my whole entire life. It was orange. She wore orange dresses that were so short that you did not want her to bend over to go go boots. And she was the coolest teachers I loved, loved love Mrs. Russell, and she wasn’t the nicest teacher in the world. But she knew children who learned different, and I learned different, I am dyslexic, I have something called synesthesia, which is the ability to see smell, feel, taste and your color. And I also am a stutterer. And so she knew that. And I remember the day Jebeh, she picked me up and put me on her lap and open up the snowy day. I am 60 years old. And I still get emotional. But it was the first time that I ever saw a black child. Beautifully painted that look like me. I even had a snowshoe. And so I thought Peter was a child that got lost in the book. That was my brother. And I just need to open that book and I could go and visit him anytime I wanted to reclaim the snow together. It was it was everything that book. As a matter of fact, I’ve cut my husband often when I leave here and go to be with the Lord put my Bible and a copy of the snowy day in my palm because I want to read it to the Lord. When I get there with what I get to have it. It’s that special to me. That book is that special to me. I love that book. 

JE:Yeah, such a beautiful written book. I read it I had the big book when my first grade class just the innocent It’s a child playing in the snow and seeing his tracks and you know and what I see how you have transformed your work. It does give you that childlike glow about it. And it’s bright it’s vibrant and just how you even you know described your teacher in the Orange throne with a golden boots

VBN:Yeah yeah Orange throne with a golden boots. Girl The fashion you have in your character. Yes, honey. Yes. Hello Jabba mascara. 

JE:It’s it’s so vibrant. You’ve got African textiles in it in some of these. You’ve gotten jeans down to the stitching, and I need your attention to detail is just perfection. And what I love about your books, Vanessa, is it does it makes you set a little taller? Because even in 2023, there is this urgency to have more I have colleagues and neighbors and people ask me, Jebeh, where are the books that don’t look like my kids? And I’m like, ooh, do I have books for you? Because we want to have all of our kids to know that Vanessa is in Jebeh’s, we exists. Yeah, existing daily themes. You know, I as an educator, I always would have, you know, my students see me out in the community. And it’s like, yeah, I exist. I do human things. For it to be in a book to open that conversation. I feel like you have done it, my dear. With your becoming Vanessa book. Everybody has their first day of school. Everybody have the jitters? Everybody wants to have their special outfit and with your feather boa and your parents saying, Oh, yes. What are you going to do that special today? And I really, when I read your book, it really took me back to my first day of school experiences. I had a different knee, you know, and how to write it down. And I just love how you juxtapose having two S’s and how you’re still writing your name. Everybody else who’s done.  Every year, we all have students like that they’re still working on their names. Other kids are at the door waiting to go to recess. You know, kids can relate to Vanessa’s story and, and what I love about how you wrote this, and I don’t want to give away too much audience, I want you to get this book, your mother sits you down and shows you and shares with you how important your name is, and why she means that. And I feel as as parents, we need to sit our kids down and say, Do you wonder why I gave you that name? You know, and I feel that gives that child that confidence. And whoa, I know my name and the meaning and why I’m named that and arrogant. eggless. Can you talk more about Yeah, becoming Vanessa. I just love that biographical feel to it.

VBN:I have to tell you and even in what we were first talking about, is I wanted to give children with Ezra Jack Keats .Yes, that that was the whole thing. If I could leave them feeling the same way as you made me feel. The day I got that book. I remember Jebeh going to the library and picking up that book, close to probably 25 times and the librarian threatened me. And he said if he take his book out one more time, she said there are other books that he’s written. Would you like to see them? I read them. And the next week went right back to snowy day. Yeah. You know, in becoming Vanessa. Name names are so important. And this is not to down Americans or America. As far as named, but concerned, this is not not about that. It is when you don’t know you continue to do the same things over and over and over again. When you do know the value starts to come. And then the worse starts to come.

VBN: And then the pride of you know what you have and that’s why naming your child. It’s something so very, very special. It’s looking at that child and it’s there’s something special special about you. And even that is because your mommy and daddy’s baby. There’s something special about you. I remember going here in low country, South Carolina, and I was in art gallery for African American art delegates. You my family’s delegates you from no country governor. Yeah. There was a woman that was in there she was beautiful, gorgeous woman had wrapping all I said, Alexa, what’s your name? And she says my name. I’m trying to remember how she said it. The thing is a great title. And I was so moved when she told them what her name cuz it’s really like a bell when she said it. She said my name is if a title I’ve said oh my god. What is that mean? She said it’s bringer of joy. As I told you, you don’t know how much joy you brought me by sharing your name with me said that name over and over, even if a title if a title. And I was like if I ever have another baby, I’m naming my baby if I type. Because if you’re naming your children names that don’t have any meaning to it, or something derogatory, that’s what you’re calling your child all the time. I lost several children, buried a daughter who would have been 23 years old. I have a 22 year old now named Zoe. VBN:And when I had Zoey, I knew that I wanted to name her Zoe. And the first thing people said to me, Jebeh was, oh, you named Chris Zoe. After Zoe on Sesame Street. I said, No. It’s a biblical name. Zoey needs the God kind of life, there was no depth in it. And I got to hold her. And now that she’s 22 years old, she has become her name. And so when I see her, I tell her constantly, baby girl, you are becoming your name, the God kind of life, there is no death in it. And so when I got my name as a child, I was in what a flight one of the one of the things that I used to do, I would go to school, and when the teacher would give me paint, I would put all the paint in the middle of the page, and then add some stuff together and then pull the page over instant butterfly, and butterfly butterflies. And my mother said neck girl, no, she loves butterflies. My mother was pregnant with my little brother, who was a stillborn as well. And I remember her going through the book and I told her I hate money. She said, You hate your name. Why do you say it it has two x’s in it? Two A’s. It is Harpy. People always ask me why your mama name up next. And I was embarrassed at the name. I remember one of my teachers, one of my teachers, white teacher told me she said that name is too big for you. And when she said that, you know when you said to a six year old that always thought something was wrong with me. And she goes NASA, what a rich name to give a child like you. And the thing to hurt me so bad. I didn’t even know I was hurt Jebeh until I got home.

VBN: And I told my mother I didn’t like my name. And my mom and dad sat me down and then I’ll never forget. They said your name is Vanessa. Do you know what Vanessa means? I had not a clue. She said what’s your favorite thing to draw? Vanessa? Butterflies. So that’s what Vanessa means. It means butterfly, the pride and the joy that I felt in my soul. I still get teary eyed when I tell the story because my self esteem was so in the toilet. I failed completely through school at Cindy’s until I got out of high school. And didn’t want people to call my day. Because I thought something was wrong. When they come by then, of course, she’s dyslexic girl. Oh, she’s a girl. That’s synesthesia now, that crazy stuff. And she started. So every reason to pick on me. So there was like, I don’t know why my parents gave me this name. But in grasping it and now learning it. I just want to empower babies, to know their names. And to know that there was worth to every single one of them. It is so planted in my heart. It is what I pray about in the morning. If God gives me a heart of Christ, where children are concerned, because I love children. I don’t want to see them abused. Don’t call them out in their names, even when it’s something that has really angered you. Take your time and breathe and say what you need to say to them soundly of course and everything. And I am a believer in spanking by. Yes, I got old school. Okay. The second thing, my desire to see children thrive and grow is from a very we’ll we’ll place because I’m five years old, I’m still

JE: And you have done it beautifully. Any time some your gift and I apologize that you felt that way as that child and I remember when I was going into education, my mother she was a teacher just retired a couple years ago and she always said it’s it’s yeah, a big blessing. My favorite teacher was my mom in it. Like, she always said, you know that one may need to see your face that you exists that you’ve done wrong in that role in two. I always thought of the words of Maya Angelou, they’ll never remember the lesson you taught them how you made them feel

VBN:that you made them feel

JE: Yes.And as an educator, and now you as an artist showing your work, you’re sending hope to those kids that felt small, you’re sending hope to those kids that sell to others. You know, what could you you know, I’m at the bookstore. I like yes, I would all the titles. Yep. And I was telling every cashier, I’m interviewing her on my podcast, like I said, Yes. You know, I want to share your work, because even back in the day when you illustrated that one love my mom. 

VBN:Yeah

JE: I had my first grade class, you know? 

VBN:Wow, wow

JE: No, you’re my fan girl moment. I’m like, Oh my gosh, but even thing. I’m just so honored and your work is just bright, and vibrant. And it’s so happy. It’s sharing, and even your solemn pictures that you have on your website. They make you think they make you get rooted down, you know, to understand your not the breadth and depth of your work. But even to switch gears on you’re just like me your book of poems. I just love how self affirming it is. And I feel like you were writing this to your younger Vanessa. Yeah. I mean, I’m just gonna quote one quick sentence from all I mean, there’s so many I love me mas wisdom it reminded me of my favorite that one and yes, oh my gosh, and yes, I am a canvas and just I even I have two you know, biracial boys and 14 and 11 and even reading it out to them you know, it’s just like yeah, there’s gonna be days where you’re not feeling it. You’re feeling you know, bluesy kind of way just to show you that yeah, it will get better you know and you have to be painted of your words is just beautiful. Warrior I mean went up in those moments I’m just like, I’m willing for a good fight to speak up and stand up for myself yeah, yeah good fight when love and oh, it’s just in Italia. I am like freaking out in a good way. Because how you have this this not just for girls only. I mean, you have a written in the girl’s voice. But all students can you know, take it every student can take away from it. Yes, every suit he can take away from it. Feelings are so many poems that teachers can write about analyze, and come up with you know, ideas of their own, you know, feelings after they’ve read it. That comfort of having your grandmother’s face to face conversations. over texting I’m Lea. And among those are the things that we need that human connection. And it brings me back to those moments with my grandma sitting on her lap and having her Sandy’s cookies, I can not go past the grocery store having Sandy’s cookies, you know, and I just love it and your paper, your paper chains is  just beautiful. Yeah, everybody needs to have that just like we’re holding each other pulling each other up. And I quote, and it’s a powerful link that we are together. It just culminates who we are as human beings, you know?

VBN: Absolutely, absolutely 

JE: I can’t get enough of your book. So please keep sharing more. Is there anything else that you would want educators to know, with your books, or anything that is in that multicultural literacy space that you would want them to know, like, strategy that they can do tomorrow?if 

VBN:Absolutely, you know, it’s important that we talk to each other? No, I’m not talking about Texan. I’m talking about really, you know, now that COVID is somewhat controlled to a degree conversation is necessary. It’s necessary for parents to really you know, I know you got in from work and you’re tired, and you don’t want to go to that school meeting or that PTA meeting. But this is where we get to talk to each other. And you get to hear the teacher, and the teacher gets to hear you. And hopefully we’re listening, where we’re not just talking at each other. But we really come in with an open heart to listen, because at the end of the day, it’s about the child. It’s about the child. We teach racism. We teach it, we teach it extensively. You know, when I hear parents say, well know where that came from. I’m walking through the supermarket. And this little boy says the N word. Mommy is that and she kind of looks at him like she Shut your mouth. You know, you don’t say things like that in public. You know and and she was in, I don’t know where he got that from none of that no wigs we got and get it from the teacher. He got it from yourself. For 25 years job as a professional phlebotomist, that’s the person who takes blood. And my specialty were children, women with cancer, people with AIDS, everything, nobody wants to be bothered. Okay, when you’re holding a premature baby in your hand, and I have tiny hands, and a baby can fit in my hands. And I’ve been when I tell you, I took care of children of every ethnicity that has walked this planet. I have, I’m taking care. Okay. The one thing that I’ve learned that’s what I want to leave with your listeners is, babies want three things, children, one of the things. Is there a clean diaper when I mess this one up? Right, or is there a bottle or breasted here with some milk in it? Are your arms in your heart strong enough to hold? Well, that’s all this other stuff? Oh, you think about slavery? Why babies were put on the black brush. But were treated like animals. Basically, the women were treated like animals. I’m doing what you should do for your own. 

JE: Yeah.

VBN: We need to break this thing of racism, and send it back to the pit of hell from once again, begin to see people as people get to know my character. Let them know who I am, before you just start jumping off with oh, they’re black. Oh, they’re white or Asian, Latino or Hispanic. So they had nothing. Oh, get to know me first. 

JE: Get to know me first. 

VBN:So the message that I want to leave them first of all is to all your educators. I appreciate every last one of you. You work so hard to put lessons together. And there are times you can’t teach your lesson. Because you got a parent. Student It takes away from you even tried to teach. But I want you all to know we appreciate there are a bunch of us that know the hard work that you all put in the late night the whole thing just wanting to see children succeed. I love you all. I thank you all I pray for you all that God would continue to cover you. When can you give me more money because you deserve it? Or that? Anywhere in where you want to go? You shouldn’t have to pay a dime.

JE: I know our educator friends are like Thank you. We feel seen because yeah, you can have the best boss, beautifully written lesson plan but something always happened. Okay, that away pivot, how do I keep it going? How do I still get my work in that my students need to achieve before they move on to the next grade. And I can tell you, they tip my hat. It’s a profession that is honored by the educators who do it every day. We just hoping that honor will be reciprocated by more people that have reciprocated it. We feel it. We love it. And we appreciate y’all because y’all keep us going in those trenches especially lovely. So I love my love. Yeah.Oh my goodness, this has been an amazing talk. Where can my listeners get your books? 

VBN:Absolutely. You can get my books at most indie bookstores. You can find it at Amazon and on Barnes and Nobles websites as well. You can always go to Penguin Books and find my books there. But I would love it if you would follow me over at Instagram at Vanessa Brantley newton.com. You can find me on Facebook at Vanessa Newton. And Vanessa Brantley Newton, I have actually two pages. And that’s about it for social media. But I also have a website of Vanessa Brantley newton.com, 

JE: I will put all of that information in our show notes too, as well. Oh, Vanessa, it’s such a blessing to get to know you and laugh with you and just cry with you and tear up with you with your most beautiful, heartwarming, inspiring stories. And you’re one of those students that you know, really did defeat and beat the odds of having someone say who you are, but you define it in your way. 

JE:Even when I went to Barnes and Noble in Duluth, Minnesota, your books are on those selves got going on last night. 

JE: I cannot thank you enough

VBN: Oh,  dear Thank you. Thank you.

JE: I’m honored to just share this chat with you today. So that’s all we have today, folks. And yes, I’ll see you next week. Bye bye. 

From the Podcast Archives: My conversation with Early Learning Coach Jamesetta Diggs

You’re listening to the cultural curriculum chat, the podcast that specializes in multicultural education and classroom strategies. I’m your host, Jebeh Edmunds, let’s get started.

Welcome cultural curriculum chat listeners, Jebeh Edmunds here, so excited to have in the guest here today, educatorJamesetta Diggs. Jamesetta is a Liberian mom of two ages nine and seven, and an early learning coach, who has enjoyed serving in the field for more than 20 years, working with families and young children in different capacities as a preschool teacher, trainer, family educator, and early childhood consultant. She also enjoys reading and teaching the concepts from children’s books. She is amazed how books has helped her discuss sensitive topics and life skills with her own children. This is the reason why she started Social Learning for littles two years ago to partner with families of young and early learning educators. Since she has started her business, social learning for littles has served more than 500 families with activities to support children’s social and emotional development. In 2021, she published her very first activity book titled passport around the world for early grades focused on exploring the world people differences and self acceptance. And in her free time, she loves to journal and enjoy nature with self care, and hanging out with her children at libraries, tools, and watching animated movies to Jamesetta. And so happy you’re on the show today. Welcome.

JD:Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. 

JE:Oh, thank you. And I just wanted to share with you audience, Jim said and I met during the pandemic actually on the phone that my cousin introduced us shout out to Ngozi. She’s like, Oh, you’re in Minnesota as an educator, I want you to meet a dear dear friend of hers,Jamesetta Diggs. So I’m so excited to continue this chat and share with our audience, Jim Seta, you know, what is your story about education, especially with our young children?

JD:Well, I am so amazed at how children develop since I was young, I didn’t start off in education. I was actually going to school to be a counselor. So I was in Bible college and to become a Christian counselor. And I walked into the library one day, and I saw this book, child development, I’m like, and so I took it, I went home and I’d boarded. Like, I just went through the book. I was just like, wow, this is so amazing. And I’m just from that I went back home, I was studying in Ghana at the time, as a refugee, and I went back home to Liberia. And I was invited to this early childhood, like a workshop. And I was like, Okay, I went over and doing like, a group session, like a group discussion, I had an opportunity to share. And while I was sharing one of the facilitators during ROTC, she, you know, just like, and that’s how I’m here today. And since then, my journey started. And I’ve been here working with young children working with families, and it’s just been such a joy. You know, they say, Find something you love to do, and you don’t have to work a day in your life. So that’s where I’ve been in how I’m here.

JE:I love that Jamesetta Diggs. Because it is that spark, isn’t it like something that you had your path you had your mind going in one direction, and then That book changed everything, you know, for you. And so share with us tool with multicultural education. How do you tie that in with the young students with their social emotional learning needs?

JD:Being in the classroom has been so different for me, especially like coming to the US. I came to the US eight years ago with my family and it was a different like a different environment altogether. There was so many things to like, understand, it was confusing. It was like back pain that everybody’s Liberian, for a year. There’s so many different people. And so I walk into the classroom with this approach to like, take over the world like you want to bear to work with children, but then you start to see so many different things diversity, cultural languages, community, your home culture, so different in a classroom. You see how different people like living you start to understand Like, if you have to make an impact in children’s lives, you have to care enough to know where they’re coming from order to connect with them. That’s the only way they’re going to feel safe to be around you. They want to talk about the things they do at home, and you want to show them that you’re interested in what they do at home, that’s how . That’s how I begin to explore and learn and understand. And you cannot support a child, socially or emotionally if you are not connecting with them. And also understanding where they’re coming from. And supporting them socially, emotionally, even with your learning journey is based on how you connect and develop that relationship. And it has to be based on your background, and your why.

JE:Yeah, I totally agree with you, Jim said it, because it is the paramount of educators, we have to build those relationships. And I love how you talked about coming into the United States eight years ago. And it was a big learning curve, because you had to, you know, get to know your students through the various cultures of various backgrounds. Because as a student, if you don’t know my authentic self, who I am as you student, how are we going to have me feel safe enough to learn what you’re going to show me, right?

JD:Yes, that’s it. Exactly. And that’s the approach, that’s the only way we’ll be able to like those little lives and show them, they love their teachers, they love their learning environment, they also need to know that they’re safe, they’re respected for where they come from, like it, it makes a big difference in a child’s life, if they come to school, and you can say all that, or you can say olla you are you can say  something in your language that like just like something like that spark, you know, or you can ask them or show them a picture of something that is from their culture, and they can relate is so amazing.

JE:It is amazing. And also that you took the time to learn a greeting, you took the time to find that picture. And that child just sits a little taller, because they finally feel seen, they feel validated, that you see them for who they are, and where they are, you know, socially and emotionally too I think educators need to be and accept that each child, you know, needs to be accepted for who they are in where they are emotionally. I feel like some of us educators, we get so motivated and like, yes, I want to do all the things and some littles are like, oh, hold up, we just met, we met a week ago, like I’ve just first six weeks, like I’m just still trying to get to know you. But eventually you’re right, that relationship and that bond that you have with that student gets stronger throughout the year. And I love that tip that you’re sharing with our listeners that yeah, some little strategies that’s quick, actionable, you can find stuff on Google Translate to find the language that they speak at home to share as a greeting. When you do your morning meetings and stuff with your students. little simple things can go a long way.

JD:Yeah, in connecting like when children can connect like they’re exactly what we’re seeing is that they’re different children in the classroom. So like a child will, the way a family is putting their child to bed is different from how the other family is putting your child to bed. So if you see two children playing in a play area, and you see another child is king, your baby, and another one, just live them there to go to bed. And they’re like, looking at it a confused level. That’s where you connect them because you’re now in a position to teach that they’re both different. And by teaching them ,how differently they are, and but they’re also like important and so special, that’s a different way we do it, you’re helping them connect to another family. And also you’re enriching your idea of how different the world is. So like creating that opportunity for children to connect and feel safe, is such a big deal goes a long way. In this subject of diversity, the subject of equity that we’re talking about. It starts right there, those little things that we do in the classroom with our little ones.

JE:Yes. And also Jamesetta, can you share to the importance of catching our little ones with equity and multicultural education as them being little to give that foundation because I feel like a lot of us  adults that aren’t in the educational space are saying, well, we’ll get to that diversity when we get there. Right. I mean, kids are seeing people by their skin color. Very young. I remember when my oldest was three could tell you know, skin tone differences. So what can we share with those parents and girls? mumps out there, why it’s so important to have these discussions in early childhood with, like you said, how a mother cares for their babies? Like, how can we share with them how important it is to start those conversations. at that early age.

JD:One of the things I would say Java is I like to teach children to books. That’s basically what I do as an early learning coach, and books. They’re such great opportunities for children to learn, and discuss and understand, like difficult concepts. So if I come to a child and try to clean it, oh, everybody is different. What does that mean to a child. But as children learn by the books they read, by the way we interact with them, they’re in a classroom of children of different skin color, I know my son used to say Korean people. And so they’re in the classroom with different skin colors, skin tones and different languages. So as we talk about, we read books, as we read books in the see the pictures, how another friend says, Hola, how another friend says, bonjour, how another friend say Good day, or another friend, say morning, or whatever they’re seeing those things. They’re seeing the examples. And one thing I will always encourage parents to do is to talk about those things. Do not hold back, because as you create awareness for your child, there is a string, there is a line, creating awareness not only sparks all that confidence in your child, but then you extend it to the point where your child become an advocate for another child becomes an advocate for themselves, they become like the seat justice. That’s where equity comes in. Because they know that we’re different, but we’re the scene where equal array, we’re in the same classroom, we share the same books, we share the same toys, everything is available to us. So that puts our children in a place to be able to understand, oh, this is what it is, rather than just taking that big woe is diversity, we’re going to talk about it, you don’t understand what it is they do in different ways, by examples, in different ways, by everyday things that we do in the classroom, our lifestyles, the way we talk to them, we interact with them that the way we connect them to stuff. And so all of those things play a big role in your lives, in helping them understand teach diversity to them, and helping them understand that whole concept of diversity and equity.

JE:Often, Jamesetta , you nailed it, my dear. Yes, all of the things. And I feel like you said with that string of learning, they see the examples in the book, it’s a great conversation starter, you’ve got students that when they come into my classroom, you know, when I used to teach fifth grade, they had the foundation already laid in place from the beginning. And then it gives them like you said, that confidence to advocate for themselves, and to advocate for their classmates that don’t look like them speak like them, think like them, it all just comes together. When we start at the very beginning off, you are so right. And I know, because we are I know, it’s like we’re cut from the same educational multicultural educational club. So our kids have, you know, the big library at home that is very rich in diversity. My question for you, Jamesetta , as a parent, what have you experienced with your children, when it comes to multicultural educational space?

JD:There’s been a lot when I first came to the to this country, my son was almost two. So there was this preschool part of it. And there are lots of programs that I didn’t know what to do. Like, there was like Valentine. And they would have like, fall parties and all these parties. I did not know what was expected. I did things in a way like and then after, I’ll be like, Oh, that’s how it it’s done. So like, in that space, I understand how families feel like when I work in the classroom, and I started working in the classroom, I understood like if up here and like some of the African parents would come and some of our teachers we wonder like, I wonder they taught the message right? And I would explain like when I was a period in preschool, I understand what what this parent is coming from because the way we get the message is totally different. So sometimes is really important. Ask the parent after you send all those communications is important that experience did you remember I send it Do you have any questions? Are you okay? Are you with everything? Is there anything I can explain? I know sometimes you’re afraid because you’re thinking that you don’t want to sound pushy, or you don’t want to sound like you’re crossing the line. But it’s always good to check in. Specially with our culture, background families, like families that are culturally different. You have to check in with them to understand how are they receiving the message. So those are some of the things that really like, came to me as a parent when I came here. How is it done here? I knew I had to learn it. So now with my daughter, I was like, Oh, yeah. Oh, how is dark? Because I’ve experienced it. So like, I always try to be an advocate for families and African founders, until the year did you know that this is what they wanted, and can do checking to ask the teacher what they wanted. So that’s phase of checking the educators checking back, understand what they’re actually sending ads, I definitely will see. Because it happens.

JE: And you know, to the assumption as educators of well, they speak English, they’re just going to go along with what we do. And so even just take a minute or two to research, not everybody celebrates Halloween. Not everybody goes and has turkey for Thanksgiving. Not everybody has these types of Americanized rituals and traditions. So in the classroom, in a funny story, I came when I was two, and I was the guinea pig for my mom and dad. Okay, look, I did the same. You know, I remember my mom, she will never tell the stage um, Zetta get a pumpkin for Halloween, because she had the Enter Headstart, like you’re gonna have to make a Jacqueline earning, cut and do that with the pumpkin with the night. And she said, I cry, you’re killing my pumpkin. She goes to this day, I’m 42 and a half, she’s like, I will never have pumpkin in this house again, because she was like, I don’t know what to do. We’ve never had Halloween in Liberia. But that assumption, it’s Halloween, we’re gonna make our jacket lanterns. Let’s do this. And she said for her to like, feel like she’s traumatizing her child. As an educator, we just have the assumptions of hip, here’s a little sheet, a little craft, you bring home and do it with your parents or your grown up at home. And everything is good. And as an immigrant parent going, oh my gosh, I am traumatizing my child has.

JD: And I And Greg to go like what you’re saying with the holidays and everything? Just like what would it be like? If you asked children? What did you have for Thanksgiving? You know, draw what you have for Thanksgiving instead of everybody bring you home with Turkey. Like I know our family. They were so stressed over like getting a turkey. And I always tell my children, it’s a holiday, we’re making an African dish. And everybody’s so excited about having an African dish because like you don’t always get to make African there’s so there’s a holiday we’re home. That’s making African dish, making no turkey. So when you come back, my daughter said I would draw the chicken feed I say whatever. Just let them know. That’s what we have. And it’s what we do in our family.

JE: And yeah, and even you said special occasion. We’re with our families. This is our special occasion feasts that we have, you know, and I think for students to share what they have at their table and be excited that it’s not always going to be the same menu in every household. Right? And that’s what makes our classroom unique. Ah, I tell you Yeah, so I love how you shared so far,Jamesetta , greetings, getting to understand your students from all the various backgrounds and celebrating that starting those conversations with books proactively and reactively. When things come about what else I really want you to kind of share with our audience more about your business and connecting families with that social emotional cross cultural learning.

JD: I started, like I said, we always read books were educators. We got the kids making the bugs reading the books. We always read books During COVID, my daughter was like, she was so bored. And she was so like, restless, there was so much that we couldn’t do. And we started exploring the books that we had. And while we were exploring, I started like, making informations out of those stories. So like, I asked her one day, like, this book that we read, what can you say about yourself? Like, how can you affirm yourself in his book using I am, and then she went on and on and I am special I am I am. I’m like, wow, this is amazing. So then we started reading books every night. And then we will go through like the affirmations. And then I’ll ask, okay, what did we use I sentences. And then we started using I have I, am, I will, and then it started coming to me. So that’s how I develop social learning for littles with the everyday possibilities using the books. Because in every book, if we use I am, it creates that position for the child to affirm them. So that’s self awareness. That’s self care. And then I have children start to practice gratitude, what they focus on what they have, rather than what they don’t. And then we started to see, I can’t like if there’s using canned sentences, and then I will then say, well, this can help them set goals if they’re saying I will. So I developed this framework called the everyday possibilities framework with books that I use with my children. So every time we read the book, I started bringing out these statements and these questions for feedback, rather than what is the story about what did you learn from the story? What if we ask questions about how we felt about the story? What if we ask questions? If you were in the story, how would you solve the problem? Right, those kinds of questions, and then it started to go on. And with every book, I started to see more and more of these things with my children. So during difficult times, and during challenging times, and that started coming back in everyday life and everyday skills. And it started reflecting I started to see the effect of books in my children’s lives. I’m like, Well, this is important for other families, how many families can I encourage to do this with their children. So I developed that growth mindset framework. And I started to share it, and I posted it all over social media, and there was like, people were so like, interested in it. And they wanted to know, so that’s how I developed like the program for social learning for littles and then continue with the books and everything. So that’s the story behind that.

JE: Oh ,I love that you set up because I have that’s how I’ve been following your whole journey and your affirmation cards that you can frame and put up in your house. And the books you’re suggesting with the littles and just your whole philosophy. And I love that with their self affirmations, their goals, and what they want to do to keep going forward. And like you said, there will be times in our children’s lives where they’re going to be stuck, and to retell about a story that you had that with your child, and having those conversations opens up their confidence to be themselves and feel like they’re in that safe space with you. And seeing you guide them along the way. That’s just so powerful. Yeah, now that’s amazing. 

JD: And remember our whole story during the George Floyd situation, the books helped me it was a difficult time. It was not a time I could hide it from my children. My daughter was five, turning five at the time. My son was around seven at that time, how would I discuss these things with my children? So I use stories about writing stories about justice, stories about racism, like books that have been written, and I’m so grateful for the books that are out there before 10 years ago, our children wouldn’t have had access to these things. So I always encourage educators, I know we have all of these great books that we have from the past that we have in our classrooms, but they’re great books coming out. Use those books. Talk about these things with your children. Develop a study around some of these topics. Make it like fun in the classroom, to story cards, ask questions, explore tick them outside do like an exploration with the book and learn the concepts and the things that the books are teaching these children. There’s so much embedded in this. I know we’re not bookworms, my kids love so many other things, but they’re just like that part that have worked for me and I believe can work for so many families, culturally, because there are so many books that are multi cultured. There are so many diverse books. And so it’s so important that we can find these lay our hands on these and use them for our children’s bright future for their noun their development, their growth, their learning. In everything, .

JE:Yeah. Oh, yes. And like you said 10 years ago, we didn’t have half of the books that we have right now. And yes, when the George Floyd murder happened, it was we were all as parents grieving. And as black people going through that trauma again. And books were the way to have those conversations with your children in a safe setting where they can ask questions, and go through it together. Offense is awesome. And yeah, all I always wholeheartedly tell my teacher, friends, if it’s older than 15 years old, you got to do some pruning, because there’s tons of new titles out there that are waiting to be in your classroom. And a lot of things like I tell my former students to the more you know, the more you grow, and there’s some books that haven’t grown and learned some years.  So there’s some times you just might need to recycle some things and get some new titles, new characters, and new biographies of people that are in the now that are current in our students development as well. Oh, my goodness, this is awesome.Jamesetta , one more question. Before we go. You’ve given us so many great tips and tricks. Is there anything else you would like our listeners to do with your work? How can they follow you and find you?

JD:I’m on Facebook and Instagram. And I also have a website social learning for littles.com. There, I use it as a blog site where I share the books that I read with my children or with my small groups. So the books are on there. And if they’re looking to find books, the one book lists List of books or have books, they want a future let me know about it. So yes, if you look up social learning for littles, you will find me that’s me. And I love sharing my journey. I love encouraging families. I love working with families. I love working with educators. It’s been a joy in this space of learning and growth in everything that we’ve been doing so far. I just want to encourage everyone out there, just be aware of who you are. Be conscious of where you’re at. Don’t make assumptions. Everybody’s different. And just create opportunities to connect with other people and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask that you offend. If you think you’re offending somebody, you can apologize or ask them a better way still ask. You never know people say the stranger who asked never misses the way. So that’s really important. Ask questions, don’t make assumptions, and just connect with people. You never know what you know, I have so many friends from different backgrounds and different races that I love. And I enjoy spending time with. 

JE: So yeah, that is it. It’s like you said that authentic human connection that goes a long way to understanding who we really are. Yeah. Oh, goodness. And yes, listeners, I will put all of Jamesetta information in the show notes so you can continue to follow her journey because it’s an amazing one. And the books you have shown a girl I have purchased them myself to share with my nieces and nephews. And yes, I really love your book recommendations. 

JD: I have a present  for you. Actually, do I have a book that’s on its way from Liberia? Written by one of our really own good, hard work in Brenda Moore. And so I got three, she got three of her books that’s coming to me.

So I’m a huge fan of Brenda Moore. Rand is only fangirling right now, though. Yeah,

you’re getting one of her books. I will send one over to you. I have one for my library. And I’m thinking about how I can share the third one.

JE:But yes, just I didn’t want to say it. But I have to kind of cry thing here and shout it to Brenda Moore. And yeah, another amazing writer and multicultural educational guru based in Liberia. And I tell you, my grandfather used to say this was his biggest mantra was you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, she will educate her whole community. And that has been I tell you the reason why I’ve done this business and sharing as much multicultural resources that I can. And I’m just honored to be walking alongside you jamesetta carrying that charge of bringing more multicultural education on resources to all of our families. So I’m honored to speak with you today.

JD:Thank you, you inspired me every day everywhere is diverse and just teaching those concepts and those truths about it is so important so it inspires me I tell you like it really does a keep doing what you’re doing. It’s very important.

JE: Thank you oh, means a lot and yes guests thanks for listening and will see you next time on  the cultural curriculum chat. 

From the Podcast Archives: My Conversation with Author Naomi O’Brien

On today’s blog,  I share my conversation with Author & educator Naomi O’Brien whom I had on my podcast last December. She’s a great person who shares her love of literacy and her impact on all of us is a joy. Read below.

 

JE: Hello everyone, my name is Jebeh Edmunds and welcome to the Cultural Curriculum Chat! Today, we have a wonderful guest, I am just so happy to introduce to you another rockstar teacher, Mrs. Naomi O’Brien! I am seriously fangirling right now! Naomi is a wife, a mom, author, creator and presenter, an educator who currently lives in Los Angeles, California. She enjoys using her creative skills to teach students how to read and how caregivers and other educators teach important lessons to children. So, welcome to our show, Naomi!

 

Naomi: Thanks so much, I’m so excited to be here!

JE: Thank you! So, please share with our audience, you know, what’s your story and how did you grow up and perceive multicultural education?

Naomi: Yeah, so my story is that I’ve always really enjoyed my upbringing in the fact that my parents are not American, they’re from Antigua and Saint Kitts in the Caribbean. So, I always was very aware of ‘this is my culture, this is not my culture’. Because our home was very much Soca music playing, Caribbean cups, and I became very aware at an early age that that is not what was going on in my other friend’s homes.

 

             Another unique layer to that is that my dad is in the army for 20 years, so we traveled around and lived in so many different places and met so many different families from all over the world, and it was kind of this culture shock actually when he retired and we were off of an army base because it was all segregated, like I grew up with my neighbor who was from Korea, this other neighbor was from Hawaii, this neighbor was from India, this neighbor was from Germany, and then suddenly it was a very “Oh no, where did all the culture go? It’s not like this in the real world, outside of the army base?” I got to see a lot of cultures and I feel like well my education wasn’t exactly multicultural, my lived experience was just due to my family, visiting family in New York, going back to the Islands to visit people, and just living in my neighborhoods. So, I felt like I was able to see that contrast and kind of say, “I’m not represented at school”, or “my neighbors not represented at school”, and probably picked up on things that other children normally wouldn’t, for sure.

 

JE: Hmm, definitely. And, it’s kind of neat, because I grew up in a Liberian household too, so that Soca music, I remember that as a child too, and I loved that. And, also, when you talk about not having that representation in your classroom, that sparked something in you, didn’t it, to create something? Not quite knowing yet, right, but knowing that there’s something missing there. And, let’s talk more about that now, with your experience going through our school system in the United States, what were things that you observe, you know? Like, when you talked about things that were missing, did you have BIPOC teachers in your space growing up, in your childhood as well?

Naomi: I really didn’t. Something I did have though is a lot of male teachers, especially in elementary school which isn’t always everyone’s experience, but no they were largely just white educators, probably were and we lived – I was born in Texas, we lived in Germany, we lived in Louisiana, Washington State, Georgia, and then eventually Florida, and it was largely White, not until I got to high school that I got some teachers of color but even then it was a majority White experience, and that was something – like talking about like race and different cultures are something my parents are very open about, so it’s something that my mom would point out all the time and she was constantly telling us “you need to carry yourself this way, you need to speak this way, because you will be perceived this way in America by Americans”, you know. And, they have to figure that out when they came from their Island which is 100% Black people, they didn’t have those issues and then to come to the States in their early 20s and suddenly realize “Oh wow, there’s different rules here, and people treat you differently here”, where they never had to deal with that. I mean, they probably have the colorism issue going on but not just the hierarchy of colors.

 

JE: Yeah, in that, the nuances, correct? That, those underwritten rules when you come in as an immigrant, of knowing how to perceive yourself and how others will perceive you. That’s powerful.

 

      Now, as a creator and author, what tools have you used to create this space? Tell us more about your Reading Like a Rockstar platform with our audience.

 

Naomi: Yeah, so it really just started as a place to share, just straight-up regular reading ideas but as I grew in that space and as I got to explore social media and Instagram more, and I saw other teachers and like really White teachers with bigger accounts, some of the stuff they were sharing was so problematic, or it wasn’t multicultural or it wasn’t accepting or inclusive of everybody. And I was like “that’s a really big problem”, and I was always searching for that person with a really big platform that was going to do something about it, that was going to be the example. And, it wasn’t happening, and I was like – and I was really small at the time but I was like “I can be the example, I’m not seeing it, so I’ll be that” because he just would put out there “50 books you must read to your students this schoolyear”, and it wasn’t representative of everybody at all, you know? It’s like Children and Animals, and then it was like where are the students of color, where are different genders, different abilities, different body sizes, just different languages even, it just wasn’t missing? So, I was like okay, well I can step into that role and kind of like say the stuff that I wish that I saw because these people are influencing so many other people’s classrooms and not necessarily in the best way even though that wasn’t there intent, you know? So, that’s when I really started to share about and as I saw more problematic things or the way people would make fun of student’s names, and usually that’s going to be the name of the student that isn’t a typical American name, and it was like that’s just showing me that you don’t value culture and you’re not thinking about maybe that parent gave that child that name for a reason that is special in their culture, and it’s not typical for you but it is as typical and special, and an honor in their culture. So, just having to post up about that and hoping to open people’s eyes because these people are in those classrooms impacting other people’s children, you know? And I was like I have to say something, I can’t just not say anything, and it’s kind of like what I wish my teachers saw when I was little because something I always talked about with one of my best friends, is I don’t think a single teacher of mine ever even knew where I was from, they didn’t know what was going on in my house, no stories or lessons were even brought up about like where I lived except for like “Transatlantic Slave Trade, and they went to the Caribbean first before they came here” but other than that, I was never seen or represented, and I was like I can like make a difference like well in. From that, people were really hungry for that, it’s like it was kind of like they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and then once they had a place to learn from, they were excited to learn more. So, that’s really how I grew.

 

JE: I am just so proud of you because your work and even your partnership too with Teaching With an Apron, it’s just – even the biggest topic too, especially in honor of Indigenous Heritage month, the First Thanksgiving, I loved your unit “Fact-or-Fiction”, you know, and when I taught 5th grade there was a lot of those multiple lenses that I tried in my classroom to share with students. And, how you have it laid out where kids can look at pictures and decipher and ask these open-ended in-depth questions, and as educators we really want our students to think critically but how you craft it Naomi, and your partner, you take it up another level. I mean, it’s like wow! Even as an adult, and your young self, you’re self-reflective of wow, this is the stuff like what you said, what you didn’t know and now you’re hungry for. And, that’s what I’m excited of your work to share with my audience too because this is stuff that’s actionable, it’s right in real-time that teachers can download right away and share, parents can use the materials as well to have these conversations with their kids. I feel like in this multicultural space right now with education of all kids, parents are very stuck and overwhelmed and as a mother yourself – you’re a mother of two boys and so am I – as a parent, what do you want their teachers to know?

Naomi: Yeah, well thank you for saying that about the lessons because that is something we go out of our way to make sure it’s happening, like really put it back on the students, present the facts, and then put it back on the students to have these critical discussions, like we’re not here trying to change people’s minds but give them all of the information. Because, we think about the single narrative we were given growing up of this is what happened, memorize it, take it for the test, and that’s that. But, that’s like no, like history should be this debate, it should be all these thoughts and perspectives always, who is missing, is there bias going on here, is this factual to get to like arrive at your conclusions. But then, as you go along, it is definitely something – I wouldn’t say a battle with – but it’s something that is always at the forefront of my mind, what my son is going through. My oldest one is in 2nd grade right now and my youngest one is 3 but even with that, we just got a little flyer saying the 3-year-olds are going to have a Thanksgiving performance, and that immediately made me say “oh my goodness”, and I have to go and ask what are they going to be singing about, are they going to be dressed up like indigenous people because if so, we’re not going to be participating and you shouldn’t do that and here’s why, which luckily it wasn’t that, it’s just about being thankful. But, there’s this constant stuff that you’re up against that is traditional or classic, or people just think “oh, it’s just good fun” – so, there is, constantly, like that, looking through homework and making sure that stuff is accurate so that I can talk to the teacher about it or talk to my son about how “hey, your work said this but this wasn’t necessarily true.” Honestly, I haven’t had too much of that, so that’s been really good. And, I don’t know if the teachers love it but I always say “hey, I know this month is coming up, I created these resources, use if you can” I never say like “I hope you use these”, I’m like “use this if you can”, and they’ve always been appreciative in the grade level so far.

JE: Oh, definitely! And you know, being in the classroom as well, it is so fast to keep up with our pacing guides and our standards, and benchmarks that we have to achieve, and I constantly when I was in the classroom, looking for resources to still fulfill those standards and benchmarks but also have that critical eye of “who is missing?” “Why aren’t we talking about their perspective?” “Who can I invite from the community to share that perspective so the kids have that multi-faceted view?” And, I love that because as a parent, you’re seeing things and you’re knowing months are coming up, and you kind of hold your breath a little bit going in, okay, is this teacher going to be culturally responsive or am I going to have a little conversation with her or him, off on the side. And, even as a parent, I know my boys are like “oh, here we go, mom, why do you want to know, why are you asking?” It’s like “Is this play coming on again, because I remember that play in the 80s, and it didn’t go, you know”, so, those are the things –

 

Naomi: …and then I’m like “well, I can’t just stop with my son”, I was like “now I have to talk to the teacher too because what about the other kids?”

JE: Yes, because, and you know as a teacher and I know there’s going to be teachers that are excited about your help, and there will be some teachers with that push back because one, I’ve given that excuse but they’re afraid, you know, they’re used to oh, this is my bucket for this particular subject, now you’re going to have to audit my bucket now? It’s like yeah, we got to get rid of that bucket. But, I love, like I said, the big takeaways that you have with your work, your social media presence, that’s how I found you and it’s positive, and it also has those questions too of having those reflective moments. And, I really thank you for that. I love your depth and complexity, critical thinking resource because when I taught primary grades, a lot of our students that were in that middle, you know were getting what they needed but the kids that needed that extra push. You know, I had a first-grader who was reading The Hobbit – loved him you know! And, his parents were college professors, but like I wanted to give him that extra push. And, what you do for those kids in that small group that need the extra push, I have to thank you for that, because I love how you have that space for them where you’ve got the multiple perspective sunglasses icon, and the detail, and the what, and the who. You can take that resource and craft it to the stories and the literary work that they’re already doing, but you’re taking it up a notch. And so, how do you do that, that extra critical lens for your other multicultural work with your civil rights movement, and your Navajo co-talkers – is there something you could give advice to the teachers as well for those extra students that really need that push?

 

Naomi: Yeah, and so Depth and Complexity is my absolute favorite. And, I would suggest, if anyone listening has not heard about it or learned about it, to just do a quick Google search of it and just start to like really take in the questions, like there’s usually so many questions down that you can like take baby steps to dive into it, and I would suggest starting with one icon, you introduce it to your students, and over time you will see how it changes your students’ thinking. And, I post it for everybody, because what’s so great about the framework of Depth and Complexity, is that it’s fantastic for those higher students that we can sometimes miss, but it’s great for everybody as well. So, it’s like it’s pushing everybody’s thinking and is including those higher students as well, and it just shifts the thinking. And, the examples that I love to use is the Three Little Pigs, which is just the most basic book I could think of but if you apply Depth and Complexity to it and you’re thinking about the Wolf’s motive and how the characters changed over time, and how would the Wolf from The Little Red Riding Hood think about the Wolf from this story, and you’re thinking about different perspectives, and you’re adding in the ethics of it with “Is it okay for the Wolf to be hunting the Pigs”, and “Is it just predators and prey, or is it bad guy versus good guy?” It just gets them thinking in such different ways about stories, and then you truly see them over time applying that thinking to different stories, and then even bringing it outside of just literature and then like social studies, you can bring it in to social studies, the same thing – “How did this law change over time?” “How did customs and this country change over time?”, “What are the different perspectives?”, like “We think this about the Vietnam War, and what did Vietnamese people think about it? And, that’s something for me, I’m like we never learn about it from that perspective, and you never even thought to consider it because you weren’t pushed to consider it, you know? So, I just love like incorporating that in as many places as possible to like just help kids think critically and help them to start to do it on their own even when I’m not there.

 

JE: Oh. Love that, Naomi! Love, love, love that!

 

JE: So, just another quick thing – What else do you want educators, parents, to know about multicultural education for all of our kids?

Naomi: Yes, I would love for them to know, I see a lot of multicultural education accounts and people talking about it, and it’s usually only centered on books. And I would love for them to know that it can be incorporated into everything. Even just your classroom management system, to be multicultural, just taking in consideration who’s in the room, the different practices, different beliefs, different backgrounds, how do they do things in their home and how can you incorporate that into the classroom. LaNesha and I, we wrote a book “Unpack your Impact”, and in part of it we say that our students are expected to just drop their culture at the door and mold to the culture of the classroom, and if she was – and the teacher’s culture, which may or may not match the student’s culture. So, they’re at a disadvantage if the teacher doesn’t take anything about that child into consideration. And, we think about the decor in our classroom, we think about our lessons, like how can you get to know your students and then incorporate stuff from their backgrounds into your lessons and like you said, we have standards we have to teach, sometimes people have to teach curriculum with fidelity, and that’s fine but then like if you have to teach about the Gold Rush, teach about the Gold Rush and then share a different perspective. What else is going on in the world at that exact same time in this country or the state that maybe your student is found. It is bringing different types of learning with it, and just consider like all the underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, because we don’t even have people who kind of push back and say ”Well, my class is all White” – so, it’s like if you have the dominant culture, then you have an even bigger job to make sure you are exposing them to all of these different cultures because you don’t want them to be that child that grows up, has never been exposed to anybody, and then mistreats people or thinks it’s weird, or you know segregate themselves from people based on differences because they never had the chance to explore how beautiful diversity and inclusiveness is. But, just making it more than just books, and really making about it in everything. And even culture, this is something that whenever I like, well we the PD, it’s like when I talk about the culture people think about food, language, race, things like that. And it’s like culture is food but it’s also who cooked it, where did you eat it, what was it seasoned with, are you eating with your fingers, a fork, chopsticks, like it’s every single thing. So, it’s just like even broaden your thoughts and like sense of like what culture is.

JE: And Naomi, it is – it’s more than a recipe. And, I love that; who’s cooking, what utensils are being used, how is it seasoned, how is it prepared? That takes it to a whole another level. And, I really love how you say, it is! It’s more than just books, and in your day-to-day routines, classroom management strategies, how we greet each other. And, I also agree to with the majority culture in the classroom, I always say – don’t assume. That child might be with a multicultural Liberian auntie who may be blonde hair and blue-eyed like myself who had nieces and nephews that are Scandinavian, but you can’t assume that it’s that dominant culture in your class, and I love that how you have to be proactive because when they do encounter people that are from different walks of life, they might have the segregated feeling towards different groups. Oh, wonderful! Love that tip!

JE: Before we go, any other tips and tricks? I love that you can promote different cultures. I love that about, you know, going more in-depth of how things are prepared with food – what else could we do?

Naomi: Yeah, I always say with any child, with any age – start with their culture first. Because, you can get that buy-in. You can help them see ‘this is a part of your culture’, ‘you do have culture’, because some kids are like ‘I don’t have any culture’ – Yes you do, here’s what it is, here’s why it’s really important. Celebrate it, and do it early. Like, we do it the first few weeks of school now instead of like “Oh, and about me, what’s your favorite color?” We’re like “What’s your culture, what’s your background, what’s your language, how did your family dress, what’s your religion, do you go to church, do you not go to church?” And then when you learn about other cultures throughout the year, with Hispanic Heritage Month that’s coming up, and Italian-American, and Indigenous people – they can care about other cultures because they can connect it back to “well, this is important in my culture.’ So, even though that isn’t for me, I can understand why it’s important to them, and this respect can be build, and this curiosity, and this appreciation even of ‘that’s not different’, or ‘that’s not weird, it’s just different’, like ‘Oh, I do it this way, this person in my class does it that way’, and it’s really cool to learn about all these people that by the end of the year they’re just really taking in culture and appreciating it all year long.

 

JE: All year long. Oh, I love it! Naomi, before we go, where can our people find you?

Naomi: Yes, you can find me on Instagram, @readlikearockstarteaching on Instagram and then @readlikearockstar on TikTok. I’m not on TikTok as much but definitely Instagram is spot to be, and then I also have a website which is readlikearockstarteaching.com. We have lots of blogposts about culture and depth and complexity, and lots of fun resources too.

 

JE: Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much, Naomi, for this talk, and thank you audience for listening to the Cultural Curriculum Chat with Jebeh Edmunds. We’ll see you next time for more fun educational resources that you can use everyday. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

DEIB Strategy #1 First Impressions are very important.

 I decided to do a five-part series. That’s all about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging strategies. I’ve heard from my clients and audience members asking for some quick tidbit strategies you can do today. And I will start with our first one right out of the box, you all. So you know, the adage of first impressions is the most lasting. We always strive to put our best selves forward. When we develop criteria for highlighting our commitment to diversity, you see that in many companies right now you see that? 

In marketing, you see that everywhere. And even as neighbors, we’re trying to, you know, show what we know, in a way. And I want to share that when you make that first impression, no matter where you are, at work or school, many of us fall back into our usual questions. Hi, I’m Jebeh. “What’s your name?” And then, when we say, “Where are you from?” You might be thinking, Okay, Jeb, yes, we’ve been in America; I’ve been here for a long time. That’s just what we do. 

How is that not being inclusive? Now, if you’re somebody like me, right? I know I have an ethnic name and I am very proud of my name and heritage. But when somebody gets to know me for the first time, they go, “Oh, where are you from?” “That’s a different name,” then I would say Yes, I’m originally from Liberia but live in northern Minnesota. But only a few people want to share that part of themselves. And when I say it that way, I mean when you ask somebody of BIPOC heritage the question, “Where are you from?” They may be local, and even though I look like I’m from a different cultural group than you doesn’t mean I wasn’t born and raised in this area. 

And so this wonderful author, writer, social justice, Guru, anti-racist, cultural competency, amazing Taiye Selasi who has an incredible TED Talk. And I’ve used her TED Talk in lots of my training. But she has a twist on this adage, the question of Where are you from? She says we must turn it in; “Where are you, a local?” So next time you encounter somebody you want to get to know either at work, either as a neighbor, or out on the baseball field, that’s where I’m going to be most about summer because my son loves baseball and playing.

 When I meet somebody, instead of asking the question, where are you from? They may say, “Oh, I’m a local Duluthian,”.or I’m a local fill-in-the-blank. It opens up to where that person you’re asking that question feels that they can share part of themselves with you in a way that’s open-ended and not interrogated. And it just makes everyone have those cross-cultural connections that we all want. So I cannot stress this enough to switch that old question from where you are from to where you are local, and you’ll be amazed at the answers you’ll receive. 

If you want to learn more about diversity and equity inclusion strategies, I’ve created a digital course that is only four weeks long, curated explicitly for busy professionals like yourself. This course will empower you to recognize your own unconscious biases, helping you have more cross-cultural connections that don’t feel interrogated, and it’ll also help you combat microaggressions and create a culture of inclusivity with you and your team. And yes, we’ll cover tons of stuff, so be sure to check out how you can enroll in my course, How to be a Culturally Competent Leader. 

Hair Love Book Review

I’m so excited that you are here with us today. And I’m going to share a poignant heart tugging gives you all the feels picture book titled hair love, written by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. The reason for picking this book is that the main character Zuri, Swahili, is beautiful, and she is getting ready for her day. And she has a lot on her mind, but it just talks about how she revels in her natural hair in her coils. And in the story, she loves having her hair and different styles.

For example, She loves her funky braids and beads and feels like a princess. She says her daddy tells her she’s beautiful, which makes her feel so good. It’s so reaffirming. And it shows how even her hairstyle is more sir into a different persona. For example, she feels like a superhero when her hair’s in two puffs to Afro pub. And some days, she hangs out to have magical moments on Sundays when she gets up for her daily routine. She’s going to figure out how I am going to do my hair. And she’s looking online for tutorials and things like that. But her Daddy needs to help. And the beautiful thing about this book is that she wants her hair to look good to make her feel good about herself. And this dad has no idea. Bless his heart. And he’s trying his hardest.

And he’s trying to see what kinds of ways I can help my daughter Zuri. And Zuri is just like, Whew, okay, let’s see how this will go down. Dad’s trying, you know, and it reminds me of the one time I could remember my core memory. When my Father, the late Emmett Metzger, tried to do my hair. And I remember he had all my hair slides and ties, pulling and pushing. And I ended up with one braid. Off the top of my head just stuck straight up to the sky. But he tried, and it reminds me of Zuri’s dad of him trying as hard to get his daughter’s hair done to enjoy and make her feel so good on the inside and outside.

And we even did his homework. And that’s what I think is neat because I didn’t want to give away too much when mom was away at a time. It was nice to see that Dad took the time to cultivate in making sure that Zuri’s hair was protected and still regal at the same time. And why I picked this book for your audience is so many of us in the BIPOC community with our natural hair, we need to have you all understand that it takes a lot of time. Our hair is very delicate. It’s easily breakable, and we use ways to protect our hair.

So it can grow and thrive in some things where people might be asking, wow, Jeb, you had braids in your hair one day. And now you have it in twists, or now you have it in puffs, or you have it out natural as a little mini Afro a TWA. And there are some things that we love to change it up. We love to change our hairstyles. But we also know that it takes a lot of care and patience with our hair. And I think educators can use this book to show all of our kids the different styles in the BIPOC community with our hair and our natural hair care. But it also shows the importance of how we value our hair.

There’s an old African American saying that says our hair is our crowning glory. And my touch on that is in a crown should be seen and not touched. So when you are an elementary school educator, and you are reading this book to your students, please reiterate to your students, especially your African American students in your classroom, that it does not permit anybody to touch their hair. Their hair is their crowning glory. I can’t tell you how many times I was a student, people would want to touch my hair and put sand in my hair. or felt like I was on display. And even as an adult, even as a teacher, some colleagues would come up to me and ask to touch my hair.

I felt very tokenized when I had colleagues coming up and wanting to touch my hair. So having books like hair love opens up that conversation of the respect of natural black hair and opens the door for all kids to see the different hairstyles and the pride that comes with it. So I highly recommend this book, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison. They also have an animated short that goes along with it. And what I love about this animated short, it doesn’t have much dialogue.

Still, you can see in their nonverbal cues and communication how the Father loves his daughter and his determination to get the hairstyles just right, just like the mom did. And so, I highly recommend reading the book first and then showing the animated short; you’ll love both of them. So highly recommend this book. Please share this blog post with people that love their natural hair, and share it with a friend who might be curious about natural hair and the different styles that go with it. Thank you so much.

Juneteenth for Mazie Book Review

Welcome back to my blog. This book is excellent for students to understand the historical significance of the holiday of Juneteenth. And the title of this book is called Juneteenth for Mazie, and it’s written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. I picked this book because Floyd Cooper is a fantastic artist. In his words about this little girl staying up late getting ready for the big celebration of Juneteenth and how her father sits her down and talks about her great grandparents that were slaves. And I quote, great, great grandpa, and great, great grandma, mosey and how they crossed into liberty, a lot of formerly enslaved people when it was around this time, right after the Civil War. 

 

This was this vast celebration of liberation when we were all freed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and that’s how it became on June 19, hence Juneteenth. And so the story talks about her ancestors, showing pictures and depictions of them in the fields, looking up at the North Star, and trying to envision a life of freedom and solitude. And it just gave them that freedom of bondage and liberation and peace. What I love about this is this story, it goes back to that fateful day in Galveston, Texas, when that announcement was made, and it shows how African Americans weren’t even. They weren’t even recognized as Americans at this time and were shouting and jubilation in celebrating, and they knew they had a long road ahead. What I wanted you to share with your students when you are reading this book is to talk about how the misconception that once the slaves were free, everything was all right. Everything was perfect. Everybody was equal. 

 

The story opens up this discussion that it took years, and many things aren’t equal even today. And so I would be grateful if you could read this book. It talks about how from that emancipation time, after Juneteenth, how people still African Americans voted, lobbied the cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge Bloody Sunday events, you know, it has a beautiful timeline depiction of why Juneteenth should be celebrated and why it should be remembered, and showing the descendants of those formerly enslaved people and how they forgave how they moved forward, and how they excelled and achieved. They became heroes and quote, so it’s just a beautiful book. It talks about celebrations with Strawberry Pop. I will challenge educators to examine the historical significance of why African Americans drink Strawberry Pop and have red velvet cake on Juneteenth. That’s a bonus question for you. And that’s something that you all can look up.

Trust me, there are some delicious recipes for red velvet cake, but there’s a historical significance to that. 

 

There are so many books about Juneteenth and many great picture books out there, and I will have my favorite list of Juneteenth books and antiracist books that you can start getting into your libraries. And I found through my work alongside the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce; they also partnered with a local independent bookstore. And I will also put in the link below—their list of curated books in honor of Juneteenth. So, my challenge for you is to find out after you read the book Juneteenth for Maisie about the historical significance of Strawberry Pop, as we say in the Midwest, pop or soda if you’re not from Minnesota—the historical importance of red velvet cake that’s my challenge for you. So happy Juneteenth, take the time to go out. There are lots of events this weekend coming up.

I know in Duluth, Minnesota, where I live, we have two events. Everybody is welcome to attend in honor of Juneteenth by our local African American chapters and affinity groups. You don’t have to be a bipod person to rebel and celebrate liberation for all people. And I also wanted to share with you that we have lots in store with Jebeh cultural consulting. I have a digital course on my website if you would love to learn more self-paced work in your cultural competency game and understand people in my lived experience, how we navigate, and how we can be better authentic colleagues and neighbors with our BIPOC friends. Be sure to share this blog post with anybody you think is interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as friends interested in more culturally diverse literature for their students and their children. 



The Kindest Red Book Review

  

 My name is Jebeh Edmunds, and welcome to my blog if you’re new here. I’m an educator and love sharing my insights on Multicultural Education. 

Speaking of sharing, got to love that segue. I am so excited. I have created. A self-paced, self-guided digital course title. How to be a culturally competent leader. You’ll have four weeks of self-paced work, quick, 15-minute videos, and a couple bonus podcast episodes. 

And a digital guidebook and a certificate that shows all your hard work. This is something that I created and that will help you in your busy life. Understand our diverse society. What to say, what not to say, what to read up on, and with this guidebook, you get to journal and self-reflect with the prompts I have for you. So there’s more information in the show notes below. 

Be sure to check it out here: 

https://jebeh-edmunds.mykajabi.com/offers/LMwntaji/checkout

    

It is so important that we read authors from diverse backgrounds to better understand their cultures. Their traditions and understanding them as human beings, especially in our daily lives. So I wanted to share with you another great title. The Kindest Red was written by Ibtihaj Muhammed and S K Ali. 

Art by Hatem Ali and Ibtihaj Taj wrote a book that I showcased last year. Titled The Proudest Blue, and this is her second, don’t quote a second story from this dynamic team; it follows these sister characters and their journey.

 Now the premise of this story, I don’t want to give away too much. But it talks about these two sisters, again, Faizah and Asiya. And they’re getting ready for picture day. Of these two sisters, Faizah has a hijab on, and, Asiyah doesn’t have one yet. But she is rocking her red dress. And what I love about this story is that it talks about how our educators write about what they would love for our students with these open. 

Questions of what would you like to see the world? As educators, we are eager to write down all our students’ responses and try to get as many answers as possible on our boards. So what I love about this book, it parallels that excitement; it parallels children in their minds of what they view the world as should be. 

And how they would feel in that world. I really want you to talk about this book with your students. It has excellent references to representation. Ms. Ramirez is the educator. So you have a teacher of color and a very diverse classroom. And you see the similar games that you probably grew up in elementary school playing tag. 

And solving problems and talking things through. The tradition of picture day and the excitement behind picture day in elementary school, especially. Um, yeah, my youngest son wore his Phy Ed uniform for picture day. So yeah, I wasn’t pleased about that. 

But this talks about the excitement of picture day. And the choice of color and being oneself. How. The color red makes you feel and how you would like the world to portray you. And. What I love about these two sisters and their bond. Faizah has always looked out for her little sister. But it also showcases how everyone else looks out for each other. And that is the goal of an educator in their classroom community.  

 I just remember being that. Little black girl in my elementary school and getting excited about a new dress. My mom got me and my hair done. Just that pride of me in this particular grade every single year. 

And, you know, smiling big and also that boost of confidence. 

 Everybody helping you feel like your best self is an excellent illustration of how this little girl’s world wants to be like an Asiyah. 

 If a person only knows. People of a particular cultural group, especially the Islamic community. , need to continue to educate themselves more. The negative biases are kept at bay on these diverse characters and their attributes. Everyone can relate to picture day when we’re looking at these stories. Especially at school, everyone can relate to playing at recess. Everyone can relate to solving problems together and writing what our view is. 

Points of what we see and writing our hopes for the future of what we would like to see our world. I remember when I taught, we had an extensive list of our hopes and dreams our personal. And community goals in the classroom. So these are just some excellent examples of The Kindest Red. I highly recommend it. 

This book is perfect for Kindergarten to Third grade, and I even enjoyed The Proudest Blue. I highly recommend both titles if you want to have both in your classroom library or even in your home library collection. They both have a charming message. And also showcases and validates the Muslim American experience. 

That’s all that I have for you today. Just a quick, short episode. Have a really great book. The Kindest Red, written by Ibtihaj Muhammed. And S K Ali illustrated by Hatem. Ali, check it out. 

Bella the Scientist Goes to Outer Space Book Review

I cannot wait to share my passion for another fantastic multicultural educational read, and today I can’t wait to share with you all. It is titled Bella, the Scientist goes to Outer Space. It’s written by Silvana and Isabella Spence, her daughter, and it’s illustrated by Darwin Marfil.

I love this book because it talks about two sisters, Bella and Vicky, and Bella and Vicky have this love and passion for all things science. And the cool thing about it is that these two sisters go on an adventure, and they’re trying to find different roles for other scientists out there.

I love the illustrations and how it shows these beautiful African American girls and their natural hair. And it also talks about looking over a list of various sciences you could become. Savannah and Isabella do an excellent job in these girls venturing into outer space. I’m not gonna give away too much because I want you to get this book, and it even talks about the planets in actual scientific facts.

So your students can also get involved in taking notes and, Oh, a teacher’s dream. Of course, cause you know, US educators love extra resources at the end of this book. She even has a rocket vinegar experiment. So you and your grownup at home, educators, can do this in the science lab at school to take this book to another level. Another cool thing is that she even talks about the scientific method in the book, as well as using the scientific method alongside your rocket vinegar experiment.

Love it. Love it, love it, love it. Keeping that going and having those fun facts about the solar system are also included at the end of this book. So I can’t wait to share more. Silvana is a fantastic educator that I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing on my podcast. She and her do extraordinary adventures throughout Florida in that love and passion for science and experience.

Ms. Silvana Spence. Another favorite educator of mine, I will have in my notes and description below all things you can do to purchase this book wherever books are sold, as well as follow this excellent educator’s journey in her classroom on Instagram. You can follow Sil’s journey below and order her book here: https://silsteps4success.com/

Just Like Me Book Review

Another great Vanessa Brantley Newton book is called Just Like Me, and this title is really a book of her poems, and it is very self-affirming with students. She really captures self-confidence. She’s got titles like I Am a Canvas. The day I decided to become sunshineWarrior. That’s a really good one.

 Altogether, girls talk about being proud of their bodies and even pimples that come into the mix. She has a poem titled  City and Country Dreams, and the duplicity about it talks about young girls having friendships, bonds, dreams, and ambitions.

Being ourselves in the poem Weird that’s one of my favorite ones. There are so many great poems here. She really does capture things down to detail. You can even see newspaper print on the bottom of the drums. She’s got down to the stitching, ah, Meemaw’s MA’s wisdom.

Also, another favorite poem is titled Memawh’s Wisdom, thinking about your own elder and having those face-to-face conversations and the bond you have. Everybody’s Memaw is unique and kind, and it just brings back fond memories, talks about feelings, and is one of my favorite ones. Like I tell you, I have them all.

 But even sharing the poems,  Hair and My Crown. It’s just beautifully done. And what I love, this last one, that culminates everyone together, is called paper chains and how it talks about everybody uniting together. We can only do it once everyone joins, once we are all invited.

Won’t you be a link in our paper chain for the change end quote? Beautifully done. Vanessa. And remember to share and subscribe so I can share more books like these with you.

Get this book, Just Like Me, by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Wherever books are sold. There is a lot of great content that you and your students can analyze in your poetry units. So be sure to check it out. You know you’re gonna love it.

Becoming Vanessa Book Review

Hello there! I’m a happy educator today, and I cannot wait to share with you all again another great book review, and it is titled Becoming Vanessa. It was written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa a few weeks ago, and definitely check out her podcast episode with me on The Cultural Curriculum Chat.

I will have that link down below. Now to get started with this book. It is a coming-of-age book on the first day of school. Everybody has those jitters, especially the teachers, but we don’t wanna spill that kind of tea. Okay? So becoming Vanessa is her self-titled character, and she talks about getting ready for the first.

School, her mommy and daddy ask her, what are you gonna wear that special today? And as you can see, I got my little particular leper print cardigan on because we all have to enjoy our inner childlike energy. And what I love about Vanessa’s attention to detail. She’s got it down to the hair textures of her parents.

Even how things just come to life. Even the fashion, the feather boa that little Vanessa does. What I also enjoy in this book, it even has a mommy and a hair tie. Okay. It shows all walks of life that Vanessa brings to the pages. She even talks about her name and how long it takes to write it when everybody else is done with the day.

And you know, as a teacher, we all have those students that have those beautiful, unique, long names that take a while, but she talks about how she gets into her name. Feels in the beginning that her name isn’t that special, but her mom walks her through and tells her the true meaning of her name. You will just choke up with joy and see how this beautiful little girl takes that pride in herself.

And she sits a little taller, like I say, and talks about how her beautiful name has meaning and how she portrays herself and honors who she is just beautiful. So definitely check out this book. It’s one of my favorites. And just how colorful, bright, and childlike Vanessa has this in her book.

It’s very well done. As you can say, Vanessa is a beautiful person inside and out. And you are going to enjoy this book. I highly recommend this book, kindergarten to about third grade, for the beginning of the school year, but, Check it out now. In honor of Black History Month, she is one of the most well-known illustrators in our children’s books universe.

So definitely get this book Becoming Vanessa wherever books are sold. You can learn more about this fantastic author here: https://www.vanessabrantleynewton.com/

Barack Book Review

In honor of President’s Day, I’m going to share a great book about our first African-American President, Barack Obama.

This book, titled Barack, is a beautiful biography for students written by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by AG Ford. This story is beautiful and impactful, and it talks about our first African American president. Um, it talks about how Barack went on his own unique journey. Self-identity and belonging.

We’ve been talking a lot about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and this really does share and showcase what it means to belong. AG Ford has some beautiful illustrations about Young Barack as a baby, where he was born and grew up in Indonesia, and it parallels Barack Obama’s. He wrote a memoir called Dreams of My Father, but that’s for more grownups now.

Also talks about reuniting with his father at the age of 10 and belonging to that self-identity that many children of color have to go through. It talks about where he found himself in the community and his campaign to become the first African American president, the 44th president. So I would love for you to get this book in honor of Black History Month and to showcase another true trailblazer as our first African American president, Barack Obama.

If you’d like to learn and order more lesson plans that are culturally appropriate for your classroom, be sure to stop by my website, jebehedmunds.com/shop. You can find many multicultural activities that are companions to many lessons I’ve learned.

 

 

The ABCs of Black History Book Review

Today I’m gonna chat more about this book, The ABCs of Black History, written by Rio Cortez and illustrated by Lauren Semmer. This is a wonderfully made book inspired by the late great James Baldwin.

You can see. “History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”- James Baldwin. I just love this. Whenever we talk about black history, it’s more than just the month.

Throughout the year, we must learn about all our country’s innovators, explorers, organizers, artists, engineers, scientists, and diplomatic people. I always did that in my classroom, and I know you can do it for educators. It starts with A is for Anthem, lifting our voice strong, and it does ring true to the black national anthem.

It continues and the illustrations that Lauren has created. It reminds me a lot of Faith Ringold. I loved her book Tar Beach and Dinner at Aunt Connie’s house, which I believe was the one. Also, another black history book, one of my favorites from back in the day. Rio also talks about the diaspora, what that means, um, and it continues through.

F is for folklore, and H is for Harlem. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. My husband and I went to Harlem on our honeymoon, eh, another H word. It’s a beautiful neighborhood. It even talks about J’ouvert and Juneteenth, how the people organized and marched and stood up for themselves, and the different queens throughout Africa and our American history.

Just wonderfully done. Ooh, this is such a well-done book. Talks about, like I said, our scientists, our astronomers, our writers. It’s a good launching pad. For your research studies, every year when I taught, we did African American biographies throughout the year with my students, and I would have a list of African American contributors from the past president in the future, and my students got to pick, and this is a great launching pad to start that project as.

And then it ends with Z for Zenith, the highest peak always reminded me of Dr. King’s speech. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop. Another beautiful one is that we’ve got much more to do, grow, and thrive. Love this. It even has a glossary people of the terms and the. And figures from this book. Very well done.

I am so proud of this book, and I recommend you get it as soon as possible to kick off your learning for Black History month and beyond.

Nicole and the Fifth Grade Desk Book Review

I’m here to share another great book for your classroom and homelife: Nicole and the Fifth Grade Desk by Tiffaney Whyte, Illustrated by Christina Rudenko. 

First of all this book is really well written it talks about a little girl named Nicole who is all ready for the first day of 5th grade but still a little nervous to start a new grade. She meets her teacher who greets her with a smile and on her face Nicole feels like she could be ready but she’s just so nervous to get started.The book is perfect because it talks with a talking desk and the desk guides Nicole into what to expect in this new grade in 5th grade. It talks about lots of affirmations that are true to her as a 5th grader how she is, I quote, “special unique and beautiful” and how she will accomplish great things in life.

 What I love about this book is the desk even gives her insights of what to expect in fifth grade as far as figurative language. Which is one of our 5th grade standards for understanding what similes and metaphors would be like and helping her know even the events that she’s going to be going through, dressing for Success day and school fundraisers and fun, engaging activities that she’s going to be learning alongside her classmates. 

 Jitters and. I remember talking to Miss Tiffaney Whyte on my podcast. Go back and check it out, season 2, episode 21 and listen to my conversation with Tiffaney. 

You can listen to the episode right on the link below.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1495555/11874324 

  Let’s face it, everybody has jitters no matter what grade level you’re going through, and I love how Tiffaney writes in this book that it’s a celebration of starting a new grade. You can begin this book with a new student that comes into your classroom because that new student is going into a class that already has their routines and norms set up significantly in the middle of the school year. Educators, I’ve had students come in the last week of school, and it’s always very intimidating to be the new kid on the Block, but this is a great tool to start that conversation of what to expect in fifth grade. You could read it and any grade-level to open up that conversation. I recommend ordering the book Nicole and the fifth-grade desk, written by Tiffaney Whyte and illustrated by Christina Rudenko. You can purchase this book at the link below. 

https://www.amazon.com/Nicole-Fifth-Grade-Tiffaney-Whyte/dp/B0B8BPKFZ6

All Are Welcome Book Review

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman is a New York Times Bestseller. It comes with the cutest poster in the jacket I used to put up in my classroom.

 

 


I love how this book even starts inside the author. Suzanne got inspiration from her daughter’s school Kimball Elementary where I love that she wrote about where diversity and Community are not just protected but celebrated. I love how this book shows the excitement in the energy that families, students, and parents are also excited that I love about it. The ending sentence of each prose says, “All are Welcome Here,” for example, and I quote. “Pencil sharpened in their case. Bells are ringing. Let’s make haste.”

It’s a new family created every single year, and I feel that energy when I am with my students, so this one was fantastic to show the illustrations. They’ve got mothers in hijabs and dads wearing their religious Sikh Garb and parents of all shapes and combinations; it’s just such a joyful book. It talks about how far everyone comes, how everybody starts their day no matter how you start your day, and I quote, “What you wear when you play” it just shows that inclusivity is at the forefront of where our society is going. I love how the illustrator Suzanne’s imagery.


She’s got beautiful kids with human colors in their hair that are different textures and different styles. You know, children even wear yarmulkes in there. It was starting so students would see representations of themselves which is a very, very powerful talk about how people celebrate all cultures. You see dragons in the Asian Pacific culture and dancers in the gym. You see Lil darlings with backpacks on and getting excited about getting home to rest and starting the next day again. I would love that if more of us had these books in our classrooms. Children would be able to identify with students that maybe not reflect their own identity but show that other identities and cultural lenses exist. All people are welcome. Thank you so much, Suzanne and Alexandra, for creating an excellent book. This book is one of my favorite books.

I suggest sharing this book at the beginning of the school year and whenever you get a new elementary school-aged student in your classroom.

My 3Cs of Cultural Competency

Today we’re going to talk about all things Cultural Competency, what it is, and my famous 3 C’s to keep us all in check so we can better relate to our community members of color. I can’t wait to share tips on understanding my 3cs of Cultural Competency so you can get to work.

 

 

 What is Cultural Competency?

Cultural competence is the ability to comprehend, interact, and communicate with individuals regardless of their cultural background. Cultural competency includes:

  • An awareness of one’s cultural views.
  • Working at and developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences.
  • Knowing varying cultural worldviews and practices. 

 

Typically, cultural competency regarding work environments, school systems, or some other kind of organization, where such knowledge is transformed into specific policies, standards, and practices to increase the environment and create better outcomes. 

 

 

3 Mrs. E’s 3 C’s of Cultural Competency 

1) Check

2) Correct

3) Connect

 

 “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” Stephen R. Covey.

 

 

 Check 

1. Remember the term Checking for Understanding when we’re building instruction? The same applies. We need to check our understanding of other cultures,  

2. How do you interact with other cultural groups, including immigrant groups? 

3. Have you learned from each other who their family is? If their kid plays with your kid at the baseball field?

4. Have you attended a cultural festival with which you don’t identify?

 

 

 Correct your own bias

1. We all have biases, and we know that there are systems in place in our nation that allow biases to solidify and amplify discrimination. 

2. We are all going to step into it. Have you had the feeling, oop, I shouldn’t have said that or, man, why did I ask that question?

3. Researching methods Dr. Maura Cullen “Most times, knowing what is right is the easy part; it is in the doing that tests our courage.”  

4. The last C in my method is Connect- By connecting with others who have multiple perspectives than you will help you advocate for them. There are so many hurdles for people of color and people of immigrants that hinder them from living out the American dream. Once you connect, we can speak up and say something. 

 

What I’ve learned from teaching online during the pandemic

From my experience this school year,  I feel like I got to play my Rocky theme song like I do every year at the end of the school year, to say. Finally, I made it to the top of the stairs in the school year. Teaching in this mode, I’m also feeling like, Yeah, I need to figure out what this looks like for moving forward?

We’ve been through teaching virtually like, you know, trying to fly a plane with train parts. And this stuff was very, very hard. I like to reflect, but I was like, dang, they didn’t even have a pandemic methods class when I went to school.  Of course, we had no idea what was happening to the world. So we were all in crisis mode.  We were trying our hardest to figure out how to translate all this stuff that we need to teach our students before the end of the school year. 

 

  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? So I got myself into that learning mode of literally trying to find things on YouTube to do these learning platforms. 

 

I spent a lot of my time trying to map out a schedule, and our district gave us that directive of how many minutes we were supposed to have live in-person training—teaching,  synchronous and asynchronous. So the student wouldn’t be in front of the computer for a long time, because you know, screen time. So then my teacher team and I  came up with an idea of planing the proper daily schedule that covered all subjects with breaks in between. 

 

I’m going to make this memorable for my fifth graders this year. I’ve learned that I have to keep things consistent for my students and compatible with my families. When you’re teaching, virtually, you have to be comfortable with the fact that, wow, I can’t control the other side of my screen, I can’t control what the students are going to be listening or learning or had to leave for the reason that is out of my knowledge. 

 

I decided to do with my love of broadcasting because I chose to double-time with my love of filming.  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. If a student is not available or didn’t come to my Google meet, I still have to teach them the standards and criteria. 

 

I would get full engagement with all of my students.  My biggest suggestion would be to pre-record your lessons.  I also love to read out loud. Since we had a limited amount of time reading aloud, I decided to whip up my Screencast o-Matic.  I recorded myself reading a chapter. And my students loved it. They give me great feedback when they are on the learning system. I get to have my students feel like they’re at school but in a different sort of way. 




  I created a little video tutorial for my students’ classroom and behavior expectations during our distance learning classroom. For example, you could see something on the other side of your virtual meets that you wouldn’t expect. You have to have your poker face on when you are teaching live. Those are the things you can’t miss a beat.  And that is it’s so imperative. So please put on your inner Oprah and have fun with it. And of course, as I said, set the tone, set  parameters, and stick with it. You know what is best for your learners. No matter if you are in person or teaching virtually. Thank you again for visiting my blog.  



FEBN: And Why I left the classroom this year.

 F.-E-B-N–What’s that mean, Jeb? I’ll explain in just a minute. It’s an inspiring mantra that has kept me going every time I’ve hit a crossroads in my life and career choices. 

Forward Ever, Backward Never is the mantra my maternal grandfather Anthony used to say to my mother, who inturned told it to me and my sisters, and I must say in my life, I never knew how impactful this phrase meant. Every time something happened along the path with significant decisions, this phrase would echo in my thoughts, and it helped me find clarity on what I wanted to do next. 

A Business is born

I remember walking during the pandemic and chatting with my husband about…lesson plans and things I created, and I wanted to give educators access to multicultural educational resources that were culturally appropriate because there was a lack of those options for educators at the ready. My husband said, “Definitely, go for it; I know you’ll make it a success because of your work ethic and ambition.”

The Sign

When you have those teacher nightmares, ya know-mine, was when my teeth would turn into chiclets and start falling out. Well, in 2021, I didn’t have that dream anymore, and that’s when I knew it was time to move on.

I started working on my business from the fateful walk with my hubby in 2020 to dozens of clients, and keynotes, being named top Multicultural Educational Podcasts of 2021 by Welp Magazine, and the icing on the cake, being named one of our District’s Teach of the Year Nominee…Then I took a deep breath, told the good Lord, “I thank you,” and turned into a full-time CEO of my business. I’m blessed and grateful for what this future holds for me and this business. Let’s go!!

Classroom Management Tip: Executive Desk

 

I want to tell you some things about when a student is misbehaving; we all have those ones. Those who misbehave the most end up being like my favorite by the end of the school year, sometimes, well, sometimes. I wanted to share with you that when I taught primary, you know, the “take- a- brake” chair, and those of you that follow the Responsive Classroom model, and I do to a degree. Still, I wanted to share with you that if there was a student who needed your extra attention, you know, even if they are negative, they always want your extra attention.

 I made a little, not necessarily a “take- a- break” desk, but I used to call the executive desk. And in first grade, when I taught for several years, that executive desk would be right at the side of my desk; this was pre-pandemic, mind you, that little boy or girl that just needed that little extra attention will extra, they would sit up even taller. Because I would say, “Oh, you newly got promoted to the executive desk.” And that kid would go up like, “Oh, yes, I did.” And they would march and sit right next to my desk, not knowing, “Oh, well, I need to do a little bit more redirecting as a teacher and keep my extra tabs on that child.”

 I’m gonna name it something where they don’t think they’re actually taking a break because they’re at the executive desk. And executives do essential things. So that’s why they’re at the executive desk. And all the other students would look at him like I wanted to be at that executive desk. I said, “no, no.” I would say to my students sometimes executives need more one-on-one time with the classroom’s boss. And that’s Mrs. Edmunds. And the other students will go, “Oh, okay.” “Make sense.” So what you’re doing at your table is exactly what the boss Mrs. Edmunds needs for you to do right now. 

But this child, I would say their name and need more one-on-one time with the boss. So that’s why they are sitting at the executive desk. Now, I call it an executive desk because I don’t want my students to feel shame, even if I need to redirect them or ensure they are on task. For me, to have that close proximity was crucial. Mind you, this was pre-pandemic. You’ll have to be a little more creative with your executive desks.   I wanted to ensure that the students still knew I was focused on them. But also, they were in a safe space away from their peers. 

Another time, I would also keep that executive child near me. Mind you,  this is pre-pandemic, so you have to use your social distance educators. But I used to call them my right-hand boy or my right-hand girl in my class, and these were first graders that I taught all the way to fifth grade. And when I would get ready out to my hallway, if that student wasn’t standing next to me, the whole class wasn’t going, and I would go, “Oh, I need my right-hand boy.” “Oh, I need my right-hand girl.” And they knew that they were. But that also gave me tabs on that student. They’re not bothering the rest of my classroom behind me. And they knew that they had me for an extra safety buffer and that they were right nearby if I needed to redirect that student. I just wanted to give you some tips and tricks on how I have used my classroom management that help my classroom community feel and run smoothly. 

Let’s Organize Our Classroom Library

We will find the right books that are culturally inclusive for your home or classroom library. We will explore some of my favorite resources about harnessing a more inclusive framework. Make sure that the books you have on your shelves at home or in your classroom honor and reflect all people. I’ve got some bonus resources that I’ve added to my show notes that you can download right now and get this process started right. Let’s get this broadcast started quickly got to get that cultural process. You know me; I have no shame. Hashtag, you’re welcome. 

 

Looking for books can be overwhelming. Some of us feel that if it doesn’t show up on an ethnic holiday or month, they can’t see any other original titles. Well, here’s the beauty of this. One. Amazing author Jill Eisenberg from the Peers and Pedagogy Blog says that adding more culturally responsive and relevant books to instruction does not have to be overwhelming, expensive, or time intensive. I agree with Jill, because when she says that our library bookshelves should feel intentional both at home and at school. It should be purposeful and transforming. We need to start re-evaluating our books, classrooms, and home libraries to see if our intentions cause harm to all. Okay, this all sounds well and good, Jeb. I know my listeners are saying this to me. 

 

And I feel like I’m on the right track. But how do I know if I’m making any progress in ensuring that my students or family members at home have books and resources that are appropriate and not causing further harm? My most extensive advice for you, my dear listener, is to evaluate what you have on hand. First, the Metropolitan Center for Research on equity and transformation of schools has designed the culturally relevant curriculum scorecard. I’m telling you, it’s like a gem of a resource. And it’s free all. This scorecard has seven categories that help school organizations and community members tailor to fit the needs of their schools and even their other organizations. as caregivers and educators. You can use this scorecard. You can print it and share it with your school districts, curriculum departments, or even your parent-teacher associations to help evaluate the culturally responsive materials they already have on hand. 

 

Another bonus with this curriculum scorecard is that they used research-based articles with STEAM standards and best practice focus. Suppose you’re wondering, okay, what does this acronym steam stand for, Jeb? And it stands for curricula in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. And I love some research-based practices that work. Okay. Trust me, I’ve been in the teaching scope and to see things that have been run with best practices. It gives you that insight that yes, it’s been proven, and it works. So just a reminder to all of you listening right now, I have this court scorecard in my show notes that you can download today. Now, it is a pretty big scorecard. There’s some good meat to it. There are about 30 pages, but like I said, you will thank me later.

 

 Now while you are evaluating the books that you already have on hand, I want you to check out the older diverse titles, books that happen to be diverse, but older than 25 years might be time for those titles to retire. Alright, last time I checked, I think Peter, by Ezra Jack Keats, is looking to get his 401k in order. So let’s make sure that our titles are relevant to our students. Now, like I said, some of us might have to let go of those book characters we loved so much as a child because it could be causing harm to our groups of students. Our BIPOC students are in different marginalized groups; stereotypes from those book characters could send a message to your current students and your children that don’t reflect how we want our classroom and home communities to feel right now. So with that being said, we have our evaluations in order with this curriculum scorecard. 

 

But you also have to go with your gut. And books that you remember reading as a child may not be appropriate for your students and your children now, so I was hoping you could take this next step, start searching and get some excellent books, you don’t have to spend a pretty penny, go to your public library. If you’re on a tight budget. I like to cross reference my Scholastic Book lists with the list I’m about to share. So if it’s open book night at my school, or if I am trying to make a wish list for my teacher wish list for the beginning of the school year, I will have those books on my favorite wish list. That way, if families decide that they would like to donate a book from my classroom library, it’ll be right there. Now, if you’re trying to figure out what is culturally appropriate, relevant books, my favorite blogs that have amazing resources of books are, We Need Diverse Books and The Conscious Kid. Both are great nonprofit organizations whose overall mission is to promote literacy and awareness to publishers and book lovers to provide diverse representation that reflects and honors all children. Now that’s a quote from the We Need Diverse books.org website. You will find countless book lists from both organizations with fun titles written by diverse authors. 

 

Some books out there have diverse characters, but it is so poignant that we go the extra step and find those diverse authors. We’re actually writing about experiences with diverse people. So please make sure you dig a little deeper when you are on your search for new books. Avoid this misstep when organizing your library by assuming a particular group shares the same perspectives.

 

 In the article Diversifying your classroom book collections, the author, Padma Venkataraman shared, in her 2018 blog posts, that diversifying bookshelves does not mean just checking off one book for each census category. That really stuck with me because I feel like many educators and parents at home are thinking, Okay, I have this group of people from this background. So that’s a good check. And then I have another one of these checks. And I want you to think about this that, you know, people in these various groups are not a monolith. All right, we are individuals. So you must have multiple facets of stories and narratives from different groups. So it means listening to and learning about and loving individual voices, which deliver within our race within gender, within every label that can be used to group people. This opinion is relevant because we naturally see titles and groups more by category and not by genre. 

 

Do you find yourself asking? Do I have enough titles that focus on that group? Do I have too much focus on this particular group of people?So you really need to be very critical. And use your critical thinking skills to help weed out the outdated, stereotyped, troped characters those need to go. And I’m not saying bring it to a donation site where you drop it off so somebody else can get you, you know, can get more harm. Get rid of it. Recycling is your friend. So bring in these new books that you know your students can access that are culturally relevant and reflective in a way that brings new voices and narratives to your students or children that you have at home that we all can relate to in a more impactful positive way.

Your Name is a Song Book Review

This book is amazing. It is a love between a mother and her daughter on her first day of school. And I have to tell you, I can relate to this little girl because she gets picked up from school by her mother. And she is upset. Is she mad and frustrated because of how her teacher made her feel about her name? She told her mommy she choked when she said my name, and the other kids in my class chuckled. I was that little girl. And I remember the day my mom picked me up, and I had that experience. Now my mom is also an educator, and knowing her and my father, when they named me Jebeh, after the chief of our tribe, who was my great aunt Chief Jebeh. 

 

And this book also depicts the same love and confidence that this mother only pays to her daughter. She has it in a lyrical rhythm that your students can tap into the syllables of each name. And the names that the author picked are names spoken throughout the world. Some names are in Arabic. Some names are in Vietnamese, and some names are Nigerian and Ghanaian. Some names are African American. And what I love about this book is that it has a glossary at the back. Before reading this book out loud to your students, I recommend you read the love glossary and practice the names because when you’re reading the book out loud.They’re gonna sit up taller. They’re gonna feel proud. They’re gonna love that their name is actually in this book. Hey, I must admit, the day I have my name written in a book, I am going to fall over with joy. Hopefully, it’ll be a name I wrote myself because I am also a writer. But I want you educators to take this book and read it. Like I said, it will be music to your ears. It is a beautiful, well-written story. 

 

I’m going to share just a couple names in the book that you have to read because once you read it, you can feel the rhythm of The fire the stars. In this story. We have Lamika, Kwaku, Born on Wednesday, and Ghanian names. I have Ta’ Jae, and I also have Ngozi. Have a cousin named Ngozi, Ngozi girl, your name is in this book, she’s gotta love that too. Also, you’ve got names, like I said or done. And you’ve got Ha, that is Vietnamese. Another thing that I want you to see at the end of this book is she shares her name in a song. She is practicing her classmates’ names in a song and how that teacher changes her attitude towards this girl is also very powerful. The name she is in this book is about the little girl. Her name is Kora-Jalimusu. Now the meaning Kora-Jalimusu is after the harp instrument played by a female griot. A griot is a West African storyteller. 

Not everybody gets the honor to become a griot in their tribe in the western part of Africa. So for her to have that name of a harp, Kora, the harp is just beautiful. And if it wasn’t for my mother and my father giving me the name of my great aunt, I don’t think I would have felt as strong and important and validated with the identity that I do now. It takes your parents and your community around you to learn your name and understand your identity and take pride in that. And it also depicts the beauty of names that, although you’ve never heard of them or are unfamiliar with these names, names are so beautiful, and they are music to everyone’s ears. So when you’re reading a story the first time, enjoy it, learn from it. 

 

You might not have a student in this book that will go, “oh my goodness, that’s me!”  It is beautiful. And I tell you, I cannot wait to meet this author and say thank you to all the children out there. I cannot wait to personally find the author and thinker because I am one of these names in this book, feeling despair at first and discouragement. And then my mother and father brought that pride back into me because I was named for a reason.

 

 My name is also a beautiful song. It is titled Jebeh, written and performed by the African icon Miata Fahnbulleh, so look it up and listen to Jebeh. The melody of the son of Jebeh is owned by son Jebeh, which means my heart is pleased to meet you. I play the song in front of my students every year I have taught. I even played it and performed it in my community. My name is a song. Your name is a song. And we need to have our symphony of names together, united and understood; Jamilah, I hope to meet you one of these days because I am a huge fan of your work. Educators, please get this book on your bookshelves.

 

 Study the glossary for others like myself; you need to learn how to say our names correctly, like Jebeh. I can’t tell you how many times my name was mispronounced by my teachers growing up, and some of them practiced really hard. Some of them didn’t. So please don’t be those who didn’t teach and read this book to your students. I am so excited that I also have a companion lesson plan with this book. So check it out on my website to order the lesson plan and more information on where you can find Your Name is a Song written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe



Ruth & The Green Book: Book Review

Hey, educators, I have a very poignant book to share today, Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Gwen Strauss, and Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. It’s a beautiful story about African Americans and their struggle to travel down south. Because of Jim Crow and segregation laws. Ruth and the Green Book share those perspectives of back in the 1950s. This book talks about those trials and tribulations for students to understand. It’s about a young girl named Ruth who travels from Chicago with her parents to visit her grandmother in Alabama.

What is very interesting about this story is it talks about the actual trials and tribulations of African Americans trying to travel across the country in the early 30s, 50s, and even the 70s. From a child’s perspective, this book lays it out beautifully to show all of the roadblocks African Americans had to face to travel safely to visit family. Victor Green, who invented this guidebook, The GreenBook for Negro Motorists, was a safety book. This book was so vital for the safety of African Americans to travel and know that at any checkpoint or stop that they had to make, there was a haven for them to eat, sleep, and use the washroom without being in danger. And this book talks about that very thing. I love how Ruth’s parents put her in charge of this book when they could purchase it. This book was in such high demand in our country with African Americans that they could only buy it. This book will open your students’ eyes to understand what oppression looked like and felt. I also liked how the author talks about African American Veterans. Her father fought in World War Two, and their expectations of being respected for fighting for this country and coming back home, getting this unfair treatment with Jim Crow. So I want you, educators. To read this book, study more about Victor Green and why his purpose was to make this guidebook for other African American motorists to travel safely and be with their families. I am so excited to share that I also wrote a companion lesson plan with this book on my website Jebeh edmunds.com. This book is essential to read to your students and order my lesson plan in my Shop tab. Check it out today!

My Favorite African Books for Young People

Today, we will talk about some inspirational African books needed at home and in your classroom. There are many false narratives about African culture, and I wanted to showcase lots of positive images and relevant stories about the vast tapestry of African life in our stories.


For me telling stories is as natural as breathing. I’m a storyteller at heart, and I grew up listening to my mother share her favorite Anansi the spider stories, or she and many Liberians would call him Spider. This story sparked a love to search for more stories about our wide variety of African stories, both fiction and nonfiction. Understanding one’s story gives you a deeper understanding of who we all are in this human experience. I’m going to share my favorite African storybooks that you can grab today. No, I’m not getting any special commission or affiliation. I have to share with you to find a copy and share it with your classroom and your families.

My K-2 Crew, I love. We all went on safari by Laurie Krebs & Julia Cairns. It’s a great counting in Swahili book to help students get familiar with learning a new language. Which ties into Jambo means hello by Muriel & Tom Feelings. I genuinely like this Swahili alphabet book because it shows ordinary daily life with words and phrases spoken in Swahili. Boundless Gracy by Mary Hoffman is a great story of our Favorite character, Grace from Amazing Grace, who goes on a journey to visit her father in The Gambia.

For my 3-5 kids, I’d recommend One Hen by Katie Smith Milway, which shows the framework of how microloans work and how sustainable it can be with our main character Kojo purchasing a hen to support his family in Ghana. I also love Ashanti to Zulu African traditions by Leo & Dianne Dillon, which showcases 26 different African ethnic groups and their cultural values. Bonus my ethnic group Vai is featured in the book. I tell you, representation is so important.

For Middle to High School students, this book series Kings & Queens of North, Central, East, and West Africa by Sylviane Anna Diouf gives a great depth of cultural traditions and royalty that many of our students don’t know. Another great read, Of Beetles & Angels: A boy’s remarkable journey from a refugee camp to Harvard by Mawi Asgedom, is an inspiring memoir that every High school student should read. This book will give you the feeling that anything is possible. I just wanted to share with you some of my favorite titles. I’ll have the reference list in my show notes that you can download and search independently. I also created lesson plans that go along with these books. Some are in the process, so keep a lookout as well.

5 Easy Teacher Tips to help cultivate a positive Culture in your Classroom

I can’t wait to share five easy teacher tips to help cultivate a very positive cultural classroom. I love morning meetings, especially at this time in our lives, are more critical than ever. So greetings are my top pick to help out. If you use Google Translate, you can find languages from all over the world just for a simple Hello or good morning.

My family comes from the Vai tribe in Liberia. So in my classroom, I’ve always used the Vai greeting of Hello, “Yahkuneh,”(phonetically spelling-sorry grandma LOL), which means hello. It always gets us on a very energetic date. After my greeting, I love to do an enjoyable sharing activity. One of my favorite activities I love to share is when one of my students can pick a country of the day. And then they can research one remarkable fact that they’ve never heard of before. To make my students dig a little deeper. You know, we always love that higher-order thinking y’all. We always eliminate an animal or a portion of food. I want them to find out more facts about countries. We love fun brain breaks. And I love finding enjoyable multicultural games as well.

One of my favorite multicultural games. Well, it wasn’t really a game kind of punishment. But I digress. We call it Pump Tire. Now, some of y’all Liberian folk understand when we would get in trouble, our grandmothers would say, Go pump tire. No, there wasn’t an actual tire anything, so calm down. But it was kind of like a yoga pose, or we cross our arms and tug at our ears, and then do squats. So I think our grandmothers were way beyond their time. When I get ready for lunch and recess, every teacher’s favorite part of the day. I call this song a very fun traditional lunch song. It doesn’t really have a name that I know of mainly, but many Liberians grew up singing this song, and it’s between a mother and her children. And it’s a fun call and response song. And it gets my students that signal that it’s time to line up for lunch.

Next is finding quotes. I love famous quotes by multicultural people from all over the world, and one of my favorite resources is finding quotes from our Nobel Peace Prize winners. And like I said, these are winners from all across the humanities, and what I do, and then my students and I discuss the importance of that quote and how it can help guide us for the rest of the week. So there you have it, five easy teacher tips to help keep that positive cultural vibe going in your classroom. Because the more we know about each other, the better we can understand who we indeed are.

Am I Being Punk’d?!

I was doing some reflecting the other day. And when you aren’t educated, you do have those moments where you’re thinking to yourself, okay, am I punk’d? I gotta tell you this story, and it is just gonna make you laugh. So before I became a licensed teacher, I was, I would say, in my district, I was the cultural specialist for the African American cultural center in my town. And my main job was to go district-wide, share my cultural experiences, and do multicultural lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade.

I’m doing my business because I’m sharing all my tips and tricks. Ever since I was in the fifth grade, I shared my love of education with others and taught people who don’t look like me that people who look like me are valued in our scene. And there are a plethora of educational lessons that I have created.

Wink, wink, and you can do it in your classroom every day. But I digress. I have to tell you this story about having that teachable moment where I felt like I was being punked. I was doing this lesson; it was a third-grade lesson. And it was a geography lesson. And the title was called, they have cities in Africa.

I showed my third-grade students in this classroom that I was presenting that Africa is modern. Africa has light poles, streets, cars, you know, we kind of had this, Oh, Ah, and Africans, like myself know that to be true. But the sad thing is the majority of Americans still don’t know that. It’s a fact. Yet, in America, people always look at you like they have electricity? I wanted to show these students in my area that, yes, we do exist. I showed my PowerPoint slides of Oh, look at, they even have golf courses over there. Oh, look at they have streetlights and Oh, look at the tall buildings they have.

You know, it’s not just huts and primitive things that we have stereotypes about Africa. I kid you not, I thought I was punked because the teacher in that classroom that day looked at me seriously as a heart attack and said They have cities in Africa? And I looked at her like this, blinking, thinking, trust me. Am I being punked? Is Ashton Kutcher gonna come around and go, “Ha, we got you!” No Ashton Kutcher, and I’m there the only black girl and like a two-mile radius? And these little cherubs looking up at me thinking, Okay, do not panic, do not call this woman out. But then I basically looked at her.

I said, Yes, let me show you that we have cities in Africa. My literal friends sat her down at her desk gave her a political map of Africa like I did with her students, her little third graders. And as soon as I called the city and the country name, I did it like a bingo game. You’ll see more of that on my website of how to do the same lesson that I have titled they have cities in Africa, because of this teacher as my inspiration. And it was like a bingo game. I would say the city name and the country. And this woman had to color that country and write down the city name. So even when our eight-year-olds were in her class, that woman learned something that day. And to me, I thought to myself, yeah, I have to do more.

This is my purpose of keeping sharing with the world. And all of you that yes, we do have cities in Africa. And yes, people live there every day, doing the best they can like we are doing the best possible. Thank you. Thank you, third-grade teacher, you know who you are, and I will keep it locked and key. I hope you learned something that day. Because you taught me more in that time than I feel like I realized coming into your classroom. Signing off again. And yes, there are some moments where you feel like you’re being punked. Just keep it going because your students are watching how you react.

To Be Free: Understanding & Eliminating Racism Book Review

 Today, we will focus on a fantastic read called To Be Free: Understanding and Eliminating Racism by Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri. I picked this book as a really great guy to help you on your journey of multicultural awareness and talk about the social construct of race and the systems in place. And it’s not just a black and white issue. It’s a multifaceted issue that needs to be addressed. And what I love about this book is The chapters are very, very well written. 

They are very straight to the point. It talks about how we are all related and finding our own identity as a people and as an individual. Racism throughout history and no group in here has been left out, and it’s talked about a lot of unconscious and unintentional racism biases. It is Minnesota-focused because the Science Museum of Minnesota did an excellent exhibit on race several years ago. But it talks about the history and the social constructs.

Many of us in this space right now that are not in the marginalized group come and ask me all the time, Jeb, where do I get started? I don’t even know where to begin. I’m overwhelmed. I’m not sure of my place and being an ally. How can I make those authentic connections with people that don’t look like me? And I really do recommend books like this. It does answer a lot of those questions that you might have. And you don’t have to be from Minnesota to really enjoy this book. It talks about, you know, what does superiority means, and, you know, terms like ethnocentrism and biases.

 It also goes in-depth about what the terms institutional racism are. Internalized racism, you know, many people get hung up and stuck on the vocabulary. But the most significant piece about being hung up and stuck on the language is the fact of not knowing what they mean. 

 It is a tragedy and the loss of land of our indigenous people. And, you know, there are some graphic pictures in here. So that’s why I talked about it being for adult education only. This is not a book I would recommend in the classroom setting. First and foremost. It is a well thought well-written book. It has even talked about racial incidences. People believe that lynchings in our country’s history were primarily in the south. But that is not the case. 

Where I am from Duluth, Minnesota. There was a lynching in Duluth in 1920 that lynched three young black men in Duluth, and we do have a memorial site for the lynchings of Clayton Jackson and McGee. There is talk about boarding schools with indigenous people. African Americans were denied positions and opportunities. Thomas Peacock’s memories about his life are crucial about lived experiences. It is so important. I mean, they talk about the LatinX, the Jewish faith people, the Hmong people, their stories, African American heritage, the Muslim Islamic people’s faiths, and just talking about how we still have a long way to go. But to move forward, we need to understand people of all walks of life, and they’re in their experiences as well. They talk about people of the Asian Pacific heritage. 

They talk about white supremacy. In the whole circle moments that go hand in hand, they have activities that you can talk about with your families at home to promote more understanding. You know, for instance, writing down as many stereotypes as you can think of and sharing those out, you know, searching things online about things that have happened and dissecting and auditing the different viewpoints. As adults, we need to start by researching and reading books that will help cultivate conversations with our children. I think that is really important.

Another thing I really want to stress out is we need to have our own self-reflection, our own self-audit of our own overt and implicit biases, to check and correct our own authority. To review and update our own preferences. We have to do the work internally. I’m not sure if you can find it in more local bookstores in your area. But check out Afton press.com. See if you can snag yourself a copy. 

I highly recommend To Be Free: Understanding and Eliminating Racism by Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri. It’s forwarded by Eric Jolly. I cannot stress this book out enough. Please get your hands on a copy share it with your book circles.

Like I said, a couple of graphic elements are not suitable for children, and they will cause harm. But as an adult, I really would love for you to take a look at this book, journal about it, process it. This will help us move forward as a society. This is all that I have for you today. Definitely check it out on Afton press.com. See if you can get yourself a copy and start the process of your own identity healing and your own community-building process of how can you be authentic. So thanks again, everyone, for joining me today on the cultural curriculum chat. Be sure to check out more resources for you on my website.

Change Sings Book Review

Are you looking for a great children’s book focused on inclusivity, or I’ve got the book just for you?

 

Today’s blog will share a fantastic poetic book called Change sings and children’s anthem written by Amanda Gorman. I’m a massive fan of her work. When I saw her speak and read her beautiful poem, we climbed the hill at President Biden’s inauguration. It was an amazing, fantastic poem that I shared with my students. Hopefully, every year moving forward. I love how she writes. I can hear change humming in its loudest proudest song. I don’t fear change coming. And so I sing along. I love to see how the narrator in this text talks about basically changing the world as she sees it. And having friends along with her who are helping, you know, speaks about helping our planet. This book talks about strengthening our hearts and minds and even how to take a stand poetically and peacefully. She talks about adding, you know, any person she comes in contact with, they have an instrument to help play, and it just becomes this beautiful melody of partnership and kinship. All under the same premise of everyone, no matter you’re able this, no matter your, your religious affiliation.
“Everybody belongs in this melody together. And by even singing about change, we can all have a better place, a better world.” My students loved this book, they loved how it would rhyme, and just Amanda’s poet poems are excellent. I also love how she shows the children and says, “you know, we are the change we are.” I quote, “We are the waves starting to spring, For we are the change we sing. We are what the world is becoming. And we know it won’t belong”. Oh, if I could get a t-shirt just on that quote alone, y’all. It is so good.

 

This is what I always tell my clients and people that know me. It’s like, it’s not a moment. It’s a movement. And this book is the first catalyst for forgetting that movement started. Get this book Change Sings: A children’s anthem, words by Amanda Gorman, pictures by Loren Long.
My students love that it repeats, just like I said. It’s a significant part of your poetry unit. If you have a poetry unit coming up, educators, it’s just a great read-aloud when your children are sitting and having a snack in front of you. And even as a parent, this book should be on your bookshelf. No, I don’t have any affiliation with the publisher. I just love sharing my favorite culturally good books with you all. You know, I don’t need a partner to share that I vetted it. I’m a researcher. I’m an educator.

 

 And you know, my students always are honest with me. If they don’t like a book, they’ll let me know. Such a book like change scenes is beautiful. It’s got a great representation of all walks of life featured in this book. So kudos to you, Lauren long, and Amanda Gorman keeps shining. I know she will be the Maya Angelou of our next generation. I’ve got many multicultural educational resources and lesson plans that you can find and download today on Jebehedmunds.com.

How can a teacher promote Multicultural Education?

Teachers can use these tools to promote multicultural education in the classroom. There are so many strategies that it could feel overwhelming where to start, and access to diverse resources in your classroom is just the starting point. I will 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 developing those relationships with their students. Because all students are different and learn differently, we must encourage multiple concepts to accommodate 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. They could create a poster, skit, or slide presentation when the research was over. Allowing students to choose to examine the names given opened their eyes to people they hadn’t learned about yet in school.

Educators need to look into historical and current events from books, project-based units, and assessments 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 teaching. 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 see 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 their traditions and life 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 and their roles in our community. This helps dispel many 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 make 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.

 

REFLECTING ON MY TEACHING DISTANCE LEARNING LAST YEAR

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.

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. 

Recommendations

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
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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 www.jebehedmunds.com.

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.