Prepping Kids for the Real World with Culturally Responsive Education
September 14, 2021
Prepping Kids for the Real World with Culturally Responsive Education

Kids (teenagers!) are so hard to understand, right? That’s because they are part of their own culture; it’s called Youth Culture. And unfortunately, most schools don’t teach with their culture in mind. Instead, schools are focused on traditional (adult-perspective) teaching methods. Methods that don’t work.

Imagine schools that not only teach in ways that engage students but that also help our youth learn true real-world skills that they can take with them into their post-secondary lives. Sound like fiction?

It’s not. This week’s guest, Jamel Mims, is spearheading a movement to implement culturally responsive programming in high schools. This means he’s helping schools and students leverage the teens’ innate ability to teach themselves with the tools available to them (um…the internet) and creating classrooms that allow them to thrive.

This is the direction education needs to go, and you can do it in your schools, too!


About Jamel Mims

Jamel Mims is a bilingual rapper, interactive media artist, and edtech cofounder with over a decade of experience implementing culturally responsive programming in high schools across New York City. A Fulbright Scholar who studied hip hop culture in China, his work is firmly rooted in centering youth culture in academic spaces, and ranges from developing curriculum that uses original hip hop music to teach test prep, creating virtual reality and mixed reality experiences, public demonstrations and social justice campaigns. 

An emerging leader in the field of culturally responsive pedagogy, he has presented at New York Tech Meetup, Google for Education, SXSW Edu and SXSW Interactive. His work in music, technology, education and activism has been featured in the New York Times,  The Nation, VICE, Complex, the Economist and more. Holla at Jamel on Twitter and Instagram at @jamnopeanut.


Jump Through the Conversation

  • [1:48] How Jamel got started in E to E
  • [4:46] Schools That Can
  • [7:12] Difference between classroom and real world learning
  • [9:32] Apprehension toward bringing youth culture into the classroom
  • [11:45] What Schools That Can looks like inside
  • [15:01] Differing levels of preparation needed
  • [15:29] Identifying and exploring in-demand jobs
  • [17:26] Beyond career success to voice, vision, and power in social change
  • [19:54] CTE doesn’t happen in a vacuum
  • [20:30] Making school a place for social conversations
  • [22:13] How the current state is changing the role of education
  • [25:28] What’s new for Schools That Can
  • [27:04] How others can get involved
  • [33:12] How to become an activist to transform schools
  • [35:56] Jamel’s magic wand


Links and Resources:

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Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely Committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:49  

If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:08  

Hi, Jamel. So good to have you on Education Evolution. 


Jamel Mims  1:12  

Glad to be here. Maureen. Thanks so much for having me. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:15  

And listeners today I’m chatting with Jamel Mims of schools that can, which is an innovative and empowering education to employment, e to e program for middle and high school students. Jamel is a bilingual rapper, interactive media artist and edtech co-founder with over a decade of experience implementing culturally responsive programming in the high schools across New York City. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:40  

Let’s hear how Jamel makes this e to e, education to employment, learning happen. So first question too. Well, I’m just curious how you got started. We know our schools have to evolve to serve all learners and prepare them to be ready for their futures. So where did your story of engaging in school transformation begin?


Jamel Mims  2:01  

I mean, that I think that’s a really good question then. And thanks again. For like that, you know, lengthy and spirited introduction. When I get my TED Talk. I’ll definitely have you will out for the Michael Buffer intro. Um, but yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it actually began in some of my like undergraduate work right after my undergraduate studies received a Fulbright to study hip hop in Beijing. 


Jamel Mims  2:24  

And this was kind of a transformative experience, not just in terms of becoming close and acclimated with the subculture and language and in culture of hip hop in Beijing, but really looking at using hip hop culture as a research method, and how do you actually like take youth culture and apply it to all of these different scenarios, academic scenarios? How do you leverage it, both for telling a story and explaining and getting close to telling a sociological story, but then how do you also use it for like, understanding how much people know. 


Jamel Mims  2:57  

And so it was really my journey after the Fulbright and living in New York and working in education that I really began to work very closely with the age to enter hip hop education community and the community of cultural responsive educators in New York City to really put that into practice. And so that began with work as teaching artists using culturally responsive pedagogy to teach global and US history in like a test prep environment. 


Jamel Mims  3:22  

And so we will create original music and songs about Regents Exam questions, which are the final exams that students have to take here in New York City in high school. That work expanded into working around coding concepts and taking concepts such as like algorithms and designing original music and content and games around it. And I’ve brought this approach towards schools that can and really thinking about and re envisioning, well, how are we looking at preparing students for both college and career but a specific emphasis around preparing them for their post secondary success? And how do we do that in a way that actually puts youth culture at the center. 


Jamel Mims  3:58  

And so that’s kind of was really my pathway towards working in education and the approach that I’ve used throughout.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  4:05  

Wow, I love that we are so into working on student driven learning where the students go with their passions, their purpose, and let that guide their learning. And that’s a perfect example, how hip hop can transfer into so many of the lessons there, and just so many other lessons, I still remember how to do direct and indirect verb object pronouns in Spanish, because those may taillow may Tamerlano slow, slow, strict music to memorize is super powerful. And when kids are engaged and feeling like it’s fun, that makes all the difference. So your example is beautiful. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  4:43  

So tell us more about what is Schools That Can?


Jamel Mims  4:49  

Yeah, totally. So Schools That Can is a nationwide nonprofit organization that really works on in particular, what we point is that education to employment pathway And this is really looking at this question of how are students getting prepared for the real world inside of their classrooms, there’s such a disconnect between what students learn inside of their classrooms, you know, between the tests that they have to take, and how teachers have to prepare them both in the way that they learn and the actual content that they learn. 


Jamel Mims  5:19  

So there’s such a difference between that and the world of work. And we’ve seen that, you know, almost exacerbated this year with remote learning and you know, during the coronavirus pandemic, and so what schools That can is really about is bringing those connections, those professional connections into the classroom. 


Jamel Mims  5:37  

You know, I would say that, you know, the bread and butter of schools That can is really partnering with organizations partnering with industry partners, partnering with thought leaders in various industries, and actually bringing them into the classroom actually creating and designing experiences that put students and their career mentors on an equitable playing field, and have them have conversations and experiences together. 


Jamel Mims  6:00  

And so that’s the programming that schools that can is all about. I run the education to employment pathway program, which is our high school career readiness program. That program is a series of workshops that’s anchored in those experiences, but that provides a year long curriculum for teachers to deliver that provides co facilitators. And so that’s really what the work at schools that cat does around the education to employment pathway.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:26  

That sounds so powerful. And we know that learning happens everywhere. And ideally, we want kids in the community, that community in the classroom, we want learning before school after school, and we want to be partnering with the experts, the people that know that aligned with the kids interest you you are interested in landscaping, let’s get you connected with a landscaper, we want that community piece. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:50  

So it’s not this textbook learning that the kids are going when I  will ever use this. I don’t care. So what you’re doing is really bringing the world to the students. And that just sounds like powerful learning and engaged learning.


Jamel Mims  7:03  

Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I think there’s also like the ways that students are right, you know, you’ll most of the time for the experience of a student, you’re sitting in a classroom and a kind of, you know, you may be sitting in rows and kind of terminal based instruction where the teacher is the arbiter of all information, there’s a bottleneck at the front of the classroom. 


Jamel Mims  7:26  

And frankly, if you don’t get to the drip fast enough, that knowledge doesn’t reach your head. But this is completely distorted. When you look at both how students learn in the real world, you can work with young people now asking a number of them about both the things they’re into, and how they learn to get to do the things we’re into whether that’s DJing, or photography, or fashion, or Minecraft, or Instagram posts, students are teaching themselves how to how to create things online. 


Jamel Mims  7:51  

And they’re taking advantage of the breadth of knowledge that humanity has to offer that’s out and available in the world. And you should set up our classrooms to actually look like this, we should set up the ways that students are assessed to actually look like this. All right, we should see that they’re gaining information to actually have that same kind of feel and flow, because frankly, it’s rewarded in the real world, that collaboration that’s rewarded in the real world. 


Jamel Mims  8:16  

But those are things that are seen as dangerous, at best and distracting or distracting at work at best and dangerous at worse, to end traditional academic environments. And we’re now really at like a bit of a precipice of a turning point over the course of last year to really take some valuable lessons to heart around that and around how we can shift education to better prepare students, but then also to do it in a way where students can actually fully express themselves as a part of that. That just makes it more equitable altogether.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  8:47  

Wow, I completely agree. And that word, dangerous, whenever we push back against an institution and against a system of control, and we really do need to control all of these teenagers, we need to know where they are, we need to know they’ve had their four years of English. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:02  

We have it so lockstep and it’s been this way for over 100 years, effective or not, and often not that it is dangerous, to go against the tide and to try to say, Hey, there are better ways. Come on, let’s work together, unfortunately. But I think your word dangerous pops.


Jamel Mims  9:23  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think this is the thing in terms of, in particular, about bringing youth culture and making youth culture, the center of the classroom experience, right. There’s a lot of apprehension on the part of educators to really do that and to really embrace that. 


Jamel Mims  9:36  

I mean, there’s, you know, New York City definitely has a robust community of culturally responsive educators that have actually been able to push the envelope folks like Christopher emdin, and Martha Diaz and folks with this Yes, for all network, who’ve actually been able to create real, long lasting institutions, you know, the Office of culturally responsive and sustaining education and practices that exist in New York. And so they’ve been able to make headway in that interest. 


Jamel Mims  10:02  

And to really like scale down. This idea of bringing youth culture or relinquishing your classroom to young people is dangerous, or to the culture of young people is dangerous. And I think, just speaking to this question of, so we have structural supports in New York City that makes a lot more that possible that is starting to spread nationally. And there’s a whole kind of community behind that, again, shout out hashtag hip hop Ed. 


Jamel Mims  10:28  

But the other flip side of that danger, too, is what happens if that’s actually left out. Right? If that’s actually left out of curriculum, right, if that’s actually not the approach that we take, and we run the risk right now, with work conditions are so sharp in the world of actually further alienating students that are very clearly confronting the fact that you know, that they’re running up against a clock when it comes to their future, and what’s already been provided for them. And that is going to take some real innovation, and some, some real radical thinking for them to actually be able to break from that. 


Jamel Mims  10:58  

And so that’s another reason. You know, it’s, it’s dangerous, but we also avoid this, this future and potential danger, this future and potential inequity, right, we actually address and remedy that by bringing youth culture into the classroom, and really have their their interests really helps to guide this process of them, like figuring out what they want to do in the world. And, frankly, how they want to change it. Because, you know, that’s 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:19  



Jamel Mims  11:19  

What are we thinking about?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:20  

Absolutely. I just released a TED talk a TEDx on changing our minds, and really getting into that both. And it’s not, we have to throw out everything about the past. And it’s not like only innovation. And it looks like your model works with teachers. It’s not saying teachers what you do stinks. And here’s how it should be. It looks like this both and collaboration. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:42  

Can you explain what it would look like if I stepped into a school that was using your model?


Jamel Mims  11:48  

Yeah, no, I mean, that’s great. It really our aim is to build the capacity of schools to be able to deliver these kinds of experiences to be able to connect the worlds of work and the worlds of schools to really be able to prepare their students more fiercely. And so more adequately, and more fiercely, right? There. 


Jamel Mims  12:05  

Yeah, I mean, so for schools that are partnered with schools, I can students participate in a series of weekly workshops that are around different career skills. They take a career interest survey, where they are on the Department of Labor site, using to actually identify different career traits. They’re matched up with a mentor and a virtual life, career mentorship experience, where were those mentors take a similar career interest profile, and they’re matched up into different categories, if they’re into creative careers, or if they’re into more scientific and like engineering, innovative style careers, are no more social careers, ones that serve people like in health care, or an education or a nonprofit work. Or if they’re into like building and technical careers, like architecture or construction, you know, there’s six different categories that they’re identified in, and they are matched up with mentors. 


Jamel Mims  13:01  

And that’s the beginning of the process, where then they have other experiences such as a mock interview, later down that career fair later down the road, a collaborative work, study, and sprint that really mimics a kind of collaborative work environment where they’re designing solutions around a social issue or problem. 


Jamel Mims  13:20  

And all throughout the year, students are putting artifacts from their experience and from their meetings with those career mentors, and to our career portfolio that really lives with them outside of their secondary education really prepares them for that post secondary success, a career portfolio that looks and is modeled a lot like the way that people are actually sharing their professional information, and building their professional networks on LinkedIn. 


Jamel Mims  13:46  

And so, you know, that’s the process that students will engage in through a series of weekly workshops, and about five monthly or every two months, engagements with professionals. So that’s a bit of luck with a cadence and rhythm and what it looks like. 


Jamel Mims  14:00  

And we’re excited to be, you know, working with schools, you know, as they transition back into hybrid and in person this year. And, you know, we’ll be learning a lot with them in the process of making the adjustments so that, you know, all students can participate as a part of that.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  14:16  

Wow, that is so robust, that covers so many pieces of what students need, and it helps them hone what they need the inventory working with a mentor. I know so many students go off and like, well, I guess I’ll go to this college because my cousin’s they’re like, I don’t know, business should be good for a major because you can do a lot with it, I don’t know. And they end up with all the student loan debt if they even finish, and maybe not even in a field that they wanted to be in, where you’re letting them explore and figure things out before they graduate from high school. That just makes a lot more sense.


Jamel Mims  14:50  

Yeah, I mean, it’s really figuring out, you know, college as a part of that path of their preparation. You know, there are different levels of preparation for different jobs or careers that you want to have. But they’re but they themselves are in related fields, there are different levels of preparation between a healthcare technician and a doctor or a PhD. And how does your level of preparation actually fit into your goals? And so your aims were developing or just developed a unit on in demand jobs. 


Jamel Mims  15:20  

And definitely shout out to Lawrese Brown, who’s on our curriculum team and Newark, for really spearheading this unit. But that really takes a look at what are the in demand jobs that are in different regions, such as New York and Philadelphia, New York, sorry, and Pittsburgh, and, you know, Newark, New Jersey and Chicago, you know, trades like cybersecurity or health care, healthcare technician and careers and technology, where are these emerging fields, and, you know, and really working with students to both explore and analyze trends in the job market, and have that help to inform and guide their decision making, and really recognize that it’s a pathway, right? 


Jamel Mims  16:01  

That it’s, you might be in one position or doing one thing at a certain time. But that actually, you know, you can ask anybody about their job history, or the number of different kinds of odd jobs that they’ve had, right? That it actually it’s a pathway that they actually learn and explore through,


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:16  

oh, unless a student takes a technical or vocational class, they’re not going to get to unpack anything near this. It’s not a graduation requirement. They say, CTE courses, you know, we want kids to take something that does tie into technology or into their career futures, but it’s so random, and it might just be, you know, a class on technology, it doesn’t tell you how to think about the jobs and what the different opportunities are, and what jobs are in demand are emerging. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:43  

So you’re really giving them tools, in a way a lens. So in the future, they can say, Okay, now what’s emerging, or Okay, this was a pathway, what other stepping stones, this was a stepping stone, from here with this certificate or with this experience. Now, where do I want to go? You’re empowering them with choice, because they understand the system where usually kids graduate from high school with a checklist. Okay, I took my three years of math, my three years of social studies, check, check, check. And they have no clue how to navigate anything but the classroom, I have no clue how to navigate the real world. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  17:17  

So you are preparing our kids and empowering them to be successful. And I want to talk a little bit because you’ve beyond a career success. You’ve talked about public demonstrations, social justice campaigns, I really think our youth see the world. I know they see it differently than I do. I have young adult daughters, and they educate me all the time. Talk to me about their voice, their vision, their power, in terms of social change.


Jamel Mims  17:47  

Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s it? That’s a really good question. And that’s often conversation that’s often left out of the question of Career and College preparedness, and often left out of the question of CTE instruction. But I think it’s one that we absolutely have to give room for. 


Jamel Mims  18:02  

What I noticed in and delivering this curriculum, and in developing and delivering this curriculum, especially over the course of the past year is that this it ends up becoming a space where students bring in a lot of those larger questions, right, a lot of those larger wonderings of not just what kind of job Am I going to have? But like, what is my life gonna be about? What kind of world am I going to be living in? 


Jamel Mims  18:24  

You know, in our future work unit, we’re students, we’re working collaboratively in teams, and they met with different industry leaders at Con Edison and Albemarle chemistry, to work with them to discuss the question of what does the future of work look like to you, and then for them to pilot campaigns and ideas based off of that, and we had an enormous breadth of issues that students were both concerned about, but then also ways that they were designing solutions for you as soon as they were thinking very critically about the climate, you know, we’re designing like, green products for you know, as solutions and environmental solutions for transportations and transportation in cities. 


Jamel Mims  19:05  

We have students who are concerned about, and we’re particularly impacted by over the course of the past year, the massive like pressure that that put on essential workers and the evacuation of people from, like, the evacuation of menial jobs and the kind of bottom dropping out from those who are most vulnerable in society. And they were creating and piloting a kind of attended automation force that would help to train a particular sector of people so that their jobs were not replaced by all through automation, but that they that they, but that they instead would actually gain the skills to be able to program.


Jamel Mims  19:42  

 the machines that be responsible for automation, but just thinking very deeply about answers, you know, in very deep about problems in the world, and I think this has to be a part of that kind of career and technical education. You know, this project of education doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You know, people don’t have their jobs or exist in a vacuum, they actually exist in a world in a world of social contracts within a world that they actually have to remedy, full of problems of actually have to address.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  20:10  

I completely agree. And I think given the opportunity, our youth really have a lot to offer. But if we don’t give them that lens for that opportunity to see through that lens, if we’re just like, okay, Chapter 12. Today, guys get going and answer the questions at the end, or I’m talking to you as you take notes, because it’s going to be on the test, when we’re not engaging their brains, you know, they have all this anxiety, they see the world rapidly deteriorating in so many ways. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  20:41  

And we’re not addressing that we’re not empowering them. And we’re mind numbing them with a form of education. That doesn’t work for any of us. If you sat and talked at me for an hour about something that I really don’t care about. I could not, no matter how hard I tried, stay engaged. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  20:55  

So why do we think that our youth can, it’s crazy. So what you’re saying is giving them that chance to think deeply and ponder and design solutions. You’re building some muscles that hopefully they go out in the world and say, Okay, what are the issues? How am I going to use those muscles? How am I going to make a difference? That’s super important.


Jamel Mims  21:16  

Yeah, no, I mean, it’s, it’s muscles they have to rehearse. Now, I mean, and frankly, it’s their muscles that a lot of them are already in the process of exercising. But think of and envision school is the place where I can’t do that, or that’s not a place for that. And we have to be, you know, if we actually want to both see our students as they are and leverage their potential, we actually have to open up our process a lot more. 


Jamel Mims  21:39  

You know, that’s really the point of putting like youth culture at the center of a pedagogical practice, both regardless of this subject matter. But there’s particular importance around that with career and technical education, especially, again, if you’re talking about in 2021, or young people have been part of the driving force, there’s so much of the social change that’s happened over the past year, that has to be something that we’re including in creating actual room for.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  22:03  

Absolutely. This is so powerful, I love what you’re doing. What else? 2021 these are crazy, and at times remote learning, super challenging. What are some of your observations? Jamel? How is this changing the role of education and changing our youth?


Jamel Mims  22:22  

Yeah, I mean, one thing is, that has been the kind of in one unintentional side effect of this, of remote learning. And remote work has been the dissolving of the walls that have formerly existed before spaces like school than work before, where now you’re on a zoom call, and you’re with co workers, and your co workers, kids are now your co workers, right? And where all that, you know, where those kinds of walls start to actually, like, fall down. 


Jamel Mims  22:56  

And there’s been a lot more accessibility that we’ve actually had with our professional volunteer base and ways that they’ve been accessible during the school day, you know, you’re organizing a mock interview, in person, there’s a lot more logistics, to actually follow through on than one that takes place virtually. So that has been one unintended side effect. 


Jamel Mims  23:17  

You know, personally, I, you know, I, I definitely remember hauling a year ago, you’re walking by school buildings, and thinking, wow, delivering this curriculum and dealing with the challenges of remote learning and engagement. And, and, but really seeing this as an opportunity to, you know, wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day, we looked back at the school buildings, you know, in the same way that we look at factories that no longer pursue this and say that, like, you know, factories or jails and a lot more students and say that, like, Oh, that’s what you know, that’s the way that people you still have to learn, but they don’t have to learn that way anymore. 


Jamel Mims  23:54  

But the where the, where, if there was one thing that we learned over the past year, the value of having that students having autonomy, and really being able to, to master the self efficacy that it takes to take your to do list and actually execute on that, that that became the like, fundamental skill, you know, all around like successful students. And that’s, you know, I think schools guiding, and education, school and education becoming a place and a feeling that’s guiding students a lot more around that than just as you’re saying, like rote memorization and being good students, and thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful, those are places students used to learn?


Jamel Mims  24:30  

 Or, you know, I guess young people used to learn how to be good students, but that didn’t serve us anymore. And we’re beyond that. Now. Now, young people are learning how to actually be good people how to contribute as good citizens, you know, and that kind of learning takes place. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  24:43  



Jamel Mims  24:43  

And sometimes in school buildings where you’re working collaboratively with people, but not all the time. It also takes place out in the world. It also takes place in your home. But thinking Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that was the lesson we really drew for that, as opposed to returning full force, no remote option?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:00  

Exactly, if we can get these masks being a thing or not so exactly snapping back to what wasn’t working before, that would be such a lost opportunity. Because this really is an unintentional side effect. And I like what you say. It’s not a silver lining that makes it sound like, I don’t know, like this, like this time is good in some way. And I don’t know, words are important. So that makes sense. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:25  

So Jamel, you’re doing so much what is next for you and your mission?


Jamel Mims  25:32  

Yeah, I mean, I think I’m really excited to see over the next year, the ETV bridge program really grow. So last year, we began piloting this program in during a remote year and working with select schools in New York City. This year, we’ll be working with about 400 students across New York City, Newark, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. 


Jamel Mims  25:57  

And so excited to see the program actually grow, we’re building our team, so that we’ll be able to deliver more robust programming. And I’m really excited about really carving out a network of professionals in New York, in particular around like the technology sector, you know, I’m particularly around young entrepreneurs, folks who are in startup culture, young, creative technologists, like myself, and we’re actually working in a lot of the similar ways and workstreams of the young people that we’re serving, who are anchored around the same kind of cultural tenants, as young people that we’re serving. 


Jamel Mims  26:34  

So I’m excited about really growing the program and seeing where it goes over the next year, and seeing, you know, just really the diversity of different kinds of volunteers that we can bring into the space. And seeing how we impact students, you know, across these four cities over the next year.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  26:49  

I love that, yes, I think growing that bridge program sounds super powerful and giving kids many more real world connections. So how can others help make schools places that engage and prepare youth for employment and success in the future?


Jamel Mims  27:06  

Yeah, I mean, well, so first, I would definitely recommend getting in touch with us with our work at schools that can. you know, if you’re an educator, or if, you know, if you’re an educator or school leader, and you’re looking to get connected, or figure out how you actually can bring some of this programming to your school, definitely get in contact with us. At 


Jamel Mims  27:25  

If you’re a professional, or someone connected to the educational education, technology community, or any kind of professional community, young people need exposure to you in the same way that I’m sure that you would benefit from taking a minute to work with a young person to explain what you do and what your path has actually been. volunteering to be a career mentor, to be a career professional, with our mentors, with our career mentors program is another great way to help out and in general, you know, I think, just as an approach, overall, we have to start building these connections between schools, well, frankly, between young people, and the schools that they’re in the teachers that they have, we’re preparing them for the futures that they’re going to have and the people who are living right now in the world and preparing that world that those students are going to inhabit. 


Jamel Mims  28:17  

And so how do we connect those professionals, those educators and those young people? How do we create community between them? I would suggest to people joining online communities that are forged around this, you know, the hip hop community, the CS, we’re all community in New York, but only by bringing those three kinds of forces on an equitable table. And, and having these kinds of like pivotal problem solving and brainstorming discussions, are we actually going to go forward and advance on this kind of initiative?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:47  

Absolutely. We have to break down the silos and start playing together. Oh, absolutely. Definitely. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:52  

And listeners, we will put all of these links in the show notes so that you can access the different resources Jamel is talking about. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:59  

Do you know, I’m going to pivot. I want to get to know the person behind schools that can bridge this program. And I would just have some trouble time questions for you. Are you ready to fire away with some answers? 


Jamel Mims  29:12  

I think so. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:14  

Great. What’s the last book you read?


Jamel Mims  29:17  

Okay, the last book I read was 10 keys to reality by Frank wills, wills and sec. Wilczek. You have to catch me on his last name. But this is a Nobel Prize physicist. And this is you know, just kind of breaking down, you know, goes through chapter by chapter but breaking down the fundamentals of both like particle physics and Unified Fields, but just like really, really cool stuff about like, how, how we understand how the world works. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:47  

So I knew getting a Fulbright meant that you were like, super smart, super capable. And now that you’re telling me what kinds of books you read is like, Oh, yeah, this is candy for him. Whoa, I love it. Who are two inspirational folks that you’d love to meet?


Jamel Mims  30:04  

That’s, that’s super flattering. that book, it breaks up that in a really, really conventional way it which is a really good part of it, but definitely on the theme of like dope physicists got to give it up for I would love to like, you know, one with Neil deGrasse Tyson also think he has just like a great outlook on the relationship between scientific thinking and morality. 


Jamel Mims  30:23  

What what is and what should be. Another person fresh off his latest versus victory would definitely be Jadakiss. Huge fan. So to inspirational folks, I love to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jadakiss would be great. If you could get the three of us in a room together.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:40  

We will work on that. That sounds amazing. What’s one TED talk that inspires you?


Jamel Mims  30:46  

And this is related to to our cybersecurity program at schools that can host we recently had a training for and are launching this year. But would this would be a fighting bias and algorithms from Joy Buolamwini, who is also known as like the poet of code, but this is someone who looks at like how algorithms, you know, coded bias and how algorithms hold you know, the albums that we use for Google, etc. How they hold those datasets our whole bias within them. And how do we actually deconstruct and design systems to fight against that? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:24  

That sounds powerful. 


Jamel Mims  31:26  

Yeah, super cool work.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:27  

Yeah. What’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about culturally responsive pedagogy?


Jamel Mims  31:33  

Oh, I would, I would definitely say that anyone can do it. And that it’s not a set of skills or are sort of like magic tricks. But that it’s a practice, like, you know, brushing your teeth, or therapy or yoga, like anybody can everyone can do it and learn the tenets of it. 


Jamel Mims  31:54  

And that it’s not exclusively, I would say culturally responsive pedagogy sometimes gets compressed into just looking at the particular ethnic identity of a young person. What I think you need to aim at a broader definition that looks at treating youth culture itself as a culture.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:12  

Yes, important distinction. What’s a pet peeve of yours?


Jamel Mims  32:19  

Oh, a pet peeve of mine. You usually don’t have to think so hard to think of your like your pet peeves? I don’t know. I guess you know, like, people. I don’t know. Speaking ones. walking down the street speaking on speakerphone, I guess.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:35  

Yeah. That is annoying. 


Jamel Mims  32:37  

It’s like, you know, we live, we all live together. So like, you know, control that noise up? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:42  

Yep. Yep. Our sound environments are important. 


Jamel Mims  32:45  



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:46  

What’s one passion you bring to Schools That Can?


Jamel Mims  32:49  

Definitely, I think, I mean, we mentioned earlier, but a passion for like youth culture and putting, putting youth culture at the center of classroom experiences, but then also at this epicenter of like, you know, your experience kind of living through the life of your inner child?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:05  

Yes, definitely. So how can others become activists to transform schools?


Jamel Mims  33:14  

Yeah, I think the most important thing, I think in relation to that is probably thinking of like yourself in high school, right? And not thinking of yourself as like disconnected from that person, or disconnected from those networks. And how do you how can you both actually go back? 


Jamel Mims  33:34  

But then what are, you know, what, what are schools in your area? What are young people in your area that you’re connected to, that you can help out or support? Right? 


Jamel Mims  33:43  

But just I think, I think it does firmly start with thinking about like, what your experience was as a young person, when you were young person, but then also looking at kind of like right now, what is looking sharply squarely at the knee that young people are facing right now. 


Jamel Mims  34:00  

I mean, I think if you’re intensely looking at the problems that people are facing, you’re going to feel compelled to actually work on solving those problems, if you view them, especially if you view them as unnecessary. So like, the more you’re looking at that, the more you’re looking at those problems, the more you’re going to actually, like be driven to actually work on solving it.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:19  

I like that. So you’re saying we all need to be thinking about what we experienced, what we’re seeing, and that’s it. Oh, I’m in this industry. I don’t even think about schools. We don’t get a pass on that all of us have to be thinking about making those connections happen. Definitely, 


Jamel Mims  34:35  

yeah. oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think over the past year, more than ever, right, we had people becoming like news junkies and really diving into like, you know, day to day, you know, and the immediacy of politics. And I think that there’s a similar approach when it comes to like, are you so people from all different, like stripes and approaches of life actually dive into that? 


Jamel Mims  34:56  

I think there’s a similar approach with that when it comes to our young people. Think of who they’re going to be. comment what, what’s the world we’re going to actually inherit? And I think the more you’re, the more you’re actually thinking about that question, and are focused on that question, the more that you’ll see the sharp need to actually be someone who contributes to changing the landscape of education, despite the industry that you’re in,


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:17  

right. We get into our silos and I think it’s security and permission to disengage. And that’s a luxury we don’t have. We can’t keep disengaging. 


Jamel Mims  35:27  

Oh, yeah, no time is running out for that. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:29  

Yes. What is something about you that most people do not know?


Jamel Mims  35:35  

Think? I feel like a lot of people. One thing people don’t know about me, or that that, you know, perhaps isn’t as easily Google Googlable as other things. I have a twin sister. And her name is Amber Mims. She’s like a singer. She’s super cool. super dope. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:52  

Wow, you’re a twin? That is cool. 


Jamel Mims  35:54  



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:55  

Jamel. I like to end my interview with a magic wand question. So it helps us. It inspires us to think big and to not look at limitations. If you had a magic wand and could transform our schools into engaging and empowering youth culture, places, what would you wish to make this happen?


Jamel Mims  36:21  

Yeah, I think if I had a magic wand to actually, you know, kind of transform with that, with the landscape of education look like you would remove this divide between like public and private institutions, you would have a sort of situation where young people, despite where they were born, would have access to educational opportunity, you know, that was on par with anywhere else in the world. 


Jamel Mims  36:44  

And I think it would be in look like an education system that looked a lot more porous, and a lot more robust than the current kind of factory design model that we have. It would look like and feel like going to the recording studio with your friend, say with, you know, to complete assignments about your science, homework or science tasks. it would look like spending a day or two, in an industry that you’re aspiring to be or to learn about, you know. It would look like another day of project based learning that takes place like at a cafe, that you’re actually leading a team of you and three of your other classmates on producing, producing work or producing a project that’s related to your math or your science class, right. 


Jamel Mims  37:32  

where there’s a lot more of those kinds of engagements, where, where the were school takes place in a physic physical place when it needs to, but it’s not constricted to that, and where the culture that actually anchored the school was, was and felt the same as the culture that anchors young people together on like a twitch stream, or has them commenting on each other’s posts. where that was actually the mechanism that we were, we were actually leveraging for young people to learn.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  38:01  

Wow, Yes, please. Real World learning, driven by the students out and about and everywhere and reconnected where kids know what each other are doing, and are supporting each other, on the projects and on the passions. I, I agree, much more porous, and really about the students and letting them have the agency to lead and do what inspires them?


Jamel Mims  38:28  

Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean, I think it’s, you’re going to, again, you’re going to need that kind of process to actually prepare students for the world. You look at this UN Climate report that says that we’re already past the tipping point of 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  38:41  



Jamel Mims  38:42  

climate change, and actually remedying this. you’re not going to really do this with like conventional with conventional methods convention or conventional systems. I’m sorry. And we have to actually face facts about that. And it’s time for a radical shift and a radical break in that and you know, that would be commensurate with what young people would actually need to even start to prepare to deal with the world of issues that we’re up against right now.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:05  

Absolutely. Jamel What you are doing is so powerful and important. Thank you for sharing that view highlights today. 


Jamel Mims  39:14  

Thanks for having the conversation.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:15  



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:24  

Jamel is such a fierce youth advocate. I can tell he has worked with kids and really understands the youth culture that he’s talking about. And schools that can their partnership, bringing in mentors, working with teachers, focusing on real world applications, and making sure that our students are future ready. Yes, please. I’m excited that this is spreading beyond New York and I encourage people to reach out and see if that’s something that you might be able to make happen near you. I also got schooled. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  40:05  

In this interview, there were a couple of terms that I looked up prior to my interview. youth culture, I really wanted to understand if there was more to it than what I assumed. And the definition I found was youth culture refers to the societal norms of children, adolescents and young adults. Specifically, It comprises the processes and symbolic systems that are shared by the youth demographic, and are distinct from those of adults in the community. That makes perfect sense. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  40:39  

I think sometimes adults don’t even acknowledge that there is a separate culture going on. So to understand not only is there but this truly is distinct from our adult way of looking at things is very important. The other term CRT or culturally responsive teaching is something I was familiar with. And this is a research based approach to teaching. And it’s all about connecting students, cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:13  

Sometimes textbooks reflect a reality that don’t connect at all with kids. And our brains are wired to make connections, it’s so much easier for us to learn and store information when we have hooks to hang it on. And then that’s the value of culturally responsive teaching. It’s when we make sure that we have all different populations represented, so that teachers can really support all learners. So we want youth culture at the center, letting students find their passions and learn through means that are powerful to them. And we want to be culturally responsive, and make learning contextual. And that’s a powerful practice that we all could use more of. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  42:00  

As you listened, I hope that you were becoming curious about how you can become a mentor or serve youth. As Jamel says, young people need exposure to you. We need to create a community filled with professional schools and students working together. It’s going to take a village to make learning relevant for all students. I appreciated what Jamal said about unintended outcomes of the pandemic. And one for us in schools is that we are no longer so tied to specific learning spaces. I hope we can keep moving forward and not slide back into learning must happen between a certain four walls. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  42:48  

Jamel talking about his magic wand of going beyond the classroom walls and going beyond public and private, making access happen for all and having students go to the recording studio with friends to complete their science, or spending a few days in industry, or getting to do project based learning in a cafe and having a tie in to their other subjects. Yes, please. This is real, relevant, engaging, learning. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  43:23  

And I especially liked how he talked about learning could be where kids are engaged and wanting to collaborate and comment on each other’s work. This will only happen if learning feels real and important. schools that can help make this vital shift. So here’s to youth centered pedagogy, driving, all learning. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  43:58  

If you’re finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk, an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together. Visit to book a call and let’s get started. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  44:34  

Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do Right now before you forget, I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners. signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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