Come, Walk With Us.
monét cooper, host
As a child in Georgia, my mom and dad taught me how to read and write at our family’s kitchen table, the same table where we exchanged ideas over meals, games, and guests. The experience of coming into my Black girl self through reading and writing has always been liberatory. This has been a space of community and freedom dreaming. And it is that love, that erotic space, that brings me to abolitionist work in education. Teaching and learning are sacred practices my ancestors spent time seeding into each other and my elders. This is my inheritance. But I have another one, too. Carcerality in our schools exists, in part, because we as educators deliver it via testing, surveillance, disciplinary measures, biases rooted in antiblackness, and curricula that constrict the horizon of possibility for us and our students. White supremacy within schools requires collusion from Black and Brown educators, too. How do I refuse this relationship with white supremacy? Even within liberation, what debt remains? After 11 years teaching ELA in DC-area middle and high schools, I’m now working on my PhD in Michigan and spending time twerking on desks with pre-service teachers, poeting, writing, and spending time with my love, Mara, and our dog, Moseley.
erin thesing, host
I come to this podcast as a white teacher who is forever striving to disrupt my relationship with whiteness, especially the ways in which white savior narratives were embedded in my path to becoming a Kindergarten and first grade teacher in a so-called turnaround school in Philadelphia. Experiences using a carceral curriculum--policing young children for uniform compliance and sitting up straight with folded hands--ignited a fire in me to find other ways of engaging in teaching and learning. I am grateful to the Black and Brown students, educators, elders, organizers, families, writers, theorists, researchers, and instructional coaches who’ve shown me liberatory ways of teaching, learning, and being throughout my 13 years of teaching in schools in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and who have walked with me in my journey to become an abolitionist teacher. I currently teach third grade in London, United Kingdom where I like to cook and feed my friends, plan elaborate hiking trips, and run with my husband, Elliott, and our dog, Hugo. In my classroom, you'll find me singing, painting, reading, writing, dreaming, and even dancing with children as we co-create a community of knowing and being known and of being in loving accountability to each other.
Our Hivemind are folks who we have worked and played with, and people who live in ways that are justice-full, liberatory, and abolitionist. In the work they do as educators and former educators, artists, organizers, creatives, parents, and humans, they are deeply reflective. They make mistakes, they reflect, and they learn. But more than anything, they're friends and confidants who hold us accountable in offering this podcast to you and celebrate every milestone, every learning moment. We love y'all and thank you.
Past Hivemind Members
JILL WEILER | she/her
As a child, I sensed that the compliance-centered schooling I experienced was wrong. Fortunately, my 9th grade English teacher cultivated critical consciousness in her students, and I immediately felt “at home” in her classroom. However, I did not have language for this type of teaching & learning until I read Freire in graduate school. As an educator for almost 35+ years, my aspiration has consistently been to create JOY in the classroom and to support students in recognizing their power to transform the world. Ultimately, I am a drop of water. On this earth, in this space and time, I cherish my roles as mother, daughter, life partner, sister, aunt, neighbor, and friend. I wake up grateful every day to also be a teacher and a learner in this world.
MICHELLE STAACK | she/her
Unpacking my own (and my family's experience) with the education system brought me to liberatory education. Additionally, my desire to continue on my own journey of exploring what justice-full teaching and learning looks, feels, and sounds like—and how to ensure it is the experience for young people—continues to fuel me. As a new-ish parent, this exploration continues to evolve and become more complex as I attempt to navigate the education space from a different perspective.
ELLEN ROYSE | she/her
Young people deserve to have an educational system that sees them, loves them and prepares them for their own liberation. It is our job as adults to help them bring that liberatory system into existence. I also volunteer with Life After Release and Community Defense PG in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
AMBER NELSON | she/her
PAMELA MCKINNEY | she/her
DAVID JACOBSEN | he/him
JAY GILLEN | he/him
We don't take young people seriously enough, and so we don't take older people seriously enough, either. The key to good teaching is not for the students to find out what is in the teacher's head, but for the teachers to find out what is in the students' heads. When we throw ourselves into that very serious and difficult work of listening, considering, responding, and listening again, we change the whole structure of how young people grow up because it won't look anything like "school." My role is to try to live this principle.
ANNA ALMORE | she/her
Liberatory education is my inheritance. I'm the great-great-granddaughter of a Black principal, educator and world-maker. She crafted classrooms where Black girls dreamed weightlessly about the brightness of their futures. One of those girls was my grandmother who retired as a Kindergarten teacher. My mother, from a tiny German village, now enters her 36th year of teaching where she's consistently prioritized play, wellness, relationships, and community. It's in my blood to nurture freedom dreams where we greet our best and worst selves other in deep relationship, responsibility, and restoration.