Last week we hosted an event called the School-to-Prison Pipeline Policy Chat. We did this in partnership with ACEE aka the Atlanta Coalition of Educational Equity. The school to prison pipeline is a national trend that is occuring in our schools daily. It pushes students into the juvenile justice system due to zero tolerance policies and therefore targets students of color, particularly black boys.
Our event brought together educators and community stakeholders that were interested in this issue, and we met to use our brain power to find solutions to the problem. Over good food with good company we thought through the different systemic issues that make this problem a reality. Sadly a lot of it kept coming back to racism and inequity. Our kids are perceived as more threatening, poorly behaved, and so suspension is often over utilized. By no means did we solve the problem in one night, nor was that the goal. Instead the goal was to organize and mobilize. So at the end of the night we asked everyone to take out their phones and tweet their local school board representative about the issue at hand. In our local Atlanta area the statistics are staggering, and we made sure to share that with these elected school board members. The Tweet read….
There were 14,268 suspensions in APS in 2019, most of the students affected were black (93%) males (65%). We care about the school to prison pipeline, and want to see Policy around Restorative Practices being used before suspending our children #werestoremore #LEE #letsdiscuss
Our end goal is to ultimately get some legislation on the books that protect our children, but in the meantime we have to organize and continue to mobilize with events like this that get everyone talking and on the same page for action. If you know someone who would be interested in attending an event like this in the future, please drop their email below as we’d love to get in touch with them and have them be a part of this movement.
A conversation with Acquinta "AJ" Jones
What is a joy factor?
A joy factor is exactly that, a joy factor in schools! Whether it’s a bulletin board that’s bringing the joy, a decorated classroom, a teacher lounge restoration, or time just to create we bring joy visually to your classroom, schools, and organizations.
So tell us a little bit about how you started a Joy factor?
Doing bulletin board decor is something that I truly enjoy, from looking at them to doing them, the passion is there. However, as a teacher with other responsibilities, time and resources are always limited. So I wanted to find a way to make it a bit more simple for teachers and schools to accomplish the visual goals without the exhaustion. I've been teaching for 11 years, and even for me it's the last thing to get done, but the first thing you notice when you walk into a room. So once I realized this was a major pain point for most teachers I started to do my research to figure out how I could solve it while bringing the joy.
Also bulletin boards are often underutilized. They can be used to teach and differentiate, so they’re not just for displaying student work and I try to showcase this with folks who are interested in making their boards more functional spaces in their classrooms. I did a ton of research on supplies and costs, and even repurposed materials, because the challenge for most schools is how can we get it done quicker and more economically. And this is where A Joy Factor comes in to support with planning, materials, and execution.
What are some of the more creative items you’ve used on a bulletin board?
I made a snowman out of plastic cups, once. You name it, I've used it, from paper cups, plastic cups, ribbon, plates, to picture frames. Dollar tree becomes your best friends, especially the holiday section. I think it helps to think outside of the box, and add dimension to the work. It makes the boards stand out, and really gets onlookers attention.
What's one challenge you face as a female entrepreneur of color?
I think when you say you want to start a business as a black female, most people assume it has something to do with lashes, makeup , or an online clothing boutique, and for me none of those are the case. So I think just getting folks to realize their is validity in new ideas. One challenge I have faced within the work, is that folks will start asking you to take over all the boards within a school if they see you doing them well, so this extra work can be hard to balance. My biggest thing I want to avoid is staying too late or coming in super early. Essentially I want to show teachers this can be done during a prep or planning period, and off the clock time isn’t necessary.
What gift/act would make all the difference?
The biggest gift I could use right now is Investment Capital. This influx of funding would allow me to build an inventory of materials. The startup costs can be taxing, and having some funding would allow me to execute more boards faster. I also need support with organization, specifically creating schedules and time for the business amidst my teaching responsibilities. If there's a tool or a platform, or if there’s someone out there who can support, I could use you.
Where do you see A Joy Factor in 5-10 years?
I see A Joy Factor in schools nationwide, not just doing bulletin boards, but also PDs on why it's important to have creative time and art integration for educators. I want to bring back the joy factor through art, and allows space for teachers to create and unwind. I also want to support other educators rolling out this model in their state, so I see A Joy Factor becoming a franchise-like model. Finally, I see A Joy Factor as a store front, kind of like school box, but with stations where you can apply the tricks with the latest tools (ie. cricut, di-cut machine, silhouette, cameo). These machines are about $200-$300 each and we want to give educators access to these more readily without having to pay the huge costs. We want to create a space where Teachers can come and use our tools and resources to create. We’d also have hours that suit teacher’s schedules.
What do you want our readers to know about you?
I really love doing this work. I love the DIY world, especially pinterest, and I am always picking up new skills. Also no board is ever the same. I take pieces from others as inspiration, and let my imagination do the rest, so reach out so I can design your next board!
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Tell us a bit about the work you do on a daily basis and how you got started?
I'm the Founder & Executive Director of BK International Education Consultancy (BKIEC), an accredited education consulting firm where we customize program design, project management, and professional learning support for K-12 school districts, nonprofits, and government agencies. Prior to BKIEC, I was a STEM career professional and classroom teacher. BKIEC was launched with the goal to create transformative change by building stronger learning communities, and educators are at the heart of these learning communities. We envision building the capacity of educators to best serve students. Too learn more about what we do check out our website at www.bkconsultancy.org.
Tell us why you think grant writing is crucial for a school’s overall health?
Grant writing is crucial for school's health, because it provides additional funding and resources to meet school's needs to best support students, teachers, and families. It also provides opportunities for strategic partnerships and innovation.
How do you support schools with this?
One area of support offered by BK International Education Consultancy to schools is through our grant writing face-to-face trainings and online micro-courses. They support educators understanding of the various types of grants and assist them with identifying their needs through data-based decision making. For example, if a school is interested in implementing restorative practices we walk through a needs assessment to identify what data supports this need, and what grant opportunities are available to support the initiative. Through grant funding resources could be allocated for services or products by companies like Restore More.
Tell us about a time you secured funds and how it impacted teachers or students?
Our team has secured funds to support various district, school, and classroom-level projects. For instance, a Toshiba Foundation grant was used to support an elementary's schools robotics program which served 100 students in Atlanta, Georgia. The funds afforded them the opportunity to visit a Hyundai vehicle manufacturing plant in Alabama to see how robotics are used to make everyday products, such as cars.This funding impacted both teachers and students, because it gave a real-world connection between classroom content and college and career readiness. The kids and teachers still remember this trip, and how robotics connect to our daily lives. This is one example of how grants can support meaningful learning experiences.
Why are you passionate about this work?
BK International Education Consultancy is passionate about grant training because knowledge is power, and building teacher capacity is key to instructional impact. We believe that by educating teachers on grant writing, they can use their own diverse skill set to master the technique, and then be empowered to attain resources on behalf of their schools and students.
What do you want our readers to know?
BKIEC is continuing to grow locally, throughout the US, and internationally. We look forward to providing additional program design, project management, and professional learning services to K-12 school districts, nonprofits, and government agencies in 2020. Interested? Follow up with us by Scheduling a 30-min consultation HERE. Want to do some research first, check out our info on grants HERE.
What advice do you have for people looking to learn this skill?
Educators naturally have the foundational skills to write grants. We show educators how to leverage skills they already have to write their first grant. We also have a new book coming out that delves into this more for individual educators interested in reducing the use of personal funds for their classroom, and learning grant writing on their own. Finally, we have an online micro-course called the Grant Writing for Educators - Level 1, which is $29, and you earn CEUs/PLUs for recertification. Interested in taking a course? Review our micro-courses HERE.
Founder & Executive Director of BK International Education Consultancy
JOIN US ON SOCIALS!
A conversation with CEO Evalaurene Jean-Charles
What is Black on BlackEd?
“We’re a Social Media platform and podcast advocating for reform in the Educational System.”
So tell us a little bit about how you started Black on Black Education?
“So I had the opportunity to intern for Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, better known as CASES in New York. They try to give Judges options for youth in terms of sentencing, so rather than send them to be paroled or send them to jail to await trial they can also send them to CASES to be surveilled in a productive manner. At CASES we would help them get their high school equivalency, jobs, or access to college. That kicked off, a passion in me, and cemented that I should be doing work in Education, rather than Psychology. Following this experience, I heard someone talking about a program on Saturday where a local school was offering black history lessons, and I became curious. This spurred my own research and slight obsession with looking at what Education looks like for black youth and what it would take for them to make educational gains despite inequities.
When I began to explore, I realized there was a need for this type of platform. We have The Shade Room, TMZ, and all these outlets that give us content about our people, but we’re losing out on things that are more positive or more forward focusing. I mean I love the shade room, and I love hearing about a hot girl summer, but I also want young kids digesting things that are inspiring and empowering. I want to show them multiple ways to success, and that was BOBE does.”
What was your school experience like with teachers and how did that support your learning?
“I definitely had teachers that were awesome, my 1st grade teacher was so hard on me, and I hated her, and now that I’m older I realize how impactful she really was. I was struggling to read A level books at the beginning of the year, but through her pushing and practice I was at M by the end of the year. I was a better reader, because of her. My 3rd grade teacher was amazing, she wasn’t just there in the classroom either. She would come to my church recitals, and always asked how my mom was. She took an interest in me as a person. In high school, that trickled out. I had some good teachers, but lacked real deep meaningful relationships with them. I was the kids that made teachers laugh, I called them by their first names, I was the extroverted student. I had one teacher see me babysitting outside of school, and ask me if those were my kids. That hurt. I didn’t feel like I could be authentically myself as one of the only people of color in that school, rather I always had to be on and overachieving. Going to a college that was much more diverse, helped me to find my voice. I am getting farther away from code switching experiences, and I don’t want to be someone who has too, I’d rather be my full self, and college has helped me to get there.”
What's one challenge for a female entrepreneur of color?
“I don't feel troubled as a black female entrepreneur, but the struggle is the remnants of that. It’s not knowing who I need or what the next steps to take are. I've never had anyone in my K-12 experience encourage entrepreneurship, so I am trying to break down a wall and learn what to do at the same time. I am trying to figure out how to get to where I want to go, but I feel as if I don’t always have the resources to get there.”
What gift would make all the difference?
“A shoutout on Instagram from Diddy, Jada or Will Smith, or any other major influencer. I think that influence matters, but right now I am lacking influence, capital, and time so getting that shine would put us in the position to have the conversations we want to have and allow it to reach so many more people.”
What issue keeps you up at night?
“I think it’s history class, I think it’s the fact that our history is so rich and incredible, and multifaceted, and we’re almost never taught that in the history classroom. We’re not asked about it on the test, and that says it doesn’t matter. This is not the fault of teachers, but the system. When I began learning about about Malcolm X, Mae Jemison, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, I felt robbed. These people are amazing, and they were hidden from me. I was able to see people who looked like me, valued education, and I learned that the world needed us to get to where we are today. Let’s not show kids light skin cleopatra, and assume that's a fact. Education is empowering. I want students to see all that they can be, but they get disserviced when they don't see leaders of color.”
Where do you see Black on Black Education in 5-10 years?
“I see us conducting research projects on best practices for students of color. I also see us hosting our first annual education conference, having more convos like this, but creating a space to do it together.”
What do you want our readers to know about you?
“I want them to know I am super accessible, please reach out to me! I want to talk to as many people as possible who are doing the work, because its hard and it's a lot. The more voices, the better we start to understand where people are coming from and their perspectives and I value all opinions whether they’re similar to mine or not.”
With each new school year, we continue to hear from educators that are frustrated by the lack of parental involvement in some schools. We wanted to share some practical ways leaders, teachers, and schools can mobilize their parent community and increase turnout and engagement.
How to ensure your self-care isn’t destructive and you're there for those you serve
We’re living in an age where it’s so easy not to show up – at an event, at dinner with a friend, at work (Google ghosting – there is no shortage of articles on the topic). Sometimes, it’s for legitimate reasons – the work of serving others takes energy, time, and vulnerability and we’re TIRED. And even if we are there in person, it can be easy to be physically present and mentally absent to what’s happening around us. What those of us who work in service of others, who work for the hope of a better world know, though, is that if we want to see change, it requires us to show up. No halfway, no maybe I’ll be there, no undecided. We have to be in the work – all in, physically and mentally present, full engagement.
So what will it take for you to show up? Who do you need to show up for? I’ve found that in my time in education and non-profit service that the most important thing I can to in order to show up for my students, for teachers, for my staff, is to take care of me.
Self-care has certainly become a buzzword of sorts. We hear the mantra of self-care, all while thinking, “Sure, if you can add another 2-3 hours to my day – that’s when I’ll take some time for self-care.” And it’s a fine line between self-care and self-indulgence – overdoing the thing that was supposed to help us feel better. Overdoing it to the point that after we’ve done it, we end up feeling worse than when we started. Eating, shopping, binge-watching, social media and so many other things might make us feel better in the moment as we get the rush of endorphins from indulging, but afterwards leave us less able to be there for the people who are relying on us most.
I challenge you to ask yourself a question – what does it mean for you to SHOW UP? Who do you need to show up for? And what will it take for you to show up? Take a critical eye to your “self-care” practices. After you engage in “self-care”, do you feel better or do you feel worse? Are you more ready to show up for those whom rely on you to be your best self? How do you spend time doing the things that bring you light and energy so you can be sustained through the challenges? Leaders who inspire change know that in order to do so, they must care for themselves to bring the whole of their greatness to the world.
If you find yourself saying, “no” more than “yes”, if you find it hard to be present (physically or mentally), if you don’t feel like you are showing up as your whole, wonderful self, it might be time for a self-care audit. Avoid the slippery slope of self-care becoming self-indulgence or even self-destruction. Do the things that fill you up, make you whole, and bring out your best self. Your people rely on you, need you, and are counting on your greatness. It takes work to be a wonderful, whole spirit for change in the world. Do it for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Quackenbush began the journey of a lifetime when she joined the corps in Atlanta in 2002 and began teaching at Scott Elementary. In between her nine years of teaching lower elementary grades, working with her school’s Early Intervention Program, and leading the Student Support Team process, she also worked training new teacher leaders with Teach For America in a variety of teacher support and development roles. While teaching, Erin earned her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood generalist and was recognized by her school as Teacher of the Year. Erin is currently serves the Metro Atlanta community as a member of Teach For America staff where she has worked for over eight years in various roles supporting educators at all stages of their development. Currently, she has the privilege of leading strategy, talent, and operations work in support of the Teach For America team. Erin lives in Marietta with her husband Chris, her two kids, Kate and Max, and her dog and cat. When she has a free minute, she enjoys traveling, volunteering at Kate’s school, reading, and being outside with her family.
So this past weekend, we got to travel to Houston to attend a LEE Conference. So, what is LEE? LEE is an acronym that means Leadership for Educational Equity. They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit leadership development organization working to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with classroom experience to engage civically and politically. The NOW Conference or the National Organizing Workshop, was all about making change from the ground up, and how to galvanize others to make a stand around issues that matter.
For me the most powerful piece was learning first hand how to do the same type of community organizing work Martin Luther King Jr. did to unite the masses, and push for change. We got to hear from several Community Organizers who have advocated for such powerful change in their own communities and today I just want to highlight some of their work, because I was so taken aback by the power of the people. One example was the work of Angela Cobian. As a community organizer with Together Colorado she coached parent teams in Denver Public Schools and parishioners in churches. Together, they lead the change they wanted to see in their city. Through this they achieved better transportation options for students, improved police and immigrant community relationships, and even fought for the right to get driver’s licenses and for strong academic standards at the state Capitol.
Angela Cobian is now the District 2 representative on the Denver Public Schools school board in Colorado. From this seat, she continues to advocate for all students. Cobian won a first term in the by-district general election on November 7, 2017. From this powerful example, I see what is possible not only for Denver & Angela, but for us & Atlanta. We too want to advocate for lasting change. What’s our issue? Dismantling the school to prison pipeline. What is the SPP exactly? The school-to-prison pipeline is the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly black and brown students, to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school policies. Where do we start? Well, we listen to the people of course. Please tell us your experience with the school-to-prison pipeline below, because without your voices no true progress can be made. So leave a comment to let us know if you or someone you know has been affected by this issue and how, because this is just the beginning of our very own fight.
How aggression & stereotypes led an 11 year old to be charged with 2 felonies by a School Peace Officer.
I write today’s piece angrily, and this is not how I try to come to you all, ever. Yet there’s no better way to describe my feelings other than outrage. I recently became aware of a case out of Farmington, New Mexico, and was brought to tears when I saw the way a grown man, in a position of power, used his authority to assault an 11 year old girl on school grounds. The worst of it, is that this happens more often than we’d like, where some school police officers usher students to and through the juvenile justice system due to a lack of de-escalation tactics and stereotypical biases. I want to use this sad situation to underscore how REAL the school to prison pipeline is. Had it been up to this one condemnable officer, this student would have two felonies, to answer for. Both of which were dismissed after review of the video footage.
It all started on August 27th at Mesa View Middle School when School Peace Officer, Zachary Christensen, reported an 11 year old, 6th grader had assaulted two staff members, and was resisting arrest. Thankfully, the 77 minute body camera video contradicted his entire description of events. What the video does show is a child who is initially quiet, and at best non-compliant. The initial incident that started this entire fiasco, revolves around the girl taking an extra milk from the cafeteria, and at some point throwing that milk on the floor. Based on this officers biases, lack of cultural competency, and poor communication skills, it’s evident that whatever training he had wasn’t effective. Zachary Christensen resigned on October 1st, 2019.
Too See the Video Click Below: (please be advised the content may disturbing, so assess what’s best for you)
So what can we do about it? Steve Hebbe, police chief, said that officer Christensen had attended the required de-escalation and peace officer training, I ask did he master them? Obviously not. Even when a school administrator attempted to intervene saying, “she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” and “you are not going to use excessive force to get this done” Christensen persisted yelling back “we’re not excessive” using his full weight to pin the child down. We’ve got to act now if we want the behavior of our black and brown students to stop being criminalized in schools. Please take a moment to call or email the police chief and demand diversity and equity training with mastery requirements for “peace officers”! Let’s make some noise, we can be proud of!
CALL TO ACTION!!!!
CALL: 505) 599-1053 & Ask to speak to Chief Hebbe OR Email: email@example.com
Script: “Hi, My Name is ______________. I am calling about the incident with Officer Christensen that occured on August, 27th, 2019. I am aware he has resigned, however what’s being done to ensure the rest of your officers in schools won't assault children under the guise of the law? (listen) We are advocating for diversity and equity training, with mastery requirements, for “peace officers”. This is the only way to ensure we aren’t putting people like this next to our children”.
Countless educators are exiting America’s Classrooms in droves. The one thing education needs less of are teachers who are going to abandon scholars mid-year, so I say this with all the love in the world, but get you some teaching experience before pursuing this field, because what it looks like, is nothing like what it actually is. It is long hours, I mean the longest, at home too. It’s endless grading, it’s students who are uneager to learn and need to be motivated to engage, it's angry parents sometimes frustrated by systemic injustices they can’t solve alone, and it’s even co-workers who have stayed past their time and make the work harder. So how do you get a sneak peak of the real deal before you take expensive classes, declare your major, or attempt to save the disadvantaged youth of our country?
Even if your someone who is thinking about transitioning into education, I strongly suggest you get your feet wet, before diving in. How, you ask? You can substitute teach in your local school system. The process is pretty simple, and can be found by googling the school system in the county or city you live in. From there you can review the application requirements, which usually consists of a resume, some basic info, and proof of some college. Each school system is different, but in most cases you don’t even have to have a completed degree, just a minimum number of college hours/credits. Just so you know, you will have to submit a background check if hired. This real life experience is one of the best things I did before assuming a full time role in the classroom, because it gave me insight into the day to day profession.
So here are the top 10 things you need to know before becoming a Teacher:
In a world that is founded on cause and effect, and choices and consequences, I recently questioned if there is room for grace in the villages known as our schools. In every school and in every neighborhood, in every family and in every space that humans occupy, there is a child (or five) that struggle with impulse control, and in most cases, due to no fault of their own. There are scholars with all kinds of initials, acronyms, abbreviations, and labels assigned to them, and spaces designed and designated for just them. And at times, it seems that those initials, and accompanying behaviors are all that people are able to see.
As humans with our own goals, agendas, and desired outcomes, the hesitation to teach these children is understandable. However, as educators we have a responsibility to every child we touch, whether it’s in the hall, in the cafeteria, or in the classroom. It is our duty to not only educate the next generation, but equip them with the confidence, resilience, and the problem-solving capability to navigate the world beyond our school walls. In order to do this effectively, we need to operate in the gift of grace.
What exactly does that look like? It means not penalizing children for things that are beyond their control, but instead helping them to discover ways to channel their energy positively. It means giving them a clean slate every single, solitary time you encounter them. It means assuming the best, even if your last experience with them was the worst. It means giving them an opportunity to express themselves freely, and being a safe space for them. It means empowering them, encouraging them, and explaining to them the systems that they may not always fully understand versus using those systems to control them, and exert power over them. It means accepting them unconditionally, believing in their ability, and meeting them where they are developmentally.
Two of my scholars, who struggle with impulsivity have presented challenges to other teachers, and in my space they are successful a lot. They’re given an opportunity to figure out what works for them. They are able to be expressive. They are able to be creative, and they are able to be themselves. I do give them redirections, but I do it with clarity, love, and intentionality, because it’s what they need and it’s what they deserve. I have seen those same two scholars hanging in the halls from time to time, trying to escape whatever is going on in their classroom. It is my desire to create a space where scholars are not plotting to escape, but begging to stay. Because in that space, they are not villainized, penalized, or despised because they don’t fit into the idea a teacher may have of an ideal student. I want my space to be a place where they receive the gift of grace.
Author Tiffany Lezama
People often ask me how I do it all and the truth is I had a strong example. I watched my mother work tirelessly to reach and get her goals whether it was a new car, a new home, an international trip, or saving money she would always set a goal and conquer it. I strive to be like her in many ways and I work just as hard. At times this has been difficult to manage because it can easily lead to burn out, but one of the things I think I do well now is incorporate time for self-care intentionally. The reality is I incorporate time for everything intentionally. At this point in my life there are so many things to juggle that if I don't intentionally make time for them they won't happen. So yes I schedule making dinner, working out, doing graduate school work,, date night, phone time with loved ones, and meditations. In 2019 doing it all means being able to keep up with it all and truth be told I can't, so I use some tools to help me.
So some of the things that I'm juggling right now are graduate school, running a full-time business, attending events for said business, working as an ad hoc board member for my community, and being a mother, daughter, friend and a wife. The easiest thing to do when you have a lot on your plate is to run and hide from it all and I've done that. I've literally retreated and ignored it all and for me it didn't work. I recognized that the things I was ignoring actually fulfilled me, I just had to be able to make space for them. So now I do and there's a lot less guilt about who I've let down, because I make time for them. I'm going to share a week of my schedule which is pretty embarrassing, because it's so detailed and I'm sure everyone will think I'm crazy but it's the way I run My Crazy Life.
My hope is not that you create some crazy schedule for your life but rather that you make time for what's important in it. If that means time blocking for you great do that I'll give you some tips in a moment, but for some of you it'll just mean being a little more intentional with your time and using it to do the things that you love that bring you joy. For me a big motivator is spending time with my son. You will notice that he wasn’t something I scheduled, and that’s because my schedule revolves around him first, so there’s no need to input him anywhere. I think that’s the biggest blessing entrepreneurship has afforded me, being able to create a life that prioritizes motherhood as a gift and skill.
Now for those of you that know you need serious help managing your time, because you want to reach your highest potential here are some tips:
1. Make a list of what you love to do:
Let it range from things you can do alone to things you can do with people Let it have some items that are cost-effective and those that you would consider a splurge. Include things that you can do in the house and things that you can do out on the town. This is going to be your bank of self care items and you can consult this list when needed. It helps to actually put it in your schedule on days that you know will be hard or days that will be extremely busy.
2. Take one Night a week for 1-hour and Schedule your Time:
You and your schedule need to become great friends. The goal is to look at the week ahead and figure out what things need to get on your calendar. Of course there's the recurring things like maybe taking the kids to school or driving to work, but then there's the extra things the things you want to make time for. Put all of those things on your calendar. We use the Google because it’s amazing & due to its technology throughout the week you'll get reminders on your phone of what you had the intention to do when you were clear-minded and relaxed. I usually do it on Sunday because it's a calmer day in my house. This helps because when that day comes, and maybe I'm not in the mood I remember what my intention was on Sunday, and I'm more likely to execute it.
3. When the Schedule says Do, Go!
This seems like the simplest part, right? Calendar says go to event at 7pm, but your in bed and it’s comfy and maybe you can just skip it. Or your at work and the Calendar says go observe a colleague, but you’d rather finish a project solo, see how it can get challenging? The hardest part in reality is executing the intentions you had when the world was quiet. Everything is all good on Sunday, but then Wednesday comes and you just ain’t got it. I jokingly use the Calendar like a shaming tool to remind me of the commitments I broke myself. When it reminds me for the 3rd time of what I was supposed to do, I can somehow find the will. So give time blocking a try for a week, and see how it works, I promise you this you're likely to be far more productive!
What a given week might look like. . .
So we decided to do something kinda scary. We decided to put something out into the world, The Circle Kit, our very first digital product. You may have seen it on social media, and thought oh cool, but for us this was huge. We plan to share the journey we’re on because we believe too many people in this world only show the highlight reel for the likes, but we want to be authentic with you guys in our walk on this "edupreneur" path. Shortly after Plywood Presents. I’d started doing a ton of research on launching a digital product and Kim seemed on board with this little experiment of mine, so we kept at it. It seemed relatively simple, once we laid out the steps. The hardest part would be the execution, and getting over the fear that comes with putting out a piece of work, to be seen. This was a hectic time to start a new project, because we were prepping to work with Milwaukee Excellence Charter School that month, closing a few other deals, taking potential client meetings, attending networking events, working, studying for grad school, mothering, and attending to day to day business tasks. Despite the tension with time we began working on the tool, making it pretty, editing it for typos, finding video, citing sources, yeah you get the point it was a lot.
Their great for the classroom, but can also be used anywhere young people are, parents that means you too. Even if you just ask the questions with your kids at home, you may be surprised by what you learn. Ultimately they’re tools to start engaging our young people more, and getting inside their minds to better support them!
This week we decided to switch it up and interview a fellow entrepreneur who we met working in the field with a unique approach to a very real problem, ENJOY!
Interview with G. Taboris Taylor
Tell us about what you do?
I am G. Taboris Taylor, owner of Taboris Intelligence Training Group. I am an Independent Certified John Maxwell Life Coach, Trainer, Author, and Speaker specializing in Social Media Etiquette, Smartphone Addiction, and Emotional Intelligence Training as well as Coaching. I graduated from Dillard University with a B.S. Degree in Computer Science and have over 20+ years of combined experience in Speaking, Training and Mentoring Sales Professionals in Corporate America and 10+ years with the Federal Government. I have a passion for helping people develop coping mechanisms to deal with stress, depression, and rejection; as well as developing the Social and Interpersonal Skills necessary to succeed in life thus avoiding the pitfalls and consequences of living in a virtual and digital World.
What is the biggest misconception about Social Media and Kids?
Wow, that is a great question, I always say we need to have an honest, difficult, non-emotional conversation about where we are today. The biggest misconception is that only school-age and college kids use Social Media. According to the latest study, 78% of adults ages 30-49 were FB users, 65% of adults ages 50-65 indicated they used social networking as well.
Through a lot of our training with clients we’ve learned kids ages 5-14 thrive in real world situations without the use of smart tech or Social Media. Whereas the older you are the less secure you feel, and the more they don’t want to share or engage. They don't want to use their independent and critical thinking skills, because their so afraid of being judged or being wrong. And if their younger their more likely to throw that concept out the window.
What do you want young people to know about how they engage with Social Media? Listening, this generation today communicates much differently…..
Young people if you’re listening to me this is G. Taboris, this generation communicates much differently today than every other generation. Not realizing the long term potential consequences and pitfalls of an emotional response to a tweet, email, post, voice mail, or text message. Resulting in you having a permanent transcript of everything you say and do, and how it can be made public at any time. And you need to understand what goes online stays online, and can have severe long term career consequences. An unhealthy relationship with technology, can develop into an electronic dependency, which can look like cyberbullying better known as twitter thugs or keyboard warriors. All of this contributes to self esteem issues and smart-phone addictions.
Social Media should be in your life, your every thought and random moves should not be on Social Media. Back in the day we had these things called a diary, or personal journal. We wrote our thoughts in it, our daily activities, our secrets that even a best friend may not know, and it was kept under lock and key. Today everything is posted for public consumption and that creates a problem itself.
What’s the most valuable lesson you have learned working with the digital kids of today?
Creative Freedom! Even though our youth mimic what they see from leaders and parents, even though they at times act like cyborg species looking down never up, even though they appear to have a severe electronic imbalance at school, church, dinner, movies etc. they are highly intelligent, they love cool stuff, and like to hear about life before smart tech. They run circles around us old dinosaurs who are used to writing everything down, and only type with one hand, and they are one with tech, it’s apart of them. We just have to connect with how they communicate.
Could you recommend one book, one strategy, and one podcasts that parents & teachers could look to for additional support.
June 5th was the day we got the email telling us we’d been selected to present! “I'm excited to inform you that you've been selected to share your Innovative Project in the idea competition at Plywood Presents x ATL Ideas this year! You're probably wondering what's next” was how the email opened, and I was super excited to call Kimberlie and tell her. We began planning immediately, and decided to use a pitch we had just done for Teach For America in May. We planned on editing it a bit, and telling more of our story to convey our passion.
However, over the course of the next few weeks Kimberlie had started to come to some conclusions of her own. She told me she “needed to talk”, and I immediately got nervous. What would my business partner say? She video-called me and sheepishly told me that she wanted to step into her role more and play the behind the scenes areas while I stepped out and led. We’d been talking about our roles more lately, so I wasn’t surprised by her mentioning it. She let me know that she’d definitely come on stage with me at Plywood Presents since we’d been preparing for it, but after that she wanted me out front.
Something nudged me in the moment, and I let her know I was willing to do it alone. I told her to take some time and decide if she wanted to be up there. After about a day Kimberlie let me know “it’s your time, you got this, and I will be there the entire time”. With that I nervously prepared my pitch. I spent hours writing, editing, deleting the words on the slides to convey why I am so passionate about Restore More. I revamped the pitch entirely, and decided to include my personal story with childhood abuse in the opening. I was nervous about how it would land in a room full of strangers, but I tried to put it out of my mind as I worked to craft the perfect words and flow.
I spent all of July working out, practicing my pitch, and pushing towards Restore More’s goals. I even decided to do JJ Smith’s 10-DAY Green Smoothie cleanse in an attempt to get mentally clear, and prepared to deliver the best pitch possible. About two weeks before the big day, I had a mandatory rehearsal with Jeff, the Founder of Plywood, talk about pressure. I did my pitch, and had to use headphones in my ear that were playing my words, so that I could remember it. Clearly not as prepared as I’d like to be. Memorizing 5 minutes of information proved to be incredibly challenging. Luckily, I managed to get through it without messing up too much. Jeff looked at me with a smile and said “Are you sure you’re ready to share that?”. I appreciated the ask, but I knew sharing my story was essential for part of my healing so I said “yes”, my voice trembling.
The Monday before the big pitch, I went to see my therapist. I knew talking about my abuse publicly for the first time was probably as good a time as any to check-in with her. She encouraged me, affirmed me, and reminded me that I’ve been preparing to do this work in more ways than one my whole life. I am one of the best to do the job, because I lived it, survived it, went to school for it, trained for it, and have professional experience in it. I left the session feeling ready and excited for Thursday. There was one problem however, everytime I read my pitch I would shake uncontrollably and my heart would pound loudly in my throat, the anxiety was real y’all.
Thursday had arrived, and I was ready mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Many friends showed up to support us including Katie Rigby, the lady who taught me how to teach Science my first year in the classroom, Folami Adams, a long time mentor who coached me in leadership, and Jimmy Starnes our business coach and all-around great soul. The room was packed and the 6 pitch participants were seated upfront. Jeff took the stage and kicked off the competition. His last statement ended with my name, I was first. I walked onto the stage, waited as he adjusted the mic, and then began my pitch. “I was born to an immigrant mother and a father, who had a debilitating disease, addiction”. The next 5 minutes were a blur, honestly. I know that there was applause at two points, and that I messed up at the end, needless to say the entire experience was pretty surreal.
It was a relief when I finally took my seat. I had done it. I told my truth, and didn’t die. This was at some point in my childhood a legitimate fear. I would tell people, and then literally die of embarrassment. Well this life-long journey of healing has taught me that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, I was never responsible for any of it, and I therefore will not be ashamed of it. I am also no victim, but rather a survivor who has been made stronger through her experiences. I am grateful today that I can tell that story about one part of my life proudly feeling worlds away from that little girl, and beyond proud of the woman I am becoming now. I hope this story encourages someone out there to seek out their own healing, so they too can tell their story without shame. That night so many people came up to me thanking me for being so brave and sharing, when I went to bed I felt like I had already won.
The next day we sat in the same room waiting to hear who would take the $5,000 prize. Jeff took the stage, along with Bethaney of Plywood People. They called us up on stage, and we stood behind them as they announced the audience favorite winner, “Restore More”. The prize, a 1-Year Membership at the Brand New Plywood offices that will open in January. I timidly stepped forward and mouthed thank you, fighting back tears. Before I could catch my breath, Jeff told us the judges had an issue, they felt like there were so many quality pitches that they wanted to offer their own money to create a 2nd-$2,500, and 3rd-$1,000 place prize. I remember thinking how amazing it was that the judges were swayed to move like that. And then Bethaney announced the 3rd place winner “Restore More”. I couldn’t believe it, we actually won again.
It’s still all a bit surreal, we took home two prizes in our very first pitch competition and we did it in our own unique way, WOW, just WOW. I am super proud of the work Kimberlie and I are doing and the support we are receiving let’s us know we are on the right track. Thank you to everyone who has ever shared a post, liked a status, commented on a pic, read the blog, or told a friend about us. All of that is support, entrepreneurs like to remind people all the time that support is a verb and you have to actually do something to support someone. Well I don’t need to tell you guys any of that because you all DO so much to show us support. That day alone we received so many texts, calls, and displays of love that seriously made us feel so special. Thank You, Thank You,
P.S. We get a high quality edited video of the pitch next month, would y’all wanna see it?
Comment Below :)
"On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how depressed are you?"
"On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think about leaving this earth?"
I had to fight back tears as I listened in on a session with a social worker, and my mentee. She asked me to accompany her to the meeting for support, but I am not sure how much of a support I was if I could barely handle the answers to those questions. As she continued to share, I wondered how many other students were just like her, but did not feel safe enough to tell an adult what they were experiencing.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-14, which means many children do not feel comfortable or safe enough to be vulnerable with adults. Now that we know this, we have to make sure the adults working with kids are adequately prepared to not only handle trauma in kids, but to guide them to the resources available to them.
Here are a few tips that can aid this process:
The tips shared above do not come overnight, and need to be developed, but when we recognize the mental health crisis we are in, we take a different responsibility with ourselves, our students, and our community as a whole.
So you're in the classroom and everything is going great until a child unintentionally triggers you into an unexpected emotional meltdown! Embarrassing! How could this little being with their pretty predictable behaviors, launch you into an emotional response that takes you by surprise?
Well that’s kind of how it works! Getting triggered is not something you typically plan for, but it is something that happens a lot, to all of us. This blog isn't just for teachers, look we all get triggered, probably more than we'd like to admit. So this is for everyone out there who’d like to get a better handle on their emotions!
The first step in managing how you react to triggers is knowing what gets you upset, bothered, or emotional in the first place. By the time you finish completing this activity we want you to know exactly what it is that gets you hot and bothered, so that you can avoid these places and situations or apply healthy coping skills when needed.
There are three areas you will need to look at to develop this level of self-awareness.
But here comes the actual work, you MUST study yourself!
Comment below with your email, and we will send you a treasure, THE TRIGGER TRACKER, which will allow you to use the next week to study what really grinds your gears, why, and note how you deal with it. After about a week pay close attention to what you see in the trigger column, and ask yourself what patterns do I see emerging?
Once you are empowered with this knowledge, you can begin to develop healthy ways to cope with your stress. This completed activity is a great tool to share with your therapist who can also help you to create healthy ways for coping with stress.
As your tracking this week feel free to let us know how it’s going! Shoot us an email, (firstname.lastname@example.org), leave a comment below, or find us on social media, we’d love to support and encourage you!
As Black educators we must take a stand for our black boys, love them or leave them alone. As Ava DuVernay’s latest Film When They See Us points out, when they see us, they fear us and develop narratives no matter how different the truth is. Who are they? Bigots, racists, oppressors or small minded folks who refuse to analyze America and it’s sorted history with racism. It’s safe to say if you grew up in America, prejudice and bias runs deep within you, so we must consciously fight to dismantle it, especially in our schools. When we see them we need a new, unified response. They are ready to act when they see black boys, so let’s meet them where they are be ready to challenge the status quo when we see them.
Black boys specifically are over suspended, over expelled, and placed into remedial classes faster than any other sub-group in this country. We must love these babies that much more fiercely, because this country continues to tell them “you don’t matter”. When the world has only feared you, it's a wonder you continue to thrive. So to counterbalance the acts of ignorance and hate, educators must love them extra. Now be clear love doesn’t mean low expectations, in fact it means the opposite high standards, high belief that they can reach them, and high support to make sure they do so. How do you do this? We have a few suggestions:
SEE THEM AS PEOPLE, NOT STATISTICS or NARRATIVES
Ask them questions, get to know them, learn about their parents/families, find out what they love to do. When you really see them, you will grow to love them because they are beautifully made.
TELL THEM YOU CARE
It’s never been helpful to anyone to hear “I got my degree, you need yours” so stop using that destructive and privileged language. Instead tell them “I care about you, I know what it takes to get to college, and I’m here to help you accomplish your goals”. It lands better, gets desired results faster, and saves you from looking like an ass.
SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS, KEEP THEM THERE
You help absolutely no one by lowering the bar because you think it’s best for their future.Too many teachers “underestimate the potential of black children more than that of whites” (Smith, 2005), so avoid that.Truth moment-a study found that “the effort and academic motivation put forth by African American students was as high or higher than that of White students” (Smith, 2005). The real question is how will you use that motivation to help them.
This is the responsibility of every educator regardless of race, remember you joined an ongoing intense fight for equality. Therefore we don’t have time for you to get your bearings, and then act. We need you to join the right side of history and call out the hate when you see it, immediately. My son, who is 4 is more than someone else’s fear, and I plan on making sure the world learns to see him for all his complexities and greatness. I fight for all black boys, because their stories are rich and full of resilience. Make some time to listen today because that small action impacts them more than you know!
Keep fighting for equality,
It was the Spring of 2017, I was working full time as an Assistant Principal of a well known Charter Network, and tired would’ve been an understatement. I was in year 9, and wanted to be the forever educator that former students could come back and see decades later. However, with another school year on the horizon, and no summer break in sight I recall feeling depleted, overwhelmed, and weary. It got so bad that the stress began to take a physical hold on my body that summer. I dropped weight, fell into a depression, and began to suffer from anxiety, which was totally foreign to me. As most people do in dark times, I went home to visit my Mom.
After some nerves, many tears, and lots of hugs I confessed to my mom “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. I felt I was letting her down. As a single mom, she worked to put me through college, and here I was leaving a 10 year career that I worked tirelessly for, what would I do next? My mother stopped my thoughts and spoke over me, “Baby working that hard, and missing out on your life is never worth any price. You’ll figure it out, I support you”. With encouragement in tow, I left Rhode Island that November confident that leaving was right for me, my family, and my mental health. Keeping my secret was agonizing, and I wondered if leaving was the right thing too many times to count. Luckily, my inner voice continued to narrate that I needed to leap out on faith.
I spoke to my Principal in January of 2018, and though the conversation was a tough one, it was a necessary step. From that point on, I decided to focus on closing out my 10 year journey on a high-note, prioritizing my mental health, and loving on myself and family more. May 26th, 2018 was my last day of a decade long trip and it was bittersweet, but what happened after has been nothing short of amazing. Fast forward a year later, and I am now the CEO & Co-Founder of my own Educational Consulting Firm, Restore More. We help schools train teachers to enhance the Social-Emotional Development of students.
This is the work I am most passionate about, helping black and brown students better manage their emotions to thrive and be successful. It was the part of the job that fueled me most, and now I get to do it ALL day. This undertaking has been a wild ride and I can’t wait to share more as we travel the bumpy road of a social innovation start-up. With this blog we hope to educate, uplift, and unite communities, especially of color, by providing insight into our worlds & minds.
Welcome to the Journey,
My business partner and I at a Pitch Night event!