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Dedicated to Teachers


On the Podcast: Humans Who Teach with Shamari Reid

On the Podcast: Humans Who Teach, with Shamari Reid

Our guest on the podcast today is author Shamari Reid. His forthcoming book, Humans Who Teach: A Guide for Centering Love, Justice and Liberation in Schools is a beautiful, anecdotal exploration of self-compassion in a demanding profession. This conversation will give you insight into how those explorations became the foundation for a timely, compact book that guides you through the same work of examining self-care, boundaries, expansion and love.

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Below is a transcript of this episode. 

Shamari Reid:

It's important to say, "We are humans." I think the book's title is just that declaration that we are humans.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

We teach, and we love teaching, and then many of us feel called to do it. But we are humans, and that means a lot of beautiful things, but also a lot of complicated things. The book really is my exploration of all things beautiful and all things complex that comes with being a human, with teaching in the current times.

Edie:

Hi, this is Edie. Welcome back to the Heinemann Podcast. Our guest on the podcast today is author Shamari Reid. His forthcoming book, Humans Who Teach: A Guide for Centering Love, Justice and Liberation in Schools is a beautiful anecdotal exploration of self-compassion in a demanding profession. This conversation will give you insight into how those explorations became the foundation for a timely, compact book that guides you through the same work of examining self-care, boundaries, expansion and love.

Before we start, I invite you to sign up for the Heinemann newsletter. We send biweekly updates with articles from our blog and podcasts, featuring the latest thought leadership from our authors, and even samples from our latest titles. If you'd like to sign up, visit heinemann.com/newsletter. Now, my conversation with Shamari.

Thanks for being here. It's so nice to be here with you.

Shamari:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Edie:

Well, I was just thinking back to a conversation we had a little bit ago about your ... You've written your manuscript.

Shamari:

Right.

Edie:

It's out of your hands, it's onto the next phase of production.

Shamari:

Sure.

Edie:

Congratulations.

Shamari:

Thank you.

Edie:

And also, I know you've just reread it.

Shamari:

Yeah.

Edie:

I would just love to hear a little bit about that. This moment in time, rereading your manuscript, your writer's journey.

Shamari:

Sure. Sure. Yeah, the reread was a journey of all kinds of emotions and things that I didn't know I would feel.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I think partly because, when I was writing it, I was rereading it all the time. I'm someone, I'll write a paragraph, I might stand up, I'll walk around the house, I'll breath. And I'll go back and read the paragraph again. And then, the first thing that comes to me is the start of the new paragraph.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

So I reread, extend, reread, extend. I thought that I had reread the book and I knew it. Took some time from it, got the whole manuscript back and started rereading it. I thought it would just be a quick read.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

And then, I went on the journey of all kinds of emotions. I was like, "I'm going to rewrite that, I'm going to rewrite that. I'm going to rewrite the entire book." So I called my editor and I was like, "It's time to rewrite the entire book."

Edie:

Oh my gosh.

Shamari:

She said, "What? No, we're not doing that." So it's been one of those journeys for me. I'm very much of an iterative, I think, thinker. If I can go back to something just five minutes later, I have a whole new idea.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I'm always about extending, extending, extending. I think part of that was really me letting go. And getting comfortable with and okay with letting go.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Knowing that I'll always have more I want to say.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

I'll always have more I want to share. But right now, what I have said and what I have shared is enough.

Edie:

Yeah. The book, Humans Who Teach.

Shamari:

Yes.

Edie:

Let's talk a little bit about that term. I'd love to hear why you like the term Humans Who Teach.

Shamari:

Sure.

Edie:

Not just teachers, but humans who teach.

Shamari:

Sure. Humans Who Teach just makes sense to the way that I think, and the way that I feel, and the way that I move, and the way that I think about the work that we do. So for me, as a term, I'm realizing how different it is because folks have made me aware, "Hey, not everyone uses that term."

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

But for me, it has always just made sense. I said, many years ago, on a Heinemann podcast, I was talking with Kate and Maggie.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

On the Beyond the Letters.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I just was talking organically about some question and I said, "Well you know, it's human work that we do." It's work that happens in the hearts and minds of young people, that is informed by our own hearts and minds as people and as humans. So I think that's where I began to articulate the idea. However, I've always held close to that idea that we are humans before we are anything else.

I feel like, in this particular moment, a lot of my teacher friends are tired and exhausted, and are not feeling like they are allowed the space to be those things. They feel shame when they say, "Hey, I'm tired." Or, "I'm exhausted." Or, "Parent-teacher conferences were very long today." Not that they were bad, they were just long. But there isn't a lot of space, I feel, for teachers to be human. I think we're expected to be on all the time, and we're expected to be teachers all the time, and to give all the time. But I think the reality is we become empty.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

We become dehydrated. We need to be restored. So it's important to say, "We are humans." I think the book's title is just that declaration that we are humans.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

We teach, and we love teaching, and then many of us feel called to do it. But we are humans and that means a lot of beautiful things, but also a lot of complicated things. The book really is my exploration of all things beautiful and all things complex that comes with being a human, who is teaching in the current times.

Edie:

Yeah. When you think that that shame, or feeling a little bit ashamed to say, "I'm tired, I'm exhausted," what is that rooted in? I know you speak to that in the book.

Shamari:

I do. It's a social lesson. But in the book, I talk about socialization. What I mean there is just all the things that we learn from birth until we're adults about our society. These are the messages that we receive from TV, from parents, from other teachers, other institutions. One of those messages is, that we received, is that teachers are just supposed to teach. We are just supposed to do and be everything for everyone, all the time, and especially for our students. In many ways, I think we are evaluated and/or our effectiveness maybe even measured based on how much we give to young people.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

Of course, we want to be effective. Who doesn't want to do their job well? Teachers want to do a great job. Because we've been taught to believe that doing a great job is going above-and-beyond all the time, that's what happens.

I think that's where the messages come from. It comes from other teachers. It comes in the form of encouragement and praise. It's not always negative. It's just, "Wow, I really admire how you stayed up late working on that. I really appreciate how you didn't take a lunch break today so that you could show up for someone else." That's also a way, I think, in which we encourage that kind of I would say overextension and the idea of having no real work-life-rest integration, work-life balance. That's what I would say it comes from. I think it's perpetuated and maintained when we continue to neglect the humanity of teachers, and talk about them as if they are just robots who can implement curricula, who can teach lessons plans on the drop of a dime.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

Even when we are in times of crises, like we are right now.

Edie:

Yes. Yeah. As we begin, by I think first acknowledging that humanity, seems like a vital first step.

Shamari:

Sure, sure.

Edie:

Then, beyond that, I think just as an extension as we grow, there's this self-care piece that comes in. I think, sometimes, that term can feel a little hollow right now. Or another thing to do.

Shamari:

That's right.

Edie:

Another thing for teachers to do.

Shamari:

That's right.

Edie:

What's your vision of self-care? Speak to that.

Shamari:

Sure. I'll tell the story of how I got there. I love stories.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

As anyone who knows, and when you read the book you'll see there are tons of stories all over the place. But there's a story around self-care for me. I love that you mention it being hollow, or being perceived as hollow. It was hollow for me, for a very long time. It was something that I thought only meant over indulgence and things that brought me joy or pleasure.

So when I used to say self-care, it would be like, "Okay, you had a long day, you taught, did a lot. You deserve self-care." What did that mean? I would go home, I would bake brownies, or I would bake chocolate ... I love to bake, by the way. I love food.

Edie:

Me too.

Shamari:

Which I say in the book.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

"I love food."

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

I would bake, which was fine, and I would eat everything that was there.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

To the point where I got sick.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I told myself, "This is taking care of yourself though, because it brings you joy, and it brings you great feelings until it doesn't."

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

That's the over indulgence. It was my therapist, wow, four years ago, who was asking me about my self-care. I was so excited to say, "Cookies and brownies!" She was like, "Those are great, and I love that you love baking. But over indulgence is not caring for the self." I was like, "But it is. It makes me happy." She was like, "But is it making you well?"

We talked about self-care as being something that contributes to your wellness. The thing that I was doing, in my example, actually wasn't healthy and it wasn't leading to me being physically well, because I was making myself sick. I was just saying to myself that's what self-care was. That is how I learned about it. When I heard people talk about self-care, it was that over indulgence.

Now, what I understand, for me, and I say this across the book, self-care really is about caring for the self.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

I talk about that in three different ways. Caring for yourself physically, so your body. Nutrition, sleep, exercise, stretching, breathing, relaxation, massages. Things that your body actually needs to be well.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

Emotional self-care for me, which is a range of things you can do to make sure that you are well emotionally. It's beyond therapy.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Yes, therapy is great but there are different kinds of therapy. Different forms of therapy, which are not always traditional. It's talking about what it means to take breathing breaks, which you're not only breathing, but you are processing your emotions. Taking time to check in with your body, to check in with yourself, and seeing where feelings are showing up is a kind of self-care.

Then, I talk about spiritual self-care, which is not connected at all to religion, but more to joy.

Edie:

To joy.

Shamari:

To joy. Joy as a thing that fuels us. The thing that, I think, is so integral to our humanity is joy and this connectedness. It's what makes us us.

That's how I've been reframing self-care, which means that it is ... Sometimes, it's work but it's more so how, it's all about how, we are taking care of ourselves. What are the things that we are doing, and checking in and saying, "Are these contributing to my wellness or not?" I'm not saying all things have to. I still love cookies. I still love brownies. I still bake.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

And at the same time, I'm always saying, "Am I being my healthiest self?"

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

Am I taking care of myself so that I can show up and love for myself and everyone else that I'm in relationships with, including young people who are my students?

Edie:

Yeah. I feel like some of that work, or the way I perceive it when I read your book, was the self-examination a little bit. Taking that step of self-examination.

Shamari:

That's right.

Edie:

To understand what care looks like.

Shamari:

That's right. And being honest.

Edie:

Yeah, exactly.

Shamari:

And being vulnerable.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

And reflecting. For me, every time I revisit that checking in with self, I discover new things.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

I'm like, "Oh, here's another thing I need to be physically well, that I wasn't aware of a month ago."

But to the point you just made, it is about constantly checking in with yourself and seeing what do you need to be well?

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

And only you know that.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

People can encourage and offer examples. But it's really about when you are still, and you've checked in with yourself. And you've asked yourself in a space where you feel safe enough, vulnerable enough to be honest with yourself, "Here are the things that I actually need physically, the things I need emotionally and spiritually to be well." And to lead a life of peace, and love and joy because all humans really deserve that. Even those who teach, especially those who teach.

Edie:

Right. Yeah. I love how you framed that in the being able, with this, being able to show up with love. How have you seen that showing up with love in the classroom lead to liberation?

Shamari:

That's a great question. I love it. So much I could say.

Edie:

I know.

Shamari:

But what I will say is-

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Here's what I will say.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

When I think about love and it's role in relationship deliberation, and how it has shown up in schools in ways that feel justice-oriented, ways that feel that they push us toward the world we all deserve, it comes back to relationships. With yourself and with young people. When love is present, I would like to believe and I've experienced, that it's from that place, that healthier place, that loving place, that we can actually have healthier relationships.

Meaning ... I talked about this a little bit today when I was talking with some other wonderful teachers in a session about the book, and this idea came up of when we get frustrated, when we get annoyed, when we become angry and that being the place from which we engage students. We end up saying and doing things that are not normal for us, but because in that moment-

Edie:

Gosh, it's-

Shamari:

We're just not well.

Edie:

No.

Shamari:

We're not okay.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

For me, love, of love of self and love of other people, means making sure that you are healthy enough and you are well enough, so that every relationship and every action flows from a healthy place and a loving place, and you can actually see people and see students in ways that are not blocked in or filtered by your frustration and by your anger, which are valid. I get it, I get tired, too.

Edie:

Yeah, right.

Shamari:

And frustrated, and annoyed. If I don't check in myself and don't take care of myself, I will begin to engage with young people from that place. And now, I'm bitter.

Edie:

Right.

Shamari:

And now, I'm jaded. Love keeps us grounded in that, keeps us hopeful, but also keeps us clear so that we can see and engage students from a place that makes sense to our hearts, and not a place of great frustration and great anger, which will happen if we don't take care of ourselves and we don't make sure we're well.

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

That's going to happen to any human.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

We become irritable, on the edge, et cetera. Which is nothing to be ashamed about, or feel bad about. It's an invitation, I think, to check in and say, "Okay, here's where I am. Something, I need something. What do I need to take care of myself to make sure that I'm not showing up in this way?"

Edie:

Yeah. You touched upon this a little bit in the beginning of the conversation, but how are teachers doing? How are teachers showing up?

Shamari:

Sure.

Edie:

What are you seeing?

Shamari:

Sure.

Edie:

Oh, yeah.

Shamari:

There's so much.

Edie:

I know.

Shamari:

You know what I think? There's a pattern, it's an unfortunate pattern. But a lot of the educators in my life who I know and who I have known for years, and I trust would be honest and vulnerable with me, have shared that they are tired. These are people who love the work.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

And feel called to the work. And want to do the work in ways that are loving, and that are effective, and contribute and move us closer to this world to be, but they're worn out and they're exhausted. That is what I'm hearing.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

In terms of what they need, I think it's space to figure out what they need. I think it is an invitation to say, "Let's pause for just a moment and ask yourselves what do you need?" To be well and to be rested.

But unfortunately, I don't know how often they get invited to check in with themselves. Often, they're invited to take on more work and to do more. They're being hurried and they're being rushed. "Do more faster. Move through that lesson plan faster. Get them ready for the test faster." But we are in a moment right now of various crises, and as humans we're effected. It's heavy. We carry it in the body and it can show up.

I think what they would need is space. It's space to reflect on what they need physically, emotionally and spiritually, as I said earlier. So that's what I'm hearing a lot of teachers in my life complain about, the lack of empathy they're getting from people outside the profession.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

People who don't understand what the work is that we do and who are saying, "Do more, do faster." That's so misguided and misinformed.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

We need the same breaks and the same moments of pause that everyone gets. Or, everyone else is encouraged to do. We should not feel bad or that we are neglecting our students because we need a moment to breathe.

Edie:

Yes. Yeah, you wish that for teachers don't you, in your book?

Shamari:

Yeah.

Edie:

Your book is such an invitation to engage in that.

Shamari:

Yeah, just to pause.

Edie:

Yeah, just to pause. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah, I love that. I'd love to hear a little bit about your journey in education.

Shamari:

Oh!

Edie:

Just a little bit.

Shamari:

Yeah, where do I start?

Edie:

Yeah. Start at the beginning.

Shamari:

I will. The beginning, I was not supposed to be a teacher. That was not the dream that people had for my life. Everyone wanted something else from me. I went with that. I was going to be a doctor. I was going to be this heart surgeon, because I always wanted to help people. I thought, I was told, that was the way to help. That was the way to spread kindness, and to spread love, and to care for folks is to work in medicine.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I got this great scholarship in this pre-med program. I was then supposed to go into med school and I hated it. It was awful. I loved the idea that I would be able to help people and impact people's lives, but the day-to-day-

Edie:

And that's a lot of schooling to hate.

Shamari:

It's just a lot. I was like, "Am I going to do this, really? Is this really going to be my story? I don't even like the sight of blood." In lab, we had to do anything with the dissections, I would run out. I failed my labs because I wouldn't go. Not because I couldn't. I was just like, "I don't want to touch any of that and there's blood involved."

I switched then to business, public relations. I was finding myself, trying to figure out how do I love on people in ways that make sense?

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I ended up in public relations. I remember being in class, and someone came, and was talking about some Disney World program. "Internship at Disney World, this number one PR place, public relations place. Come to Disney World and do an internship." I was like, "Sure. What do I have to lose?"

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

So I go to Disney World and I'm in class, learning about something about Disney, and Mickey Mouse comes in. Dressed up, being goofy, being silly. It was so much fun.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I got home and it was like, "But I had class today. Class was fun, and class was incredible. I feel really good. I want to be able to create that feeling for young people." I actually want young people to think about schools in that way. Where if it's Tuesday night and you have my class on Wednesday, you cannot sleep because you're so excited.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Remember the old commercial when the kid was like, "I can't sleep because it's Disney World." I wanted that for schools.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

That pushed me.

Edie:

I love that.

Shamari:

I was like, "I want to be a teacher."

Edie:

Yeah, I love that.

Shamari:

I was like, "I'm not going to be a doctor, I am not going to be a PR professional." I could. "I'm not going to do advertising." I did that for a day. I did music too, and art. "I'm not going to do any of those things. I want to be a teacher." Because not only do I want to create these fun generative spaces, it's a space which I can do all those things. I can think about music, and art, and culture, and language. I can dance, and I can sing, and I can teach. I could do everything that I've ever wanted to do and I can love on young people.

Then, that moved me into education. Then the question was what are you going to teach? I had no idea.

Edie:

Oh my gosh. Did you grow up multilingual?

Shamari:

No.

Edie:

Okay.

Shamari:

Once I decided what I was going to teach, I then went and learned Spanish.

Edie:

Oh, you did? Okay. Yeah.

Shamari:

I was like, "Spanish." I then moved to South America.

Edie:

You did? Ah.

Shamari:

I lived in Argentina.

Edie:

Okay. I was wondering where that came in.

Shamari:

You're like, "Where did you get that?"

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Yeah, I moved to South America, to Argentina, in a very small town. Not the capital, because I knew if I went there, I would speak English.

Edie:

Yeah, right.

Shamari:

So I went to a small town and I just immersed myself, and just tried learning Spanish just like that. It was really hard. I spent a lot of days frustrated because I couldn't communicate. It really, I think, also helped me become empathetic and to practice empathy, deep empathy, for people who end up in spaces where everything they know no longer serves them. They're being forced to be and show up in a way that doesn't make sense. That's how I learned it.

I lived in Argentina for a little while. Then, I lived in Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Spain. That was my journey of trying to learn Spanish the best way I could.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

As many dialects as I could.

Edie:

Dialects, yeah. Yeah.

Shamari:

Sure. And it worked. But I became fluent and began using the language then, to think about how to address issues. The first thing I did was worked with folks around citizenship. I was like, "I want to use this language more than just in the classroom. I want to change the world again." Just came back to why I wanted to be a doctor. I do want to actually save lives in a way.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

I actually want the world to be better off.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

Yeah, that was the journey to and through education. Then, I became frustrated as a teacher because I kept being told I couldn't do this, and I couldn't do that. I had all these wonderful, innovative ideas. I was like, "But what if we did this and took a field trip here?" I would always here from administration, "No, that's not what the research says. No, that's not what the people who study this say. No, we don't have any theories about that."

Then, I remember asking the principle, "Well, who is doing the research? Who are these scholars and theories?" They're like, "Oh, academics." I was like, "I want to be one of those." People was like, "What is he talking about?"

Then, I left the classroom to go back to school, to get the credentials so that I could then write stuff. And say, "Here's a theory."

Edie:

Yes.

Shamari:

We can do the fun thing, we can talk about love. We can talk about emotion in a school space.

Edie:

Yeah.

Shamari:

And we should be talking about that, because it's a part of what it means to be humans, and everyone in the school is human. Kids, staff, faculty, et cetera. We are all human. We cannot leave our humanity outside these school walls.

Edie:

So great to share this space with you. Thank you, Shamari.

Shamari:

Thank you.

Edie:

Thanks for tuning in today. For a full transcript and to learn more, please visit blog.heinemann.com.

Reid_HumansWhoTeach_FrCov_Selection_Final

 

Shamari's forthcoming book, Humans Who Teach, will be available on March 26th, 2024. Preorder Humans Who Teach

 


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ReidCroppedHeadshotShamari Reid (he/him/his) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at NYU. He has taught Spanish, English as a new language,  and ELA at the elementary, secondary, and post secondary levels in Oklahoma, New York, Uruguay, and Spain. As a scholar-educator, Shamari’s work centers love as a moral imperative in social justice education, and as a path toward culturally sustaining school communities.

Topics: Podcast, Heinemann Podcast, Shamari Reid, Humans Who Teach

Date Published: 01/25/24

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