Roberto German 00:01
Hey people. You can thank me now. I got a bestselling author on the platform, Kim Parker, the good Doctor, Dr. Kim Parker. Kimberly N. Parker who published this bestseller right here. Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching. Listen, folks, Kim is a powerhouse. If you don't know now you know. You gotta listen to her in person. I-I was blessed. Kim is part of #DisruptText. A powerful collective of women who are just out there shaking things up and-- and, you know, causing people to wrestle with some discomfort around their classics and whatnot. I love it. I got to listen to Kim recently at NCTE, at the National Council Teachers and English Conference in Anaheim, California. And that was my first time listening to Kim in-- in-- in person. And Kim, you have this, you have a powerful voice. You have a powerful presence. And-- and you-- you-- you are one sharp cookie. You are. You-- you on point. You know, I was listening to you I'm like, yeah, yeah. This is-- this is good stuff from these amazing women. And I love the way the-- the four of you work together. Obviously, Julia wasn't there, but witnessing you and Lorena and-- and-- and Tricia just be so in sync and so passionate about the issues that you're addressing, the content that you teach but more importantly, the people that you serve, the people that you serve. And so, I appreciate you. I appreciate you. I appreciate the work that you're doing, know that you are loved and seen for the impact that you are having in this world. And I'm grateful that you've taken the time to join me here in Our Classroom. Welcome, Kim.
Kim Parker 02:10
Thank you. That was so warm and wonderful, Roberto. I really appreciate you. I'm happy that we can make this work. Thank you.
Roberto German 02:18
It was all honest, Kim, even though I've been chasing you for months. But here we are. Here we are, folks. And I-I-I wanna center our time. There's so much that-- that we could talk about and just thinking about like, all right, you know, where can we go here that might be revelation to some folks. And so I wanna, first of all, congratulate you for-- for publishing this bestseller.
Kim Parker 02:48
Roberto German 02:49
Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching. And I wanna start our conversation by asking why the focus on culturally relevant teaching? How has this guided your work? And I-I'm asking not for myself, 'cause I read, you know, I-I've read the book. I-I'm asking for those that haven't read the book, those who may be unfamiliar with the y-your work, I think it's important for-- for them to know why-- why this focus and why it is that culturally relevant teaching guides your work, influences your work. You know, there was so much inspiration here and-- and credit, you know, given where credit needed to be due. So I-I'll pause and-- and let you share with us.
Kim Parker 03:33
Yeah. I appreciate that question. Right? I-I feel like so much of culturally relevant teaching and relevant pedagogy is sort of assumed, but not really known, right? I think even in my own practice, I would be like, well, this is culturally relevant pedagogy or culturally responsive teaching. But forgetting, right? That it's very-- like, there are three pretty central pillars of it that we have to be doing all three to really be doing cultural relevant teaching as [inaudible 00:04:01] defines it. And so I wanted first to like refresh it for myself to make sure that it was good for me. And that that's still the foundation on which all of my practice stands. And that's accurate now and has been since I've been a practitioner. But then also I feel like people say that they're doing it, but they're not doing it. And so much of, you know, like Lorena's work and everyone else's work comes from that or is, you know, like drawing from that. And so I felt like, let me just start with this ,and then people will go where they go. So it was really important for me to understand and refresh it and to make sure I knew it and align with it. And then help, I wanted to help other people also understand that. Because I think we talk a lot about what we're doing, but we're not really doing it.
Roberto German 04:50
You know, Brene Brown, who you did say in your book, but you didn't say what I'm about to say. Brene Brown says, "Clear is kind, unclear is unkind."
Kim Parker 04:59
Hey, there it is. Right? That's right.
Roberto German 05:01
And so that-- that-- that's what you're doing then. That's-- that's good stuff. I appreciate that. I think we do need that. I think we do need to continue to revisit the differences between culturally relevant teaching, culturally responsive teaching, culturally sustaining teaching. And any-- anything culturally and whatever, you know, follows.
Kim Parker 05:21
Yeah. Exactly. And I think too that it gives us the power to be able to push back and to say like, "This ain't it." Right? Like what y'all saying is actually harming children instead of you all saying you're aligned with this. So, I mean, we have to know our stuff to be able to be able, I'm sorry, to be able to say like, no. Right. This is not serving children in ways that actually get us to justice.
Roberto German 05:44
Yeah. And you talk about that notion of how we may be harming children in your book, you also talk about the-- the need for healing-- healing and dealing with healing and trauma through curriculum, through literacy, and whatnot. We're not necessarily gonna go there right now, but I-I do wanna hear you talk about the-- let's-- the title chapter three, right? The defining Culturally Relevant Intentional Literacy Communities, CRILCs. This is good stuff. Can you provide a general overview and-- and then offer a specific example of what it looks like in practice be-- because I'm not sure this is a term that folks are-- are commonly familiar with and-- and I think they should be. So what-- what is this?
Kim Parker 06:39
Yeah. I mean, I-I think that I was always sort of driven by the need. I mean, we are human beings, right? So we're definitely wired to-- to belong to each other and to be connected to each other. And I think that, like, I've worked mostly with black kids for most of my educational career. And so many of them felt like they could not belong or that they didn't belong or that people-- they weren't seen. And to really get them to be and realize who they wanna be, right? They have to feel like they matter. And so that is not by chance, right? It's not like being like, here you are in this space. Get along. That just doesn't work. And so we have to be intentional about what it means. We have to be intentional about addressing how they got to us, right? Mostly 9th and 10th graders, if they're not reading something has happened to them. And also I think if we're not intentional about addressing that to say, you know, like, I-I welcome all of you here. Yes, this might have happened to you, and also that's not who you are or who you want to be, or you don't have to stay here. So there are particular practices, right, that enable kids to be able to feel like they are literacy achievers in this space, right? We have to design it. We cannot leave it to chance. So much of it has been left to chance. That's why we sort of have the current situation that we have. And I think part of that really is developing a real strong reading culture where kids can read whatever they want because right, like they've been shamed, signif-- stigmatized, prevented from reading what they've want and probably by the time they've gotten to us, and it's happening to little kids too, right? First second graders. And so that's one solid piece of it is that we have to like, protect kids’ reading freedom and give them the time and space to read while they're with us. We cannot leave it to anyone else, right? Intentionally creating the space, the time, the structures, the instruction, the pedagogy that helps them to see themselves as worthy and valuable of having really robust reading lives.
Roberto German 08:40
How do-- so how do you or-- or what do you advise for-- for teachers and or school leaders who perhaps they wanna explore this, but they're feeling the tension? And this is coming up in a lot of my interviews 'cause this is the reality that we're dealing with, right? So f-for folks who are in states, like the one I'm in, right? If you're in a Florida, you're in a Texas, you're in some of these places where you're getting serious pushback. Some of the pushback may be from parents, some of it may be from your school leaders, some of it may be, you know, maybe-- maybe some, even-- even your colleagues, right? Some of it may be on the legislative level. What's your advice for-- for educators who are in those situations where like, man, I, you know, I-I want to find ways to present my learners with opportunities to-- to read whatever they wanna read and-- and encourage reading that also affirms multiple identities and whatnot. But I got this real tension and-- and this tension might cost me my job and I know I'm better serving here or the other students have, you know, better served by me being here as opposed to them replacing me with somebody who's just gonna, you know, all go with the company line and like, not gonna expose the kids to anything and just, you know, stick to the things that we've been teaching for a long time. Some of which may be harmful, right? So for folks who are in those situations, what-- what-- what are you offer them?
Kim Parker 10:17
Yeah. You know, like I-I do not have a quick and fast solution, right? I know it's very tricky. I also know that I have to live with myself, right? So I just am not gonna do harm to kids. And I know that for all of those things you know it too, we all know it that if we are denying kids’ books if we are denying them, like opportunities to really like see themselves, that is not a place where I wanna be first of all. And then two, I think I was working with a school last week that I said, "Where is the opposition coming from?" Right? It's like a small group of people that are taking up all of the space. And so those--
Roberto German 10:59
And that's-- that's-- that's usually how it's.
Kim Parker 11:01
Yeah, exactly. And so I said, well, first of all, right? Like, you're-- you're focusing on like 1% of the-- of all of them when like 99% of your other families probably want you to be teaching these books to their kids. And so I first think that we gotta like understand sort of the situation. I know that that group, that faction is really organized, right? They're very good at what they do. But also, so are we, right? We are teachers. We are-- we-- we can plan. We can do these things. We can organize, right? I feel like we are born to organize. And if we don't, we're gonna keep getting what we're getting. So I think I'm more now, I think like 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago, I'd be like, I'm just gonna close my door and teach. Right? Okay. So I feel like we are in a new day where we gotta like open people's doors and to be like, this is what we need to do, right? We need to work with our school department. We need to find the people, we need to work with the willing, and also like, we gotta like educate folks. They haven't even read these books. All these people who are out here with these like don't read, don't read. They don't even read books. So I don't know, like, I'm not gonna be afraid of these folks 'cause I gotta live with myself and I also have kids and my friends have kids. And so like, what kind of world do we want them to have and to inhabit? Like, I want them to be able to have critical discourse. I want them to ask critical questions. I want them to be right out there. And so if I want that for them, I want that for everybody's children, right? And the Brene Brown, courage over comfort, right? All these people selecting and choosing comfort over courage when we really gotta be courageous right now.
Roberto German 12:32
Yeah. Where folks we're not getting paid for shouting out Brene Brown, just, you know--
Kim Parker 12:37
I know, right? Like, no, we're not. It's just like she gives you like these tidbits that you're like, well, yes. Well, yes.
Roberto German 12:43
Yes. The rumblings. So-- we-- Sheldon L. Eakins, and I recently discussed vulnerability. And I noticed that you state CRILCs are places where vulnerability is necessary. And-- and-- and folks, in case you missed it, let me reiterate. It's Culturally Relevant Intentional Literacy Communities. All right? So that these are places where vulnerability is necessary. Why is that the case? And what is an example of this vulnerability that you speak of?
Kim Parker 13:23
Yeah. Right? I mean, again, right? It's sort of my-- my old self now sort of looking ahead to the-- the educator I'm becoming every day, right? You cannot get anywhere without being vulnerable, right? We can just be sort of reactive and responding every day or, right? Like we can put a little on the line and admit our mistakes, right? Get to really know kids. Then I also think that it, we shouldn't expect kids to be vulnerable, right? They coming in with all of their stuff, particularly for kids of color, right? They might have been harmed or things have happened to them. We can't just be like, "Tell me all of your pains and your worries and it's all gonna be okay." That I think is false and like, it's just not okay. But I think if we sort of start with ourselves and think about like all the ways we have been harmed first by schooling or whatever else, or literacy practices, right? And then like, be real honest with kids where it makes sense, not to over remote or to do those things, but to say, right? Like, I have had-- I have engaged in harmful practices in my past, right? Like, I've done things that have not been in the best interest of children, and I am sorry. Right? Like, I think being accountable, making really meaningful apologies for the harms that we have done saying it to children, right? I don't think we say enough to children. No, we don't apologize enough. It's like we're afraid of children. But again, like we are in the-- the work of being raised by young people and children. And so like, I want them to be able to acknowledge when they have messed up, right? We mess up all the time. And so vulnerability is key, right? Like when we mess up, we need to fix it. And to fix it immediately, because otherwise, right, these kids move on the next year or they go out into the world and they carry that with them. And I just again, right? Like, do we want that going with them, or do we wanna just stop them? Like, do our best to fix it while we have the opportunity.
Roberto German 15:19
Yeah. You get into the importance of restorative practices and there were some to-dos that you challenged folks to-- to process in terms of rec-- reflection questions that will unveil some realities in terms of things that we engage in and the way that perhaps we-- we've harmed others. And the fact that we do need to consider some repair. Thank you for doing that. I think it's--
Kim Parker 15:47
I mean, we're human beings, so it's gonna happen, right? Like we just-- it happened. It unfortunately happens. And I think, right? Like, who do you wanna be, right? Like who do you wanna be? [inaudible 00:15:57] said, "Like, who do you wanna be when the morning light finds you?" And right? Like, I wanna be a person who actually believes in restoration, who believes in justice, who believes in like, making it right and making it right for like people right now because like, we are gonna live forever. We're not. We're just that.
Roberto German 16:15
That is the reality. Yeah. I definitely-- I-I think about kids that I-I caused harm to, you know. And there's certain ones that come to mind there-- there's others that I likely caused harm to and I don't, you know? I mean, I was-- I probably not even aware of that, right? But there's ones that I'm, you know, I'm clear about, you know, in terms of my-- my approach as a teacher, my approach as a-- as a school leader, especially when I was overseeing discipline and some of the, you know, like getting sucked into the vacuum of the system, even though, like, I-I knew and I was opposed, right? At least I was cognitively opposed, but then when I was in it--
Kim Parker 16:53
Right. That's like-- that's what is hard because like, the system like Miriam Makeba, right? The pur-- purpose of a system is to do what it does. And so, like when you're in it, you're like, you're supposed to write these children up, send them over there, push them out, exclude them, call their parents, tell 'em they gotta come and get 'em. Like all of these things, right? If you-- but it-- also I've noticed for myself that you gotta like actively do it all the time because it's like unlearning all the time. Like, you gotta that detox yourself every single minute of the day.
Roberto German 17:21
Listen, I was AP in a school in my city, and I was so excited to be there. I was elated. It was a joy for me to be there, you know what I'm saying? Like, I coming back to the hometown, like literally the hood I grew up in. And over time, I-- you know, even though I came in like high spirits, like, we gonna change this, we gonna change that. That wasn't the reality, you know? I guess I was more outta touch with how strong the system was and-- and how--
Kim Parker 17:56
I don't know if I would say that. Oh, that's interesting. Keep going. I'm sorry to cut you off--
Roberto German 18:00
And-- and how much rewiring I needed.
Kim Parker 18:02
Oh, yes. Yes. It's like the-- I-I-- same. So much of that resonated because yes, you go into it being like, "I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna be different. I'm gonna try these things." And then you realize like you are one person. People are comfortable with systems too, right?
Roberto German 18:19
Kim Parker 18:20
When a child is-- when a child is not doing what you need them to do, it's easy to be like, you gotta go. I just spent my time in like this school where I was sitting in the office, all of these black boys just coming in, coming in, coming in, and they would sit with the secretary and they would-- the same reasons, right? Not letting other people learn, not doing these things. There was all the things that they were not doing. And you're just there like, "Oh, this." And they were like little. It was from K to six. I think I saw a child from every single grade within a span of an hour, right? And I was like, these are somebody's children. These are someone's children. And I get it that they are like doing whatever it is that they're in school. But why don't we find out like really why before we're so quick to just be like, get out. Like, we love kicking kids outta school. We love it. We love it. It's awful.
Roberto German 19:07
Yeah. I-- it-- you know, I left that school and I went to-- then we moved from Massachusetts to Texas, and I was in a Montessori school, public Montessori. And-- and that's where, I mean, I still went through some things there because again, this-- the whole notion of like rewiring your understanding of how school operates and how you treat kids and how you treat kids of color. And, you know, whether that's like conscious, unconscious, you know, but like the manifestation is still the reality. And so like, it took-- took like me being in that environment and over time, like seeing like, oh, wait a second, like this-- there's a whole different vibe here in terms of how we do things and, you know, with this Montessori approach. Not to say that like, that happens in all my-- even in that school, like we-- we had our issues or whatnot, but it-- it-- it wasn't as prevalent as was the other school. Like, there was a lot more like, all right, we gonna work with the kids in a different way. We're gonna do a lot more restorative practices. We got some stu-- oh, we got the garden, you know, in the back of the classroom, and you could go out there and like, they could have some time to connect with nature and kinda recite and whatnot. And so being in that environment, like, really helped me. It helped me to soften up. That's-- that's kind of like the easy way I could say it. Like, I-I came from this hard line of like, yo, nah, like--
Kim Parker 20:25
You gotta-- right. Mm-mm. This is the highway. It's my way or the highway. Yes! Right?
Roberto German 20:29
I literally used to say-- like, when I was a basketball coach, I literally used to say-- I got a particular kid in mind. I-I still feel bad to this day. And I-I like, you know, I gotta figure out his contact. I gotta reach out and apologize. Then I got another kid that I coached at another school, I gotta reach out and apologize. But I don't remember his name. But nonetheless, like--
Kim Parker 20:45
But they remember, right? Like, whenever you do will be at the right time. That's what I try to also remember is that like, it's always the right time to like make it right. And it'll mean something, right? Like just-- and even if you model it for-- for those kids, like, you know, we mess up, we human beings.
Roberto German 21:03
So you-- you-- you were talking earlier, you mentioned kinda like your old self, you know, versus kinda who you are now. And it made me think about something you wrote in the book in terms of your learning experience and what you were reading in school versus the tax and content you were exposed to in home, including Ebony, Jet, and then, you know, all-- all types of like wonderful literary works, right? You had the magazines sitting over there and you used to dust in that area, but then you, you know, you had these strong texts that-- that were available to you. And-- and so you had mentioned, you know, Edith Wharton and-- and Kerouac and you know, that-- that's what you were reading in school. And so it makes me wonder if-- if you were in school right now, or if, you know, we transport you back then, and like, you know, there was an opportunity to change what you were reading in schools and there was a teacher's like, nah, well, you know, I'm taking your feedback. What do you wanna read? What-- what are some of the texts that you-- you as a student would say, "Hey, you know, teacher X, I would like to read, I want the class to read the following text.
Kim Parker 22:19
Oh, yeah. You know-- oh, like, we're-- so we're going back to, like, high school?
Roberto German 22:22
Kim Parker 22:23
1990, like two-- early 90s. Like, the best decade ever?
Kim Parker 22:28
Yeah, yeah. You know?
Kim Parker 22:29
Right. Yeah. I think that I would read-- like, I don't think we read any work by black people.
Roberto German 22:36
I know. You said that and you said that--
Kim Parker 22:37
Yeah. Right. I would love it if we had read like some Gloria Naylor, right? Women of Brewster Place. I love her. Some Octavia Butler, some poetry. I just, I mean, and this is what it is. Even things that we were rea-- reading at home, right? Some history, some something, right? Like, my world was like, okay, you know, Jet. You're gonna get like a little bit of condensed text. You're gonna get a little bit more in Ebony. But any of those things, right? Any black people, even black people on posters, right? Like, there were black people-- or even learning about the history of black people in Lexington, Kentucky, right? Because, like, Kentucky was-- was at the sort of like in the South, right? It was right above-- right below Ohio. So there was a whole history of people who were enslaved, but also lots of people who were freeing themselves, right? You just had to make it to Ohio. You just had to get across. And that is what is incredible, right? Like, maybe that's why we all tried to get outta there.
Roberto German 23:32
Kim Parker 23:33
We're getting out of Kentucky. But like any of that history, I didn't learn any of that history during school. And I think it's really important for black kids, particularly in that context in the south and rural areas, to know that y'all got a history. You've got a line-- lineage of Fugitivity and escape, and you can get out of here or you can be free in yourself, but this is your history. So I would've made sure that those books were-- were being taught. And maybe it's different. I mean, I'm-- I'm about to go home to Kentucky, so I'ma look and see if I can find it. I would not be surprised if they're reading the same books.
Roberto German 24:05
Right. Well, let's hope that's not the case, and let's hope that the work that you and others been doing, ha-- has disrupted that.
Kim Parker 24:12
No, right? Yes. That's why we do the work. I mean, that's-- every day I'm just reminded of that. And my partner said, you know, like every day someone is waking up and being like, oh my God, there's such a thing as disrupt texts. So like every day the possibility exists that maybe someone can do something different.
Roberto German 24:32
That's right. That's right. You know, I-I didn't have this question prepared, but it came to mind as I continue to look at your book and how your name's written. And it's a question that I had asked Sheldon, what does the middle-- what-- what does this middle initial, what-- this N, what does it stand for?
Kim Parker 24:52
Oh, yeah, Nicole.
Roberto German 24:53
Okay. Okay. I, you know, I-I gotta-- I-I just see stuff like this and I'm like [inaudible 00:24:59]
Kim Parker 25:00
Yes. It's like [inaudible 00:25:00] Mm-hmm.
Roberto German 25:01
I gotta know. I'm like--
Kim Parker 25:03
But when people are like calling me out in my full government, I'm like, something's going on.
Roberto German 25:07
I'm like, I just know her as Kim Parker. You know? Now I-- now I see this N here and I'm like, wait, I don't even know who you are.
Kim Parker 25:14
I know. My professional name.
Roberto German 25:18
So, all right. If-- if you had the opportunity to have lunch with any author, dead Are alive, who would it be and why?
Kim Parker 25:27
Ooh. Oh my God, that's a great one. You know what, like, I think about-- I would have dinner with Adrienne Maree Brown. I love them. I just, like, everything resonates. I feel like at the right moment, the right time, emergency strategy, all the strategies just like speak to me in ways that I'm like, alright, lemme get myself together. Has really impacted how I think about organizing and working with people and thinking about the purpose of why we do it. So yes. Adrienne Maree Brown for sure.
Roberto German 26:05
And I'm pretty sure you referenced Brown in your book.
Kim Parker 26:09
Roberto German 26:10
Kim Parker 26:11
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And, you know, I love it. Like, this is why it's really great to be a learner, because like, I didn't know about Adrienne Maree Brown like five years ago, maybe six years ago, maybe before the Pandemic. I don't know. I feel like the pandemic happened and then like, everything changed. But only recently, I think in the last five years. And, you know, like we're always open to-- to learning new things. So I'm really happy that, you know, I found that book and I found their work and everything else.
Roberto German 26:35
That's right. That's right. So for those who are listening, what is the message of encouragement you want to offer them?
Kim Parker 26:42
Yeah. You know what? Like, keep going and bring somebody with you.
Roberto German 26:47
I like that. I like that. Keep going and bring somebody with you. While you bring them with you folks, make sure you give them a copy of Literacy Is Liberation: Working Towards Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching by Kimberly N. Parker. Hey, it's been a pleasure.
Kim Parker 27:08
This is so wonderful. Thank you.
Roberto German 27:10
Yes, yes, yes, yes. Listen, it was worth the wait. It was worth the wait. You know, keep emailing you and chasing you down but--
Kim Parker 27:18
You know what? I'm sorry. I'm so-- I'm happy we made this work too before the year ended. Look at us!
Roberto German 27:23
No, no. Listen, you don't-- you don't have to apologize because the-- the opportunity to sit here and hear from you and tap into your insight, just have this, you know, some perspective that perhaps I'm not, you know, necessarily thinking about at the moment. It-- it helps me. It-- it challenges me. It encourages me. And I need that. You know, I wanna grow, I wanna learn. This is what our classroom's about.
Kim Parker 27:49
Yay! And I, you know, I'm just gonna say I can't wait for your book. I'm ready. I'm ready to read it. I'm ready, ready, ready.
Roberto German 27:57
Yes. End-- end of January. Blooming Tears. End of January. Yeah.
Kim Parker 28:01
Okay. Okay. I'm ready.
Roberto German 28:03
We're coming. We're coming.
Kim Parker 28:05
Roberto German 28:06
Well, Kim, thanks for your time.
Kim Parker 28:08
Roberto German 28:09
You know, keep pressing on. Stay encouraged in the work that you're doing. You're having a huge impact in this world. You're having a huge impact in-- in the schools in which you're serving in. And we-- we're fortunate to be able to witness all of your greatness.
Kim Parker 28:26
You know what? Thank you. Same here. Same. I'm reflecting it all back to you.