Ep 186: The Masks We Wear –Ashanti Branch from Branch Speaks - EB Academics

Ep 186: The Masks We Wear –Ashanti Branch from Branch Speaks

In this special episode, Caitlin talks with Ashanti Branch, an educator seeking to help people remove their metaphorical masks in order to show up as their true, authentic selves. He will teach listeners that we all have shared human needs, and that by bridging the gap between the masks we wear and our real selves, we can make more meaningful connections, healthier communication, and deeper engagement with others. 

Ashanti will share the fascinating story behind his call to teaching and how his students taught him how to become a better teacher and person. Most importantly, he will discuss the masks that both teachers and students wear, and how these masks can make it hard to tune in to our emotions and make meaningful connections.

Ashanti Branch will explain his Million Mask Movement and show listeners how they can participate in order to help their students find a safe space to reveal themselves. This is a powerful episode for anyone wanting to teach the “whole student” and make a real difference in the lives of the young people they teach and care for. 

Tune in now to hear:

  • [01:00] Caitlin introduces Ashanti Branch, an incredible educator who is transforming the way people interact and connect with each other. Ashanti is also the founder of the Ever Forward Club, which you can check out here
  • [02:00] Ashanti begins by sharing his story. He explains that sometimes it’s easy to do good in the world, and sometimes it’s not, and shares his story of how he chose to become a teacher.
  • [04:10] Ashanti talks about his experience learning his mother, a teacher, had gone to college, and realizing how little professional educators are paid. 
  • [05:00] Ashanti talks about his decision to become an engineer to make money, and how it was financially rewarding but didn’t make him happy. It wasn’t until he began to tutor at Upward Bound that Ashanti realized what had been missing.
  • [07:30] Ashanti explains how an Upward Bound student changed Ashanti’s life and began his calling to be a teacher.
  • [08:10] Ashanti speaks about his first year teaching and its emotional challenges, and how he reached out to his students to improve his teaching.
  • [10:00] Ashanti shares his experiences in helping his young male students connect with their feelings and open up emotionally. He explains that many students have to learn their potential before they can succeed academically. 
  • [14:00] Caitlin adds to Ashanti’s comments about the challenges of teaching and why teachers need a deeper “why” than just teaching their subject matter to students.
  • [15:10] Caitlin asks Ashanti how his experiences led to the Million Mask Movement and he responds, sharing a story about his favorite teacher, whose class he hated.
  • [18:10] Ashanti talks about how he learned to put on a mask as a child, and how many of us do the same.
  • [21:00] The mask activity: Share 1 picture with 6 words.People all over the world have shared theirs anonymously, and you can, too.
    • Front of mask: What you gladly let the world see about you.
    • Back of mask: What you don’t talk about much or let people see.
  • [23:00] Go here to make a mask (and/or have students make masks) using the digital tool. Ashanti shares some examples.
  • [28:00] Ashanti discusses how students all over the country, in every type of school, wear masks. Ashanti encourages teachers from all over to help students explore these masks.
  • [30:00] Ashanti talks about the effects that returning to in-class learning is having on students. Many students have found the return to be emotionally overloading.
  • [33:00] Cailtin discusses the power of starting off the school year by connecting with students. 
  • [36:50] Ashanti advises teachers: If you care more about the subjects you teach than the subjects who you’re teaching, there are going to be disconnects. 
  • [37:50] Ashanti talks about the importance of challenging systems and fellow educators who are not doing right by students. Schools need teachers who love students!
  • [37:50] “Emotions are energy in motion.” Ashanti asserts that emotions will come out one way or another, whether or not we acknowledge them.
  • [40:20] The EB community is SO excited that Ashanti will be doing a live, virtual workshop with our teachers soon!

Click here to listen now!

Click here to watch on Youtube!

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  • This is an awesome segment. When I attended the Upward Bound program held at Mills College (Oakland) around 2001/2002, Ashanti Branch taught Math. I specifically remember breaking down the quadratic equation and enjoying my favorite subject during my summer break. As a black male from Oakland, I must say he was and still is an great inspiration!


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Then, pick the date you’re going to teach it in your classroom, and sit back while you watch as your students show up to your classroom pumped about what the day holds…and gush about your class to their parents on the car ride home!

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