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!
It might seem silly to some that I got excited about the #ImSorryStory Book Birthday, but for me, it was celebrating a dream come true! The pandemic threw a wrench in my plans on introducing my book into the world, at least the way I saw it would be introduced with book signings in my community and schools, but technology has allowed me to share it with children all over the world. It was also special for my close friends, Dr. Joy and Mandy Froehlich, to stop by and share about why they think my book is so cool! So today, I am more than grateful!
Another dream come true was my friend and colleague, Nicole Biscotti, translated my story into Spanish! Reading it today with her was so special and we hope even more people feel invited to be part of this story and begin conversations of healing! We’d both love to do more of these readings together, so please reach out if you are an educator or homeschool co-op member and we will get it going!
It has been such a joy to share the #ImSorryStory with classes, globally, and I would love to continue sharing my story into this new year, as well.
What are you excited about? What milestones are you celebrating? In this current time, and as we move out of it, it’s these moments of joy that continue to fuel us to continue on our path. Thank you for supporting me this past year!
The way Dorothy Lee explained how World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) came about is the coolest story, ever! It was a child’s idea and brainstorming that set the wheels in motion. Now, WRAD is a global movement! This is the twelveth year for it and we are partnering with Dorothy and all of the rest of the incredible readers in the world who are celebrating!
If you don’t have any plans, join us! It’s FREE! Amanda Fox, owner and Founder of MetaInk Publishing, is sponsoring this amazing event that will be streaming LIVE from my YouTube from 10am-6pm EST. With her help and the help of another RAD Author, Dennis Mathew, we have an All Star Lineup that highlights representation for children, everywhere!
We are inviting you and all your friends to participate! Share this with your friends, teachers, and neighbors because we want everyone to enjoy a good read aloud! There will be signed copy book giveaways every hour, too! Just comment when we are going LIVE or Tweet out a screenshot with #WRADisRAD and we’ll find you and enter you in for a chance to win!
If you just want to be part of the global movement, look for these hashtags: #WorldReadAloudDay #WRAD #WRAD2021 #WRADchallenge
We hope you will join in and have some fun with us! This is all for the love of reading!
For our first #CourageousConversations in EdTech Broadcast for 2021, we kicked it off by inviting educators from Nearpod+Flocabulary and Buncee.Dr. Ilene Winokur and Victoria Thompson have worked closely with Buncee and I have been working with Nearpod+Flocabulary for years. In previous broadcasts, Victoria shared about how we can get caught up in getting “free” resources from different sites that are not vetted, or checked, to see if they are safe for all students, especially our Students of Color or those who have historically been marginalized. We invited our friends from these amazing companies because we know a huge part of their mission is to be inclusive and celebrate all people 365 days of the year. However, they also have resources specifically for this month, Black History Month.
Af the beginning of the broadcast, our three guests, Eda Gimenez,Mervin Jenkins, and Quinae Jackson talked about why anti-racist education was a personal mission. As People of Color, they shared the challenges they faced growing up without representation in curriculum and in daily life. They have each strived to do better for students and teachers coming after them. Their passion for purposeful change shows in the way they lead and represent their respective companies as a genuine way of transforming education. Both companies use graphics and lessons that represent people from many different backgrounds and ways of life. They lean on and trust educator feedback and community to continuously grow in their learning and teaching platforms.
Dr. Ilene mentioned how it’s refreshing to see people from the Middle East being represented positively as she uses Buncee, as she has lived and worked in Kuwait for 36 years! I can testify that it was using Flocabulary that helped transform me into an educator who denied being racist to someone who regularly reflects on anti-racist practices. The best thing about Nearpod is that if you don’t know where to start, they have high-quality lessons ready to be implemented immediately. Both companies have made it so easy for educators to learn even more as they go, and Victoria noted how they are both student-centered companies, which is always part of best practices! Both Buncee and Nearpod+Flocabulary help educators celebrate and teach about People of Color, social emotional learning, and provide for future ready skills.
If you are new to Buncee or Nearpod+Flocabulary, they have made it very easy for educators to embrace anti-racist education and even start Black History Month off with real momentum. You can sign up for a free trials with Buncee and Flocabulary, and if you use my Nearpod PioNear code, you can get three months free of the gold edition, which includes these lessons. Just go to www.nearpod.com/redeem and use my code NP-MelodyMcAllister!
Both companies (Nearpod acquired Flocabulary about two years ago) also have amazing Ambassador communities on Facebook and Twitter! Not to mention you can DM any one of us and we will get you headed into the right direction for any of these resources!
Black History Month is Just a Beginning
Like Quinae Jackson mentioned in our broadcast, “Black History is American History.” She even reminded us that Black History is for all kids of all colors and backgrounds. Mervin Jenkins reminded us that learning how to be anti-racist is not easy. Victoria Thompson reminded us that we are not looking for perfection, just a place to start and grow, while infused with grace along the way. As we start this new decade with a new president and hope that we will get the Coronavirus under control, we need each other so much more. Eda Gimenez shared how when we miss voices we are missing opportunties to learn. Finding a way to celebrate the innovations and creativity of People of Color, while also battling constant adversity, will teach us all how to move forward, together. That is the hope for our all of us and why we will continue to have courageous conversations about race in edtech!
This ridiculous #ControlMinus video did something for me this week. It provided my husband, my oldest daughter, some friends, and myself a lot of laughter. It also helped me get over myself.
When I do my LIVE broadcasts, upload to my Insta, my Facebook, my Twitter, and LinkedIn, I try so hard to make sure people only see my upper half. I use the SnapChat camera because I feel like my mirror image looks ten pounds lighter than when a regular camera flips my image around. I make sure that my makeup looks perfect as possible and that my hair is fixed. I do this because from a young age, I’ve been trained to cover up all of my imperfections: my big hips, my yellow teeth, my face without makeup…most of me. I learned from a very early age that I had a lot of imperfections, and it iternalized into this fear that if people saw the true me, they would realize how ugly I really am and reject me.
Because when I look in the mirror on most days, all I see are my big hips, my yellow teeth, my fat butt, my ugly face etc. etc. etc. I have to try really hard to see beauty before I cover myself up. That does happen every once in a while, but gaining thirty pounds this past year has not helped my esteem in any way!
My friend, Alice, says that no one else cares if I don’t wear makeup. I think to myself, “Easy for her to say, she’s skinny and beautiful.” She doesn’t place so much importance on her appearance because after making hundreds of YouTubes and speaking in front of huge audiences, she knows that other people don’t judge us like we judge ourselves. And I honestly don’t think she cares if people judge her based on her appearance.
Anyway, that 37 second YouTube recording, it gave me such a good laugh and put me in my place. I am that silly looking person in the video. I am also the pretty lady in the selfies I like to post. My friend Lynell says I take awesome selfies. Regardless of how I look, I am loved. Alice is right that I am judging myself more harshly than anyone else, and I really need to keep working on accepting myself. I run the risk of projecting the same insecurities I have onto my children, and I do not want that!
I still think I look much better with makeup, but someone I really care about, recently told me I am one of the most honest people she has ever met. So honestly, I’d like to be just as confident with or without all the cover-ups.
Has someone ever surprised you with a genuine apology? It’s natural to seek closure, but in my life experiences, closure is a unicorn.
Surprisingly and recently in my own life, a family member who had been estranged from me for years, offered a sincere apology and it made my heart burst with joy, even though I had already forgiven this person. If this apology had happened ten years ago, perphaps there wouldn’t have been estragement, but who is to say? Life happens as it will and finding forgiveness and accepting it is a a beautiful thing. My family member and I now stay in touch more regularly and this has been gift to me! ⠀ An apology doesn’t undo pain or hurt and it shouldn’t be viewed as permission to hurt someone again. Forgivness doesn’t erase or condone pain inflicted, and that is normally the reason others say they refuse to forgive. ⠀ ⠀ But when someone tells and shows you how sorry they are for the pain they’ve caused in your life, pain they caused that you didn’t deserve… well, it can really help the healing process. I always think that the deeper the wound, the longer the healing process, but a genuine apology can make a difference in this timeline. This timeline for healing is different and unique for everyone, and unfortunately, some might never truly heal.
However, this timeline doesn’t need to involve decades of estrangement! And then again, even with a beautifully expressed apology, a relatonship might not be resurrected. My hope is that healing can occur at some point and that healing can shut off a broken record of regret that often stirs up resentment and anger (justified as it may be). ⠀ A genuine apology can soften the ground, for real healing, in a hurting heart and change the timeline of restoration.
This post came after thinking about my past insecurities and what/who helped me make it through to a place where confidence replaces the feelings of constant apology for the person I am mentally and physically.
More than anything, what helped me were the gentle reminders, from people who knew and loved me, telling me I was enough and there was no need to be sorry for who I am. Those who scolded me because I apologized too much just earned another “sorry!” And truthfully, I felt miserable for feeling so miserable! I really was sorry!
Sincere apologies are necessary but not for when it comes to who we are.
I’m NOT Sorry
I’m not sorry for my hips.
I’m not sorry for my laugh.
I’m not sorry for my hair.
I’m not sorry for who I love.
I’m not sorry for growing and changing into the person I am today.
Many of these feelings of insecurity came from growing up in a toxic atmosphere, but no one is perfect, and that includes me. As much as I hope I’m different than where I came from, I’ve had to own the things I’ve said to my family. Do I emphasize what they do wrong more than how much I appreciate all they do well? Am I reinforcing a confident mindset where they know they are beautiful creations designed by God who have unique purposes?
The truth is, I mess up a lot. I do harp on the negative too much.
But it’s not too late for them and it’s not too late for me.
I’m not sorry for learning, growing, changing, and doing better, and that brings me full circle to knowing when to apologize and make things right, and it still is within my power to make it right.