Roberto Germán [00:00:01]:
Welcome to our classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Roberto Germán, and our classroom is official. Welcome back to our classroom, my people. Today I am joined by Dawnavyn James. Did I pronounce your first name right?
Dawnavyn James [00:00:37]:
Yes, that's correct.
Roberto Germán [00:00:39]:
You got a different spelling. You got a different spelling on that name, Dawnavyn. But I appreciate the originality. Ain't nobody mistaken that you are Dawnavyn James. Dawnavyn James. Spell the name right, people. D-A-W-N-A-V-Y-N. That's right.
Roberto Germán [00:00:57]:
That's different. And that's how we doing this today. Dawnavyn is an early childhood elementary and black history educator, emergent scholar, black history research, all things black and what? Yeah, people, we setting the tone here. All right. You've given and led workshop promoting black history instruction in early childhood and elementary classrooms. Dawnavyn is the author of Beyond February, teaching black history any day, every day, all year long. Let's go. That's right.
Roberto Germán [00:01:38]:
And Dawnavyn has centered her experiences teaching black histories in elementary classrooms. Dawnavyn's currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Buffalo. Salute to you. And is a fellow at the center for K Twelve Black History and Racial Literacy Education. Excited to chop it up with you today. Thank you for being here.
Dawnavyn James [00:02:01]:
Thank you for inviting me. Thank you.
Roberto Germán [00:02:05]:
Yes. And listen, I want to jump right in because your book even off rip with the title, you're making a statement, right?
Dawnavyn James [00:02:20]:
Roberto Germán [00:02:20]:
This ain't going to be a one day thing. This ain't going to be a one month thing. We're doing this all day, every day, all year long. And so that got me thinking about a topic I discussed last year with brother Babu. Blake's shout out to hip hop grew up and he asked, what? What do you. So I want to ask you, why did you use the term black history as opposed to history? Yeah.
Dawnavyn James [00:02:58]:
Yeah. And shout out to Bob Blakes. He's so I, when I think about black history, I don't necessarily think about African American. And something I try to do in my book is to promote and also mention titles that aren't so african american centered. So I talk about freedom soup, which centers like the haitian revolution, and that they're New Year's Day. I make a list of book collection of african books that center Africa, like Nelson Mandela Africa, Amazing Africa, just to show that black history doesn't just belong to African Americans in America. And just lately, in my research, too, like I've been learning about canadian black history. And a couple of years ago, I learned that in October in the UK.
Dawnavyn James [00:03:50]:
That's their black history month, not February. So just wanted to expand that idea that black history is only for African Americans. Like, black history is everywhere. So that's why I wanted that to be part of the title.
Roberto Germán [00:04:03]:
Gotcha. So you're looking at it from a diaspora approach. And even right now, just listening to you, I just learned something because I didn't know that black history for Canada was celebrated in October.
Dawnavyn James [00:04:16]:
I believe you just said October in the UK.
Roberto Germán [00:04:19]:
The UK. Excuse me? In the UK. All right, shout out to all black folks in the UK, because we in know we in October. So hopefully they're embracing and celebrating also. All right, what's the metaphor that you would use for your.
Dawnavyn James [00:04:36]:
I. The metaphor I would use for beyond February is beyond February is a map. I like Maps, and I love how you don't have to look at the entire map to get to where you're going. And I believe that beyond February will be that for educators. You don't have to read it front to back, but it's something that you can open and look for your destination, get there, close it, and come back and find another destination to get to. So I would say beyond February is a map.
Roberto Germán [00:05:07]:
Are you more of a Google Maps person or you waze? Or you maps?
Dawnavyn James [00:05:13]:
Not Google Maps. Whatever. Maps is on iPhone in the wrong place. Yeah, because Google Maps sometimes. Have you turned around?
Roberto Germán [00:05:23]:
I feel you. I don't mess with Google maps, but my wife, Lorena, she's committed. We ain't doing know. I like the metaphor of a map because when I was working through your book, I felt like you broke it down in ways that I could digest it. You chunked it. I was able to take that and think like, all right, if I was using this with my daughter and my son, who we home educate because she's in third grade and he's a kindergartner, actually. This is perfect. Definitely going to use your book with my kids.
Roberto Germán [00:06:01]:
I love it, and I still have to work through more of the content. But the early review from the content I've been able to process, it just made me feel that as an instructor, I wasn't going to have to do too much heavy lifting. I don't have excuses. It's right in there in front of me. You offered some wonderful examples. You gave us some insight into your classroom. And the section that I appreciated most was what you do with the poetry unit. Because I'm a poet, I'm a writer, and so I'm like, oh, wait a second.
Roberto Germán [00:06:41]:
Let's go. Where's blue ink tears on this? Wait, don't have blue. I didn't write it for k three audience. So you off the hook. You off the hook there. But I'm pretty sure you mentioned Elizabeth Acevedo.
Dawnavyn James [00:06:56]:
Roberto Germán [00:06:58]:
So that metaphor really works. And I felt like you were guiding your readers as to how to practically apply this in a way that is also authentic. Can you touch upon that?
Dawnavyn James [00:07:21]:
Yeah, because as a teacher, and I'm glad that you said that you feel like you didn't have to do so much heavy lifting, because that's what's happening. You want to do something, but you have to do all this extra work to get it done. And so I did want it to be something that you can look at and be like, oh, I can try this tomorrow. And I did want it to be as me as possible and use as many examples from my classroom as I could. I'm so grateful that I did do a lot of documentation, but, yeah, I did want it to be something where it didn't seem like, well, I can't do this because I don't teach in a space like that. I'm hoping that you can use this in any space. So I did want to. For it to truly be a guidebook for educators so they didn't have to do too much extra work to get it done.
Roberto Germán [00:08:08]:
No, it's definitely a guide. You did that thing. You did that thing. Salute to you in chapter one, beyond the people, you quoted David A. Love, who expressed that learning black history liberates all children. Can you elaborate on that notion?
Dawnavyn James [00:08:28]:
Yeah. So I first wanted to acknowledge that black history is not just for black kids, and it's also not just to be taught by black people. And in my teaching experience, I got to see how my students would take the black histories we learned and apply them to other concepts. They would connect them to current events, and they took a lot of it home. And they also engaged in conversations that a lot of people would deem hard or difficult for five and six year olds to engage with. And that definitely wasn't the case. And so I thought that quote was really fitting because it just really kind of freed, first of all, me of restricting what they can and cannot learn, but also kind of freed them to have critical conversations, to critically think, to kind of begin seeing the different brilliance and innovation in black history and applying it to their own lives and identities and becoming these advocates. And they just became really cool people, just really engaging in this work and taking it home with them and sharing it with their families.
Dawnavyn James [00:09:37]:
So I thought that quote was really fitting.
Roberto Germán [00:09:40]:
That's wonderful. That's wonderful. Later on in chapter seven, beyond the curriculum, you state, I knew as I understood the standards and curriculum I was expected to teach, that there would also be spaces for me to add, revise, challenge and disrupt the curriculum. What are three ways in which educators can disrupt the curriculum?
Dawnavyn James [00:10:12]:
So my top way is always pushing in picture books. Sometimes you'll get a curriculum or you'll have the learning objective and standard and they'll list books for you. But oftentimes there's not books listed. And I know as teachers, we already often know what we want to do with something like, you read something like, oh, this will be really cool. So when you think about looking at the curriculum, I know a really good book that would go with this. Whether it's listed or not, push that book in and teach it to your students. Also, a way to disrupt is not necessarily leaving space, but making space for counter stories and counter narratives. I know in the standards that I've looked at across different states, one person we always talk about is Martin Luther King Jr.
Dawnavyn James [00:11:01]:
But also expanding on that, someone that I introduced my students to along with Martin Luther King Jr. Was Georgia Gilmore and her work with the Montgomery bus boycott and the club from nowhere. And then making pies know sustain the Montgomery bus boycott. So alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Bring in some other people and then also centering the silenced voices more than just the people that are listed in your state standards. Like bring in those other voices, those other people that students can learn from and allowing them to speak up and bring in people they know. Because we also have to acknowledge that our students come to us knowing a lot more than we think that they do. So giving them space to bring their knowledge forward as well.
Roberto Germán [00:11:52]:
True. So, pushing in the books. You had the students pushing the books or you pushing the books, did you also have them make pies?
Dawnavyn James [00:12:01]:
We did not make pies, but I did make some banana pudding one time, and that was really good. So we talked about that. Yeah, we didn't make pot.
Roberto Germán [00:12:12]:
I'm going to need them students to push you a little harder. Listen, this is what we advocating for around here. We advocate for some pies. So given the content of your book, we were talking about teaching black history any day, every day, all year long. It might get banned in some states, such as Florida, where I'm at, or Texas, where I used to live and where brother Babu Blake's lives or Missouri or in Utah or South Carolina. What advice can you offer educators in those states in regards to how to implement your book to disrupt the curriculum?
Dawnavyn James [00:13:00]:
Yeah, I really think there's two templates in the book that I mentioned. One is about building powerful people sets or curating a group of people, black historical figures that have something in common that you can teach through and then also book collection. So creating a collection or stack of books that you can teach with, and I think that those will be beneficial no matter what state you teach in. I think it's a really good guide as well. But I also hope to show from beyond February that all that I did wasn't, like, random. I didn't just charge into the classroom, was like, I'm only teaching black history. And that's it. Everything matched the standards.
Dawnavyn James [00:13:48]:
I met the standards. My students met the standards. And so that's something, too. And again, even in those band states, there are black historical events and people mentioned. And so really using beyond February to expand a little bit on that is my advice.
Roberto Germán [00:14:08]:
I'm glad you mentioned that you worked the standards in there because one of the questions I was considering asking was related to the standards. But we only have so much time. But I think that it's important that you mentioned that so that educators know, like, hey, this is not a separate thing that we're doing or we're encouraging. This is all in alignment with what we're expected to do. The only thing is that we're going above and beyond.
Dawnavyn James [00:14:43]:
Roberto Germán [00:14:44]:
We're going above and beyond. Not above and beyond in terms of like, hey, we're adding all this extra work. No, we're going above and beyond in terms of the depth of the content that we're covering, that we're engaging the students in. We're going above and beyond in terms of the push in critical thinking in analysis. Right. These are the skills that we want our children to develop. We're going above and beyond. And so thank you for mentioning that.
Roberto Germán [00:15:16]:
And I saw in reading that section of the book, I saw how you exemplified that. And I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. And I hope that teachers really look at that section and identify one or two things that they could do immediately that they can apply if they're not doing it. Right. I'm sure plenty are, but I think there are probably more teachers that are not doing it if we're being honest.
Dawnavyn James [00:15:47]:
Yeah, for sure.
Roberto Germán [00:15:48]:
Right. When I think about my educational experience, k through twelve, it was foods, fabrics, festivities as it relates to black history, there was not much depth.
Dawnavyn James [00:16:06]:
Roberto Germán [00:16:07]:
And so I appreciate the way you have framed things in the books, the examples that you've offered, the map that you've given us, and the fact that it aligns with the standards.
Dawnavyn James [00:16:23]:
Roberto Germán [00:16:26]:
Excellent. If there's one section of the book that a teacher had time to read, let's say that they don't have time to read the whole book for whatever reason. Right. Time's a four letter word, but let's say they don't have time to read the whole book. If there's one set, you say, hey, you know what? Just read this one section. What would it be?
Dawnavyn James [00:16:56]:
I would have them read, I guess it's in chapter two, I think, beyond the books, so they can read the whole chapter. But if not, I want teachers to read the way that I break down picture books. So in the book, I talk about the book Moses, written by Carol Boston Weatherford, and it talks about Harriet Tubman. And it's often that teachers will read a book but not go beyond, like, I read the book, so I did my job, but so many times, there's so much more in these picture books. And so I think that is an important part to read, to see how I analyze picture books, but also to see what you can pull from those books and what you can put into it and how you can effectively bring it into the classroom in a way that students will remember and be able to apply those skills to other picture books you use. So that was my favorite part to write. Like, try to explaining that in words, because I talk about it all the time, but to put it in words was really important to me. So that would be my section.
Roberto Germán [00:18:07]:
If you recall, of the book that you just mentioned, what's one element that you were able to extract in your instruction to the kids that likely helped them to remember that book?
Dawnavyn James [00:18:22]:
Yeah. So there's a page in the book where Harriet Tubman is stepping into some water. And so when I was reading it, like, growing up in a black church, I automatically was like, oh, she wade in the water.
Roberto Germán [00:18:35]:
Dawnavyn James [00:18:35]:
She waiting in the water. So I talked to my students about, what is Harry actually like? Is she in there swimming and playing around? They're like, no. Like, she got to be quiet. She can't be loud. And so I actually teach them the song wait in the water. We practice it. We sing it quietly, and we talk about the code that are in songs. We also talked about her name, moses, and what that represented, because we know that wasn't her name.
Dawnavyn James [00:19:02]:
But that's the part. So we learned the song and we practice it. And it's also a way that I bring in sight words, which is something kindergartners need to learn how to identify words that you can't sound out. So I will print off the song lyrics as well and have them read through those and find different words. I think the sight word is, like, in. And so later on in the year, if they see that word again, they're like, that's been waved in the water. And I'm like, yeah, but what's the word? So that's one of my favorite things to do, is incorporate art like music. But, yeah, that's my favorite page.
Dawnavyn James [00:19:35]:
And I love when we get to that, I stopped reading. I'm like, okay, I'm going to teach you a song because as soon as I saw it, I was like, oh, she waiting in the water already.
Roberto Germán [00:19:44]:
Wait in the water. Don't get me going. That's great. Where were you when I was in k? First, second or third grade? Come on. All right. If you had an opportunity to have lunch with any black historical figure, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Dawnavyn James [00:20:08]:
I would love to have lunch with Malcolm X. First of all, I think he has so much swag. I have two pairs of glasses that I got. These are like Malcolm X glasses, but also, I just loved his faith and belief in the youth. I recently read a picture book that his daughter wrote about him that was beautifully and well done. But I also have this. It's like a little pamphlet book I got from a local bookstore here, burning books, that has a speech that he gave in January of 1965. And he's talking to these teenagers about the importance of them being able to think and know for themselves.
Dawnavyn James [00:20:49]:
And I think that's just so powerful. So I would love to chat with him and talk with Malcolm X. That would be so dope.
Roberto Germán [00:20:56]:
Oh, yes. That would be beyond amazing. The X, produced by Spike Lee, is one of the most powerful films that I ever watched. Obviously, the book itself is even more powerful. But just, wow. Thinking about his life, thinking about his words, thinking about his impact, that would be quite the lunch, quite the conversation. Leave with so many gems. That's great.
Roberto Germán [00:21:37]:
What is a message of encouragement that you want to offer the audience?
Dawnavyn James [00:21:42]:
It's something that my mom and daddy instilled in me, and that's to read for yourself. That is just something I just remember growing up, mom was like, but make sure you read for yourself because somebody can tell you something and you believe it and they may be wrong. So I would just encourage the audience to read for yourself, to know for yourself, to watch for yourself, to listen for yourself so that you can get it for yourself.
Roberto Germán [00:22:10]:
That's good. That's good stuff. That reminds me of a biblical scripture in acts when they're talking about the Bereans examining the scriptures for themselves. I think that's a good message for our kids to think critically, but to also just to come with a lot of inquiry, right? To feed their curiosity, to keep their faces planted in the books, in all kinds of books and learn all kinds of things, have that knowledge. So you're able to engage with the world, you're able to engage with different people, able to engage in different subjects. And what you don't know, then it's an opportunity for exploration.
Dawnavyn James [00:23:13]:
Absolutely. Yes. That's exactly it.
Roberto Germán [00:23:16]:
Right? And so I love that. I love the notion of leading with curiosity and fostering that curiosity. And I'm hopeful that readers will bring that same energy as it relates to beyond February. We should be curious as to why it is that folks like us are constantly advocating for teaching black history in all classrooms and beyond the classroom spaces. But we're talking about classrooms, right? We're talking about arcade through twelve education system. Teaching black history any day, every day, all year long. Come with that energy. Come with that energy.
Roberto Germán [00:24:14]:
Just as you stated earlier. Also be open and willing to experience that our children are going to make all types of other connections to other people, groups and other cultures. That is just going to enrich their learning experiences and the dialogue and hopefully enrich the relationships better the community.
Dawnavyn James [00:24:44]:
Yep, that's exactly it.
Roberto Germán [00:24:48]:
Well, Dawnavyn, keep pressing forward in all that you're doing. Much respect and salute to you and your efforts in your PhD program at the University of Buffalo. Encouraged by your work. Love the graphics, the illustrations in your book.
Dawnavyn James [00:25:13]:
Yes, those are my favorite things.
Roberto Germán [00:25:15]:
Yes, it really works for the k through three classroom. Most of my experience is working with middle and high school, but I do have some experience having worked in a Montessori school that was start up. It was pre k three through third grade when we started and built it out to 6th grade. And so I have some experience being around the littles. And then I have my own children who again, one's a third grader, one's a kindergarten, the other one's already childhood. And so I love it. I'm excited to continue to work through your content and then share it out and apply the strategies with my own children. With other children.
Roberto Germán [00:26:00]:
I'm thinking about like, hey, I want to slow down, because if I say this publicly, the folks in my church might end up committing me to it. But I'm thinking about the kids in my church. We have a lot of little kids in our church, and we're in. You know, I'm just being real. Given what's going on here in Florida, we have to think strategically and proactively about the ways in which we are teaching our kids the content that we're delivering, ensuring that those books, even if they're banned in the schools, well, they're not banned in the community. So we're going to find some ways to teach what we need to teach. Again, for anybody from my church that's listening, don't go signing me up for anything quite yet, but maybe I'll do a couple of workshops here and there, sparing. I got to check my calendar first.
Roberto Germán [00:27:03]:
Listen, where can we follow you? Because folks need to. I know you got a pretty sizable following, but folks, we need more folks to follow you. We need folks to get that book. Where can they follow you? Where can they grab a copy of the book today?
Dawnavyn James [00:27:22]:
Yes. So you can follow me on instagram at queendom teaching. And you can get beyond February. I know from rutledge.com and from Amazon, you can ask your local bookstore to get it in there, too.
Roberto Germán [00:27:39]:
All that. Do all of it. Do all of it. And make sure y'all leave reviews. Also leave some reviews. Be specific, take photos, share how it is that is impacting your thinking, shifting your mindset, impacting your classroom. If you're in a classroom or impacting your household, you be sharing this with your kids or whatnot. Dawnavyn, keep writing, keep sharing, keep pressing, keep pushing us to engage in this mean we're going to have to.
Roberto Germán [00:28:13]:
It's all year long, right?
Dawnavyn James [00:28:15]:
All year long.
Roberto Germán [00:28:16]:
That's what you said. That's the title of the book. We're going to have to do this all year long thing. We're not playing around here any day, every day, all year long.
Dawnavyn James [00:28:25]:
All year long.
Roberto Germán [00:28:27]:
Hey, thank you. Thank you very much. It's been my pleasure to have you. And you're welcome back on the platform anytime. I know there's a lot we could have got into, more questions I could have asked based on all the content that you shared in the book. And so, as I continue to dig deeper, don't be surprised if I circle back part two.
Dawnavyn James [00:28:48]:
I got you.
Roberto Germán [00:28:51]:
Peace. As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show, and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias Education Society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Roberto German.