Dr. Sawsan Jaber is currently a high school English teacher at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. She is the founder of Education Unfiltered Consulting and one of the founders of the Arab American Education Network (AAEN). Sawsan is a Board Director of Our Voice Alliance (OVA) charged with amplifying the voices of teachers of color to create more equity for students of color. She recently completed her Ph.D. with a focus on inclusion and belonging of students from marginalized communities. Additionally, Sawsan is a National Board Certification candidate. She is an educational leader of twenty years with experience in a variety of settings in the U.S. and abroad. She offers the experience of being a member of a minority group as the daughter of refugees. Sawsan is a lifelong learner in an ever-changing world. Follow Sawsan Jaber, Ph.D on Twitter at @SJEducate. Read Dr. Jaber’s Medium post “My Stories and Insights in 26 Letters” at https://medium.com/@educationunfiltered/my-insights-in-26-letters-5db935f2bd31
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Hey, it’s Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad here. I am so excited to present this episode to you. It was an honor and pleasure to have Dr. Sawsan Jaber on the show today. In this episode, Dr. Jaber talks about how to be an ally, a co-collaborator. She talks about how to fight against racism, how to be a self advocate. There were so many things I learned from Dr. Jaber in this episode. I know I will be replaying this episode over and over.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: A little bit about Dr. Sawsan Jaber. She is currently a high school English teacher at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. She’s the founder of Education Unfiltered Consulting and one of the founders of the Arab American Education Network. Sawsan is a Board Director of Our Voice Alliance charged with amplifying the voices of teachers of color to create more equity for students of color. She recently completed her PhD with a focus on inclusion and belonging in students from marginalized communities.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Additionally, Sawsan is as a National Board Certification candidate. She’s an education leader of 20 years with experience in a variety of settings in the U S and abroad. She offers the experience of being a member of a minority group as a daughter of refugees. Sawsan is a lifelong learner in an ever changing world. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I am so excited to have Dr. Sawsan Jaber today with us on the show. Dr. Jaber thanks for being with us today.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: You know, I met you through our ISTE Ed Leaders PLN, and I had already heard just wonderful things about you and the work that you’re doing. And then when you were on our first PLN get together, you just shared some very inspiring messages. And after that interaction, I thought, “I cannot wait to have Dr. Jaber on this show.” I’m so excited, I know our listeners will be very excited to hear all of the things that you have to share with us today. So first off I want to ask you, what are you currently working on? I know you are a high school English teacher. Are you teaching remote? What is your current teaching conditions?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Yeah, so we are a hundred percent remote. I teach in a primarily Latinx community and our school has been doing tons and tons of equity and justice work over the summer. And we’re quick to recognize the disproportionate impacts of COVID on our community, and opted to go fully remote, thankfully, for the sake of our students and for the sake of the community that we serve. I’m teaching English there, definitely tying in all the craziness of what’s happening in our world to my teaching, because I feel like I can not be effective without talking about all the stuff that’s happening. As an English teacher, I’m lucky to have the room and the platform and the ability to pull those things into our instruction. So yeah, that’s what I’m doing most of my time.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And then I’m doing a couple of little projects here and there. I’m teaching some social justice courses internationally in countries like South Africa and Australia. I’m working on some leadership standards for principals in the Emirate of the UAE, with the Government Board of Education there. So doing some work, trying to spread the social justice work across the different communities in different schools, as much as I can.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, I don’t know how you have time to do all the things that you’re doing, but all I know is that you are making a tremendous impact on, not only the world of education, but just globally with the social issues. I have fallen in love with Linda, the blog post that you had written early on this year. And I want to say, if you haven’t seen this blog post, you just Google, My Stories and Insights in 26 Letters by Dr. Jaber, and we’ll make sure to include the link in the podcast notes. But I know that you identify yourself as a Muslim Arab American woman. And so I’m curious about how your identification as an Arab American woman has manifested in your social justice and anti-racist education that you have with your students?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, so it really doesn’t get more diverse than Brooklyn, in the heart of Brooklyn. And I’m a daughter of refugees. And I think that that really adds so many layers to who I am and the experiences that I had, because my parents didn’t grow up here and so they didn’t experience a lot of the challenges that we experienced growing up. And we didn’t have conversations in our classrooms, it was taboo then. It’s still taboo now in a lot of places, to have some of those conversations that can name experiences for kids, that kids are having. So I think that being a daughter of refugees, refugees are forced out of their homes and so they tend to hold a little bit more closely to their culture and their religion and the things that identify them and connect them to their home countries, because they always have a hope to be able to go back.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so I grew up in a very strong Palestinian home that we ate Palestinian food, listened to Palestinian music, spoke only Arabic at home. And those were really important values that my parents upheld. And then I think that as a parent… I navigated school, there was tons of tons of experience that I can look back at now in hindsight, that I experienced, but didn’t know how to navigate those experiences correctly, to plant seeds of doubt and single story media representations of who I was supposed to be. And I recall even as young as elementary school, teachers viewing my language, my pluralism, my cultural linguistic pluralism, as something that they needed to assimilate rather than something that they needed to celebrate and bring into the classroom as assets. But I didn’t see that then.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And I think that this went on to college where even as a college student, I was handed novels and textbooks in literature classes as an English major, that were supposed to be representative of my story. And singled out by teachers to hear my perspective on those books. And I couldn’t say anything more than I felt really offended by them. And so I think that those were again, missed opportunities to really impact and change people’s perspectives and give them something else to consider if they hadn’t heard a different side of the story or a counter story to counter the mainstream media.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so it wasn’t until, I want to say my master’s degree and then my oldest daughter. We moved to Dubai and then we moved back here and her first year here in high school, after 911, she came home in tears and felt like her teacher wanted her to apologize. And this was her feeling for something that she had nothing to do with, which was 911. And just from a parent perspective, being able to connect the dots with my own experience and my children’s experience, and really think about the need for multiple things. A, the lack of a democratic background in the Arab American community and how we live in silos and the importance of us really coming out of our silos and to some degree, trying to impact the change that’s necessary in order for these experiences to not be things that our children experience and our grandchildren experience.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: But b, really taking back our narrative in the mainstream media and in the American culture and defining it beyond the single story media representation that existed way before 911, but I think 911 normalized it and made it okay to say those things out loud and then act on them in a lot of different ways. So I worked in a primarily white school district that was historically homogenous, but had a 611% growth of Middle Eastern kids when I moved back from Dubai. So the first week of school, I had a teacher walk into my classroom and say, “I just want to know how you feel after what your people did in France,” I’m referencing an ISIS bombing.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And I think that that to me, made me start digging at and looking closer to the experiences of kids who she taught and kids who were taught in the school, who looked like me every single day. And one thing led to another, it was my National Board Certification process, where I honed in on that. It was my excuse to do that at the National Boards. I entered the school leadership team and the district leadership team to start advocating for students of color and the changing demographics. I was the only minority teacher and the only staff member altogether that was a person of color in the district. So obviously that was one thing that they really needed to intentionally look at and change as well, because the representation was super important. And I think that when I started my PhD, initially I wanted to do a PhD in English and teach college level English, that was my initial plan, but working in that school made me realize that I couldn’t just focus on college students that I was teaching.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: My dream was to always teach Middle Eastern literature and teach it from a non-stereotypical perspective. And I felt like that was very small in comparison to the need for me to be able to impact policy and curriculum and make these narratives more inclusive on a national scale, and not just the teachers who are willing to walk that fine line and rock the boat, for lack of a better term, to make those changes in their classrooms. And hope that our kids enter classrooms where cycles are being disrupted, cycles of hate and racism are actually being disrupted. And they’re being provided with the tools to have critical conversations and self-advocate and navigate post high school worlds, without looking back and feeling like, “I wish I had the tools to do that differently,” like I did.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: You’re so masterful, having these critical conversations and I feel that your voice has made a tremendous impact. And as I was reading more about your story, I came across one of the stories you shared, about one of your students announcing something, addressing an elephant in the room. I’m wondering if you could tell that story and talk about how you adjusted, and then what the result of studying a particular subject for a couple of weeks afterwards.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Sure. Obviously coming into a school where you look very different. The first weeks of school, that I was in that school, I had parents pulling their kids out of the school as soon as they saw me. And I’m a covered woman of brown skin and very proud of both of those qualities. I was considered foreign, and I know that it was the elephant in the room in a lot of the spaces that I occupied within that school. So in the first few weeks of school, one of the students came in and said in front of all the other kids like, “My dad says you’re a terrorist.” And so I stopped for a second. You could react in so many different ways. You can get angry. You can feel insulted. But to me, it was…
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Kids grow up in homes where they’re hearing these things all day long and unless they come to schools, where we create spaces to have critical conversations, to disrupt that thinking, and it’s not happening anywhere else. And so to me, it was important for me to open the space and say, “Okay, let’s have this conversation. Where do you think these ideas come from?” And at that point, I’d interacted with them for a few weeks, and I even had the opportunity to build surface level relationships with the kids and was working on really building closer relationships with them. But I knew that the question that he asked was a question that was on the minds of a lot of students and parents and even colleagues of mine.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so I opened the door for them to… We had tons and tons of conversations about stereotypes and media representations, and after two days of talking, we came to the conclusion that we fear what we don’t understand and what we don’t know. And so my next part of that lesson was, “Okay, ask me what do you want to know about me? Ask me anything, I’m ready to answer.” And so the kids did, I just spent a couple of days just answering questions and really getting at the core of the things that made me foreign to them in their eyes that they couldn’t understand. And I think two days later after we finished the conversation, I always tell my kids, “Whatever we talk about in the classroom, go home and talk to your parents and come back and give feedback, to spread the word and go home and see what your parents think.”
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And hopefully this can be something that catches on to the community at large, and we can start to plant those seeds to disrupt those cycles on a larger scale beyond our classrooms. And his father called me two days later to apologize and said that he’d never, ever really interacted with anybody who looked like me before. And he was very apologetic and thanked me for giving him that insight and having that conversation with his son. I know a lot of friends of mine and teachers sometimes feel like it’s exhausting for us to constantly be the ones that are teaching and talking about these things. And I agree that it is, but at the same time, I feel like we have an opportunity here to take back that story and tell it the way we want to tell it, which is representative of our own lived experiences. And the minute we walk away from that, then we’re handing it to somebody else who might tell it differently, and then we’re not happy with it.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: So I guess as long as I can, and yes, sometimes I feel like I need the support of a team to keep going, because it is very emotional and very heavy work. But I think as long as I can, I’m going to keep telling my story. And if I plant that seed in a few of my students every year and a few of my colleagues who impact students on a day-to-day basis and teachers that I can talk to who are willing to listen, then I’ve made a difference in lives of kids. Maybe I’m talking specifically about my own experiences and kids who look like me, but the things that I talk about are things that can be applied to any student of color and any student who comes from my diverse background, regardless of how we define diversity. And so it’s really important for us to keep these things in mind and really humanize the kids beyond statistics and numbers that legislation like SR forces us to view our students as.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. It’s amazing that you were able to change the minds of people and that’s no easy feat as you know. I’m sure you’ve researched the backfire effect and the amygdala in the brain, anything that threatens our worldview, we automatically have this knee-jerk reaction. And until we finally get to genuinely know someone, and obviously you weren’t afraid to have those critical conversations, and you not only model by example, but you went into. And I think that goes into the root of education. And you talk about, in this blog post, about education being the eradicator of ignorance. And it truly is about being able to live your experience, exposing the truth, looking for evidences to back up these truths. I’m curious to see if, through your work, have you seen your students maybe take on some projects, maybe share their voice, that they otherwise wouldn’t feel as confident in sharing, if it wasn’t for you and your impact and really addressing these issues?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Yeah, for sure. And I’m going to tell you too, just to piggyback off of your last comment, that I’m no stranger to the knee-jerk reaction and how angry people can get. And when you threaten that way of knowing and you try to unlearn, or some of the things that we know we’ve only seen historically. So definitely been there and done that. And yes, I think that one of the biggest things being in that school, was the young girls, especially who look like me… And it makes me really focus on, when I’m working with schools, to talk about equity and social justice, the importance of having teachers and building leaders who look like the students I think, but because I’ve experienced that impact of that firsthand on students, through my dissertation and through the research that I did.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: But also just working in a school where I was the only person who looked like a lot of the kids, I think that it’s such a huge thing. People really don’t understand how big that is. And so I had a girl who was one of the only Muslim girls who covered her hair. There’s a lot of Muslim kids, but not all of them felt comfortable to cover their hair, because they were antagonized for it in a number of ways within the school district. And so she covered her hair and she was blonde hair, blue eyes, so without her hair cover really fit in to the general population of the school. And when she covered, it was like a physical indicator that she wasn’t like everybody else. And so she was the butt of tons and tons of bullying and just had… Her story was like… She used to come to me and talk to me and talk to me in tears and ask me how I felt like, I could keep my scarf on given the times, especially because I had shared with them…
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: I share with my students a lot. I think it’s really important when we think about equity and social justice to put ourselves in vulnerable places at the same platform as our kids, and do with them what we expect them to do and share with them like we expect them to open up and share, and it just creates a much healthier classroom culture. And so she shared with me often things that she wouldn’t share with the rest of her class, I do two way journals in my class all the time. We start every single day with journaling. And that gives me a space to have conversations with the kids that are private and it gives them a space to open up and talk. And with time I encourage them to start sharing those things out with their classes, but initially I need to build a relationship with the kids first so that they can trust me enough to share with the rest of the class and know that they’re in a safe space.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so we did a lot of conversations about different groups, marginalized groups, and unpacking the history of systemic racism in America and looking at our positionality and our identity and unpacking our own identity and looking at where we fit with regards to privilege and just the systems that have been set in place and the hierarchies that have been set in place historically and currently. And then I said, “Okay, I want you guys to create a public service announcement that uses rhetoric and persuasion and think of an authentic audience. And I want you to create something that you think is really going to speak to that audience. So think of your authentic audience, think of your tools of persuasion. Think about your word choice and put together a message that you think is a problem that needs to be addressed in our local community.”
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And what she did was, she worked with a group of two other students, a group of three, to create a public service announcement that was about her headscarf and how she felt in the context of our school with her headscarf. They created this cream called racism, and you can see the girls in a mirror at the beginning of it, and they’re applying the cream called racism on their face. The whole video is black and white until the end. And as they’re applying it, they’re getting pimples and blemishes on their face. And you can see the more they apply, the more blemishes and the more pimples that they get on their faces. And then they talk about the ugliness of racism. At the end of it, it talks about the beauty of diversity. And then the screen turns into a screen of color and you can actually see these girls with the color and she has her head scarf on.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And in her reflections, she talks about how it was such a hard thing for her to really talk about these things openly, because she felt like she was isolated in her challenges and how even just working within her small group, the other girls in her group could relate to her, being females, and in other ways through their own marginalization and through their own obstacles, but they never talked about it and so they couldn’t build those connections between each other and their experiences. And it gave them something that they can carry through and talk about and become friends with and something that they felt like they can have a voice and amplify that and work on together. So it’s not anything like, “Wow, we’ve created like this great product.” It was an amazing…
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: The thought of it and the thought process behind it and the messaging of it coming from middle school kids, they were middle school students, and the impact of that on other students and the conversations that we were able to have in the class about her experience being specifically an Arab and a covered Muslim woman in the classroom, were really revolutionary for the kids in that class and for her. Because after that, she became very active and very vocal and is in her third year of high school now, and is still doing a lot of that activist work to magnify the voices of other students who look like her. She needed a green light to show her that she could have impact and that she did have a voice. And once she got it, she was able to take that and continue it.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I think it’s amazing what you are empowering students to do. Not that we can be surprised with that. I’ve seen students treat these amazing videos and PSAs and messages, but many times they don’t feel like they have the space, the freedom to do that. As a teacher, didn’t you feel that that’s one of our primary roles, is to give them this, liberate them and let them feel the freedom to be their most creative selves and be their best selves and also you have, masterfully. As an English teacher you’re connecting to all the tender learning standards of using visual imagery to persuade an audience and all these things that the kids don’t even realize in the process that they’re learning, by using their voice. And so you’re able to make that a hidden seamless process, but do you agree that that is one of our primary roles as teachers?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. And I think that that’s where teachers sometimes have fear, to let go of the control that they have in the classroom and let go of some of that power and share it with the kids and give them the spaces to develop those personalities and do those things. Because I think for me, I think the culture of America is, we look at these kids and we say, “When you grew up, you can be X, Y, and Z.” And what I start with my kids at the beginning of every year, I tell them, “Well, you are grown up. You have a voice. There’s so many kids that are your age, younger than you, and a little bit older than you, who have already had such great impact.” And I try to bring in as many of those examples throughout the year.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so I want them to know that, first of all, the word activism, I’m very heavy on scholar activism in my classroom and the need to first be a scholar. And then to act on what we’ve learned through our scholar work, is that you first have to understand all of these things. You have to understand your positionality more than anything else. And it always starts with a self exploration. But then after that, you have to know that activism has so many different faces. It’s a movie, it’s a painting. It is the picket lines. It is an essay that people are going to read years after you’re gone. It’s something that’s going to stay there historically. It’s a poem. It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s a dance, it’s music, it’s everything.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: There’s two misconceptions, a for teachers, they think that I have to stop teaching what I’m teaching in order for me to be equitable and have these critical conversations. And absolutely not. It falls into everything that we’re doing. Equity work is naturally inter weaved through every content area and every grade level. And then the other piece of that is that we might feel that we have to stop… The kids also feel like they have to go into political places in order for them to be able to have impact and have voice. And I think that empowering them to see that they can have voice and impact with the things that they love already and are passionate about, and it can become a part of their natural life as opposed to something I have to stop and work on. I think that in and of itself, is a really important lesson too, that they need to have before they leave us.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: So that when we say we’re really preparing kids to be a college and career ready, and I love Gholdy Muhammad’s work because I feel like she really focuses… American education really focuses on skill building and test drilling and test success, but we’re not really building identity and we’re not really building criticality. And those are the skills that our kids really need to navigate the real world. And so I always tell my kids too, at the beginning of the year, “If this is not going to make you a better person out there, then throw it away. We’re not learning it.” Everything that we do has to be tied into something that’s relevant for the kids.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: My class is super organic, and I think that that’s really a big part of it, because it’s got to be relevant to the kids that I have in front of me. And that changes, because culture changes, it’s fluid, so that can change every single year and it can change from period one to period three. So I think recognizing all of those things in making that space, is super important, and letting go of our traditional roles as teachers and really embracing, which is what the core of Danielson and most of us are being evaluated through that mode is about, is giving the students some of that control and some of that agency and some of that voice and determining what they feel is most important and how to take those standards and really make them something that’s going to build who they are as people versus something that I’m going to have to memorize to do well on this test and then it becomes meaningless later.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I think it’s phenomenal that that is the filter through which you plan learning experiences for students, that is if the learning experience doesn’t lead to us being a better version of ourselves. And I hope I said that correct, or I hope I was able to interpret that correctly. They’re not going to do it. I think that’s a fantastic filter. It’s not the essential learning standard, although yes, we have to connect to those, but it’s a deep, personal self discovery, and that’s the most important aspect of the classroom.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: How can you get more teachers involved? The work that you’re doing is so powerful and yes, a lot of this has to do with your own self-discovery and your own confidence and your own courage, but I want to help spread the amazing work that you’re doing and being able to ensure that all students are able to, not only find their voice, but be able to exercise their voice and be an activist and advocate. What can teachers do? And what have you seen, maybe other teachers around you do to help propel this movement in the education world?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: So I think that there’s a number of things that teachers can do. And I think first, there’s the recognition of the need for this work and the recognition that we are in positions of power and we are dominant when it comes to our role in the classroom as teachers. And there’s so much power that we hold in those classrooms in shaping students’ perceptions about themselves, and students’ perceptions about school and students’ perceptions about how they navigate the world when they’re adults. I think for a long time, just the disconnect between what we think impacts K-12 kids. And then we think that when they start college they’re adults and they can let go of all of that and then they have these new experiences at college level. And that isn’t the case.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: I think what happens to kids at K-12 drives who they are at college level and who they are as adults and even as parents. And so recognizing the power of those experiences at the K-12 level, and making sure that we are giving kids the best chances and providing them with the repertoire of tools so that they can navigate the hard world that we’re living in that just changes. I mean, look at COVID, it just changed our whole reality in a matter of of days, and we’re still trying to figure out where to go from here. And then really we don’t even know what that world looks like. And so I think that’s a really big job and that recognition is the most important part. The next thing I think is that we have to start with our own positionality as teachers.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: The same model that I use with my students in the classroom is the same model I use when I’m training teachers to do this work as well. We have to start with our own positionality and recognize our privilege, our marginalization, regardless of where we fit on the hierarchy historically. And currently, we need to recognize that first and really highlight the implicit biases that we react on in classrooms when we’re viewing kids and interacting with them every single day. And then it’s immersing ourselves in the communities that we’re working in and really, really understanding them. And I think that that was something that, I’ve worked in so many different places, I’ve worked in the United Arab Emirates, which is an Arab community, but every Arab community is so different, that was something I needed to learn that culture and understand that culture in order for me to be successful there.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: I have worked in primarily white schools and that was very different for me as well. I’m currently working in a Latinx community and I’ve never worked in one before. And so my first step in entering one of these communities, in any one of these communities, is to really get to know as much as I can by reading, by talking to people, by going out into community spaces and bringing students into that space and talking to them and getting resources and lists and things like that from people who are from those communities, in order for me to make sure that my good intention and creating spaces where representation is accurate, don’t end up recreating harm. And I’m bringing in stereotypical perspectives and views that I think I’m being culturally responsive.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And then I think that the next step after we’ve gotten there, it’s really a step-by-step process and it’s one that’s constantly fluid and you’re constantly moving between those spaces, is to… It’s mirrors, windows, and doors, right? Rudine Bishop’s Mirrors, Windows and Doors. So it’s giving kids mirrors and yourself mirror to view yourself and view the kids, then creating windows for them to see other spaces and other areas and building the connections between who we are and what we need, and then who other groups of people are and what we need and creating the need for allyship and co-collaboration and the need for everybody to recognize that they have a role in ending injustices, whether they’re directly impacted or indirectly impacted or not impacted at all, or if they perceive that they’re not impacted at all, but we all have to work together and come out of our silos as people of color to make these changes, or as diverse groups, or just anybody altogether as humans, to make the changes necessary.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And I think that oftentimes when you hear about equity work, schools and groups are always calling out for cultural responsiveness, and to me, I always say, “That’s not good enough.” It’s not enough for me to show my kids a true version of who they are in what I’m teaching. That’s the first step, but that’s a very minimal level of cultural teaching. I think it’s really important for us to move beyond even culturally sustaining and saying to kids, “Bring in your pluralism into the classroom, let’s celebrate who you are. And let’s learn from who we are.” And the diversity in our schools is something that’s definitely an asset. That’s still a lower level. We need to be thinking about critical race theory. We need to be thinking about student empowerment. We need to be thinking about how we can get our students to self-advocate, in order for them to eventually change the status quo.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: We need to be thinking about how we can give them a historical perspective beyond the single-story representation and unteach them things that they’ve been learning since kindergarten, for the most part, and the immersion of representation that they have in the media and show them that there are different stories to give them a better picture and a more clear picture of where we are today and how we got here. And only when they have those understandings, and teachers have to start with gaining those understandings before they can work with students to have critical conversations, especially if they don’t come from marginalized background, which is the majority of the teachers. We do have a country that’s built on a demographic divide when it comes to education, where we have primarily white female teachers and demographics of students that are now almost at a 45% minority versus a 55% majority, and that’s projected to completely change by 2030.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: And so I think that the teachers who haven’t had those experiences and can’t speak out of personal experience, really need to work to immerse themselves, to understand what that looks like, what that feels like. And that looks like and feels very differently from community to community. And so I don’t think that there’s one magic recipe. I really think that if you want to do it and do it with fidelity, and it has to be something that’s relative to the demographics that you’re in, but it doesn’t stop there because kids leave our buildings. And the world changes every day. And they go out into worlds and spaces that are much more diverse. So they have to be able to understand themselves, understand their communities, but then ultimately understand how to navigate things that are different than where they are right now.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I have a legal pad next to me, and I have scribbled at least three pages of notes during our podcast today. Please tell me that you are writing a book, and if you’re not, I need to plead with you to write one, because all of the kids need to read.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: I’m working on it. I’m working on [crosstalk 00:32:47].
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I’m going to ask you in a few weeks, where’s your book? Where are you? This has been phenomenal, Dr. Jaber. For our listeners who may be meeting you for the very first time or those of us who want to know more, where can we find you on social media and where can we read some of the things that you are writing about?
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: So I think probably most of my work is now on Twitter @SJEducate. And that’s where I’m probably most active. I just started, I have a personal Instagram account, but my professional Instagram account, Education Unfiltered, it’s still in its infancy phases, but I’m working on developing that a little bit more. Hopefully, I’m working on a website by the end of the year, and that’ll be on my Twitter page once it’s there. So there’s some things in the works, but right now I think the best places is on Twitter @SJEducate.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Fantastic. We’ll make sure to include that in the transcript as well in the show notes. Dr. Jaber, it has been an honor and pleasure today. I literally could just listen to you talk forever. So I can’t wait to listen to this podcast myself when it’s released. Thank you so much for giving your time, but most importantly, thank you so much for being your most courageous self and sharing this amazing message, and just for the impact you’re making on the lives of students and educators.
Dr. Sawsan Jaber: Thank you. And thank you for giving me this platform to share my story and some of my experiences. I appreciate it.