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

On the blog, I share my wonderful conversation with Nita Creekmore, take a read to our impactful conversation and take a listen if you want to hear it for yourself.
 
Jebeh Edmunds

All right. Hello, everyone. This is Jebeh Edmunds here, and welcome again to the Cultural Curriculum Chat podcast, where I teach you multicultural education and classroom strategies and best practices. So I’m here to introduce you today in the guest chair, Mrs. Nita Creekmore. I love it. I love it. I tell you, she’s my diverse book bestie in my head. I’m so excited to have her on this show.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

I love that. Thank you.

Jebeh Edmunds

So let me give you a little background audience before we chat with Nita. Nita Creekmore is an instructional coach who lives just outside Atlanta, Georgia. In the 18 years she has been in education. She truly believes that in all aspects of the field, relationships must always come first. She’s obtained a Bachelor’s in English, Masters in Elementary Education, and also an educational specialist in supervision and leadership. Nita is married to Michael Creekmore Jr. And has four children. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, attending her kids activities, and practicing yoga and relaxing with a good book. Nita believes that building relationships is foundational. The importance of self care and the impact of diverse read alouds on students of all ages and backgrounds to transform the world. I am so excited for this transformational chat, you all. Thank you. Welcome, Nita. Welcome to the show.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Thank you, Jeb. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me and asking me to be on and talking and chatting. All the things I love. I appreciate that. Thank you.

Jebeh Edmunds

For having me. The pleasure is all mine. So yes, give of our audience your background in multicultural education.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Yes. I think it began even before I started teaching when I was learning as a student, a student teacher. I started collecting lots and lots of books, the books that I could get my hands on. I say back then. I’m 43. So it was like in 1998, there really weren’t a ton of book that I began to really engulf in because I really think a lot of multicultural education is through learning history, is through that. But I think the connection is, like, literacy is the books that helps us to learn. And so even then, I was like, oh, my God, Debbie Allen wrote a book on dance and it seemed like the wings. Those are some of the beginnings. I was like, oh, it’s some of the rich, rich, rich illustrations that would go along with that, too. So even then was my journey along the way. So as I was learning to be a teacher, as I was learning to be an educator, I was also engulfing myself in children’s literature. That was one of my favorite classes that I took and really looking at and really diving into critically looking at children’s books and children’s literature.

 Mrs. Nita Creekmore

As my journey went on, I would engulf those just in my day to day as a teacher, engulf it into interdisciplinary studies, into science, into social studies. It was one of those things that I felt like, Oh, I feel like this all my kids need to be seen. Of course, I love to see myself in books because it’s not something that I grew up with. But my mom would give me the books that… It was a folk tale book and I can’t think of Virginia Hamilton. And she got me those books. And those had like this book.

Jebeh Edmunds

The People Could Fly.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Yeah. She would bring those home and I’d be like, Oh, engulfing myself in those. But at the time, I think I was little and there were a lot of books that I was represented in during that time. So just in that, just threading that throughout, just me being a teacher and wanting to learn about my students and their identities and where they came from and wanting to value them and celebrate them, it was one of those things that just became what I do. Just what I do each day. That was my story and into multicultural education.

Jebeh Edmunds

And just like you’re saying, too, Nita, just that spark that opened, like, wow, that representation is me on the bookshelf. But who else can I invite into my classroom that represents all the kids? Because the eyes of our students, when they see themselves, they sit up a little taller, and they can grab that book off their shelf when they’re doing their read alo ons, and they can sit up and learn more about their groups of other groups of people. That’s just awesome.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Absolutely.

Jebeh Edmunds

Also, too, Anita, even being, like you said, we’re about the same age. I’m right there with you with the small minutiae of representation of African American children’s literature. What have you noticed now in this push for more multicultural literature in our classrooms? What have you noticed now?

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

So the first thing I noticed is that there’s still tons of work to be done. I feel like so much work has been done, and I collect all these books and I have books all over my house. And when the studies are shown, the data is shown, it’s still not enough. It’s still not enough. But what I’ve noticed in that, in including multicultural education and making sure that it’s not just something that we add on to the plate, this is the plate. It’s the thread. It’s the thread that builds our kids confidence. It’s the thread that allows our kids to say, Oh, me too. That’s the thing that is like, Oh, me too. When you think about… And one thing, there’s one lesson that I always think about, and it’s done in third grade here in Georgia, it’s colonialism. And it’s a lesson I see often, and I’m always thinking really critically and asking critical questions to spark this in educators is, yes, okay, I see you dressing up in your colonial this and your hat and your apron and your this and your that, and you’re having fun and you’re making better and you’re doing that, and you’re showing one aspect of what was going on during that time.

 Mrs. Nita Creekmore

What other voices, what other cultures, what was happening during that time with Native peoples, Indigenous people? What was happening? Where am I? Where are my people? Where are my ancestors? What’s happening with them during that time while you’re turning the butter? Those are things that I’m thinking of when I’m thinking of lessons. Because guess what? I was a seven year old, eight year old in that classroom learning this cologne real time period, and I’m thinking, Great, where’s my people at? What’s happening with them? Those are the tickets for multicultural education. And so the thing is, where am I seen in this? And if you teach students that are like the majority of your class, let’s say, identify as white, that’s still learning experiences for them, too. School’s voices aren’t being taught. Who’s white? Voices aren’t being heard. And go find the literature. Go find the literature, go find the book, go find… And so do that work because when you do that, it connects the kids to other cultures, other worlds, and it teaches them how to be human beings, empathetic human beings. That’s a lesson that always sticks out in my mind is where are the other voices?

Jebah Edmunds

Where are the other people? Where are the other voices? Yes. And do you also recognize, too, you, Nita. And when I was in the classroom, I felt there was this hesitation from the teachers in the majority who identify as white culture of, Well, that was such a hard time. I said, But you need to… Like you said, Nita, where am I? Where are my people at this time in history? And I always told my fifth grade students when we talked about European contact in our social studies series in Minnesota was, we need to talk about the multiple lenses and the different voices at that time to get the whole picture of what it is. Because like you said, that danger… Was it Chimamanda and Guzzleditche said the danger of a single story. And I feel like a lot of us educators, we’re scared to rock the boat, but we know that boat is there and we know the waves are there. So like you said, besides just churning butter, we have to have that conversation. And I think our students can handle it it if you have it in a compassionate, empathic way for them to understand.

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Absolutely. And something I was going to say while you were talking and something that jog my mind, too, is that teachers have to get out of their comfort zone. It might make you a little uncomfortable to have that conversation. And so practice with other colleagues. So this is where I put leaders in the organizations as well is that this should be the work. This should be the work. And so if this is the work, unless I’m assuming positive intent, we’re all saying that this is the work, practice these conversations. Have your teachers get in groups and practice having some of these lesson studies and getting used to having the conversation with each other. And so then I’m used to having this conversation, whose voices aren’t heard, do some research together for some lessons. lessons.  Whose voices aren’t?  How do we do this research?  Where do we find this research?  How do we know this is credible?  How do we know these books are credible, right?  And so we do those types of professional learning in your staff meetings and your  professional learning. So then when your teachers go out in front of kids in front of students, they’re equipped to have these conversations.  And so I think that’s some of the issue is like get used to having these hard  conversations amongst each other in the educational community.  And then when you can when you go in front of your students, you can have these conversations and not feel I call it sweaty pits or like you feel uncomfortable. 

Your hands are off.  I mean, kids can, you know, they can sense it.  They’re like, oh, no, Miss Creeper is nervous to have this conversation.  But I think you feel more equipped to have this conversation. And then you also when you have a hard time having this conversation with these conversations, you have a buddy across the hall that you’ve done this work with.  Right.  And so you have something.  Hey, you know, I had this conversation.  This student asked this question.  I don’t know how to answer it.  Right. And you build a community there, a community of the work of the work that should be the foundation.  

Jebeh Edmunds

Yes.  And I love how you said that the practice, you know, we’re always modeling as  educators how to perform and do the content in an actionable way. But we also have to turn it in on ourselves to to do the practice. 

And I think what you said, Nita, was very important because a lot of us when we  get the sweaty pits and we get nervous is because we didn’t practice, you know,  or it’s, you know, oh, it’s Black History Month.  Let’s get out the tub. It’s like I’m still black all year. 

We can do this all year.  We can incorporate it in science and in math and, you know, and it is.  And I feel like a lot of us educators, you know, we want to have that time and  breath, but we don’t have this. We’re trying and I feel like, you know, to urge them to practice with your teammates, practice, bounce off ideas, because as educators, we want our students  to be critical thinkers.  But if we can’t do the critical thinkers.  But if we can’t do the critical thinking, how are they supposed to in turn do  that? 

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Yeah. So, yes, I’m saying yes, yes, yes. 

Like inside, I’m like, yes.  And then I’m thinking, too, we’re learners ourselves.  I’m still learning.  There are so many cultures out there that I’m still learning about.  Right. And so modeling that learning, one, in community with other educators saying, yes, I know a lot about black folks because I’m black.  Right.  But I’m still learning about other cultures.  Right.  I’m still learning about other worlds.  And so modeling that, because then I feel like that allows everyone to see each  other as humans. Like there’s sometimes that I get it wrong, too. 

Right.  And there’s sometimes that I have to pull back and say, ooh, I didn’t get it  right that time.  And I have to relearn and unlearn and also tap into other people and their  cultures and learn from them. And I think that’s kind of what happens here. 

And, yes, I’m black, but that doesn’t mean I’m like, one, I know black people,  but we’re not a monolith.  Right.  Exactly.  We’re still learning each other.  And so I think that once we realize that we’re all learners and the work is ours together in community and collectively, then I think that then the work is threaded.  Then we’re together in this.  And I think that some of the some we’re division lines.  And, you know, I’m rooted in love.  I’m rooted in compassion.  And I just feel like once we get that together in community, we can we can  thrive together. And then when we thrive together, our students will thrive. 

Jebeh Edmunds

Definitely.  And, yes, please share with our audience your Love, Teach, Bless brand.  I mean, I love your tagline that says inspired educators inspire educators. You know, I mean, that’s how we thrive in this educational space.

It’s like, oh, I found this resource I’m always willing to share, you know.  And when you get that spark, it just you relive that enjoyment.  So please share with us.  I just love your platform of this Love, Teach, and Bless.  

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

Yes.  Yeah. So I started this when I was like still in the classroom. 

I was still in education.  I taught for 13 years and I started just sharing fun things, things that I  feel like inspired me in my journey.  And so when I came up with the tagline like inspired educators inspire educators, it really was from a community standpoint, like in a sense of 

like, because I’m inspired, I can maybe light up a spark that may have  been dim in you, right?  Because I’m so inspired.  Or sometimes when I’m dim in my journey, someone else who has a spark helps to light flare that up in me, right? 

And then it helps me to get inspired.  And I think I feel like that’s what education and educators is about is  that sometimes my light may not always be lit, right?  Sometimes I need someone else in community who’s whose light is lit. So it’d be like fire it up for me a 

And once I see that you’re inspired, I’m like, okay, let me get on this  bandwagon again.  You kind of lit something in me.  And so that kind of what started my journey of Love, Teach, Bless.  And I just feel like when I decided with the name of Love, Teach, Bless, one, I’m rooted in love always. 

I really try to root in love always.  I really try to assume like positive intent.  And when there’s times when I have to call in, I do it in love, like in  love.  And then when I teach, I’m always a teacher.  Like I always am a teacher. I’m an instructional coach, and I’m always an educator, always educating, always an educator.  I feel like I’ve been in this game.  I mean, this is what my 18th year in education.  This is a part of me.  So even though I’m a coach, I love teaching.  And I tell people this at a point where I was at a high.  So like my light was lit. And I tell people all the time, when you’re in a shift, when you’re in the shift and you’re shifting from a role to role, whether I’m shifting  from teacher to principal, teacher to vice principal, teacher to  instructional coach, do it at a time where your light is still lit. Because you’re not, you go into that space so ready. 

Because I tell people all the time, like I miss being a teacher.  I love being a coach.  But there were times when my teachers, I’d be like, oh, I need to get  in somebody’s classroom.  Let me get in your classroom.  I need this.  Because my light was already, oh, it’s lit. Or when I see an awesome lesson from a teacher, I’d be like, oh, my 

goodness.  Like it would just spark so much in me.  And that’s where the teacher comes from.  And blessed is like I hope that what I share always is a blessing to  others.  There’s so many times that people are such a blessing to me. And I feel like it’s like the flow of water. 

It’s like one of those things that’s like you’re a blessing to me.  I hope I bless you.  And so like it’s one of those things.  And that’s kind of where Love Teach Bless came from.  And then from that, it just birthed something completely incredible.  It’s something that is my passion and my joy. I’ve met so many amazing people through my social media and through 

the work that I’ve been doing through Love Teach Bless, including  you, Debbie.  And so like I just, you know, it’s one of those things that it’s been  a blessing to my life.  And so everything I do, everything I do is one of those things that’s  not calculated. People always ask me, how did you grow your account? 

How did you do this?  And I would love to say like there’s like some like magical puzzle  that I put together.  I just was my authentic self.  Like I just posted things and put things online that like meant a lot to me, meant a lot to the people that I’ve been in contact with, 

whether it’s my students or other teachers or the community that I  serve.  And yeah, that’s just, that’s been my journey.  

Jebeh Edmunds

Love that.  And yes, that’s how I found you on Instagram because you look like  me. You have this bright, energetic personality and you’re seven pages. 

I mean, you inspired me to find books for me to put on my YouTube  channel to read and share with others and record and share with my  teacher friends.  And so thank you for doing that because like you said, you’re, you are a blessing to us educators of showing and you’re welcome love.  It’s from the bottom of my heart because like I said, you are like  my book bestie.  Like you showed this reel the other day where you’ve got all these  stacks of books, step one through five.  And I’m like, that’s me.  I feel seen. Like I cannot leave a bookstore without books, you know? 

And I’m like, my husband Andy is just like, oh gosh, you know, he  knows when I buy more, where are we going to put this?  I’m like, it’s for work, you know?  Yeah.  So it’s, yeah, I just feel seen. When I saw you post that, I was like, yep, that’s my life. 

Yep.  I feel seen, you know?  Yeah.  So thank you.  Oh my gosh.  This has just been an amazing chat, Nita.  And please don’t hesitate.  I will definitely put your information in the show notes so everyone can also follow your Love Teach Bless journey as well. 

Thank you.  And just before we go, is there any other tips that you have for us  educators on this multicultural social justice and education space  that we’re in right now?  

Mrs. Nita Creekmore

I do want to share some books. I would be remiss if I didn’t share some books to help out with that. 

So one book that I’ve just been really loving so much is Literacy  is Liberation.  I don’t know if you have this book.  It’s by Kimberly Parker and it’s working toward justice through  cultural relevant teaching. And there’s some questions in there that you can ask, you know, if  you should teach this text.  And it’s just a really, really good book.  Another one that I always want to share is Street Data is another  amazing good book.  And the reason why I want to share Street Data is by Shane, Saphir and Jamila, I think it’s Dugan. I’m sorry if I say your name wrong.  But it says, you know, radically imagine, reimagine how you take data and what data u take for your student and that just sending equity. The reasoning why i share those books is because lots of time when we taking data nas were doing test. We are looking for multicultural data. There are few books i came up with i definitely say and you will learn alot and your audience will too. So these are some books that you really need to reimagine what books you need and how education can look like . This is for majority but for the world of majority

Jebeh Edmunds

That what equity all about , you know.So everyone that fits everyone needs. Thats amazing. Nita it just been a blessing to have you in the guest chair and audience follow Nita on Love , Teach , Bless on instagram and i will have more details in the show notes where you can follow her.

Alright , thanks everyone and have a wonderful day

 

 

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

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

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!