Unconscious Bias in Early Childhood Education, with Kate Goodwin and Kate Jordan-Downs

There’s an equity problem in early childhood education. Actually, at least a couple.  The first one is that not every child has access to quality education, and it puts them way behind when starting elementary school.  The second is that there is an unconscious bias that minority children face, specifically black boys, that shape the way that they’re treated and taught in school. Kate Goodwin and Kate Jordan-Downs are on a mission to fix these problems.

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Kate Jordan Downs Kindercare Kate Goodwin Kate's Korner Unconscious Bias Early Childhood Education Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast

Jackie Ferguson: Hello, and welcome to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast. I’m your host. Jackie Ferguson Certified Diversity Executive, writer, and multicultural marketing consultant. On this podcast, we share diverse perspectives from leaders in their industries, explore diversity, equity and inclusion concepts, and challenge our own assumptions and perspectives to take diversity beyond the checkbox.

Before we introduce today’s guest, for more insights and resources related to diversity and inclusion, including our course, also titled Diversity Beyond the Checkbox, visit TheDiversityMovement.com.

Please welcome Kate Goodwin and Kate Jordan-Downs to our show. Kate Goodwin is a 30 year veteran in early childhood education management.

Having held senior roles with prominent organizations before becoming the owner and operator of Kate’s Korner.

As KinderCare Education’s Director of Inclusion, Kate Jordan-Downs is responsible for defining the vision of inclusive education in all of KinderCare sites and centers. Together they have a passion for building culturally competent and child focused learning environment.

Kate and Kate, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. Thank you for having this.

Kate Jordan-Downs: So happy to be here.

Jackie Ferguson: Thank you. Will you share with our listeners a bit about each of your backgrounds and how you got into childcare?

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. So I am a youngest nine children. So I think I was born into it. I don’t know that I had a choice. I was an automatic babysitter for the entire family, but I have since the beginning, just – I felt a very passionate need to be able to advocate and protect childrenat all costs. And that was definitely a passion. Went to college and started studying psychology at the University of Cincinnati and took a Child Psychology class my freshman year, and absolutely knew from that point on that my purpose was to work with children. So I kind of switched gears and went on the preventive end of how to serve children in a meaningful way and started my career at the YMCA as a teacher, a two year old teacher and quickly was asked to play leadership roles.

And for the last 25 years after that, I have been in leadership roles either as a director or a district manager. So yeah, that’s how it began. And that’s pretty much where their passion lies.

Jackie Ferguson: Awesome. Kate Jordan-Downs.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. So I am the child of two teachers who actually met on lunch duty when they were working together at a school. So I came up in education.

And honestly, I did everything I could to avoid it, stepping into it. I wanted to, to be a journalist for a little bit. I wanted to be a political scientist. I had all of these other ideas and aspirations and went through kind of a typical change-your-major five times at school and similar to Kate found myself in an intro to education class and realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be and kind of just decided to step in, stop fighting it step in and live what ended up really being my purpose. So that’s a little bit of my journey from like childhood into college. What was interesting is I went to school to be a high school history teacher, I love history, specifically American history.

So I studied that, wanting to teach high schoolers and kind of discovered that there’s not a lot of room for high school history teachers. When you apply usually we got other people already filling those roles. So kinda switched gears. I leaned on my minor with special education and started doing some special education with middle school work, and that evolved over time. And eventually I found myself in DC working for Easter Seals child development center, and that’s where the world of early childhood entered. I just knew I found my people. And so that was in 2007. And ever since I’ve just been dedicated to kind of supporting and teaching our youngest generation so they can save us.

Jackie Ferguson: Now tell me how you two met.

Kate Jordan-Downs: So Kate and I were both working at KinderCare education and I was leading like groups of field leadership through kind of an education program 101, just making sure they understood the curriculum and what was available to their teachers and some of the other pieces.

And we were talking and I started going through some of the history of inclusion services at the company and kind of where it started and where it had evolved to. And at that time, which I think was like late 2017 or 2016, we were really focused on some of the new data that was coming out around preschool, expulsion and suspension, and through the disproportionate impact on boys and specifically boys of color, we were kind of talking through that part and I just was watching Kate’s face to kind of absorb what was being said.

And I couldn’t really read it, but I could tell there was emotion there. And so as we kind of kept going through, I shared that I reached out to Dr. Walter Gilliam who’s at Yale and is really leading that research and that he agreed to meet. We’re really looking forward to that. And just kind of in this space of how do we make a difference.

Like we know that this is heavy and you have to kind of sit in this truth and recognize like we’re a part of it, but also step into the power of being in early childhood education. And the ability to change that trajectory. So I was kind of on a soap box doing my, doing my conversation. Kate I’ll let you pick it up from here.

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. So Kate was sharing around the expulsion and she was really sharing the research. And how we have implicit bias in early childhood education and essentially what she was doing, the emotion that she saw, like coming over my face and just – I was, you know, a district leader and by that time I’d been in the game for 20 something years.

And I had never had the verbiage to really talk about how my personal experience, because she was sharing her personal experience about her son Knox. And it was the exact mirrored experience. My son Andrew and Knox was four and Andrew was 20 something plus years old, but the same story. And I just started to cry like in front of all my peers.

And I’m the new kid on the block. I’m a new district manager in Vegas at the time and I’m, I’m a new kid on the block, but I just couldn’t control my emotion to actually have someone acknowledged that this is something I had been doing all of my life advocating for him to be in a space, to not be medicated to really just know that he was experiencing who he was as a person.

And that people just didn’t understand who he was. And then to actually have someone bring it to a forefront, like how it looks in the childcare center, because not only did I have to advocate for him sometimes in my own child care center, but I also had to advocate for other children of color because cultural understanding and the competence was lacking.

So once we shared, it was an immediate connection. And then from that connection, we stayed and we talked almost till we missed the next session about our experiences. And then we definitely made a connection and decided that we would go see Dr. Walter Gilliam together and we would be impacted by what he had to share.

So, yeah, it was a great meeting and it’s been great every step.

Jackie Ferguson: Awesome. Now for our listeners, let’s talk about what implicit bias is.

Kate Goodwin: Yeah, I’ll lead. So implicit bias is when we make a judgment or an assertion that someone is something without getting to know that person, kind of like making a judgment of a book before we open it up and see what the table of contents has for us.

But it’s not something that we are conscious of. It is – implicit bias is that self-conscious training. And it starts very, very early. Research shows zero to seven is where you get the foundation of your subconscious thought about things. So it begins there. So it’s how your parents respond to racial adversity or if it’s ignored.

So it begins very early and it’s something we all have. It’s not something that is just a, you know, you’re prejudiced if you have it. We all have implicit bias. Our goal is to be able to extract and show what implicit bias looks like in an individual and an individual to go through a personal assessment.

What might my biases be off of what I’ve been told or what possibly could have been an experience?

Kate Jordan-Downs: The work around implicit bias and really helping people understand that it is indeed something we all have and comes from a lot of different places is informed by the bias, the implicit bias and systematic bias that lives in institutions and in our culture.

That’s where we’re getting those messages from, which is sometimes why it’s hard to peel back a little bit and recognize like, why am I having this reaction right now? Like, nobody directly said that to me, that there are messages and systems that are in place that reinforce certain narratives that sometimes our minds to come to because of it’s what we’re seeped in.

So it’s also interesting to play this idea out and the work around it out beyond the individual and start looking into the cultural and systematic institutional pieces that are really impacting a lot of that individual experience.

Kate Goodwin: Absolutely.

Jackie Ferguson: And how does implicit bias of educators affect the children that they’re educating?

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah, so it shows up in a couple of different ways. And you know, for the purpose of this conversation, as an example, I’m gonna use race as our kind of anchor. But one of the things that has come to the forefront and it’s actually what Dr. Gilliam has been studying is how implicit bias impacts the exclusionary discipline for children.

So access in early childhood education to quality programs is wildly important and already inequitable in many ways. When you do get access to those programs, what can also happen is depending on who you are and how you show up and maybe how your teacher views your behaviors, it can take away that access pretty quickly.

So we have seen, and a lot of the studies and in our own experience, how children specifically, black children, and even more specifically black boys are viewed as more likely to get in trouble. The same behavior that maybe they’re doing that their counterpart is also doing is, is much more noticed and called out and disciplined in a really different way.

And so the impact beyond access is also shaping their identity as a student. So if your very earliest experiences in early childhood settings like ours, is that you don’t belong. You’re too bad. You can’t succeed. Like you’re always getting in trouble. That sets like a trajectory for their educational experience and their lives beyond that.

And if you look at data kind of from early childhood through adult, you see a very similar trajectory of the disproportionate discipline that happens to black boys in our school system. So there’s a lot of data actually that the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights data collection unit does.

And in 2011 and 2012, they just started looking at early childhood programs, specifically state and federal funded preschool and pre K. And that was the first time we actually had a spotlight shown into our industry and space. And it was overwhelming because when you think about expulsion, at least for me, it’s like the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

Right? You think about, Oh, that kid got expelled. And then in the narrative that goes with it. And then you’re talking about that experience for three and four year olds and what impact that has. And so I just think there’s an access and an identity impact to our young children when this implicit bias shows up and they are having a narrative at a very young age  kind of follow them through their educational experience and into adulthood.

Kate Goodwin: And a big part of that also is like, When you are in a learning environment and you’ve actually gotten to the point where you’re going to be able to have access. A lot of times, because there is a cultural competence that is void, right? The teacher can’t get beyond her own self to know what that child is truly experiencing.

Then for the Perry project, which eventually became the foundation work around the government funded childcare is that they had to have the inclusive of a whole child. So that Perry project had teachers going into the neighborhoods and understanding what that child has experienced. outside of the actual experience that they were having in the class, they understand, you know, there were cultural cues, there were an understanding of how a child learns, not all children learn the same and there’s definitely cultural differences when it comes to how children of color might learn – or any child there’s a great difference. And so when we have those inabilities to connect, because a lot of early childhood education is about the trust that we build as educators. It’s really about trust and relationships with our children, because they’re, you know, they’re six weeks to 12 years of age that we’re impacting them while they’re there.  And a lot of that is understanding and having patience and nurturing, and that has to come from a place of understanding. And I think that when teachers have that implicit bias in a classroom, it doesn’t allow them to build empathy and patience around how someone else might do something completely different than what they’re used to or their culture experience has given them too.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. I’m glad you brought up the relationship piece because I think the other impact kind of beyond access and beyond identity is actual brain architecture. So when you look at like the first five years of a child’s life and their brain development at that time, like it’s the most critical period in time and help the brain architecture is very dependent on safe and healthy relationships that help connect those synapses and grow their brain in a healthy way. And when they experience trauma at a very young age, it also has this lasting impact and it is absolutely trauma that is being experienced and inflicted on some of our youngest children in a school setting.

When we’re telling them essentially they don’t belong and who you are in this space doesn’t fit.

Kate Goodwin: Right. Absolutely.

Jackie Ferguson: Wow, that is great information. Thank you for sharing that. Let’s pivot a little bit and talk about Kate’s Korner.

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. So Kate’s Korner is a part of our parent company, which is Durham Childcare Collaborative.

I created Durham Childcare Collaborative to be an expression of me doing the work that I want to see, and making the changes that I want to see in early childhood education, but Kate’s Korner specifically in Durham will be a drop in childcare center, servicing the downtown area. It’s basically a place where children can come for two hours or eight hours and actually have a very impactful experience while in the space.

We’ve created an amazing curriculum that is a project based curriculum that allows for children to be impacted by the curriculum. It is a service that is extended in hours, because as an educator and as a director for many years, a lot of the pain body around nontraditional work hour parents, whereas, you know, can they stay a little longer or can we, you know, just pay for what I need.

And I think that Kate’s Korner the model is going to be such a benefit to the community as people you get to choose and pick when they come and how much they need of childcare, as well as the extended hours. Right. And so not just  for entertainment purposes, but not everybody works a nine to five. Some people work later than that.

It just gives the opportunity to be able to service entities in the community, mainly our workers at the hospital. Right. For right now, like, you know, that is never closed. And is super busy and people are in need there. So I’m excited about how we serve the community of Durham.

I’m excited about implementing the most important pieces, which Kate and I work on is the curriculum and the training and the development around our educators on their implicit bias and how they gain cultural competence to really deliver a meaningful and a wonderful experience for children.

Jackie Ferguson: Now, when I think of drop-in childcare, I think of a babysitter. And I think that’s true of a lot of parents. Tell me more about this curriculum and how it applies to children who are there for two hours or eight hours.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. So as Kate mentioned, what’s important to remember is almost like the definition of curriculum. So I think that a lot of times when people hear it, who may not have a lot of educational foundation in this space and in pedagogy, they go to like the teacher’s edition and the student textbook, and that’s kind of the idea of what curriculum is. But in early childhood, it’s so much more than that. And really it should be for our entire educational experience.

It is the lessons and the learning experiences teachers offer and that they create. But it’s the environment that they set up, that those children can feel safe and productive. And it’s the relationships that we already talked about. Even the moments where you’re trying to change from play time to get your coats on and let’s go outside.

Like that is curriculum. That is a learning experience. I just think from a philosophical and how we think about developing it, that’s kind of important grounding, but as Kate mentioned, we’re really looking at it more of a project based child directed approach because we know that children, when allowed to construct their own knowledge and allowed to be engaged and not directed, actually retain and learn so much more.

And with the limitations or the uncertainty of whether a child’s going to be there for a week or a day, or just a couple of hours, you also have to think differently about that design. And what projects do across multiple disciplines is allow autonomy. Like we were just, you know, like I mentioned, in that child directed centerdness and interest, but you can also stop and pick them up.

You’re not losing knowledge and not losing an experience. It’s something that you can continue to engage in. And so that’s part of the design and philosophy around it. And I think with the other frame or guardrails that we wanted to make sure that framework that sits around it is that it’s all looked at through an equity lens.

So every experience, every project, every opportunity to engage with the community has to have an equity filter on it to make sure that we are doing our part to disrupt racism and systems that are in place to keep our children from reaching their fullest potential. So that’s how

Kate Goodwin: Yeah so what Kate is saying is like, it’s more than just babysitting. I, first of all, we’re always offended in early childhood education by defining us as babysitters.

But for our project based learning the reason why or why it’s different is because the people behind it, right. Not everybody has the intent to impact children. The very moment that they are in this space, but that is definitely a deep conviction for Kate and I, is that every experience that the child has is something that is going to edify or grow them in some way, right.

That we’re absolutely cultivating our next generation. And so instead of just putting a brick and mortar and saying, I’m gonna do drop in care and we’re going to drop them in, very seldom will you find a curriculum for drop-in care, but we definitely were very intentional about making sure that there was a, a curriculum in place that we can actually measure, because want to see how cultural competence and giving a child a focus on their social, emotional development, what are the impacts on those children and how does it look for a child to start and be heard and be, you know, nurturing through a curriculum and then the outcomes of how that experience changes their way about how they want to learn further as they go into the K through 12 experience?

Jackie Ferguson: Can we talk a little more about your curriculum? I read that you have a STEAM curriculum. Most of us know what STEM is, but can you just talk about the A.

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. So I’m excited about the A cause the A stands for arts, but we also understood there is a huge need to teach our children about agriculture as well. So the A is agriculture, it’s art, and the way we infuse – so we have a project based curriculum that is infused with a STEAM learning, right? And so those are the folks – STEAM allows for an easy way to be able to bring experience into project based learning versus the curriculum which you would see in kindergarten readiness that Kate works on every day, getting our children ready for kindergarten.

These are what I explain to people who are my age or a little older, the science experience that our children and grandchildren are not experiencing these days. This is the room that we make for them to actually put what they’re learning into practice with their hands and be able to experience and be a part of that. So yeah, that is like the hugest part of the STEAM for the A,  the A is important. And then art being not just what we draw. Art is so much more than that. There’s an expression of self through art, whether you’re painting something or you’re doing a theatrical rendition of something, or you’re playing music, or you’re listening to music and you’re understanding how things come together in music. Art is so much more.

So just expanding that experience for our creatives to come into that space and definitely be challenged. But yes, that’s what we’ve done. We built a curriculum and infused theme as a foundation.

Kate Jordan-Downs: You know, Jackie, your point was you heard STEM before you hadn’t heard STEAM. And I think to kind of go back to, to the STEM in general, it has become a little bit of a buzzword in education, right? Like everybody kind of throws it around. And the reason for that is because research is really showing us that like this 21st century learning model that we need to adapt to and build in order for our children to be prepared, to step intothe jobs, the world that will be there as adults is largely going to be focused around the science, technology and engineering pieces and map pieces as just tech in general continues to be – I mean, we’re experiencing right now, right in the pandemic, this absolute need to engage in technology in a different way. And our school systems have not evolved their curriculum or their thinking consistently in that space. And specifically you will see underrepresented groups of children in these disciplines, primarily black children and girls where you’ll start to see that they’re stepping out of that space. And the marginalization of opportunity begins very, very soon. And so by making sure that we’re embedding kind of the 21st century soft skills and collaboration through project based learning with some of the industries that we know will be critical for our society and for success, it really creates a more equitable space for our children to operate in. And so that is a big part of the philosophy around it as well. And those experiences and letting children get their hands on it and put their critical thinking to good use.

Jackie Ferguson: And can we talk about the definition of equity? I think there might be some people don’t know what that means.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. So I think what’s interesting is there has been a shift from saying equality to equity. I think that there was a period of time historically, where what we were hearing was equal rights. Everybody wants equal rights and equal rights and equality means the same, right? We want the same thing.

And that played a really important part in our major movements or major historical movements that started to give marginalized groups access. But that is just the starting point. Equality is price of entry that we should all just have the same pieces. Equity is getting exactly what you need to be successful.

What Kate may need to be successful and to have opportunity or to learn is going to be different than what I might need. There’s often an image – some people may have seen this that they use, where it has equality on one side, and it’s three people – an adult, a teenager, and a child all standing on a box that’s the same height. And the adult’s fine, the teenager can sort of see over the fence, and the little child can’t see anything cause he’s too low. And then the side picture of it, of equity is different sized boxes that everybody’s standing on so that they can see the game. That is the simplest way I can think to, to define equity, but it’s just making sure that people are getting what they need.

And that might not always be the same. It might not always be equal.

Jackie Ferguson: Great. Thank you so much. Let’s talk about some of the racial inequities in early education. What are some of the disparities that we should be aware of as a community?

Kate Goodwin: Yeah, I think Kate talked about access being the top issue, access to early childhood education.

I mentioned the Perry project, which has a lot of it is the foundation of our headstart program. But in order to participate in early learning, you have to be in a place where either your family is not making enough money so that you’re able to get vouchers or you’re able to go to free programming.  But if you make  enough, but not enough, which is a lot of the experiences, you then don’t have access to early learnings. Public school systems have brought in early childhood as a beginning or precursor to kindergarten, which is amazing, which opens up access. But I think that the biggest part of that is, one the access, and then to coming into a care group of people who really understand who you are and appreciate you, that becomes a huge issue.

And then sometimes it’s really helping the parents understand the importance of this exposure to education at an early age, usually we can have, you know, big brother or big sister watching the children, which then lends to them not having an understanding of how to interact with children, their own age, or the experiences that our curriculum would bring together to kind of unlock things in their own brain.

So access is one. Definitely equitable learning environments two. And I think parents understanding like that, you know, parent advocacy being understood that starts really in early childhood because I tell people all the time we build is huge. The document for six weeks, their developmental milestones, all the way up into pre kindergarten, ready to go into kindergarten.

We have all this wealth of information in early childhood on that child and their development throughout the years. And none of that goes with them to their kindergarten teacher. None of that goes to the kindergarten teacher to kind of understand that so parent advocacy in that way of understanding and knowing your child, knowing how your child learns and how they respond to things is essential to knowing how their education experience is going to be after early childhood and how they go into the K through 12 space with the support that they need.

So those are the three things I think that are major and trying to get people to understand what is happening not so well in early childhood education and what our goal is to bring to the table and improve on.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. And I think, you know, to also understand the inequities, whether they’re racial or economic or linguistic in early childhood, you have to understand the system and the industry a little bit, and the early childhood education industry right now, it continues to be underrepresented in funding and undervalued as a part of the learning journey. To Kate’s point earlier, like all of this work that we’re doing in this space to help set children on the right path. Like none of that is moving forward necessarily to their kindergarten classrooms and beyond. And if you look at the workforce, it’s a largely women, right? Almost 96% female workforce, and then largely African American women, women of color who are in these roles and supporting without their own resources and needs being met. So they’re like being pulled in this insane way. And so the inequity of how we treat the teachers and the women, and specifically the women of color who are carrying this industry on their backs is jarring.

And it absolutely has an impact on how we can show up for the children in our classroom. Also, I think, you know, the, the type of education and qualifications that are required within the industry, because it’s viewed as an extra and not necessarily in the same vein as K-12 is all over the map. And, you know, I’m actually a firm believer that a degree on paper doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You have people who have lived experience and gifts that can be harnessed, but there is also a value in understanding the pedagogy and the craft. And that’s not something that’s consistent for all of our teachers. Even if they are getting those experiences, they’re not framed around culturally responsive pedagogy.

So you’re walking into classrooms unprepared to support your children because your education did not include culturally relevant practices. So  this is where the convergence of like, individual and cultural and systematic racism and oppression kind of flies together in one space. And I think where Kate and I have always been connected and passionate about is just like blowing that up just completely. Re-imagining it. And thinking about it in a way that we just get to see the gifts of all the children that are not being recognized right now.

Jackie Ferguson: Perfect. You know, one thing that I never thought about, and I’ll tell you, my daughter was in KinderCare from about two years old until she started kindergarten, but I never thought about taking the information and the experience that she had at KinderCare, giving them, or sharing them with her kindergarten teacher.

A lot of parents just think there’s a line between really they can be working together. And I think that’s amazing.

Kate Goodwin: It’s the bridge. It’s the bridge. I referred to it as the bridge that’s broken or that that’s never been built, but it’s mandatory for us to cross over in a meaningful way from pre-K into kindergarten.

The lack of having the bridge, which is really – the foundation of that bridge is the child, right. Their knowledge and everything else. The support is on one end that early childhood experience. And then there’s a crossover to the kindergarten teacher who needs, not only to know, you know, we know how to, in our minds to educate children.

But we just don’t get to know the child. Even in my experience as being a trainer, you always think about the end user and how does that end user learn? And if you don’t know that, how do you effectively teach? And so this bridge allows an opportunity for the parent and the child to go sit with a kindergarten teacher and bring the interest of the child, how the child learns, you know, a conversation around what their experiences were in a classroom. KinderCare is the only entity that I’ve worked for that definitely has a parent teacher conferences in early childhood, which shows the progression of the child. And as we were, you know, and Kate can definitely speak more on that framework because she’s a part of creating that, but there was the difference between parents really knowing what their children were doing all day and really understanding that they’re learning something and what they have is they see a huge progression of their child before they go into kindergarten. And so that’s where parent advocacy begins. So that no one is deeming your child any type of way, because some parents get into kindergarten and they hear that their child might be ADHD. They might hear that in early childhood as well. We’re working on that cause none of us are doctors and we don’t give you a diagnosis, but it’s really understanding the responsibility of understanding how that child learns. And when a parent knows that they know that they know about how their child learns in a learning environment, then they can further advocate, but absolutely a bridge that is being built.

And by us in this effort and for us to actually have doors that we can walk into and meet these two worlds in a more meaningful way to serve children better.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Kate Jordan-Downs. You’re a Certified Diversity Professional. Can you talk about how that certification has helped you in guiding your work?

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. So you know, is interesting kind of throughout my career, I have been in space, a role that is supporting inclusion, in school, in a classroom, in an organization and because my own education didn’t include some of the critical things that I needed to know and I got baptized by fire hard in a lot of places.

There was just a moment in time – where to Kate’s point earlier, like I needed language and I needed a framework to kind of take all of these lived experiences and what I was watching and make sense of them so that I could support and honestly like being in service to our children and our families and our teachers in a different way.

So I think the most important thing it gave me and that I continue to use is a deep understanding of the history of the systems that exist within our educational spaces, how those systems benefit certain groups of people and what to be aware of. And just what the body of work is when you’re advancing equity and organizations.

And you’re focusing on that. What are these predictable phases that you know an organization will go through as they start to tackle taking on racial equity and being confident in what that process will feel like, and that it’s going to be messy. It’s going to be uncomfortable. That is literally part of the work and staying in it.

I think it just solidified and gave me organize and structure and mobilize that I didn’t have before when it was just my own lived experiences. And I was trying to figure it out.

Jackie Ferguson: Got it. Thank you for sharing that. What’s your longterm goal for your work together?

Kate Goodwin: So many things. So I think that where Kate and I have absolutely come together is our common goal and outcomes to disrupt and change the dynamic of early childhood education through our curriculums, through our training and development of our educators and through the space and convenience for parents too, you make really great, healthy choices around where their children will spend their time away from them.

But I know that we were kind of watching as parents were on social media, screaming at the top of their lungs about having to homeschool or be home with their children all day. And we realized that there was a really great need around having a community that can really ask hard questions and not feel judged, you know, and get a support system based in that area.

So our goal is to be able to create some content and we’re kind of working on that now, what platform we’ll be utilizing, but create some content around that support and how, you know, we can best help our parents as we are here in Durham and our Durham Public Schools have chosen a plan C format to actually have children learn online.

We’re working through, how do we support that effort for DPS? How do we support those teachers? And those children gave them a very great interactive experience other than online. So you’ll see us kind of do some Facebook Live forums where people can call in and kind of ask whatever questions might come about.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Yeah. It’s, you know, it’s funny because is, I think if you asked us that question three months ago, it would have been different answers, right? It’s just kind of constantly evolving and you know, I live – I’m based in Columbus, Ohio. Kate is definitely the frontline and brains behind this operation, but what has always stayed tethered between the two of us is this ongoing encouragement to show up and do exactly what she just mentioned, be disruptive in the spaces that we can and make sure we’re evolving. And so, as I was learning about Kate’s Korner and some of the work and philosophy she was putting around that, I just wanted to be in service to her and in that work.

And I think that’s where it started was how can I beyond my scope in my own profession, how can I also impact other spaces? And certainly as we witnessed the murder of George Floyd and this collective uprising that I think we haven’t seen in this way prior to this moment that opened up a window of opportunity to strike and activate in a way that will pull people into a movement of disruption with one another versus individuals trying to do it on their own. The modules and the information and anything that we’re building out from a content space. There is a huge passion, and we’re going to be intentional in how we construct that and making sure that these are – I mean, this is hard. Like this is not going to be something obviously that tomorrow, after a course, everybody’s on the same page and we’re moving forward, you know, in harmony. Like this is, this is messy work. And the vulnerability piece that Kate mentioned is critical because there is this cycle of empowerment that both white folks and people of color go through when they’re attacking this together.

And yeah, it’s imperative to understand those cycles and how you experienced them. So you don’t get stuck in it. And so you can move forward. And that is what I’m most excited about is figuring out the way we can translate that and impact kind of the social movements and disruption that we’re seeing across the country right now on a larger scale, whether it’s for individual people, parents, teachers, because all of that just drip down to our children and this next generation of leaders. That’s what I care about the most.

Jackie Ferguson: Amazing. Now statistics say that only 6 cents for every thousand dollars of VC goes to black women founders.  Can you talk about some of the challenges changes that you’ve you’ve had in funding for this very worthy and amazing project?

Kate Goodwin: Yeah, it has been a journey. It’s been almost two years of me kind of pushing and trying to raise dollars for Kate’s Korner as a project. It took a community to come together and say, yes, this work is very important.

Our former mayor, Mayor Bell was the first to invest into this project. And then a number of close friends here in Durham who are all in the same line of equitable learning for children definitely came on board and helped raise a larger portion of my funding. But sometimes I, you know, I laugh and I tell Kate, like, why isn’t it simple?

I mean, we’re talking about, you know, providing this amazing space for kids. Why can’t we just give me money to do it? But what I know as a founder is that when you disrupt, when you say I’m going to provide a space that is not the typical thing that people are used to seeing. And I’m going to create this space of equitable learning.

I was saying that right before our unfortunate murder of George Floyd. I was saying that you’ve got to understand that the change of our next generation happens in this space. So I just need to open so I could be able to have my handprint on that. And it’s been difficult. I think that one of the notions is, and I will vulnerably and transparently say that there are poor entrepreneurs.

There are people who are enriched with an amazing idea, but who are not financially able to support that idea. And it really takes a group of people who just see the necessity, not just, you know, our work is to be able to bring equitable learning, to awaken up both black and white folks to say that this next generation needs to learn, you know, Well, I won’t say needs to learn how to love one another, because I think innately children learn love from one another.

They learn hate from us that gives us the separation, but we both have a group of children that have work to be done. And if you, as a white family, we want your next generation to be responsible and to be sensitive to and understand their privilege in this country, then you definitely have to come to the table to do the work alongside of those black parents who are experiencing racial injustice in our education system.

Work is seen as value and sometimes it’s not. It’s been a large – a lot of my energy pushing and pulling for people to get it. I think the convenience part of our concepts, right, filling that need for drop-in here is attractive. But when we start getting around understanding the meaningful work – Kate does this, I think all day long is educating people on the why and getting them to that space of wanting to participate. But  I’m a poor entrepreneur who just decided do this work and it has to be done. And as we started developing curriculum and everything, it became very much so bigger than me.

So I think where I land with a full – I raised all the money to start the project. It was birthed out of that, just necessity that this has to happen. And many nos and many, you know, you don’t have the collateral. We don’t, you know, you don’t have the backing, but a lot of yeses that said, you know, we’re going to take this chance because we see what you’re doing ,we see the importance of it. So access to capital is a huge issue for African American females who are in this space, trying to make all of it makes sense, but this is, I won’t say will overpowers that, but I just say, keep digging. Find the people, find your tribe who speaks the same language and wants things to be done and just that happens to have a bigger pocketbook than you.

Jackie Ferguson: Thank you for sharing that. Well, thank you both so much for advocating for our children and sharing your story and insights with us. How can listeners connect with you going forward?

Kate Goodwin: Yeah. So KatesKornerDurham.com is the website that we’ve created.

We will also have a new company being developed for the content around courses, online courses, around implicit bias and just anything around the early childhood education component that will be helpful for educators as well as our parents, so that will be forthcoming and it will be on the Kate’s Korner website.

And then on Facebook, there’s a Kate’s Korner page that you can kind of see some of the videos that I’ve done speaking about equity and education and some of the work around Dr. Gilliam’s research.

Jackie Ferguson: Kate Jordan-Downs, Kate Goodwin. Thank you so much for being on our podcast today. We appreciate it.

Kate Goodwin: Thank you.

Kate Jordan-Downs: Thank you for having us.

Jackie Ferguson: Thanks for tuning in everyone. If you like the show, we encourage you to subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen and leave us a rating and review as well. This show was edited and produced by Earfluence. If you’re looking for information on how full service podcast production can amplify your voice and build your community, visit Earfluence.com.

I’m Jackie Ferguson. And we’ll see you soon on Diversity Beyond the Checkbox.

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Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is presented by The Diversity Movement and hosted by Jackie Ferguson. For more information including the online course, head over to TheDiversityMovement.com. Podcast production by Earfluence.


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