Today, I had to remind myself to just breathe. I don’t know what kind of day you are having, but maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed.
I invite you to just breathe. Take a moment and and inhale deeply through your nose (I’m a mouthbreather so this takes focus) and exhale slowly.
Next, focus on what is right in front of you. What is it that you need? I let my husband know I was overwhelmed. It felt so good to share this with him. Maybe you need to call or text a friend, someone you know who will encourage you.
This gave me the clarity for the next step. Sometimes looking ahead and thinking of all the to-dos is enough to keep me under the covers or frozen in place. When I stopped, shared, and took deep breaths, I was able to get to that next step. This might help you, too.
I have been on a long journey. On this journey, I constantly reflect. I examine my bias. I analyze why I feel defensive when others disagree with me. I question my emotions and intentions.
Sometimes, to be quite frank, my thoughts and actions come from a very selfish place. Knowing that helps me move beyond the superficial and keeps me from making some very bad decisions that would harm those I love.
Sometimes, to be quite frank, my thoughts and actions come from a place of indoctrination. Those are the scariest thoughts. When I explore them deeply, they seem absurd, judgemental, and self-righteous. They often come up when I don’t understand someone’s differences. I’ve learned to truly examine these thoughts and question the origin. Most times, after much reflection, these ugly thoughts are thrown away because they are garbage. They keep me from accepting others or loving what makes a person unique, and I don’t accept that anymore.
Learning how to like, love, and listen without agenda has been one of the most challenging journeys of my life, but also it’s been the most liberating.
Love this message from TobyMac’s social media that showed up in my Facebook memories a few days ago. The older, and hopefully, wiser that I grow, I realize that my peace means more to me than being right.
You know, some people are never going to follow you. Some people are never going to LIKE you. Some people are never going to accept that you have changed. And maybe the most painful is that some people will be your people until one day they decide that you’ve changed too much for their comfort level. You might not even see the breakup coming, but when it does, it shatters your heart.
All I can offer is wish them well and keep moving forward.
If you can, work on forgiving what you can’t change, that which has caused you grief. Remember that your peace is worth fighting for, but winning an argument, or trying to keep someone in your life who doesn’t want to be there anymore, is not.
Usually when I blog, I try to focus on the great stuff I’m doing! But, truthfully, I probably get it wrong more than I ever get it right. When I’m getting it right, it usually comes from being wrong, A LOT. That’s okay. That’s real learning. But when raising children, it really sucks when we have to look in the mirror and realize we are falling short, and our kids are imitating us.
This quote from James Baldwin doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. It challenges me to my core.⠀
It’s hard to own up to something you’ve done that was super hurtful to another human being.
Recently, my oldest child confronted me with something I had said to her that she was holding on to, and it was truly a mean comment. I don’t remember saying it, and first reaction in my mind was denial, but it definitely sounded like me when I’m being sarcastic. Quickly, I made the choice to apologize.
I’m ashamed that I hurt her. The very kind of comment I’m trying to help her not to say to her siblings was something that I said to her. I am guilty of modeling ugly comments, but I hope I’m just as guilty of modeling sincere apologies… and changed behavior. There is no quick-fix here. ⠀
Not one of us is perfect, but we can do better and we can help others heal when we face our mistakes with sincerity. ⠀ ⠀ Every, new day we have the choice to grow and do better. I pray my core beliefs of loving others without agenda and standing up for what is right is something my children are learning from me the most, but I know I can’t hide my flaws from them. They see it all… my attitudes and words are just as much a part of their thinking/learning as they grow, learn, and decide to be who they would like to be. ⠀ ⠀ For those of us who are doing the best we can for our children and students, thank you! We are making this world a better place, and it’s not easy! But the whole piciture demands the truth, the good and bad. We may not always get it right, and that’s why I thank God for forgiveness. ⠀
Covid has drastically slowed us down and we are on the mend, but it’s also taught me a few things:
1. I’m strong enough to let go of things that don’t fulfill me. Being busy doesn’t sustain me nor help my family. It definitely doesn’t help the healing process.
2. Simplifying my life has allowed me to be more present with my kids during their schooling. The rush is gone and has been replaced with more art, more design, more conversations, and more learning.
3. There’s no need to feel badly for not having a perfect routine. What we have is a routine and it works for us, and my kids are enjoying what they are learning about. I know this because I can hear the excitement along the way and it’s refreshing.
4. I want to live life fully and I haven’t been. I will be exploring this more. Just glad that being present with my family has led to deeper moments of learning and connection. I hate that sickness had to stop us in our tracks to see it, but I’m going to hold on to this.
If you are reading this, I hope you are well and wish you the best.
This year has been one for the books. I mean that, literally. I have had so many wonderful bookchats with incredible authors. It’s a blessing that they would send me their beautiful work and allow me to talk about it with them on a LIVE platform. Sharing your work is hard. Going LIVE is no small thing. The authors on my weekly bookchat are brave and it’s been an honor to share their work with others.
Although I had a full November, there was a cancellation for the first week, which turned out to be a blessing for me as my family and I dealt with and continue to heal from Covid. I have decided that this bookchat will be my last bookchat for 2021. I had already decided to take December off to just be with my family, but Covid has shown me that being able to simplify is a true gift.
Mr. Quigley’s Keys
Please listen to the replay of the special bookchat I had with guest author, Barbara Gruener, and our Veteran’s Day broadcast. It’s special because her newly published children’s book, Mr.Quigley’s Keys, has a beautiful messsage. The first time I read it with my own children, it gave me goosebumps and tears. I am not surprised at all that it has already won an award!
Mr. Quigley is based on a true veteran, who after serving in the military, continued to serve his community. This story emdodies love, perseverance, work ethic, empathy, goodness, and peace. It is the perfect time for this message and a wonderful way to end my year of bookchats.
At this point, as I update this blog post, Veteran’s Day has come and gone. If you are a Veteran, or the family of a Veteran, I want to especially thank you for your service and sacrifice. Not everyone understands what it means to do what you do, and we are grateful for you all.
For all the people who tune in weekly to my bookchat, or who tune in whenever they can to learn and support others, please know it means so much to me and the guest authors. You can find all of my guest authors’ books by clicking the button below. I will return in January with more bookchats!
When I wrote the #ImSorryStory, I wanted it to be inclusive I wanted every child to see themself in some way because I know how much representation matters. As a fifth grade teacher, I had quite a few students who were tested for Dyslexia when they were in my class. It was amazing to watch these students blossom when they were getting the help they needed to make sense of the written words in front of them. This is also why I asked my publisher, EduMatch Publishing, to print the I’m Sorry Story using Dyslexie font. This font was invented from a person who also has Dyslexia.
Recently, my neighbor who has Dyslexia, picked up my book and said she liked how the letters were spaced and that she could decipher the words better.
If you are looking for a children’s book that will help build empathy, inclusivity, and social emotional skills, I invite you to tune in to my Instagram and listen to the I’m Sorry Storyin English AND Spanish. This is one more way to be more inclusive. Nicole Biscotti is also the translator of my book, so it was such a privelege to have her join me!
Children of All AGES Are Welcome
While I wrote this story for my fifth grade class many years ago, students and adults from kindergarten, high school, and beyond have shared with me that they’ve never read a book like this on making sincere apologies. They share that the #ImSorryStory is a great conversation starter and that they wish many of the people in their lives understood this process more.
So tune in with your child, family, or by yourself. I’d love to hear your feedback. I also include activities and discussion questions at the end of my book.
First and foremost, embracing anti-racism is also embracing that you will never stop reflecting on how you view the world, how you welcome others, and when you find yourself acting on fear and prejudice, how do you change your mindset by working through it? That is a step in this process that will never go away, and if it does, you will stop growing.
For the summer break, many of us continue learning and preparing for the next school year. When we think about all that we’ve learned in the last few years, adopting an inclusive attitude, mindset, and growing in anti-racism is the best way to prepare. What you learn will show in the lessons you design, the relationships you form, the tech you use, and the community roles you embrace. Your growth will show others you have gone beyond performative actions. Personally, when I began this journey, my friendships started becoming more diverse and I found myself being the only white person in a room full of People of Color multiple times. These are some moments I am most grateful for and would never change. It taught me to lean in when I’m learning through discomfort.
Follow These Leaders
Can I introduce you to my friends? They are amazing leaders. We will be speaking at #ISTElive21 together. If you are going to conferences and you see classes on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, sign up for them! I have gotten to work a few times with my friends and many people join us because we create a safe space to ask questions and learn. These are the most important and life-changing classes you can take for yourself and for how you will welcome your students and their families as you grow.
Going to ISTE? Register for our session Making DEI a Priority in Schools by clicking on the picture!
Joquetta Johnson is a Specialist in the Department of Equity & Cultural Proficiency for Baltimore County Public Schools with more than 20 years of experience in librarianship, instructional technology, K-12, and post-secondary education. She’s also a doctoral candidate and an adjunct lecturer at Morgan State University. As an educator for social justice, Joquetta’s favorite part of the job is leveraging technology, hip-hop and culturally relevant pedagogies to excite, engage, empower, and enable ALL students to enjoy learning while achieving academic success, amplifying their voices, and pursuing personal interests. Joquetta is the 2019 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians’ Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey Social Justice Award. She has presented at numerous local and national conferences about racial equity, confronting biases, and hip-hop pedagogy.
Here is a webinar Joquetta and I presented together:
Tiffanye McCoy-Thomas, PhDis a veteran educator and equity influencer with more than twenty years of experience. She has served in the classroom, as a building and district leader, and state department of education program manager with extensive experience in teacher and leader professional development. She’s currently an District Instructional Supervisor and District Liaison for the 21st Century Grant in Louisiana.
Dr. Desiree Alexanderis an award-winning, multi-degreed educator who has been in the educational field since 2002. She is currently the Regional Director of North Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana. She is the Founding CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC, and consults with members of several schools and businesses and presents at conferences nationwide. She has presented on the digital equity cycle, anti-racism and diversity in edtech at numerous conferences such as ISTE, FETC, and TCEA. She will be presenting about this topic at ISTE20 (Breaking into the space: Diverse Edtech Presenters and DEI Lightning Talk).
Follow these women! They are all leaders in their fields and they are always sharing as they learn.
Becoming Color Brave
Two years ago, at ISTE19, I led a class based on Mellody Hobson’s TED Talk about becoming Color Brave. People started opening up in ways they had never opened up with their own colleagues and students. We are so afraid to talk about racism in a way that is real. Some people think it’s impolite. There is also a widely believed myth that talking about these issues is actually what causes division. Friend, this is not true. I’ve seen people finally understand this and begin their own healing journeys. I hope you will listen in as well.
Keep Going & Keep Sharing
The journey of growing as an anti-racist educator is not a one-size-fits-all path in life. While we will share things in common, we will zig while others zag. We will take two steps back before moving five steps forward. We will make mistakes and all of this is expected! Continue moving forward. Continue learning from mistakes. Continue being humble. Leaders are found everywhere and their examples are what make them true.
If the “Act less white” headline from a Coca-Cola diversity training is leaving you feeling defensive, it should. You can’t control your skin color. You were born the color you are in. And honestly, the diversity trainings I’ve been part of as a participant and presenter have never made me feel less than for being white. The speakers who have really helped me understand why diversity training is necessary have been People of Color who ask me to take a deeper look along with a welcome mat that comes from a sincere place.
BUT, the media is using this headline for sensationalism. Coca-Cola and LinkedIn didn’t do their due dilligence in picking an appropriate course to share with employees, but not all of the information was wrong, no matter how defensive it makes us feel. In fact, this training also offered these tips “be less oppressive,” “listen,” “believe” and “break with white solidarity.” And if you look at our national history, or Google “Jim Crow Laws/history” or systemic racism, redlining, pipeline to prison, etc. you will see that there is a lot of truth in these tips and the need for this kind of training.
But no training is going to help blind people see. If you want to stay blind to the trauma POC have faced for centuries, not even a good diversity course is going to help.
Unfortunately, the media is using this to further divide and sell stories because that helps their bottom line.
We CAN Do Something
Something we can do as white people is understand how this destructive language makes us feel and then understand how our society has been doing this to People of Color for generations. We might then see how we can use our energy to make this country safer for ALL people. A place where ALL people feel honored, respected, and truly have equal opportunity. Especially in light of the year anniversary of the murder of Amaud Arbery by white vigilantes who felt confident in their own sense of white justice.
Jim Crow laws were outlawed three years before my husband was born, and he’s only thirteen years older than me. It wasn’t that long ago, so expecting people who are non-white to just live without any restitution regarding the treatment they faced and/or to ignore that it wasn’t that long ago feels in some way like the slap in the face the phrase “Act less white” feels to us. Just a fraction anyway, and if I’m wrong, please correct me.
Here’s a great article to read and help us be more informed and less divisional. This country is where we ALL live. We should ALL hope that we can live without discimination for color of skin, that of which we can’t control. But first, we do need to understand that we haven’t, yet, done enough to make sure that ALL people can live freely from injustice based on the color of their skin.
Today I woke up and it was unlike any other day that I can remember.
Nothing amazing took place.
Well, somehing amazing did take place, but not like you think. The amazing happening was waking up at 6am, without an alarm, full of energy! I guess I should preface this with the fact I went to bed the night before at 10pm because I was truly feeling tired. I thought that was really weird since I normally stay up past midnight working and find it extremely difficult to find the zzzzz’s.
Today was Day 5 of the Optavia program I started for my weight loss. The first three days were pure hell for me, but yesterday and today, I felt really good. LIKE, so good, I am cleaning and folding laundry, ready to finally participate in the decluttering challenges my friend, Gail, issues us in our Facebook Group. So good, I am not yelling at anyone or cussing my husband out. Like so good, I listened to my body telling me I was hungry and have been uber intentional about hydrating myself.
The same woman who has flunked Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, and probably a few more programs. So…why should this new program be any different as my Facebook Memories remind me of the many times I’ve started a new and excting, healthy weight loss journey, only to eventually abandon it? It’s likely people who have known me already think I’m going to fail again….well that’s what my asshole thinking tells me. Reality is no one is keeping up with my failures and holding them against me. And if they are, they are the assholes.
My short-term game is going to prove my long-term goals, and I’m ready. I’m already a few pounds down, which is encouraging, but my thinking is more positive. Women, who are so much like me, have reached out to support me and I will support them as well. I’m not ignoring the reality of who I am and where I have been, including my failures. I’m using them to fuel me into a new direction where I use the truth of my behavior and habits to plan better against relapses of overeatting, binge eating, or thinking if I starve myself it will equal out.
While I am in a weight loss program called Optavia, I chose it for the education. I do eat a few times a day, and this is kinda weird, but what I love so far is the challenge of forming “micro-habits.” This week’s habit is drinking more water, and I have drank more water than required every day! I’m winning!
The coolest part of it all is the support of my husband, kids, and friends. No, the coolest part is feeling like a freakin’ rockstar for the first time in I don’t even know how long!
I’m going to keep learning how to lose weight and keep it off so I don’t face a set back with every pandemic that comes our way. haha.
I write always to encourage at least one other person who is feeling like me. If you have hit reset or started a new program and failed many times like me, it’s okay to try again. And again. When the path you are on is leading to unhealthy unhappiness, it’s brave to chart yourself a new course. Just don’t go it alone because there are so many of us who will cheer you on as well!