Antiracism and Leading Equity in Education with Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D. (Ep 55)

April 12, 2021 / By

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D. is the Founder of the Leading Equity Center and host of the Leading Equity Podcast. With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education. Dr. Eakins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. He has earned a B.S. degree in Social Science Education, an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Education. Follow Sheldon on Twitter at @sheldoneakins and visit his website at www.leadingequitycenter.com.

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Transcript

Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. This is your host, Nathan Lang-Raad and today’s guest we have Dr. Sheldon L Eakins. He is the founder of the Leading Equity Center and the host of the Leading Equity Podcast. With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal and director of special education. Dr. Eakins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. He has earned a bachelor of science in social science education, a master’s in educational leadership and a Ph.D. in K-12 education. In this episode, Sheldon talks about anti-racism and leading equity in education. I hope you enjoy the show.

Nathan Lang-Raad: It is good to have Dr. Sheldon Eakins on the show today. Sheldon, welcome to the podcast.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Nathan, I appreciate you having me on. Thank you so much.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I sure appreciate having you on. It’s a Saturday when we’re recording this and I know it’s been a busy week for you and you do a lot of amazing work. So, I sure appreciate you taking time out of your Saturday to record.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Pleasure is mine, and this is actually the best day to record and do side stuff. So, this works out for me.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Awesome. Awesome. Well you and I had a chance to chat before we started recording and so many like really cool things you’ve already shared with me that I’m like, I can’t wait to ask you more about here as we’re recording and reading your bio, I saw that you went to… You started off in the Virgin Islands teaching and now you’re in Idaho and two complete different places geographically and culturally. So, I know that I was interested and I know our listeners would be interested to kind of hear how that move happened. Then we’d also love to hear more about your Leading Equity Center.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Sure, sure. You know, they kind of tie together as a matter of fact.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Oh, good.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, when I moved to the Virgin Islands… Let me back up a little bit. So, I was working, I finished college in Alabama and I had a really decent job. I mean, it was kind of like a career type of job. There was opportunities for growth. I was a supervisor at a call center and things were well, and I got my license but I didn’t apply for any teaching jobs because I thought I was good.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, then I got a call that said, basically, Sheldon, we’re getting rid of your department. We don’t need you to supervise anymore. We’re going to need you to go back to the regular call center phones and answering phones, just like everybody else. I said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to do that.” By this time, this is late August. So, of course in the States, jobs are gone, teaching jobs weren’t available. So, I’m sitting on the couch playing video games with my brother and I’m like, “Bro, I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. Like I’m starting from scratch again. This is not what’s up.”

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I got a random phone call from a superintendent. He says, “Listen, I’m from the Virgin islands. I just dropped my son off at your old school. The Dean gave me your contact information because I need a history teacher. Would you like to move to the Virgin Islands?” Nathan naturally, what do you think I said? I said, “Heck yes, I’m coming to the Virgin Islands. I’m out there. Let’s do this.” So, here’s the thing. So, when I get to the Virgin Islands, I blend in, right? I’m a black man. I blend in until I started talking and folks recognized, wait a second, he’s not from here, he’s from somewhere else because he does not sound like us. But I brought in my own cultural norms. I brought in my own traditions. I brought in my view, my mindset, my lens. I didn’t look at things from, you know what, you’re a visitor, you’re a cultural outsider. You are in their land, in their area, right? I didn’t think about those things.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, it wasn’t until I had my roommate, the person I was living with, he was from the Virgin Islands and he said, “Sheldon, everybody’s telling me that you’re being rude and I need to talk to you about it.” I said, “Well tell me, what’s going on?” He says, “When someone says good morning to you, what do you say back?” I say, “Well, I just say hey, what’s up? Well, how are you all doing? What’s good?” Right? How are you [inaudible 00:04:31]? How are you feeling? That’s how I talk in the States. He said, “That’s not what we do here. If someone says good morning to you, you say good morning back. If someone says good afternoon, you say good afternoon back.” This is our custom. This is our culture. This is what we do.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: It was that moment that I recognize… I didn’t have a name for cultural responsiveness and equity. I didn’t know what these things were. I was just fresh out of college. I don’t remember learning these things.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: But that was where I started thinking, “Okay, whatever community I’m in, I need to respond and think about their needs and be coming from their lens as opposed to bringing in my own traditions, norms and what I have become accustomed to.” So, that was that first moment. That was about, what 12 years ago?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Fast forward now, somehow I ended up in Idaho. I don’t know. That’s another story in itself. I work on a reservation out here. There’s two tribes represented on the reservation here in Idaho or in the area that I’m in on the reservation. That was the same mindset. If I came in there with my… You know, again, coming in with my own stuff, my own culture, my own traditions and all that stuff and not being mindful of the community that I’m serving, again, I would be considered very rude and I didn’t want a repeat of my experience being in the Virgin Islands fresh out of college.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, I have Doug… You know, I go to powwows. I go to ceremonies. When I get invited to things I participate. I attend because there is so much I have learned over the last, what, four or five years that I’ve been working on the reservation, about culture and about language. I mean, I’m starting to learn some of the words and it’s just, again, it’s an experience that you don’t get outside of the area or the community that I’m serving right now.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. That’s intriguing and to… I’m thankful that you had a friend who approached you and said hey, they kind of asked you about this. Do you find that once you start to kind of be receptive to wherever the culture where you’re interacting with, you also find a reciprocation that maybe the local people that you’re working with starts to ask you questions and starts to interact in a new way with you. Do you feel like there’s a kind of progression there?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: That’s a good question. I don’t think anybody’s ever asked me that question Nathan. So, thank you for bringing that up.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Here’s the thing. Sometimes when we get called out, when people say, “You know what, that was a microaggression or what you did was rude or you aren’t being culturally competent,” sometimes we get defensive.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, the dialogue doesn’t even take place. That doesn’t even happen, right? So, when my friend, my roommate told me, “Listen, Sheldon, you’re being rude and here’s why,” and he explained it to me. Had I been, “Oh, no, I didn’t mean anything by it. You all need to lighten up. You know, this is where I’m from, you know, I’m from Texas.” If I came in with all of that stuff, as opposed to like, “Oh man, my bad. Dude. Okay. Thank you for letting me know. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. So, now I’m aware of it. Please let me know if there’s anything else that I’m doing.” Right? So, opening up that dialogue I think does allow opportunities for reciprocation. So, now they might ask me questions. Okay. “So, you said that you said what’s up or how you doing, how you feeling? Tell me about that.” Right? They might ask me a question, “Okay, because here we say good morning, good afternoon, good night. You say, what’s up, how you doing, how you feeling? What is the difference? Tell me more about that.”

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Then those kinds of things we can learn from each other. I mean, out here on the reservation, I got a lot of kids ask me questions all the time. They ask me and some of my staff do as well. They ask me about music. They ask me about movies that I like. We engage in conversations and a lot of the stuff that I like, a lot of the kids like. You know, a lot of my students like hip hop and rap and they want to be rappers. So, we’ll have little ciphers. The other day I was in class and my student was like, “Yeah, I want to be a rapper.” I say, “Okay, drop a 16. Let’s hear it.” So, we had some fun doing that but that again is me saying, “You know what, I’m going to be serving this community first, but I also would love for you to learn about my experiences and who I am as well as an individual.”

Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. You know, you brought up a really phenomenal point. I think if people got what you were just saying, I think we’d be a much different place right now as a country with the not taking things personally as soon as you are questioned about it. You make a very good point, there are so many people that whenever you point something out, they immediately make it personal and take it personally and make it about them instead of truly listening. Just listen. Ask questions. Reflect on yourself. What am I doing to… Is there anything I am doing to contribute to systemic racism, for example, as opposed to automatically going on the defensive and saying, “Well, I’m not doing this and these are the reasons why I do it” and so forth. I just, I think it is so important to listen and not automatically be defensive. Of course that’s a whole set of human psychology [inaudible 00:10:05] why would someone get defensive. It says a lot about what the person’s going through and their upbringing and so forth, but you really have eliminated just a huge concept that our country has to work through right now.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: It’s unfortunate that that’s… Yeah, right now, and yesterday and two years before. Like forever, right?

Nathan Lang-Raad: [crosstalk 00:10:24]. Yes.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: It has been a thing. Right?

Nathan Lang-Raad: Right. Oh my God, totally.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: The challenge is, again, going back to the idea of, well, when someone calls us out and to me it doesn’t matter how you get called out. I mean, everybody has… Their personalities is different. Some people might be enraged. Some people might be, [inaudible 00:10:41].

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, me personally… So, Leading Equity, part of what I do is I give training and I help teachers and provide them with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their school. Part of that is being able to engage in conversations centered around advocacy because when we start to see things that are happening in our classrooms or in a staff meeting or things in the hallway and we’re like, “You know what? These things are wrong and we need to fix them. We need to change. How do I articulate myself in a way that allows dialogue to take place.” Now, every situation is not going to be perfect, but I give educators some of the verbiage that will allow them to engage in talking to their peers, talking to their supervisor about a difficult conversation where they noticed maybe a principal did something that was prejudice or discriminatory. How do you approach that, right? So, that’s what I do.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I wish that we all had these tools where we get engaged in these conversations and be open, but the reality is, as human beings, we’re fallible people and sometimes we get called out on something, on our biases and we don’t know how to respond because we didn’t [inaudible 00:11:57]… You know, we meant well when we said this or when we committed this act, we had the best intentions, we didn’t know. But then we get called out and then we get defensive and then that just shuts down the whole communication. Both parties are frustrated because neither one is hearing each other and so then nothing gets resolved and then that person continues on with their biases and it’s never recognized and it’s never overcome. So, there’s so much work for us to do Nathan.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, I applaud the work that you’re doing. I’m curious if you could give us some advice, because obviously you have a lot of success with your Leading Equity Center. What happens when we’re having a conversation and we call someone out and we do it in a way that we feel is respectful and we’re trying to articulate reality, this is what’s happening. Then the other person doesn’t hear you. They don’t listen. They automatically become defensive. Do you have any kind of like advice or strategies to help with getting that person to find this, to stop and listen for a second?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I’ll give you… So, normally what I do is there’s three different ways that I recommend to approach these kinds of conversations. I’m going to couple those with some examples. So, for example, I live in a very small city here in Idaho. It’s a college town. Sometimes, well, not sometimes, a lot of times I experience, “Are you on the football team?” Someone will come up to me and say, “Hey, do you play for the football team here at the university?” Now I get this a lot. This is what we would determine as a, or define as a microaggression. I get this, this happens to me a lot. Right? Don’t let me have a hoodie on something athletic gear or whatever, then it just makes it even worse. I could have a suit on and people think I play for the team. Right?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, I could respond in several different ways, right, and quote unquote, call someone out. Now what I would do in that situation is say, “Okay, well, no, I’m actually done with school. I have a Ph.D. So, I’m no longer a student, but what made you think that I was an athlete? Why didn’t you think that I could have been here on an academic scholarship? Why did you default to sports?” So, I’m calling them out, putting it back on them in a sense, “Well, you know, I didn’t…” Right? They’re stuttering because when we see a person of color, especially a black person, we assume that they must be good in basketball or football, right? Based off of stereotypes. I’m asking them, “Well, why didn’t you think I could have been here on an athletic academic scholarship? Why did it have to default to athletics?”

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Another example in that same sense is I’ll have someone, if I have on a suit sometimes I get asked am I a preacher? I say, “Well, no, I’m not a pastor. I’m not a preacher, but why couldn’t I be a lawyer? Why couldn’t I be a doctor? Why did you default to me being a pastor?” Right? Because I have on a suit. So, then again, you can ask. So, they have to respond and then they’ll… I can give you… I don’t have enough time, but I could give you several different examples where I say, “Well, why didn’t you think… Well, what made you think that?” Right? “Why didn’t you assume this way? Why did you assume based off of this stereotype?” So, that’s one way that I recommend. Again, I’m at a place where I don’t care anymore. So, some people are like, “Well, you know, that might be not the approach that I want to take. Maybe I don’t want to throw that at them.”

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, another example that I would suggest is, okay, another way that you can go about this is you could say, “I know you didn’t mean anything when you said such and such, but I was offended and here’s why.”

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Right? So, now I can say, “Look, I know you meant best.” You know, again, “I know you had the best intentions but when you said that my hair was wild I was offended because this is how my hair naturally grows. My hair doesn’t grow straight. It doesn’t just lay down against my shoulders. I can just do my hair like this, shake my head and it just blows in the wind. My hair doesn’t grow that way. It naturally is very curly. So, when you say that my hair is wild, I was offended and here’s why.” Right? So, that’s another approach that you could take.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: The third way that I recommend to engage in a conversation is to start off being vulnerable with yourself. Tell a story. When I was a school principal, I was serving lunch one day, I was helping out in the lunch room and it was Mexican day and we had beans and rice and we had some tortillas and we were doing the whole thing. I had a Mexican kid come through the line and I said, “Would you like some beans?” He said, “No, I don’t like beans, Mr. Eakins.” I said, “What? You don’t want any beans?” He said, “Mr. Eakins, that’s a stereotype. We don’t all like beans.” I said, “You know what? You’re right. I am wrong. I totally stereotyped you just now.” Right?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, I could share that story. I could start off with my own vulnerability and say, “I did this a few years ago and here’s what I learned from that experience. Now, can we talk a little bit about something that I noticed the other day when you were teaching or something I noticed the other day when you were talking to Johnny in the hallway. It kind of reminded me of that story.”

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Then you can, again, engage in some dialogue going forward. So, you’ve started the conversation with sharing a personal story where you were embarrassed or you made a mistake and you learned from that experience and now you bring it in to them and say, “This is something I noticed. Can we talk about this?” Go that way. So, those are the three that I recommend when it comes to approaching or talking to our peers, our supervisors, shoot, our spouses. I don’t know. When we’re having these conversations with our relationships that we have with other people, these are some approaches that we can take to try to [inaudible 00:18:17]. Again, it’s not going to always be perfect. It takes some practice. Again, it just kind of depends on the situation, depends on your level of comfort. Again, I don’t really care anymore. I’m just at a place where it’s like, I’m just going to say what’s on my mind. So, I tend to lean towards the first approach. But again, it just kind of depends on your level of comfort.

Nathan Lang-Raad: These past 10 minutes, I mean, I feel like every educator and person in society needs to listen to these last 10 minutes that you just discussed. I mean, very powerful. You gave us three different ways. You know, there are three different types of situations we can find ourselves in and we could choose any of these three or all three, if we need to, if we’re having a [inaudible 00:19:02] conversation. Brilliant. I think what happens is that you’re able to finally spark a real conversation and you do it in a way where the person is least likely to shut down, become defensive, not listen. You give them the opportunity to share a perspective and then be able to reflect on their own experience and be able to see your perspective.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Lang-Raad: It’s huge. So… Oh, this is fantastic.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Thank you. Yeah, it’s again, part of what I do. Because, man, I could tell you how many emails that I get. How do I talk to my staff or my colleague doesn’t think that they have an equity issue. I don’t know how to approach that. How do I talk to them?

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: These are the ways that I suggested. Go one of these routes and that should help. Again, it’s if we can practice these things and sometimes I go over scenarios, sometimes we practice the actual [inaudible 00:20:00]… I’m going to be that person. You’re going to be… Like you be yourself and I’ll be them and then let’s go through the scenario. We go through it and [inaudible 00:20:08].

Nathan Lang-Raad: [crosstalk 00:20:08].

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Yeah, we do the role playing.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I love it. Okay. Well, we’re going to transition to kind of the second segment of the podcast. I have some… I call it the lightning round, but we don’t have to go crazy fast, but we got 10 questions and I’m just going to kind of just list them out and… Are you ready for it?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Let’s do it.

Nathan Lang-Raad: All right. So, first question is, if you were on a desert island, which three books would you take with you and why?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: If I could only take three books with me, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paulo Freire. Like my favorite book of all time.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I’d like to take that one. I would get Bettina Love’s book, We Want to Do More Than Survive, and then I would grab Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist. Those would be the three books that I would get. I just like to read those books. You said [inaudible 00:21:06].

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Not that I’m going to be advocating on an island, but I just like the books and those would be the three I would grab.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Excellent. Okay. How do you recharge?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Whew. Well, here’s the thing. I’m a black man that lives in Idaho. There’s 0.8% of black folks in this entire state. So, having an affinity space is very important to me, especially when we have things that are impacting our community, our black community, and not having someone to just one-on-one talk to can be a challenge. Who understands.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Right? So, one thing for me, I could talk to people. Sure. I can talk to a lot of my colleagues, but they don’t understand what I’m going through, how I am feeling when I watch George Floyd get murdered and why I don’t want to drive down the road the very next day or that evening to go get some groceries or pick up dinner, because I’m worried about being pulled over myself, right? They wouldn’t understand that kind of stuff.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, what I do to recharge is I have so many virtual black friends, for example. I’ve never met them and this is before pandemic time, but there’s just people I’ve just connected with via social media and Twitter and Instagram and all these different places and then we either talk online or we… You know, phone calls, text messages have been very helpful for me to be able to, again, be able to discuss what I have going on, how I’m feeling, being open and vulnerable and they’re sharing as well. Then I can go back into the spaces that I’m occupying professionally and feel like I have a place to go or people to talk to when I need support.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Excellent. Very cool. All right. Next, what is the biggest challenge in education.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Dude. The biggest challenge in education-

Nathan Lang-Raad: [inaudible 00:23:08] deep real quick.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Man. I could go so many different directions with that. You know, I would say this. One of the biggest challenges in education is the lack of awareness. Sometimes I struggle with the lack of awareness versus they don’t care. You have, unfortunately, a lot of educators who are in our classrooms, who are in front of our students, who this is just a paycheck who no matter how many times you have explained to them, “There’s some equity issues at your school that need to be resolved. There’s some systems, there’s some policies, there are some rules, discipline, whatever it is that needs to change and here’s why.” Yet you have resistance.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: But I think to me, the biggest challenge is a lack of awareness or understanding or attention to making change. We have such an opportunity. Over the summer I talked about how… When our school shut down I said, “This is an opportunity for us to create a new normal.” When we think about our educational system and who it was originally created for, it wasn’t created for everybody. Right?

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: If we don’t understand that, okay, our schools have shut down because there’s a freaking pandemic happening right now, we’re going to go back to school in August, or whenever you attend school, whatever your setup is, now we can make those changes. Folks were like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” Then I’m seeing a lot of schools basically ended up doing the same thing they’d been doing either just in a virtual space now, or they just didn’t really take the time to change. So, that’s my thing is just being open to change is the biggest challenge for me.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I hear that. Okay. What subject did you love in school?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: History. Hands down. History. I wanted to become a history teacher because I loved history. I love a story. My main thing was just making sure that the story wasn’t boring. To me, you have to bring it out.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Agreed. I love history. I’m right there with you. What about your favorite teacher? Who’s your favorite teacher and why?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Mr. [Filder 00:25:28]. Twelfth grade history teacher and basketball coach.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay. All right. All right.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Listen, this man had the swag. I was very fortunate. So, a lot of folks I know, they’ve never had black teachers in their lives. It’s just, you know, I think it’s 2% for the whole nation.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, I was very fortunate enough to attend an all black school and man, this guy, he had the swag. This is like the coolest brother I’ve ever met. I wanted to be like this dude. So, he was our history teacher and our basketball coach. I’d say, “When I get to college, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I want to be a history teacher and basketball coach.” That’s exactly what I did.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Amazing. I hope that you’ve been able to share that with him.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I’ve talked to him. Yeah. That’s my guy.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Cool. Awesome. That’s the best thing to get from a teacher, to see the impact that you made on a student.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Lang-Raad: Awesome. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: I had this thing about being a waiter. I thought the waiters were cool.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Cool. Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, that was what I wanted to be growing up, was a waiter.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Awesome. All right. Then did you ever get a chance to do that?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: No. No.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: That was as a kid. When I got older I was like, “Ah, I don’t want to do that.”

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: But I thought it was like the thing. So, yeah.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Excellent. Who had the biggest impact on who you have become?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Definitely my dad. My dad was an entrepreneur or is an entrepreneur still.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: He has provided a lot of advice. He’s always been there for me. I never thought I would end up being an entrepreneur, running a business and all that stuff. Wasn’t in my purview, but it happened and he’s definitely someone that I can go to, to ask for advice when it comes to having staff and having a team and contracts and all these things. So, he’s definitely been a big support in my life.

Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s fantastic. What’s the most positive change that you’ve noticed in education?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Most positive change is… I feel like I’m going to contradict my first statement about the biggest challenge in education, because unfortunately with the racial issues that have been occurring within the last few years or so, coupled with the pandemic, I see a lot more people are open to bringing me in.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, I’m getting a lot more inquiries where it’s like…

Nathan Lang-Raad: Good.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: “Hey, we need some anti-racist work. We need some anti-bias work for my staff, for my district.” So, I think even though we’ve been screaming, equity, equity, equity for the past, I don’t know, however long we’ve been screaming this, folks are starting to listen more.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: So, like I said, I felt like I just contradicted myself, but not everybody’s on board, but there are more people coming on board I would say.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, there have been, there’s a step in the right direction, but there’s still many, many steps to go. Got it. What’s the worst advice you’ve received?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Worst advice I’ve received. You know, I guess I’ve had teachers that basically say that this is the parent’s fault or it’s the student’s fault. You know, “You’re doing your best. You’re doing what you can. You know, you’ve done everything and this is on the parent.” To me, that’s terrible. Brand new as a teacher, those kinds of comments that used to come my way and I was like, “Why are we putting the onus on the parents or the student?” To me, I need to be considering what could I do more? Why is it set up in a way that doesn’t allow the communication maybe, or the engagement from a family member or a guardian parent, what is it that I could do more as opposed to saying, “Well, I’ve done everything I can and this is on them.” That’s that’s terrible advice.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Agreed. What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: You’ll never be caught up. I was a school principal and man, I got overwhelmed and I said, “Man, I got this report due, I got this staff member I got to deal with, I got a parent, I got this, this, this, this.” I remember I was literally sitting at my desk crying. I’m like, “I can’t do this.” My dad was like… I’d call my dad and he said, “You’ll never be caught up.” I was like, “I just got to get caught up. I just got to get caught up.” He was like, “You’ll never be, there’s always going to be more work to do.”

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: You get quote unquote caught up and guess what? 30 seconds later something else I need. Oh yeah, by the way, I got to do this too. Oh, I guess I can work on this now or I guess… There’s always more work. So, that was the best advice I’ve ever received was you will never be caught up.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I’m guessing you live by that now, right?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. Definitely. I do my daily tasks. You know, this is what I want to do for the day. That’s kind of how I start my day off is like, “Okay, these are the four or five things that I want to hit. This one here. I have to hit the rest of these four, if I hit them, I hit them. If I don’t, I can do it tomorrow.”

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. So true. Oh, good stuff. Sheldon, this has been a phenomenal conversation. I feel like of these 30 minutes, there are so many wonderful conversations that can be spawned from this. I know that people are going to want to know more about you and your work. How can our listeners find you after listening to this podcast?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Thank you. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed our conversation. You asked some really good questions and it’s always good to be on the other side of the microphone.

Nathan Lang-Raad: [inaudible 00:31:26]

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Yeah, if folks want to connect I have a podcast it’s called Leading Equity. Also I’m on social Instagram, @Sheldon Eakins and Eakins is E-A-K-I-N-S. You can always get more information from the LeadingEquityCenter.com.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Fantastic. Hey Sheldon, thanks again for being on the podcast.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D.: Thanks for having me.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I want to invite you to our second annual WeVideo Creator Community Summit, July 20th through the 22nd. We will have educators from around the globe presenting on topics like personalized learning, social emotional learning, and blended learning. This summit is free of charge and you’ll receive a PD certificate for attending. For more information, visit www.WeVideo.com/WCCS21. I hope to see you there.