Anti-bias Education in the Early Years
We’re thrilled to host a screening of the new film Reflecting on Anti-bias Education in Action: The Early Years, as well as a conversation with the film producers and with two of the teachers featured in the film. Watch the introduction and post-film Q&A with the creators and two teachers featured in the film above. To see the film itself and get the accompanying fantastic resources, including a guidebook - all free to access - visit AntiBiasLeadersECE.com or click the link below.
The film focuses on teachers in diverse early childhood classrooms who are committed to equity - in terms of race, gender, disability, language, class and other identities of the students and families they serve - on a daily basis. We watch those teachers use anti-bias strategies in early childhood classrooms and also see them reflecting on their practices.
Anti-bias education giants Debbie LeeKeenan and John Nimmo produced the film as a resource for early childhood educators wanting to engage in anti-bias practices and featuring the voices and practices of fellow teachers. The film focuses on teachers in classrooms but also offers practical insights about anti-bias helpful to any of us with young children in our lives.
Watch the film and hear from Debbie, John, and two teachers featured in the film, Joyce Jackson and Nadia Jaboneta. As always, we welcome your questions and insights!
Introduction to the film
EmbraceRace: At EmbraceRace, we are always relying on the experience and expertise of others and that's certainly true tonight. Let me introduce two of the principles behind this film.
Debbie LeeKeenan is a longtime social justice educator, early childhood consultant, lecturer, and author. She has been in the field of early education for over 48 years. She is a former preschool special education elementary school teacher and has been a member of the early childhood faculty at Tufts University, Leslie University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has written numerous books, including "Leading Anti-Biased Early Childhood Programs" with Louise Derman-Sparks and John Nimmo. Debbie is a member of a multi-racial family and an active grandmother. And now a second time guest on EmbraceRace. Debbie, come on in. We're really delighted to have you.
And I also want to introduce her colleague ...
John Nimmo is a professor of Early Childhood Education at Portland State University in Oregon. From 2003 to 2013, he was Executive Director of the Child Study Development Center and Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire, where he was the recipient of the Social Justice Award and the Excellence through Diversity Award. His many publications include "Leading Anti-Biased Early Childhood Programs" with Louise Derman-Sparks and Debbie LeeKeenan. He's also a former early childhood and elementary teacher in his first home of Australia. And now in the U.S. Welcome to you both. We're really, really glad to have you.
Debbie LeeKeenan: Great. Thank you so much, Andrew and Melissa. We are honored to be here today and to be able to share our film and support the great work of EmbraceRace. We are all huge fans.
Why did we make this film and what was involved?
We were fortunate to receive a grant from a small non-profit in Connecticut called the Tyler Rigg Foundation, who was interested in supporting anti-bias initiatives after they saw Louise Derman-Sparks in 2017 on a PBS news spot on the evening news. Louise had created the first film on Anti-Biased Education in 1989, so we thought it may be time for an update. Our film is really a response to the question we often hear: What does anti-bias education look like in the classroom? The film shifts the focus from a talking heads of experts onto the voices and actions of teachers who are committed to making equity and diversity a part of their life and their classroom experience.
So the film, you'll see, is a series of classroom vignettes with teachers responding to children's questions and comments about differences; and then also reflecting on their own identity, contexts and practice. One of the messages of the film is that there's not one way to do anti-bias education. It is based on the framework of the four anti-bias goals of identity, diversity, justice, and action. This approach involves critical thinking and a deep understanding of the complexity of the issues and of your context, your community, the children, the families, the teachers, the colleagues that you work with. Another message in the film is that anti-bias education is possible and doable in all kinds of settings. We want it to show teachers who are not perfect, but rather comfortable taking risks, willing to make mistakes, being vulnerable and sharing who they are.
There are no scripts or actors in the film. These are real teachers in real classrooms, but of course there was preparation. John and I met with the teachers before the actual filming for around three months. I attended bi-weekly team meetings where we would talk about the anti-bias moments that were happening in their classroom, how the teachers were responding, how they integrated this approach into their curriculum, and of course, how they included families.
The coaching and professional development before the actual filming was also about building trust between the teachers, the directors, the sites. We really feel this project was a very collaborative endeavor between us, the producers, the teachers, the directors, the sites, and of course our wonderful filmmaker, Filiz Efe McKinney of Brave Sprouts, which is based here in Seattle. While the film was made with educators in mind, we really are finding that anyone who is interested in social justice work will find it very useful and particularly families. So most important, we see this film as a provocation to generate a dialogue on how to make this anti-bias education a part of your practice and a part of your life. And we hope you'll see it as a catalyst for change. John, do you want me to talk?
One of the messages of the film is that there's not one way to do anti-bias education. It is based on the framework of the four anti-bias goals of identity, diversity, justice, and action. This approach involves critical thinking and a deep understanding of the complexity of the issues and of your context, your community, the children, the families, the teachers, the colleagues that you work with.
John Nimmo: Thank you so much to EmbraceRace and Andrew and Melissa, and also our wonderful interpreters today. Thank you for being here and welcome. I see over a thousand people, so that's just really exciting and I can feel my heart beating right now. This film talks about Anti-Bias Education. We began with an image of young children that they are seeking to make sense of what they see around them. They're seeking to make sense of diversity. They're seeking to make sense of themselves, their identities, and they're also trying to make sense of biases and discrimination that they see around them. We believe that young children absorb and internalize biases that reflect the social and individual prejudice and discriminations that exist in our society. We come from a belief that young children are very empathic.
They have a deep sense of fairness and they understand unfairness. We also believe that they have agency. That they are actively try to make sense of things and they can act when they see unfairness. So this is sort of a grounding for this approach we call Anti-Bias Education. We also believe very strongly in an active and strong view of teachers of young children and families of young children, that you are making decisions at every moment in the day as part of addressing bias, recognizing bias, and also giving children the tools to work against bias. We see in this film, we tried to view the teachers as the decision-makers, the experts in their own classrooms and that we believe strongly that doing nothing when it comes to bias is always doing something. You always have to do something. You can't just do nothing.
Anti-Bias Education, I think is a very optimistic approach. It brings hope and it really permeates everything you do in an early childhood setting. It's not a set curriculum. It's not a plan, although you'll see many strategies in the film, but it really depends that it's going to be different depending on your particular setting, your families, the children, and your community, the place you're in and the social identities of the people who are in there. We hope that you can take what you see in the film, like as Debbie says, as a provocation, and then to look at and reflect on your own particular settings of, of children, families, and communities.
Into the anti-bias education. You'll see in this film, we've structured around the four goals, the first one being identity. In other words, what's being reflected back to me as a child or an adult about who I am. How do I feel good about who I am? And I think of EmbraceRace. How do I embrace who I am in the world in terms of the group identities that I belong to and the families I belong to? One is this mirror coming back to you.
The second goal is what we call diversity. That is the windows out to all the other people in this world. How am I encouraged as a young child to be curious about diversity? To love diversity? To want to understand diversity? And to realize that there's power in interacting with folks who are different from who I am, whether it's by ability or gender expression or race or language and so forth.
The third one is justice. That is the belief that young children can be given tools to understand bias, which of course is connected to systemic racism and oppression. That they could be given the tools, whether it's identifying a stereotype or understanding when something is unfair. They can get these tools.
And then the fourth one is action or activism. Being able to do something with those tools, be able to identify and think about: how can I change things in my world to have that hopeful view of the possibility of change? We see these things as an important kind of framework for young children.
Another thing before we start the film that I think is really important is that in this film, which we called "Reflecting on Anti-Biased Education and Practice," we see teachers who are aware of who they are, their social identities, that when they walk into the classroom they're bringing who they are; whether that's their race, their language, their religion, and that you have to be very intentional about understanding that history and heritage and how it relates to what you're doing in terms of the children in your classroom and the families you're working with.
That then prepares you to engage in, to not only observe and see the questions children are asking through their behavior or through their words, but to have the courage to be able to engage in that conversation and even to provoke that conversation at times.
The last thing I think I would say is that Debbie and I recognize that the teachers in this film, we think they're brave and they're courageous. Not only did they have filmmakers and us in their classrooms recording their actions as they happen, this was not a scripted film. These teachers were not only able to do that, but I think you'll see in their reflections a great deal of honesty about the complexity of the work and their willingness to be vulnerable. I think that's so critical to this work, that you have to step up and you have to be able to take a risk and to know that you're going to make mistakes. There's no way to do this perfectly. We hope that you will see this optimistic view. I think we both believe that this is a very heart-centered film and that it will speak to you and your work in the classroom or with your families.
EmbraceRace: Great. Thank you so much both. I think we're ready to see the film. See you on the other side.
Watch the film, Reflection on Anti-Bias Education In Action: The Early Years (48 minutes long)
Post-film Conversation and Q&A
EmbraceRace: That was remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. Please come on back. One of the really wonderful things about this film, I hope you saw all the love, all the appreciation, heartfelt and clearly mind-felt as well that people were reflecting about was absolutely amazing. An absolutely extraordinary film. One of the things that we really love about it is that, as you said Debbie when you're introducing it, you really lift up the voices of educators and children. There are, as you say, "no talking head experts" in this film. Although lots of talking head experts have lots of good things to offer to be sure, including you, but wow. Amazing. Let me introduce them.
Nadia Jaboneta lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. Nadia is a program coordinator and classroom teacher at Pacific Primary Preschool. She has 22 years of experience in Early Childhood Education teaching young children, training teachers, consulting, and facilitating workshops. She's passionate about social justice and proud to have immigrant parents from Lima, Peru. She also is the author of two books. One entitled "You Can't Celebrate That! Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Education" and "Children's Lively Minds: Schema Theory Made Visible." Welcome. Nadia, thank you for your contribution.
And Joyce Jackson, who is a teacher at the Epiphany Early Learning Preschool in Seattle, Washington. Joyce has been working in the early childhood education field for over 30 years. She says, "Our children's first years are their most impressive. Having such an important role in the early education of our future is very, very rewarding. Working with children gives me a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside." And that's always a good thing. Joyce Jackson has done local presentations, has been a featured teacher in Exchange Magazine. She is a wife, a mother of three and a grandmother of 12.
Welcome. Joyce, at the beginning of the film, you talk about this being a journey for you and that is that's one of the highlights of the film. For you and for others, we see the learning journey, an experiential journey that teachers are having. Nadia, you too refer later in the film to Brian to being sort of your partner in thinking through some of the challenges you face and how to meet different circumstances. And of course, underlining that Debbie explained at the beginning that you all work together for a few months before making the film as well.
Are there some milestones or some particular suggestions you would make that might help guide the journeys that educators want to make in anti-bias education?
Nadia Jaboneta: I've been really reflecting a lot about my journey as a social justice leader in the field of early childhood, but also in my life as just a human, as a mom, as a daughter, as all the different roles that I have. I feel like without even knowing it, I've been on this anti-bias social justice journey my whole life. My parents, as I mentioned in the film, came from Lima, Peru over 55 years ago and they specifically chose this city, San Francisco, California, because they had some friends and family who had moved here and told them this is such a diverse city with so many opportunities for education, for raising a family, for jobs. So growing up here in San Francisco, and I'm still here today, I really got to grow up really having so much family pride, really being proud of my roots, being proud of my culture and going to a school that was predominantly White, as I mentioned in the film.
About maybe fifth grade, I really started to notice I'm different. I don't feel like I fit in. I started to think, "I wish I was White. I want blonde hair. I want to look like my best friends. I want to have homes like my best friends do and eat those foods." And I would tell my dad, "Pick me up a little further after school today, okay? When I open the door don't speak Spanish to me, okay?" So it took me up until eighth grade where I became a real advocate without even knowing it and really talking to my parents about, "I want to go to a school that's different. I want to go to a school where I can see people that look like me, that talk like us, that eat food like us. And I want to know a lot more about people who are different than us too."
Here are some of the anti-bias goals and I'm 13-14 years old. We were able to find a high school that was like that and I really got that family pride back, that confidence and moving forward to finding Pacific Primary. I was a mom. I had a three-year-old. I was looking forward to something new and I read their mission statement and how much it talked about their commitment to social justice, to having a diverse community, and I knew it was a place I wanted to be as a teacher, but also as a parent and starting at that time, about 12 years ago, I really began to dig deeper into myself. Who am I? What is my role as a person of color? As a Latina? How do I bring my true self to this community? And really going to lots of, I was going to say webinars, but it wasn't webinars back then. It was actually in-person workshops, doing lots of reading, and really collaborating with Brian in using a reflective lens and really studying the anti-bias goal and what that looked like in our classrooms, what that looked like in the younger classrooms.
I'm still on this journey. I don't consider myself an expert at all, but I consider myself learning something new every day, learning along with the children, learning along with my colleagues, learning along with all the families and learning with my own family, my children. I have a 15 year old, an 11 year old and a one-year-old. I'm just constantly learning something new and something that I feel like I do want to share with everyone watching is that there isn't one way to do this. There's just so many ways to do this work and be really committed to social justice. It could be scary sometimes, so don't be scared away by all the experts out there who are giving us advice on how to do this work. You know you best. You know your context best. You know your kids best; whether it's in your classroom, whether it's your own children. There's just so many ways to do this work and we're all in this together working towards the same goals.
There isn't one way to do this [anti-bias education]. There's just so many ways to do this work and be really committed to social justice. It could be scary sometimes... You know you best. You know your context best. You know your kids best; whether it's in your classroom, whether it's your own children.
Joyce Jackson: Echo what Nadia said about it being a lifelong journey. Being born, I'm a person of color, so thinking way back to elementary school having all White teachers in the classroom, but I knew when I was in kindergarten that I wanted to be a teacher. When I went to college, I came in class one night and all the desks were pulled back and there were just magazine pictures all over the floor. The teacher said, "Find yourself in one of these magazines. Find something that relates to you." And I couldn't. They were all non-Black people, White people mostly. So I think at that moment, shaking my head, that this is a shame. It pushed me further to think about just inclusiveness.
Being in a classroom that is welcoming, accepting of diversities, embracing differences, appreciating, respecting. And now that I have my own kids, and I do consider the kids in my classroom my kids eight hours a day, every day, but I feel like we have to give them the tools now, give them words. We're role modeling because they are the ones that are going to take over. And right now I just feel like it's the job of the teachers, all the educators, the parents, we got to equip our kids with these tools that they need to make these changes in the future and keep letting them know that, "Yeah, it's not fair now, but you're going to have the right and you're going to have the power to make it right."
And being a teacher in the school that I work in is not really diverse, but our school is so focused on the anti-bias goals and bringing these goals in and raising children that I do feel like we are empowering these kids with the tools that they need to carry on in the future. Just as much as we have to guide the White children in ways to use their privilege and then our children of color, "Yeah. You're worthy also and you have the same power."
EmbraceRace: Absolutely. That's so real, right? That so many schools are still pretty homogenous. That's kind of more likely than not, so it's a real problem.
And I wondered, Joyce, to follow up with you a bit on that, you talked about in the film there was one of the teachers, Veronica, who said that being a teacher of color is often just in and of itself walking into a classroom of provocation. And you talked about how "Every year it happens, they're fascinated with my hair."
You're both embracing and carrying yourself and your identities in the room. How has being a teacher of color been a provocation for you in the classroom?
Joyce Jackson: Being a teacher of color and there's me in a classroom with 15-16 little White kids, the questions that they have bring so many deep conversations. They want to know about me, just like I want to know about them. We have our family pictures in the classroom, so even the teachers bring theirs and they want to know about my family. I learn something from them every single day, which my grandma always said when we were little, you got to learn something new every day. These kids, it's just their curiosity. They want to know. And they need to know. And I do want them to know about me, my culture. Some kids talk about God. Religion is just a topic that we talk about.
We talk about, they were talking about getting new crayons and one little girl was saying, "Well, sometimes if you don't have money, then you just can't get new crayons." And I was like, "Well, yeah. I know about that because sometimes when I was little and I broke my toys and I couldn't get another toy." And then they're like, "Why couldn't you? If I break something, I can just go get another one. My mom and dad can just buy me another one." But that just brings up the conversations of "Well, everybody can't do that."
EmbraceRace: Right. That's such a gift to them to have some difference and a person of authority as well.
Nadia Jaboneta: I've been thinking about how being in a diverse community with diverse families, diverse teachers, really working together in a meaningful and genuine way is such a huge piece of us being in an anti-racist community. Also me being able to feel comfortable in bringing my full, true self to the classroom, to my school every day really opens up so many conversations that the children know they're in a safe space. They know they're in a brave space where they can ask me questions about me, about my family. They can share about themselves. They're really brave in just pointing out things that they might not agree with. Whether we're reading a book or it's something that I share or a friend shares and having these discussions where we're being respectful to each other, we're listening to each other. We can say, "It's okay to have different ideas." People can do things differently. But especially this year with COVID, we have a smaller group size. We have 10 children in our classroom, so I've just noticed just deep conversations that we're having.
Just this week, I read a book about being different and being the same and I didn't realize the book was written in 1991. I saw the title and I thought, "Well, this is going to be a conversation starter." And the children just really feeling safe and brave and say, "Nadia, but you know, that's not true. There's more ways to be than just boy and a girl. What do you think?" And I was again having this open conversation about ways that you can be. It's just been such a special year and I'm going to be really sad when these kids go to kindergarten.
EmbraceRace: No, they want to stay with you.
How did you respond to children asking about George Floyd's murder? There was a point in the movie when you ask, do the children want to march? And I noticed which, I hadn't noticed before that there's a little tally of yes, no. And there may be seven or eight yes's when we see it and there's one no. And I wonder, how did you respond with respect to that child or any children who said no?
Nadia Jaboneta: Well, just to give you a little background, I'm not sure how it emerged but the children were really interested in these tallying and surveys that school year. So we had all kinds of surveys all over the classroom. Do you like oranges or do you like apples? And then as we started learning more about being social justice leaders in our community. They'd be tallies like, well, who do you like better, police officers or firefighters? And then there was this question that the children asked, well, let's ask everybody if they want to have a march and we'll have a vote.
So this child went around and asked everybody. And the one child who didn't want to have a march had said that she was shy and didn't want people looking at her and just felt really shy about it. And that's why she didn't want to go. So we helped her in brainstorming ways. "We really want to include you. We all really want to do this. How can we help you?" And the agreement we've made was that she would hold my hand and we would do it together and I would help her hold her sign.
So next thing you know, she didn't want to hold my hand anymore. She was just there holding her sign up high and proud. So that's what that was about. In regards to your other questions. I still struggle every day in what I should tell children, how far I should go, what I shouldn't tell them, how I support them in thinking about the unfairness in our world today, about racism. I don't want to cause harm. I don't want to scare them, particularly with the violence piece. I wish there was just one answer. And I'm constantly watching webinars and reading. I want to know what is the answer for two year-olds, for three-year-old's, for four year old's, for five-year-old's. And there isn't. There's so many perspectives. There's so many different contexts.
And again, just us knowing ourselves, knowing our families that we're working with, knowing the children that are in our care. And even in that small group, there might be one child whose family is talking about what happened to George Floyd and then the kid right here, they're not. So how do I, as a teacher in this classroom with these 22 children, meet the needs of all 22 of them? And it's tricky, it's really hard and tricky work. So when this happened, I emailed all the families with telling them what had happened to that day and how I responded and acknowledging that a lot of them may not be ready to have this conversation with their children. So I gave them some resources that they can look at. I helped with giving them some sentences that they could use. And I made myself very available.
Our director, Bill Anne made herself available to please let us know if they want to have a phone conversation, a Zoom call. Again, this is all during COVID. Several parents met me at the window of our school and six feet away we'd talked through the window and gave them some tips on how they can approach us at home that evening. And throughout the rest of the summer, really collaborated with talking to them about how the conversations were going at home, what their children were saying and they wanted to help. They wanted to participate. So, there was a lot of back and forth of things you can do at home. Things that we were doing at school, sharing photos, reaching out to other family members for their perspectives in helping children in thinking through this. And also there's parents who didn't know what to do.
You know, one family came to me and said, "My child said that they don't want to make another sign tomorrow. And I'm not sure why and I don't know how to respond. Am I doing enough? Are we not talking about this enough?" So setting up a Zoom call with supporting them and thinking about how to best support their child. But so it's, again, it's tricky work but it's all very important work. And it was just such a special summer and all of us collaborating as a community together to empower the children, to really have this sense of being powerful and acting together against this unfair thing that happened.
EmbraceRace: Thank you so much, Nadia. Debbie I'm reminded of when you were a guest with us and we asked, it was mostly an educator audience, what were some of the obstacles that they had, insofar as they wanted to do anti-bias work. And I would say 90 something percent of them basically pointed to other adults. Very often parents, sometimes other teachers, administrators.
Joyce, to the extent that you're able, you try to engage the family members in any of the anti-bias work you do. What can you tell us about that experience? What works? What doesn't work? What is worth highlighting in your experience?
Joyce Jackson: I would say it is very important to have our families involved in the classroom. We've invited parents, well pre-COVID, into our classrooms to share their cultures. Some parents like to come share different recipes from their cultures. We've had parents come talk about the different religions. And it's when the kids notice, they'll look at each other's family pictures or they'll notice something like in the background of one of the pictures, like what is that? And then when the kids can tell each other like, "Oh, in my family, we celebrate this or that." And then it's an interest of all of them. And this is something that we encourage, finding out about each other's differences, respecting each other's differences. And our parents are always on board to come in the classroom and share.
We've had this currently and what, 2020. And then even further back than that, that we've had parents and kids come in. The kids will come in and tell us about different protests that they went to with their parents, different marches. I mean, almost all of them know about Martin Luther king. We're in Seattle. And it seems like, which is a good thing, which is... And I appreciate parents when they involve their kids in the protest and it's like, this is the way they're getting their information. It's hands on. And we do encourage that. And then when they come back to school, it's like, we have all these conversations about, like George Floyd. That how sometimes the word that just describes it in a way that they can understand it is just mean. Some people are mean and creating the space where these kids can have empathy and we can just openly discuss all these different things with them. I mean, it's always a plus.
EmbraceRace: I just can't help thinking, just hearing about communicating with the parents and just even all the Zoom calls, just thinking about how much better prepared these kids are going to be than their parents. It's a lot of support that we parents and teachers need right now to do this work that wasn't done for many of our kids.
Joyce Jackson: Definitely.
EmbraceRace: So we're grateful for the work you're doing. We're going to go to questions. Because there are so many questions and one of them that came up a lot in the registration and that was probably coming up in the chat is about the difficulty of teaching about anti-bias work in regards to race in particular, when you have a homogenous classroom. So when you have a teacher and kids that are all of the same race or almost or majority.
And oftentimes that's asked about White classrooms in particular and I know we have Louise Derman-Sparks on. Oh my gosh, I can't believe it. And that she wrote that fabulous book that we recommend a lot, with Patricia Ramsey who lives in our area. And we know What If All The Children Are White. And I do think that what you said Joyce, really underlines the way in and even a classroom where there are a lot of White kids. Of course you're the provocation, but there's also a lot of differences that you're seeing and that they're sharing. So they're differentiating in all these ways that are really important. I think in that Louise Derman-Sparks and Pat Ramsey talk about in that book, the importance of doing that.
Debbie and John, can you could speak a bit about what does the White teacher in the homogenous classroom do?
EmbraceRace, Andrew: Can I add a little thing?
EmbraceRace, Melissa: Yeah.
EmbraceRace, Andrew: I'm sorry. Because I was thinking very much. One of the remarkable things about this film it seems to me is that you really do treat differences along many dimensions seriously. The school that our children went to when they were much younger, we were on the diversity committee for three years. And even though that diversity committee, which presumably applies to many things, race and gender and gender expression, all sorts of things. It was our common experience that we came back to race again and again and again. Not necessarily an application, in practice, but at least in talking about it, race tended to obliterate all the other differences in the attention had got. But not in this film, which is amazing. If you want to pick up on that at all.
John Nimmo: Yeah. I mean, I think that both of us share a belief that race and racism is pretty central to the United States and intersecting with all these other identities. But I think some folks will ask, "Well, what's the difference between being anti-racist and anti-racist teaching and anti-bias?" And I think it is partly because we're working with very young children, is considering all of those identities that they're constructing and that they're constructing them together. We don't want to pass it out. And we tried in the film to show that. That they're constructing those identities, whether it's gender expression, they're trying to understand religion. They're trying to understand language as they begin to encounter a society, which is to me structured around White supremacy. So you know that as an adult, we begin to see how critical race and racism is in this country.
In terms of this question about all White programs where the teachers or the families are primarily White. I think to me first, we believe anti-bias education is for those settings as much as any other setting, that's the first thing. The second thing is that thinking about all the identities, that there's going to be diversity in any program, whether it's across social class or family structure or language, gender expression, there is going to be that diversity there. So I don't think we want to think about any place as somehow just monocultural. I think the other thing is for me thinking as a White teacher myself, it's not a surprise, I think it's a symptom of systemic oppression and White supremacy that White folks don't like to talk about or have been socialized not to talk about their identities in terms of race.
And so I think that's the first thing for me is that if you're in that setting, you have to get comfortable with talking about that part of yourself with children and with colleagues and practicing that. And I think part of that is both recognizing, being able to find ways to talk to four year old's about privilege and those kinds of things, whether it's for social class or race and also being able to be very clear about the heroes and models that you have, who may be both BIPOC and also White folks. I mean, Louise Derman-Sparks is in the audience here somewhere. And you know, for me and I know for Debbie, she's a model, she's an important model in my growth over the last 30 years. And there are other folks who I turn to as models of an anti-racist view of being White.
So I think that's a couple of the things you can do. The other thing that I always find is if you dig below, if you go beyond your classroom of children and families and make connections with communities, make connections with the neighborhood, talk to families about their extended family or friends. You begin to see you can build true and authentic relationships with folks who are going to reflect diversity around race. And I saw that in New Hampshire, which is not exactly known for its racial diversity and it wasn't that difficult to begin to create meaningful relationships with folks who broke that sense that everyone was White, which is what the kids were experiencing. Debbie.
The other thing is for me, thinking as a White teacher myself... it's a symptom of systemic oppression and White supremacy that White folks don't like to talk about or have been socialized not to talk about their identities in terms of race. And so I think that's the first thing for me is that if you're in that setting, you have to get comfortable with talking about that part of yourself with children and with colleagues and practicing that.
Debbie LeeKeenan: The only thing I'll add to that was also that particularly those four goals of identity, diversity, justice and action. They're for all children! There's often some misconceptions about them. Well, these are the kinds of goals we have to work with these kinds of kids and these are the kind we work with others. Everyone needs to work on all of those. And as John mentioned, the intersectionality of all of these different identities with race being a core one is key. I often think of also groups when they say, "Well, we don't see any diversity here."
We talk about the diversity being the relationship between us. It's not that you are diverse and I'm not diverse. Also I think of abilities as another good way to start. When people look at a what looks like a predominantly White community, I think of abilities. We all have things that we're good at. We all have things that are hard for us. That's another way to start to think about that. And of course, some of the strategies in the film I think apply to all different kinds of settings. Using those persona dolls, using literature. Nadia brings up mirrors and windows. That whole concept, I think is another way to, how do I get started in a homogeneous community?
EmbraceRace: And it's great you mentioned that they, of course the film is free to watch on your website and there are just amazing resources on your website. We will send links, and I encourage everybody to seek out that material.
Let me ask just one more question, which a lot of people are asking. In our experience, we don't know, we certainly don't personally know many examples of schools that truly give institutional support to this kind of work. What's much more common is this teacher here or that teacher there and you hope your kid gets that right teacher because that teacher is trying to do amazing work really against the odds and without a whole lot of support, which by the way, also makes that teacher more, as it were, vulnerable to those parents who might come in and push back hard.
What are some things that administrators can do to support the efforts of teachers trying to do this work?
Debbie LeeKeenan: First thing I think about of course, is creating that culture, having the vision, having the mission. That's the role of the leader, that this equity work is important. It's a part of everything we do, it's going to be part of our staff meetings, it's going to be part of our budget, it's going to be part of our mission statement. It's a part of how we work with families. So you have to lead and have that vision. On the other hand, you don't just want a top down. We talk a lot about, it needs to bubble up. So you need both. When we say leaders, you have the teacher leaders. You have the family leaders. You want to create this community of people who have a common vision. It can be done through an equity team.
There are a lot of different specific strategies for doing it that way, but I think it's that creating the culture, making it a part of everything that you're doing and feeling, sharing your own commitment to that. Being willing to say, "I don't know everything, but I know this is important. It's part of our ethical responsibility as teachers is early childhood professionals. So this is why we're doing it. And we're going to do this together and work through this together. And knowing that even if I don't know everything, if there are mistakes and conflicts and we fall down, we get up that's the process of doing this work."
John Nimmo: The other thing I was thinking of with administrators and Debbie and Louise and I wrote a book Leading Anti-bias Early Childhood Programs because we could see teachers struggling. There's a lot of material out there, what to do in the classroom, but then that becomes very limited without the support of administrators. And I'd say one of the things that was most important to me as an administrator was having the teachers back to be there, to engage with some of the difficult conversations that might happen with parents who are resistant to or have problems with supporting them, allowing them to do their work. And also, I think as Debbie said, this idea of facilitated leadership, of really listening to what teachers need. And I think budgets are powerful. Even if you don't have a big budget. I always looked at my budget in terms of being an equity tool and thinking about what possibility was there for shifting something towards an equity priority, given that you're always prioritizing as a leader, an administrator.
EmbraceRace: Fabulous. Thank you so much again. I want to give each of you a minute at this time, I know that's not a lot of time, to share, to reflect on anything you haven't able to respond to or to share anything you want to leave us with. Maybe the rewards of this work. I know there are a lot of challenges.
Joyce Jackson: I feel like, and I wish and I hope that an anti-bias education could be given to all educators. I mean, thinking back to when I was a child, I wish and I wish I could've put my kids in a school where the anti-bias goals are at the top of the list. It's a part of who I am. It's a part of who I want the kids in my classroom to be. It's just a daily journey and it's a continuous journey and it's necessary.
EmbraceRace: Thank you, Joyce.
Nadia Jaboneta: I was thinking about the film and how you all see just a glimpse of each of our classrooms and the work that we're doing. And the reason I do this work is not to say, "Here's how to do it and follow my lead, and you should do it exactly the same." But my goal is that you will all be inspired in how to do it in your way and also to really see how powerful children are. Listen to them, follow their lead, learn along with them. And it's just really meaningful, important work.
EmbraceRace: Thank you. I think it's fair to say that to you and Joyce and your colleagues have inspired a lot of people. And you will clearly continue to do that. Thank you so much. Not least us. John, can I come to you?
EmbraceRace: You already did, yeah.
John Nimmo: Yeah. It's always so delightful to be on these panels with teachers, wonderful educators like Nadia and Joyce. And we've learned so much through this process. What I was thinking at the beginning, I said something about anti-bias education being optimistic. And I got that from Louise's book. And I think that it's one antidote, one tool we have, anti-bias education, to address oppression and racism. And it's not the only thing, adults have a lot of work to do with other adults. It's not all on the backs of children to just change this society. But I think that anti-bias education is a kind of act of hope and the belief in the capacity of children. And I think about whose writing has been important to me, Paolo Fareri from Brazil, he had an expression that he invented in Portuguese that basically meant hope in the present. And I think children hope in the present. We don't think about futures, we think about now.
EmbraceRace: Thank you, John. Debbie.
Debbie LeeKeenan: I'll say about leaning into discomfort and conflict. I like to say that my, professionally, I know that, that we, I like to use the word productive disequilibrium. We learn through this tension when there's conflict. Because that means growth. But I also know that my cultural background being Chinese American often taught me that I had to be a peacemaker. Live in harmony. Don't rock the boat. So learning to feel, I guess my last thought is about leaning into conflict and feeling comfortable with it and taking that step. Be brave. But one step at a time we can do it.
Debbie LeeKeenan: Antibiasleadersece.com is where you can see the film. We'll make sure that yes, that EmbraceRace has that link. And also the guidebook, which a lot of people are asking, really has a lot of questions and prompts and all the resources, "Which book do I get this?" They're all listed in there, websites. And if you want to use the film as a professional development tool, we want you to. There are actually some of the questions and prompts you can use as a tool with your communities, with your families. And it's great. We want to get it out there.
John Nimmo: Yep. And we're also making available, you can get a DVD and pack it with the guidebook. If you'd like to have it in your hands, that'll be available in June. And we're just trying to do that close to cost.
EmbraceRace: We really appreciate all of the resources and work you've put in. And we're so honored to have you all on Talking Race and Kids with EmbraceRace and to have everyone who's participated. Thank you so much more to come. We hope. Thank you so much. Thank you to our interpreters and to Chris behind the scenes. Thank you everyone. Take care.