October 17, 2021

EPISODE 2: WOKE @ HOME

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome to revoke rewriting our kids education podcast, episode two, you came back good to see you. My name is Michelle person, and I welcome you on our journey of rethinking re-examining and re-educating ourselves and our children. On today’s episode, we will be talking about what foundations and the importance of making sure the foundations, our kids is set long before they set foot in anybody’s school. We will be talking with your Elaine Hager, a mom and educator who has made it her mission to ensure that the foundation is set for her. Two young children, actor, Jeffrey Holder said education begins at home. You can’t blame the schools for not putting into your child. What you won’t put into them. Preach brother, I guess today Hagar is a teacher and a mom who has made being woke at home a priority. She has made it her mission to ensure that the foundation is strong for her two kids, and she will share some tips to get you going. So tell me, are you woke

Speaker 0 00:01:30 To be woke is to be aware of the social and racial injustice in the world, acknowledge that those injustices impact us every day in a million different ways and actively seek ways to counteract and dismantle those injustices for us here at Wolk. It also means recognizing the powerful role that education plays in that process. Reconciling the fact that the current educational system is set up to perpetrate those inequalities as a teacher, and then as a principal, it always amazed me when I would encounter parents who were determined to blame the school for every single one of their child’s issues. They can’t read that’s your fault. They can’t add that’s your fault. They’re disrespectful and disruptive. That’s your fault. I sent them to you and it’s your job to teach them, fix them. That’s what I felt like they were saying. Let me be clear. The school.

Speaker 0 00:02:24 Most definitely has a responsibility to educate your child, but we are not your child’s first teacher. You are. Now. I know I’m preaching to the choir for most of you, but for my CEOs, my Christmas, Easter, only people let me break it down. Before your child steps foot in a classroom, they have spent five years with you watching, observing, learning, learning how to handle conflict, learning how to treat others. Watching the TV shows you watch listening to the music that you listened to, and they are making inferences. They are taking what they see, and they are filling in the blanks to make connections that you probably don’t even realize. Watch a lot of videos, specifically, rap videos. Then you can bet your bottom dollar that your child is learning. Some colorful words, internalizing the style of dress, the speech pattern and the interactions they see socially.

Speaker 0 00:03:22 And those videos. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with that. As part of a larger cultural picture, those videos are part of who we are as a people, but they are not everything that we are. We are rappers, but we are also PhD holders. We are fashion icons. We are, um, we are carrying humanitarians. Those images also have to be part of our picture. We have to make sure that we are representing and presenting both because if we don’t, our kids are only seeing one part, especially in those first five years beyond those first five years, let’s do the math. There are 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. There’s no school on Saturday and Sunday. So we’re down to about 120 hours of the school’s possible influence. Then there’s the school day. The average school day is technically 6.5 hours.

Speaker 0 00:04:20 Take out about 40 minutes for lunch, 40 minutes for a daily special like gym or art or something. And 30 minutes pack up time at the end of the day. And trust me, I’m being real because getting books, papers and coats for 25 to 30 students is a whole process. That’s about 4.5 hours left in the actual school day for about 22.5 hours a week. Again, remember there are 168 hours in the week, but I’m telling you that for 22 hours of those 168, that’s what the school has do that math. And you will realize that we only see your children for about 30% of the available time each week. And that’s only eight months out the year, June, July, and August. Those little crumb snatchers are yours. 100%. The point of all of this is that if you are relying on the school exclusively to teach reading, writing math, plus art music and ensure that your child is exposed to positive cultural imagery and content and teaching techniques, you are going to be very disappointed. My guest today has already made the commitment to laying the woke foundation, her children need, and she is going to share with us how she got started and how it’s going. Your Arlene, thank you so much for joining us today to talk to us about what it means to be woke at home. How are you doing?

Speaker 2 00:05:50 Um, doing pretty good. Thank you, Michelle. Thank you so much for inviting me to be here with you.

Speaker 0 00:05:56 No Problem. I want to give, can you give the viewers a little bit of a background about your history? Cause I want them to understand why I said I wanted to speak to you about specifically this topic.

Speaker 2 00:06:07 Yes. So my name is Euro Arlene. I am a mother of two boys, five years old and almost two years old. I am a teacher for the New York city department of education, New York city public schools. Um, this is going into, I think my 16th year teaching. Uh, I am a special education teacher currently teaching middle school, math to students with learning disabilities. Um, so that I guess is my, my work backgrounds. Um, I’m very passionate about art. I’m also an artist, although I haven’t done much of that in motherhood. Um, and also very passionate about social justice issues. Um, social justice issues inform the artwork that I make as well as the way I go about teaching. And also how I parents that’s a little bit about me.

Speaker 0 00:07:01 Yeah, pretty much. And so when you take all of those things together, um, you create a great intersection for somebody like me who was looking for someone who understands the importance of, uh, making sure that the classrooms are culturally responsive, but also making sure that as a parents, we understand that we don’t wait to send our kids to the culturally responsive school. We have to first create, um, that cultural responsiveness and that, that awareness at home so that, you know, we are cultivating that in them before we send them out the door. So, um, I wanted to start off by saying to you, uh, we talk about being woke all the time on this show. Um, being aware of social injustice, being aware of racial injustice and presidency, uh, prejudices, and then also being woke more specifically in education about what that means in terms of the limits of traditional education, what that means in terms of what supports are needed in traditional education. So I want you to tell us what does being woke in education mean to you?

Speaker 2 00:08:03 Um, I think it means everything that you just said, being aware of the inequities that exist. Um, and they exist not, not in a vacuum, right. They exist for historical reasons and they exist because there’s just so much interplay and interconnectivity between housing and education, right, where you live and the taxes that you pay on your property fund, public schools, right. Uh, education and equities exist because of the intersection of employment and education, right. It exists because of health and disparities in health and education. So it’s all of those things. When we’re talking about what it means to be woken education, it means to be aware of the interconnectedness of all of our social systems and the inequities in all of our social systems and how they impact the students who come into our classrooms. Um, but I think on a more intimate level for me, how I interpret being woke in terms of how I’m raising my boys and their connection to education is I see it as also child development because it starts with the self, the ego, the it, right.

Speaker 2 00:09:24 And anyone who’s an education would know that, you know, in terms of child development, the first stage is the child is very aware of herself or himself. So I think being woke is also about just understanding and knowing you knowledge of self, you know, where you fit in, in all of these in stories, um, and the history of, of the inequities in this country. And I feel like once, you know, our children have knowledge of self and self-love, then it sets them up to deal with everything else, like how they relate to family, community, and the greater society from a place of empowerment.

Speaker 0 00:10:05 I love that. I love that so much. So once you have poured into your baby and you know, that they have a great strong sense of self and they are experiencing that self-love and they are, um, beginning to interact with their communities and with people around them, what do you, what do you do to ensure that they are, that they continue, they continue to grow on that path more specifically, what do you do to ensure that they are exposed to culturally ready to culturally relevant reading material and imagery before they even begin school?

Speaker 2 00:10:42 Right. Um, so I think it’s on my end as a mom, very heavily curated. Um, it’s not something that you can just sort of like happenstance into, or just sort of like, you know, lacks a days weekly approach. Like it has to be very curated and very well thought out. So some of the things that I do here in our home is all of our books center, people of color. So the characters are always black children or other children of color. Um, sometimes I am gifted books that, um, do not necessarily align with that. So there are a few books here and there that aren’t necessarily, um, within that, that path of, of children’s literature, but when I’m buying and picking books and when people are gifting books that know me and know how I parent, uh, those are the kinds of books that come into our home.

Speaker 2 00:11:41 Um, my best friend, who’s the godmother of my two sons, uh, gifted my babies with a monthly book box subscription. And the book box is two black book of bookstore owners. And the books that they send every month are culturally relevant books. The book box, no it’s jumbo jumbo book box they’re out of Georgia. Um, highly recommend. Uh, I also make sure that all of the images, the art, everything that’s on our walls and around us, uh, is African centered. Um, they see us on our wall. So lots of family pictures, family portraits, um, artwork by black artists. Um, I make sure the music that they listen to reflects us in our culture. I’m not really too big on TV. Um, for now it is just PBS kids. I keep it very educational, but yes, in terms of our home, I do try to make sure that every bit of information they get, whether it’s art, music, literature, that it is coming from a very African centered black center place.

Speaker 0 00:12:54 And I think that’s amazing. Um, it’s just like me books start with just like me presents, grew out of just like me books and just like me books started because of me wanting to create something to fill that void, um, of the fact that there are very few black characters, black and brown characters in literature. Um, and so that’s where kind of the daddy man came from my first book series. That’s why that’s where Nathaniel English came from because the educator in me not only wanted them to see fun, um, expressions of, uh, entertainment, but I wanted them to learn something. So Nathaniel English came about, and then I began networking with other authors to put together cultivated booklet, just like you mentioned, um, because it’s important that children see, um, the, the dice for us. Like I personally don’t write science fiction. I don’t write, um, a whole lot of in the, in the, in the world of fantasy, there are other black authors that do, and I wanted to make sure that you know, that when, if you don’t have to go out of, you know, black, black literature to find a good fiction book to find a good fantasy book.

Speaker 0 00:14:01 Um, and so that I, 100% respect all, everything that you just said in terms of making sure that from the books that you bring into your house, um, the art that you hang on your walls, the music that you place, because those are all things you can do to be teaching without actually explicitly teaching. Those are the things that are seeping into their subconscious. Um, it’s to make sure that, you know, it’s, it’s not, it’s not preachy, it’s not boring. It’s just them, it’s them like, as they’re finding themselves in the world, seeing reflections of themselves. And so, like you said, they are learning right now just through what you’re doing, that they are powerful, that their skin color is beautiful, that they are, that you know, that they can be and do anything because in the books that they’re reading, the people look like them and they’re being in doing anything.

Speaker 0 00:14:49 And that’s probably some of the most powerful, um, that, that you can, that you can give them at this stage. So I love, love, love, love, love that you do that. Um, what is one thing that you have learned on your journey as you’ve been parenting your boys that you wish that you knew at the beginning that you would have done from, from the first time you brought home, your oldest baby from the hospital, if you had realized, oh, I should have been doing this. What’s a suggestion that you have from a parent that you wish you had known from the beginning and in this journey and cultivating this whole, um, cultivating this, this, um, this, this positive imagery for your kids.

Speaker 2 00:15:26 Um, well, I was pretty certain and adamant that at that point it was, you know, just Cosmo my oldest son, that he would be raised in a very, um, black centered home. The one thing that I wish I did know from the beginning is about conscious parenting, um, conscious parenting from a black perspective, um, it’s often called decolonized parenting or parenting decolonized. Um, one of the, the women who is there, the forefront of the movement is woman named Yolanda Williams. Um, there’s also Demari Dickinson. There are so many amazing women and some men too, who are doing the work of really trying to decolonize the way our parents, our community parents. Um, so I wish I had known that from the outset. Um, I sort of fell into decolonized parents and maybe when Cosmo was about two or three years old. Um, and there’s a lot to decolonize parenting.

Speaker 0 00:16:32 You speak to that? Cause that’s a, that’s a term that I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with. So can you talk a little bit about, and we’ll have some links to resources, uh, to learn more about what decolonized parenting is and, and places you can go to learn more about it, but can you speak a little bit about what, what that term means and what it is?
Speaker 2 00:16:50 Yes. So it is all about raising free black children, um, and free black children. And this society of course, can be, you know, a very liberating thing, but then also a very scary thing. So some people think decolonize parenting is a, a centralized it to no spanking and yes, the no spanking, no hitting, no physical corporal punishment is a huge part of it, but that’s not all that there is to decolonize parenting. It’s looking at generational traumas and, you know, ways of parenting and being that we’ve replicated, just because that’s just how we were parented and raised that don’t serve us. Um, it’s about not parenting from a place of fear, um, which is hard, especially when you’re raising black boys in this country, right. You in a way, want to protect them. And you want parent them in a way where other eyes are not judging them or looking at them or assuming certain things about them, but then that censors the other gays and it doesn’t center your child and their strengths and their desires and their wants, right.

Speaker 2 00:18:06 And in, in centering the other and what the other might do to your child, it’s not liberating for our children. And so that’s something that I wish I had known more about before I brought Cosmo home from the hospital to already have had that mindset. But I will say that I think I’m fortunate enough to have stumbled upon it while he was in his toddler years. So still young enough to, you know, sort of rethink and recalibrate how I go about parenting my boys. And I’m still learning. I’m still on the journey. I definitely do not know everything there is to know about decolonized parents, but I’m, I’m learning. And I’m trying,

Speaker 0 00:18:47 I do know, I do know some people who follow that, no corporate punishment, no hitting it is definitely a mindset shift, but it definitely, I think creates a child who was very secure and attached in a lot of ways that maybe, um, that we were not, um, because that, that need within our parents to be able to, um, you have to fear me in order to be able to, for you to be safe. Um, and so that’s, and that, that spills over into a lot of different, other ways of, um, and a lot of different aspects in our lives, including school. Um, you know, I went to Catholic school and so, uh, the nuns had no problem with an Apple’s rulers. Um, you know, and I went to a black Catholic school, so my nuns were not white. I had black, black nuns who were ripping up the ruler when you, um, you know, when you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.

Speaker 0 00:19:37 And that was them, I think, experiencing that generational trauma. And they had to teach us how to be so that no one else had to do it for us so that we would be safe when we were outside. So I encourage you guys check out the show notes because we will have some links to some information about what it means to be a decolonized parents and parents. Um, if you were interested in learning more about that, do you have any advice as you are also have a background in education, um, as you are a teacher, and I know Cosmo’s little, he’s only five, um, but you know, he will eventually either be going to a traditional public school or you’re probably are, you might explore some other, um, some other schooling alternatives for him, but a lot of parents don’t have that homeschooling option. So a lot of our parents who are listening and or watching, um, have to navigate the traditional public school system. And as we are both parts of it, I, I’m also a part of the traditional public school system. Do you have any advice from where you sit and the way in which you are actively and very specifically and purposefully parenting your babies? Um, any advice parents who want to be walking that walk with you, but also have to navigate the traditional public education system? What’s your advice?

Speaker 2 00:20:55 Um, so yes, cosmetics, she is in public school, uh, this past year of pandemic. He attended remotely. So it was mostly me homeschooling him, but he is officially enrolled in, registered in a New York city public school. And for me, that was important, um, teaching in a public school and supporting the system and the institution for which I work. Um, so that was a very intentional decision to put him in public school. On the elementary school level, middle school might be a little bit different when, you know, you know, um, so for me, I can just say my approach when looking at schools for Cosmo, um, and hopefully in planning my approach, that that answers your question. But when I was looking at elementary schools for cosmos, um, I looked at several things, um, and I also physically visited all of the schools that, uh, I applied to that was before pandemic.

Speaker 2 00:21:59 Um, it was important to me that the student population represented us. So, um, I did not look at any schools in which Cosmo would have been the only, or one of the few black boys in his class or in the school. Um, I also looked at the teaching staff. Um, it was important to me that he had teachers that looked like him and his mama. Um, I did not want him to align or, um, yeah, align authority with whiteness. Um, so that was important that there were black teachers, uh, and bonus if they were black male teachers, um, in the schools that we looked at, same thing with leadership, um, looking at the assistant principal and the principal. Um, so those things were important to me. Um, I know they might not be important to maybe most people, most people wouldn’t think like that or, or approach looking at a school like that.

Speaker 2 00:23:00 They might look at test scores, you know, what extracurricular activities are being offered and things like that. But considering that this is where your child is going to be six to seven hours a day, every day, five days a week, 10 months out of the year, um, that representation matters. And to me, it was just an extension of the work I’d already been doing here at home by curating a very black centered, uh, home experience. So there was that part of it. Um, as a teacher, I did look at curriculum. Um, I’ll be honest with you. Some curriculum out there is trash. Um, so I wanted to know what curricula were being used to teach my child reading, writing math. Um, and I looked for things that were more progressive in their approach. And I was looking for curricula that, um, you know, was, was research based, um, research based in a way that I knew my child would learn how to effectively read and write. Um, what else did I look at? I did look at extracurriculars, you know, things that the school offered beyond academics, but I would have to say that those were my, my major interests, um, representation within the student body and the staff, um, school approach, a more progressive over a traditional approach and the schools of curricular choices.

Speaker 0 00:24:28 Yeah. So parents, I hope what you took away from that was do your homework, because that’s what I heard. I, I heard you cannot just look up, don’t just go on the school’s website. That’s a nice start. You need to actually get your booty down there into the school, walk around, talk to people. Um, it’s important to way look at the classrooms, see what the classmates are going to look like to the teachers are gonna look like, and then ask questions, um, ask questions about, you know, what curriculum they’re going to be used to teach, writing and understand. You might not even know what that means. Just say those words and then go home and Google it. Um, and, and you can see, and you can get some information and kind of find out if you think that’s going to be the right field for your child. Um, so I think those were all great tips. Do you have any resources that you would recommend for parents as they begin or continue on their own journeys?

Speaker 2 00:25:18 Ooh. Oh, wow. That’s a big question. I feel like my brain just kind of like saw a whole bunch of things and then kind of also went empty all at

Speaker 0 00:25:28 Once. We already shared one the jumbo, and we’re going to put a link to that in the show notes so people can, so people can explore that, that book black that’s an awesome resource.

Speaker 2 00:25:38 Yeah. So John bow books, um, like I said, decolonized parents saying, uh, Yolanda Williams. Um, there is, uh, an Asian woman who does the same work of decolonized parenting. Her name has completely slipped my mind right now, but I think she calls her, um, her blog and her Facebook page on tiger ring. Um, okay, well, so the opposite of tiger mom, cause I’ve heard it exactly tiger moms like, ah, like, you know, hovering very like, you know, so yeah, so untiring, so for her, it’s undoing all of the conventional things that I guess the Asian and the Asian American community, um, have done historically, um, for years in their parents and just undoing that trauma and, you know, there’s a lot of intersections. So even though she’s speaking of her specific experience as a Chinese American woman, um, there’s a lot to, to see and to, you know, say like, okay, there’s definitely similarities, but before pandemic, um, I was very much trying to get Cosmo and to the community.

Speaker 2 00:26:45 So whenever cultural, uh, celebrations would come up, things like Kwanzaa or black history month, um, even though those principles in this home are celebrated every day, I did take advantage of, you know, those being like key moments to look for, you know, child-friendly events and the community to take him to, to expose them to things. Um, so I would say, definitely look at the resources where you live, um, here in New York. Um, I’m very fortunate to live in a very rich city. So we have the Schomburg, which is a library dedicated to black research in black culture. And they do well pre pandemic hold events. Um,

Speaker 0 00:27:32 I think libraries in general, everybody go to your library. Libraries are not just, you know, what you think about them from, from back 20 years ago, like libraries are where it’s happening. They do tons of events, every library in every city that I know has an app, a really rich, um, uh, community programming aspect that a lot of people don’t take advantage of. So libraries are key.

Speaker 2 00:27:55 Yes. And because we are still in pandemic, I would say definitely try to flex your, your digital resources. So Facebook has tons of groups for, you know, black moms who are trying to parent in a conscious way, uh, black Montessori moms, uh, black homeschooling parents. You know, if you do a Facebook search into those groups and those, those subjects, you know, you’ll come across many groups that will at least give you a, a start, like it’ll get your feet wet into those things. And then as you get comfortable and as things start to reopen, um, you know, post COVID, you can start looking for in person resources within your community. Cause I think that’s important as well that it’s not just happening in the home, but that you’re making those connections within the community for your kids to see that. Okay. So it’s not just something that we do here. Like there are other kids and other families who were doing this too, because it’s also important to cultivate those friendships. So if you are the only person in your family who is maybe raising your kids like this, then you have to create your own village. And these are ways in which you can create and cultivate a village of like-minded people.

Speaker 0 00:29:15 Love that. Like making sure, because not everybody’s going to be on board, not everybody’s going to be on board with you and you’re in, and the ideas that you have and the way in which you want to parent your kids. And so creating that village is a great, great tip. So thank you so much for actually saying that, um, your, it has been great talking to you. I hope that our listeners grabbed some, you gave so many nuggets and I hope that you guys you’ve got root, grabbed them all. And if you didn’t, don’t worry, just go back and replay and you can hear them all over and over again. Um, but thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today.

Speaker 2 00:29:48 Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 0 00:29:50 I think my biggest takeaway from that conversation was that it does not just happen overnight. This foundation. It has to be intentional. You have to begin from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital and you have to actually make sure that you are continuing to do the work as they grow again, not rocket science, but it bears mentioning because we have to make sure that we’re not leaving the most important job, which is creating children who have a strong sense of self that can not be left to the schools alone. We all have to be in this together. And I think my favorite comment from your lien is the importance of creating a village. And we have to make sure we create that village. Let us know what your biggest takeaway was. Hop on over to our Facebook page, just like me presents, join our group and tell us the idea that most resonated with you. And the one thing that you’re going to do this week in your home show notes, resources, and links to all the things that we mentioned and talked about so that you can continue building this strong foundation for your kids@homearegoingtobeavailableonthewebsiteatwwwthatjustlikemepresents.com. Make sure you hit the subscribe button and share this podcast with your friends, parents, and other educators in your circle. Thanks again for listening. And remember if our students can see it, they can most definitely achieve it.

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