October 17, 2021

EPISODE 1: ARE YOU WOKE?

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome to ReWalk rewriting our kids education episode one, you found us now, whatever will you do with us, my name is Michelle person, and I welcome you on our journey of rethinking re-examining and re-educating ourselves and our children. And this episode, we are going to define what being woke means to us and how we can act effectively on our awareness to impact real change. African-American novelist. James Baldwin said to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. So tell me, are you woke <inaudible>
Speaker 0 00:01:05 What does it mean to be woke? So being woke is a term that refers to being aware of the issues that concern social justice and racial justice. The term woke was officially added to the Oxford dictionary and 2017. The definition originally stated that woke meant to be well-informed and up-to-date, it’s been tweaked a little bit, and the new definition is to be alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice. The first time that most Americans heard the term woke or society at large was likely in the context of the black lives matter movement, particularly in 2014 and Ferguson, Missouri, uh, when black citizens took to the streets to protest the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, they did. So they urged the people across the country, on their television sets and on radio, as they were protesting to stay woke against police violence, um, actions and other threats over time.
Speaker 0 00:02:08 Um, this sentiment, this being woke has expanded to other areas of life. Um, it’s still meaning to be aware, to be seeking truth, um, at all times, and to question everything. So for me, the definition of woke is a little bit different. I’m an educator by trade. I’ve spent 20 years in the classroom and at the building level and being woke from me is a little bit different. Um, it’s not just being aware of the social injustice in the world and racism, but it also means being aware of the acute lack of rep representation that is available in traditional education, the negative subliminal messages, um, the lack of overt positive imagery. And it means being proactive about presenting my students with culturally responsive content and strategies and an effort to create a more authentic and accurate education experience. So I know you’re thinking well, that sounds great, but we all know you, who are you to speak on this with any, uh, uh, with any type of authority?

Speaker 0 00:03:12 Well, let me tell you, cause I’m the ish. Um, I am a veteran educator, like I said, who’s worked, um, in awesome high-performing urban schools. I’ve worked in frustratingly, disappointed, failing urban schools, um, and everything in between. So I’m a building leader, um, where, uh, consistently in buildings that I have been the leader of, we have moved student progress, um, by a statistically significant levels. Um, the LA one of my last building assignments, we moved my school from the state watch list to off the state support list and three years, which trust me, if you had any context to know what it means to be on the state support list, you will understand that that is no small feat. Um, I am a bestselling children’s author. I’ve written six books, including the best-selling that Daniel English and the leaders of the revolution, um, where, um, I try to make sure that our children, when, when I write my books have a sense of representation that they can be entertained and that they also can learn something at the same time.

Speaker 0 00:04:14 I am a curriculum writer and I am the creator of the number one culturally responsive read, woke social studies program, uh, for children in grades K through five. Meanwhile in Africa, I’m a public speaker. Um, I do workshops and professional developments and I am the mother of three lovely children. I have been around a lot. I have seen a lot and I trust nothing. Um, and, and that’s because far too often I have seen decisions, uh, that should be about what’s best for children be based on what’s best for adults, what checks the right boxes, what aligns with the right policy, um, are more and more frustratingly for me, what aligns with the right section of the teacher union contract. Um, so for me, um, having been in the education system now for 20 years, and again, seeing it from every different angle I’ve done public, I’ve done charter, I’ve done, uh, suburban, I’ve done different states.

Speaker 0 00:05:13 Um, I have decided that the whole flipping system is broken and what it’s time for right now is to demand more from our education system. And for those reasons, we need to make sure that we as parents, as educators are as woke as, as, as humanly possible, so that we can demand the change that our children deserve. So I spoke to it a little bit. Why is it important to stay woke well as a society, we should always be striving to become better, and it’s hard to become better if you are not aware of what’s going on around you. And what I find is that in a lot of cases, some people are for lack of a better term, the term, like if they’re not woke, what can you be? I guess you’re still asleep. Um, and they’re still sleeping on the prejudice and the inequality that still run rampant in our country, and that needs to be addressed, um, in my heart, at my core, again, I am an educator and I do believe in the power of education.

Speaker 0 00:06:12 Um, I believe that education is the most empowering force in the world. Um, but I also know that it can be manipulated. It can be used for evil. It can be used to indoctrinate. Um, and all you have to do is look at history and see examples, time and time again, of where education has been used for purposes to suit an agenda, or, you know, to make sure that someone conforms to a specific doctrine. One of the, the best examples I can think of that I think worldwide, everyone can agree because a lot of times it’s hard to get people to agree on. What’s good. What’s right. What’s bad. Yeah. I think there’s not, I don’t know a lot of things who would disagree if you say the word Hitler, what comes to mind? Right. Bad, bad Hitler. Um, so he is probably, um, an example that we can all agree was not a nice person.

Speaker 0 00:07:09 You know, didn’t have anyone’s best interests in heart in terms of anybody other than those who looked like him. Um, but he was a master at wilting education and he purposely targeted young people in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. And he taught me at a young age to glorify the area and race. And he labeled all other races as inferior and incapable of creating culture or civilization. He removed books with dissenting ideas and he created new books where they taught obedience and the military ism. And anti-Semitism, um, that’s the power of education. He, he didn’t like what the system was teaching. He got rid of everything he didn’t like. And he created something new to create an entire new society of people who thought like him. Um, when ISIS takes over how ISIS, uh, you know, they always talk about on, on the CNN, like, oh, ISIS is responsible for this terrorist attack, or, you know, ISIS did this, or ISIS did that.

Speaker 0 00:08:17 One of the first businesses, one of the first orders of business that ISIS does when they take over a town is they take over the school. They introduce all new curriculum. One where math and handwriting lessons are illustrated with pictures of guns and science and history, glorify martyrdom. And the creation of the Islamic state is a humanity’s most important achievement. They do that on purpose because if you can, if you can get at the children, if you can teach the children, what’s important, they’ll believe it they’ll believe it. They, they will die for those ideas because that’s what that’s there. That’s where they find their sense of self that’s, what they find their identity in Kate education is super important. And we do it here in the United States. We tell children here in the United States right now. And I know because I have been in many, many schools that black children are the descendants of slaves, and we owe our freedom to Abraham Lincoln.

Speaker 0 00:09:19 Um, and we owe the right to sit at the front of the bus to Martin Luther king, Jr. So think about this. If Hitler and ISIS can use education to create entire armies, is it not reasonable that the United States government can use the lack of education to subdue and control an entire group of people? It’s not really that far fetched. I recognize the power of education, the tragedy of miseducation and the unique opportunity we have right now to take back the ownership of our stories, to empower our youth and to change our communities. Why are we actively choosing to be woke about rewriting our children’s education? Why shouldn’t we be woke Michelle about stopping police brutality? Why shouldn’t we be woke about, um, about making sure that there are job opportunities for equal job opportunities for everyone? Well, all of those things are important. Um, but the reason I’m focusing on rewriting our children’s education is because I believe that obviously in the words of Whitney Houston, children are our future, right.

Speaker 0 00:10:32 Um, you have to raise them up and the direction in which you want them to go. And if what is being presented to them, isn’t accurate. If it’s not accessible or alluring keeping with the age thing, meaning it’s not interesting. Um, they’re not gonna, it’s not going to hook them. They’re, they’re not going. They won’t learn. They will be stuck in a specific station in life, um, because they don’t, they don’t have all the education or the information, the correct information to make choices that can literally change their entire trajectory in life. Um, so my goal as a parent and as an educator is to make every effort to make sure that my children and the children that I work with are prepared to go into the world and take advantage of every opportunity available to them, to create opportunities where none may seem to exist and to change the world around them and profound ways.

Speaker 0 00:11:31 So I mentioned earlier that I have three children and one of the things that as my sons, particularly he’s 18 now and got older, um, is what I would always tell them is that I get a finite amount of time to prepare him for life. Um, I described my son was a visual learner. So I took a piece of paper and I drew a pie on a piece of paper for him, a circle, cause I can’t draw. And I divided the pie into fours. And then I took, uh, and basically explained like, you know, an average, we live about a hundred years, right? So you D you divide that pie into four parts the first 25 years, the second 25 years and so on and so forth. I don’t even get the full first fourth, right? Because I don’t have you for 25 years, have you freight team for 18 years?
Speaker 0 00:12:20 It’s my world. I can tell you what to do. I can tell you what not to do. I can make the rules, but what I’m doing and that 18 years is I am trying to position you so that you have all the tools and skills that you need to make the best decision possible. Once my sliver, when my slice of the pie is over, in my opinion, a proper education is the strongest possible tool I can give any child to navigate life. Once my sliver is over. So everything I do is about making sure that kids have all the information they need so that they can make the right decisions because our decisions in life impact them long after I’m gone. My son is going to be making decisions about his life right now without me, because he’s 18 and grown. Um, and then I’m not going to live forever.

Speaker 0 00:13:17 You know, he’s going to be making choices about his life after I’m gone. I need to do my job to make sure I have laid the best possible foundation so that he can make the best possible choices. And that foundation starts with education, but you have to make sure it’s the right education. That’s why we have to be woke right now about our kids’ education. I want that for my kids, and I want that for all the parents. So that’s why I’m talking to you. I want that for other educators. So that’s why I’m talking to you as a teacher. I know what’s in the textbooks and I know what’s not in the textbooks as an administrator. I know what our teachers are teaching how our teachers are teaching. I know how they should be teaching. I know what they should be teaching. And I know what they will never teach because the system is not set up for them to teach it.
Speaker 0 00:14:08 Parents should have this information. You should know what questions to ask. When you go on for parent-teacher conferences and open houses, you should know how to best support your students at home and how to advocate to get this information included in your school’s curriculum. Educators should have this information. You should have a space where you can access strategies, content, and tips for your students, where you can explore best practices in this rapidly changing field and answer questions that you might have on how to best integrate this information into your classrooms, buildings and afterschool programs. So what will this podcast do? Why should you keep listening? As an, as a presenter? My super power is taking complex information and breaking it down into smaller, actionable chunks. So you can apply what you have learned faster and see immediately results on revoke. We will break down what it means to be woke at home and at school and give you resources and strategies that can change the narrative of our children’s education and change the trajectory of their lives. Pretty awesome. Right now, I know what you might be thinking. How can I tell if I’m woke or not? No worries. We have a quiz that will tell you. So here we go. Are you ready? What does well mean? A, the past tense of wake

Speaker 2 00:15:37 B, something to do with black Twitter, C

Speaker 0 00:15:42 True push to challenge, problematic norms and injustice through complete awareness.

Speaker 2 00:15:48 Pick an answer. Number two, who was Colin Kaepernick, a football player. Being an advocate for social change. See, vote. Number three. When is black history month, a February and America, October in the UK be black history month. We need a whole year sleep every damn day. Number four. What is white privilege? White privilege is being able to speak on a particular subject without being the sole representative for your entire race. B being able to speak articulately without being accused of sounding white. See all of the above.

Speaker 0 00:16:40 Okay. Tally up your answers. How many aides did you have? How many bees did you have? How many seeds did you have? Okay. Mostly A’s you’re not woke, but that’s okay. We can help keep listening. Mostly BS. You’re the middle of the road woke. That’s okay. Keep listening. And we’ll help you grow. Mostly sees you are totally woke. Great. Keep listening. Cause you can never be too woke. Are you starting to see a pattern here? The question I get all the time when I’m having this conversation with people is, well, what do you do once you’re woke? Or can you become woke? And the answer to can you become woke is definitely the answer to what do you do once you Roque is to keep growing. Listen to this podcast will tell you all the things you should be aware of, particularly in education and how to act effectively on that awareness.

Speaker 0 00:17:38 Here are three easy ways to expedite your woke journey. Number one, read. There are tons of books on this subject, the new Jim by Michelle Alexander, how to be anti-racist by Ebro, Kendi, white fragility by Robin D’Angelo. All of these are awesome examples of how you can read to learn more about what it means to be woke and what one has to do to effectively act on that knowledge. Once you’ve acquired it, not a big reader. That’s okay. The second thing you can do, if you want to continue on your woke journey, watch some TV. There are so many options outright now, great options. Well-written options, engaging options that you can watch that will help educate you and keep you on your journey. Atlanta on FX is a great show. The Handmaid’s tale on Hulu. That’s a great show. And I know you’re thinking, wait, the Handmaid’s tale and that with the white girl from, uh, Madmen, first of all, yes it is.

Speaker 0 00:18:47 And Elizabeth Moss is awesome. I love her. Um, but it’s not just about her. It’s about society in general and how education and an indoctrination change a completely normal society into being completely and totally oppressive. And since we are all about education here and all about making sure that we’re educating our children the right way, there are so many lessons that you can learn from the Handmaid’s tale. So I highly recommend it. That’s on Hulu, your white people, Netflix, orange, the new black Netflix, Blackish on ABC, all of them. These are great shows. If you’re trying to confront social injustice, think about things that you have not thought about in ways that you’ve never considered. These are great shows to watch and then have conversations about what the people in your circle. And it will help you as you grow on your journey. The third way that I often suggest to people who ask me, how can they continue to grow on their work journey?

Speaker 0 00:19:52 Show up, volunteer, donate time, money. Those things are so empowerful because those experiences really help you grow as a person. They challenge what you think about yourself and help you think differently about situations in the future. Just like at the airport. If you see something, say something, when a friend or family member or a coworker says something hateful or call them out a perfect example. This happened just recently at the SB awards, university of Connecticut basketball player page. Becker’s used her platform to call out the media for not showing black women the same love and attention. They show white women that girl, that girl was woke. She gets it get comfortable being uncomfortable because it’s going to happen a lot. Give of yourself, give your time, be present. And that may be that don’t directly benefit. You tutor kids after school and under-resourced neighborhoods volunteer with a hunger relief organization or animal hospital, or a homeless shelter.

Speaker 0 00:20:59 If someone from a marginalized community and bites you to go to an event, go, you might be the only person there that doesn’t look like everybody else. That’s okay. That’s how you grow as a woke person, listen, learn and support. If you can’t do any of those things, cause you’re super busy like me, mother of three, even though I tried commit to financially supporting a local organization that does social justice work in your community on an ongoing basis. I have a random statistic for you. Did you know that only about 7% of teachers are black? Meanwhile, slightly more than half of public school students are white. Think about that more than half of the students are not white, but only 7% of the teachers are not white. Hmm. Why is this significant? Well, for many reasons, teachers are the gatekeepers. A lot of times when programs come up and resources are available, they’re limited.

Speaker 0 00:22:01 It’s the teachers that recommend students to be part of these programs. They advocate for the students. They believe in, but given that most teachers are not black or brown. What studies have found is that when teachers are asked to rate a student’s academic abilities, black children, uh, are scored far below their white peers. Even if they have identical scores on the actual paper test, even if Suzie and Sheniqua have the same scores on paper, on a test, they both got a 93 and they both consistently get 90 threes. The teacher because of her implicit bias that she may or may not be aware of is more likely to recognize Susie than Sheniqua for that spot and that special program. That’s a problem. That’s why we have to advocate. That’s why we have to remain woke. Black students are far less likely to have a teacher or an administrator that looks like them, which is a direct influence on how safe a student feels at school and how likely they are to report issues, academic or social.

Speaker 0 00:23:06 I cannot tell you the number of times a student has said to me and my educational career when I was in the classroom and as an administrator, how important it was for them to have somebody like me in a position of power, things have been shared with me, that children have said the old principal, I wouldn’t have told this to, but I know I can trust you Ms. Person. I don’t. I sometimes I know I might know the other principal or the other teacher that came before me and I know them to be good people, but my students were looking for something, a connection they needed to see that I looked like them, that they could relate to me in order to feel safe. That connection just doesn’t happen overnight with the person that came before me. It’s not anybody’s fault. That’s just what it is.

Speaker 0 00:24:02 And that’s why it’s so important to know these statistics and understand why we have to change them. What we have to advocate for another issue is that non-black teachers are more likely to view black children as less innocent than white children. And they are disciplined at a higher rate. As an administrator. I saw this all the time. I worked at a school for about five or six years. That was probably the most diverse school that I’d ever worked at in terms of racial diversity. Um, I had students who were Hispanic. I had students who were black and I had students who were white. Um, there were inevitably conflicts between students who were black and white, not even black and white issues, just stupid stuff kids do in the classroom. And they would get sent to me nine times out of 10. Take that back eight times out of 10.

Speaker 0 00:24:54 I would say that on the referral, if you read the referral, the language that was used or the phone call that would come to my office when describing what happened, the black student or the Hispanic student was usually seen as the problem. There were lots of times where I had to do extensive investigations, roll back camera footage, talk to other kids in the classroom to paint a better picture of what was actually happening in the classroom because immediately the black child or the brown child was seen as the problem. And a lot of times that wasn’t it. So I think that again, when we’re talking about what it means to be woke, we need to make sure we’re talking about what the implications are of these statistics. And part of being woke is actively acting to try to change these statistics. How do we get more people that look like our kids in the classroom?

Speaker 0 00:25:52 One of the things we’ll be talking about a lot in this podcast is what kinds of instructional strategies do our kids need so that they can experience academic success. And again, when we’re talking about teachers who don’t look like our kids, there’s different cultural issues there at play prioritizing and emphasizing the ability to do quiet seat work and work independently without peer interaction. If those are important qualities that a teacher needs, and that’s what a teacher consider considers being good. I imagine what you’re going to do with the kid who has this dying need to talk and, and a group of kids who want to work together and in a group and doesn’t like seat work. They need to be doing. Those are the type of things that we have to recognize. They don’t work for our kids. We have to what the classroom was going to look like.

Speaker 0 00:26:46 If we want to make sure that our kids are succeeding, that’s what it means to be both. How do we, how do we affect that? Change? Those cultural differences. Don’t stop at just the learning styles. They also roll over into expectations with behavior what’s considered, okay. What’s not considered. Okay. So things that some people say are disrespectful because you don’t look like the children you’re serving, you’re missing something. You’re missing a piece. One of the things that some of my staff members and every school I’ve ever been at could never understand. Inevitably in every school I’ve ever worked at, my name has never stayed. Ms. Person I’ve been, my I’ve been auntie I’ve been sister. I’ve been pleasant. I’ve even been grandma once. That was a unique situation. And the kid who sorted that was complete goofball, but I’ve been called everything. Except sometimes Ms. Person, my colleagues could not understand and thought it was so disrespectful that they were calling me out my name and I every single time. And this happens at every school I’ve ever been at without, especially once I became a principal, I had to explain that that was not disrespect. They weren’t communicating with me and engaging with me on a familial level. And that was actually an example of the utmost respect. If you’re going to call me ma when you’re walking down the hallway, after I reprimand you, I, my, you, you hold me in a certain esteem in the same esteem at which you hold your mother. And so you’re going to listen to me. You’re going to follow the directions that I give you be grudgingly a lot of times. Um, but you’re going to, but at that, but that’s a sign that you, you love me.

Speaker 0 00:28:31 You respect me. You, um, you, you will, you’re willing to work with me. One of the things I always tell my non white teachers is you will know when your students love you. If they ask you or say to you, are you Puerto Rican? Are you sure you’re not black? When they do that? That is them working hard to reconcile the fact that they have love for you. They genuinely like you, but they’re having a hard time figuring out I like this person this much. How can I possibly like this person this much? If they’re not like me. So they are actively trying to make you like them so that they can justify the fact that they like you. They respect you. They love you. So when they’re calling you something that you’re not, unless it’s a four-letter word. A lot of times it’s not disrespect.

Speaker 0 00:29:23 But if you don’t understand that, because you don’t look like them, you don’t come from where they come from. You perceive it as disrespect. You write it up. There you go. There’s a referral. And our kids are suspended and expelled at higher rates than any other group got to be woke about that. How do we fix that? That’s what this podcast is going to be about. This is a broken system and it’s breaking our kids. Our goal is to be the first step in this healing process. Let’s fix the content, the bias, the policies let’s educate the white teachers. Let’s hold the schools accountable and heal our babies. That is what we do on Wolk bottom line. It doesn’t matter where you are in your work journey. What matters is your commitment to keep going? Where are we? We are at the beginning. We are committed to cultivating woke children because that is the only way to create a woke adult.

Speaker 0 00:30:24 And we know that that starts with the content we put in front of them, the strategies we use and the values we instill in them. We are glad you found us and hope you continue your woke journey with us. Show notes, resources, and all the things we’ve talked about today. The different books, the television shows the opportunities for volunteering. All those things are available on our website at www just like me, presents.com. Make sure you hit the subscribe button and share it with other parents and educators in your circle. Visit us on Facebook at just like me presents, join our group and tell us what you think now that we know what it is to be woke next week. We’re going to talk about being woke at home. What does it look like and why it’s imperative that we set the foundation. Thanks for listening. And remember if

Speaker 2 00:31:15 Our children can see it, they can achieve it.

 

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