All posts by Janelle Naomi

About Janelle Naomi

Janelle Naomi is a passionate educator of ten years who has taught in preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Keep up with Janelle’s endeavors via her website JanelleNaomi.com. | @JanelleNaomi.

07Sep/21

Magical Curation

I have come to know that magic, energy, and people never die and always have a purpose. Schools have the power to curate all three if done with great intention. Yet, when our young people share what their purpose is, all too often their energy and magic (or passion) are destroyed or not nurtured. It can look like a child who doodles in the corner of their work or draws on the walls in your home, a child who sings constantly and memorizes many songs with ease or just talks a lot. These are gifts, passions, and, dare, I say magic. But how is this expanded and nurtured?

In this new reality, any energy that is poured in can be seen almost immediately. Young people have access to and connection to more ways to develop, expand, and share their gifts. Find ways to cultivate this as often as you can as deeply as you can. For the child that draws on walls, find some chalkboard paint and let them make a different image daily. For the child who sings constantly, ask them to record their songs and make jingles. For the child who talks a lot, allow them to conduct interviews with people and share the knowledge of what they learn. Find creative ways to encourage the flourish. Children will bloom where they are planted, but they do need life energy breathed into their magic, their passion, and their purpose.

Photo by Iiona Virgin

07Jun/21

The Childhood Challenge

In the Age of the Challenge, our children deserve to be victorious.

Every day there is a new challenge popping up on the internet via social media and our children are rising to engage in them. I see melanated youth engaged in TikTok dances, making slime on YouTube, pranking one another. 

Let’s observe these phenomena objectively. Children who have access to social media observe an image or video and the defined challenge associated with it. They proceed to record themselves engaged in the challenge for others to see and the cycle continues. Obviously, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the melanated child, but I aim to shed light on the possible effects and propose a new challenge. The desired outcome is fun and, sometimes to go viral, gain more followers, etc. 

Our children are ancestors returned and although they are not the only ones on these challenges, I wonder what they are winning if they rise to every challenge that is brought about through social media. As ancestors returned, they are here to do something, to teach someone, to lead, build, and grow in service of and in dedication to the collective. As engaged as I see young people with social media, I also talk to many parents who don’t know what their children are connected to… beyond social media, video games, etc. These outside influences are not encouraging our children to tap in, to be in tune with their individual purpose, the collective values and morals, and goals in service of liberation. 

I feel another challenge coming forward, for the adults rather than the children. I propose a #childhoodchallenge; a challenge to see what we have learned from a child today. Intentionally engaging with our children will affirm them in many ways, but it will also teach us as adults. All too often when engaging with children, I feel like I may be coming from an entirely different world. Metaphysically this is true, but our thread is common and if I am humbled to learn, listen, and engage in their world(s), I can make deep and meaningful connections with the children in my life.

07Mar/21

The Chaos Theory of Education

The Butterfly Effect Theory states, “if you change one thing you change everything”. It is connected to TheChaos Theory and states, as an example, if a butterfly flaps its wings in New Mexico at exactly the right time it can cause a hurricane in China. It could take a long time for the hurricane to come, but the cause could be traced to the butterfly who flapped its wings at the exact right time and location. Suffice it to say that there is always an impact on the things that we do, and we may never fully see the long-term impacts of our actions. 

In 2001, September 11 happened and many people rushed to the Pentagon and to the World Trade Center to support with efforts to find those who were trapped. Ten years later I saw similar advertisements for those men and women who were experiencing suicidal thoughts, cancers in their throats and lungs, and some had even died due to the exposure to chemicals while at Ground Zero. 

How much more will our children be impacted by the forced isolation, mask-wearing, and these educational shifts? Children are currently missing out on valuable learning, as not just education is taught at schools. Sharing and compassion, lifelong friendships, as well as morals and values are often crystallized. Our children are being deprived and while there may not be lawsuits twenty years from now, society will be forever impacted by the shift in reality that children are experiencing. If you are able to facilitate safe and consistent ways for the children in your life to continue interacting with one another, it could be the shift needed to assuage the inevitable chaos that is forming in the future.

Furthermore, check on the educators you know and ensure that they are caring for self. How do educators transmute that love of being around the youth through a screen? The electronic disconnect is causing some educators to stress out, sometimes even at the expense of their own families and self wellness. The chaos that educators are experiencing with trying to create “virtual classrooms” that hold space for all that would go on in the physical classroom is having lasting impacts. The pressure of being able to perform in this virtual reality and still maintain the joy that came from being in person has its costs.

The most beautiful thing about chaos theory is that out of chaos must come order, we can rebuild and build the educational world that we desire. My warning is to hunker down for the storm that is to come, keep your loved ones close and stay learning with your children and be connected to the educators in your life. Don’t allow them to be lost in the chaos of this long-term isolation and the potentially harmful educational shifts. 

Photo by Suad Kamardeen

07Oct/19
black excellence hyperbole

Black Excellence is Not Hyperbole

“If our education is not about gaining real power, we are being miseducated and mislead and we will die ‘educated’ and misled.” – Amos Wilson, 1993.

You may remember from grade school that hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not to be taken literally. A couple of examples are “this bag weighs a ton” or “her smile was a mile wide”. These exaggerations are sometimes used in educational spheres in this country where we talk about the ‘achievement gap’ and say things like “children of color are able to excel”, and “there is no reason these children [Black children] can’t do exactly what their white counterparts can”. These statements insinuate that Black children are striving to reach a status or level that white children hold. It is oxymoronic to insinuate that it is the goal of Black children to reach a status of white children because Black Excellence is not hyperbole; it is fact.

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why doesn’t society acknowledge our children being as excellent as they are?

black excellence hyperbole

Blake Barrett drumming at his Graduation from Little Sun People | Photo by NayMarie

The Gesell Early Screener (GES) is a test which measures the typical development cycles of children from birth/infancy through their childhood. It shows if a child is at risk for learning or developmental delays. These tests overwhelmingly show that children of the African Diaspora are far more advanced than their European counterparts. Studies found that in early development, Black children were sitting up, making eye contact with speakers, crawling, and attempting to engage with their surroundings earlier than their white counterparts. The developmental cycle of an infant is very quick, which is why we know the things that an infant should be able to do by a certain number of months until they reach about two and a half years old. When speaking on his book, Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, Dr. Amos Wilson states, “forgetting our history is like a child forgetting they learned how to walk or talk.” We must teach our children their history, the true history, so that they know how to walk and talk as the African children – the natural geniuses, the Exceptional Light Beings – that they are!

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why do we find that many of our Melanated boys are outperformed in schools in contrast to their white counterparts?

Last year, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a 68 page study, entitled The Opportunity Myth, that claimed to explain in detail with statistics to prove “what students can show us about how school is letting them down – and how to fix it”. But in 1997, Michael Porter was already speaking about The Opportunity Myth in his book, Kill Them Before They Grow: Misdiagnosis of African American Boys in American Classrooms. His book details the overdiagnosis of Black Boys with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) which, under the guise of supporting the child, is actually a crippling agent in the development of the child’s ability to think critically. Brother Michael reminds us in his text that “Oppressed people become equal with their oppressors when they are no longer oppressed” and reminds us that in order to overcome our oppression we will have to develop a definition for education that meets “our reality and our real needs.’’

If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, how do we shift the low expectations that are held for Black children in and out of the classroom?

black excellence hyperbole

Photo by NayMarie for Little Sun People

Black Excellence is lifelong, as we are students of life. In this country, most of us begin our formal pursuit of knowledge in public American classrooms. Our great Baba, Ancestor Asa Hilliard, reminds us in SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind, “Study is a requirement for our redemption”. We must study with ourselves and with our children outside of the classroom. Yes, we know that the African diasporic infants are able to naturally develop faster than their white counterparts. But this is Babylon, a degenerative government, a backward education. There are many evidences of society that are as backward and anti-African as they come. So we must diligently study and show ourselves improved. Baba Hilliard goes on to tell us in his text that “Africans have a long history of educational excellence” and gives a historical perspective that will shift how we view ourselves today. We must study, teach our children practical habits of study, study alone, study in groups, find joy in study, find solutions in study. We are excellent in all that we do, so we must study excellently so that we can grow in our African selves.