Welcome to Water for Teachers, A Heinemann podcast focused on engaging with the hearts and humanity of those who teach. One thing we know for sure is that teachers are human. They have fears. They've experienced tragedy. They struggle. They are affected by crises and pandemics. And like everyone else, they deserve to lead lives full of peace, joy, and love. Join host Shamari Reid and other educators as they move from logic to emotion, from the head to the heart, from thinking to feeling, and from the ego to love.
This week, Shamari is joined by Shane Coleman, a physics teacher in Brooklyn, as they talk about teaching within the Black gaze, tuning into our inner selves, and finding joy in teaching.
Below is a transcript of this episode.
Shamari: Welcome, welcome. Welcome to episode six of Water For Teachers, where we're going to engage in another deep and beautiful conversation with another amazing human who teaches, Shane. But before we engage with Shane, I want to share something, a quick joyful story. After I share, I'll invite Shane to engage with me about any and everything, the story might bring up for us both.
The story I'm going to tell takes place like 11, 12 years ago. So we're going to go back in time...
I was an undergrad, and Shane you'll love this. I was a science major actually, but for me, I felt like my life was lacking something. And so on a whim, I decided to apply for an internship at Disney World, of all places. And it was a long shot, because there wasn't really an explicit connection between science and Disney, but I wrote about, in the application materials, about how I needed some, some time and space to explore and figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.
And so I got the internship, which was with Disney's College Program. And for six months, I worked in Hollywood studios and attended classes at Disney University, which is a real thing. They have accredited classes and et cetera, as long as the university accepts them.
And so, you can study at Disney, it's weird, but it's cool too. And so while at Disney, as one could expect, young people were everywhere and their energy was contagious, there were all these cultures, and languages, and different ways of being in the laughter, and the smiles, and the joy. It literally made my day. I looked forward to going to work and mind you, my work actually wasn't anything glamorous. I worked in the kitchen. I have all these actual scars on my hands too, from cooking and stuff, but that's what I did at it for six months and I studied.
And so one day, I'm in class and it was a marketing class, because at that time I was playing around with the idea of moving from science to public relations, in-door advertising. And so I'm in class, and I'm exhausted, because I had spent the night before running around Magic Kingdom with my coworkers. Because one of the perks about being a Disney Cast Member, is we get free entrance to the park 24/7. So, as long as we're not clocked in and we're working, we can go to any of the parks, including the water parks whenever we want. And so, one of my favorite things to do was go to Magic Kingdom and watch this firework show called Wishes. And it's music and fireworks may have some characters, but it used to make me cry. I don't know.
I used to feel so happy and like, "Wow, look at life." And so I would run after work from Hollywood studios and I would take the bus, and I would go to Magic Kingdom to see Wishes. And my friends... I knew the best spots, we could climb up onto the rocks where no one was and we could watch the show. And so, we had done that the night before. And so I'm in class, and I'm exhausted, and I'm not engaged at all. And then out of nowhere, Mickey Mouse comes into class. And let me share, I didn't grow up as a Mickey Mouse fan. That wasn't really my guy, because actually I had another episode. I'm terrified of mice and rodents: it's a phobia for me, I don't like them.
And so Mickey wasn't really my thing. But seeing him come into class, I got this overwhelming feeling of joy, surprise, fantasy and I started thinking, "This is really dope. What's going to happen in the next class? Who's going to come next? Who were Mickey's friends? Are they going to bring them?" And I don't know why they were there, I didn't really care. But I forever held onto that feeling. And I started thinking, "Why can't school or class always feel like this?" And I was reminded of those old Disney World commercials, where there were young kids in the bed, and it was late at night, and the parents were like, "Oh, we're going to Disney tomorrow." And then the child would be in bed, and they would be cheesy and like, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh."
And the parents would go like, "What's going on in here?" And the children would say, "I'm too excited to sleep." And I was like, "Why can't school be like that place?" Where kids are in bed and they're like, "Oh, I got this class tomorrow. I'm too excited, I'm too excited." And so I decided in that moment in trying to figure out why Mickey Mouse was there. I decided that I wanted to teach, and that I wanted to recreate that feeling and that joy with young people in the classroom. And so I always say that my career in education started with joy. And as Walt Disney always said, "It all started with a mouse."
First let's talk to Shane. Shane is a physics teacher, a Springfield, Massachusetts native and doctoral candidate at Teacher's College in New York City. For the past seven years, Shane has worked at three different high schools teaching a variety of subjects from astronomy and space science to computer science. His interests are in developing a community of radical progressive educators, that see science education as a key to liberation and from public schools to private corporations, the history of science education, enthralls him. Shane, thank you for joining us. And I'll open with a very simple question, what's on your mind?
Shane: Shamari, first of all, that's the most amazing opening to a podcast I've ever heard. You speak for the people. But, I had to close my eyes and allow myself to really hear that. And what's on my mind right now, as you talk, "Bro, what! Disney you get to go there anytime?" How old were you?
Shamari: I think I was 20 or 19 somewhere around there. And it was my backyard, it was my backyard.
Shane: I know that we of course, as educators want our students to go to college and go into higher education, but now I want my kids to know that they can work at Disney and they can have all access 24 hours to the park.
Shamari: And you're in school. And so, I want to say to everyone listening. It's a lot of fun, but it was the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do. Because I had 40 to 60 hour work weeks. And I think everyone knows Disney doesn't really close or slow down. So it's not like you have lags, you do a little work and then there's a break. When you're on that clock, there are people all day long who need something, who need your service. And so I was doing that, taking classes online back at home, and going to Disney University. So I deserved a night out. I deserved those excursions through the park.
Shane: I love that. That's like that balance between mic. Yes it was this amazing, like a magical experience also like capitalism and the way that corporations work.
Shamari: Very much that, but the magical version.
Shane: Yes. Yes.
Shamari: When did you know you wanted to teach?
Shane: That came up from me as well. Whenever I'm asked that question, I always think like, "Oh, I should come up with this one moment, this one time-"
Shamari: A Mickey Mouse moment.
Shane: Yeah like a Mickey Mouse moment. And I definitely have that. I think that it's a little bit like... I don't know. It's queued up though. It's like, "When you're at a party and the DJ's playing a song; the song that they play at at 1:00 AM, when everyone's at peak party." I'm saying this because quite of my quarantine self just slightly misses the little bit of extroversion of going out. But that's what I feel led to my ability to think of myself. Because, to think that I was going to be a teacher, I had to actually believe that like, "I, Shane Coleman could do that."
My grandmother was an educator, so she was a para professional. I think I should add to this story. She was the caretaker and one of the teachers at the preschool that I went to, which is a little corny, but also cute. Because I didn't of course know, but that made sense. My family had planned this out, like, "Oh, let's, let's send him to the school that she works at so that he's taken care of all throughout the day." And then she worked at my elementary school, and I never saw her as a teacher. When you're young, you have this vision of teachers, there are like these really weird people that appear in this classroom every day. You never see them outside of it.
That's like the no-no. And when you see them, they exist as this snapshot of someone. And in that snapshot, the best teachers I had, I was like, "I couldn't do this. Me? A child?" So I don't think it was then that the songs started to queue up for me to become a teacher. But I definitely think this one moment, let me know that those people were humans. It's because I, of course, as an elementary school kid, I didn't care about my grandma working there. I was like, "I want friends, I want fun." I like to learn it that time. And that was in class one day goofing off. I think it was becoming more real, that I was growing up. It was that moment in time, when you were young, where you started to realize that like, these people called adults, you ended up being them?
I struggled with the myth that the name that you had when you were older was the same age name you had when you were younger. That doesn't make sense to me today. So, my grandma's name was Mercedes, "Are you telling me that she was born Mercedes?" Childhood Shane didn't understand that. So, I had all these misconceptions about what it meant to be an adult and grown in a professional. And now that I think about it, the moment that I knew, that I could be an educator, that I could be an adult, that I could be a person who serves others, who assist others, who attempts to at least. I was sitting in class, it was like second or third grade, goofing off of course, because I had finished my work I think, I thought I finished my work, which is how our students talk about that process. And my grandmother walked by the classroom and I saw her.
And I was like, "Was that my grandma?" Because as a kid, you're like, your day goes by like that. A thousand things happen in one day, I saw this person walk by and I was like, "Is that my...?" And then she walked backwards past the door, slowly shuffling her feet. And I heard the same sound of her feet shuffle that I would hear when she cooked in the kitchen, when I was home at night. And I realized, I was like, "Yo my grandma exists as not only this lady that feeds me, and takes care of me, and chasing me around the house, but this woman that is an educator, an adult and a professional." It was these two worlds that clash for me. And I think that started the train of me becoming an educator later on. I wonder if my mom sees it differently, but I think that's when it started for me, it was that element.
Shamari: I love that you bring it up that teachers weren't real or they didn't exist. As a child I thought the same thing. And when I would see them in the grocery store, I'd be like, "What are they doing here? Why are you grocery shopping? Who are you with? You're married? You have children?" It was this thing that all they did was teach. And if they weren't teaching, they were thinking about teaching. And so thank you for bringing that up. I hadn't even thought about that, but to be on a podcast like this, in which we're seeking to humanize teachers, you're right. We are sort of brought up, some of us, to believe that teaching is their everything and their only thing.
So let me switch. And so we think about teaching and I taught language. You're a science educator. Have you always loved science? And then I have a really hard question that I ask scientists and they hate but I'm going to ask you anyway, have you always loved science and what is science to you?
Shane: Oh, see I love that question. I love that. I can see how people who call themselves scientists may, but I don't call myself a scientist. I struggle with that. My principal calls me a physicist and I'm just like, "Excuse me?"
Shamari: Wait, wait, before you answer the question. Why not? What are you then?
Shane: I guess that's what I still work on because majoring in STEM in college is a social order, right? It has this whole caste system of what you get for your GPA. I can tell you right now, and I will say on wherever this goes, your boy was not a good STEM major. I don't get to walk with the ranks of people who are like, "Yeah, I had a 4.3 GPA." I'm like, "Yo. I barely got by." And I think that still kind of resounds in me because one of the things that I want to do after I get my doctorate... Knock on all the wood. Just pushing myself through it, Shamari.
Shamari: You got it, man.
Shane: I got it. One of the things I want to do is I want to go back into science and that's because I have always loved science. And what I define science to be is this unbridled curiosity, somewhat joy. I think of curiosity and joy as similar because both kind of require imagination. And I think of the first time that I felt that unbridled... I felt crazy with how maddening it seemed to me that there was this thing about the world that I didn't know. And I was like, "You want to run that by me one more time? The sky is..." And it was...
If I could talk about that moment briefly, there was a elder in our family circle. As you know, for Black people, everybody's family. So this was a friend of my grandmother's. She was friends with this married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Cox, and Mr. Cox was the smoothest smartest dude you had ever, ever heard. I have his old engineering instruments on my wall.
And I think about it so much now because he was a scientist, I would think, but he never talked about it like that. He just asked me questions and I was like six years old and I probably didn't care about it. I was like, "I don't know," but he engaged me in the process of science, in the process of asking questions and wondering what the answer was and not needing the answer. I hope that answers the question.
Shamari: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So let me tell you this. So I snoop on the people who are going to be on the podcast, and as I say in every episode, I don't know you all before. I know you from an entrance form that you filled out. We have a brief conversation. There are some email exchanges, but I ask for social media handles so that I can go and dig and snoop and like, "Who are these humans who teach?" And I was going through your social media and I saw that you were a gamer. And so I was like, "I got to ask him about the PS5. Does he have it? Why or why not? Do you like it?"
Shane: Oh man. So many thoughts. Oh God. I want to reference one of the earlier podcasts, I remember him naming themselves Pokémon trainer. And I was like, "Dang, I forgot to do that."
Shamari: Are you a Pokémon trainer?
Shane: I'm a Pokémon trainer. I am a Pokémon ...
Shamari: Top three Pokémon. Go.
Shane: Oh, first of all, OG Squirtle always. Squirtle squad to the day I die, gang. I'm going to have to say close to that, coming up right next is going to be Bulbasaur. And people always hate on Bulbasaur, like "Oh, it's one of the top three, it's one of the top three." Bulbasaur is the homie. If you remember the Indigo league, if you remember those early Pokémon days, Bulba was the cutest Pokémon, he was the most earnest, and just that water and leaf mixture, having that team and duo, that was always the kind of trainer I wanted to be. Geez, Shamari, you just tapped into my child court. And I'm thinking about the third one, and I think it's the most powerful, I think Mew. I think Mew was one of the most powerful Pokémon 151. And I just want that... If I had a squad of three only, it would be an unevolved Squirtle, unevolved Bulbasaur and a Mew just to-
Shamari: Unevolved? So you're not even trying to... Wow.
Shane: Oh yeah, bro. We min-max over here. We stat-ed it up over here. We get the right berries. We get the right things.
Shamari: But you don't have a PS5 that's... You didn't-
Shane: No, yeah. Because I'm a PlayStation kid through and through. My mom first graced me as a Christmas present, wow that brings me back, probably 16 years ago. I was just really on top of my stuff. I was a good kid by her measurements, I think. I guess I deserved it. And I got this PlayStation. I remember I'd had gaming systems, but this was the one, right? It was PlayStation. It was all hyped up. And I just, since then, I just realized, my mom probably worked hours to get that bread. So when I get my next PlayStation, the PS5, it will be like her the year after it came out because I can't afford that. I'm all set. I don't need that right now. I got these calm graphics with the PS4 and I've been loving the game so far for it.
Shamari: We love it. I love games and I always have. I connect video games to my younger sister who I lost, and I talk about her in another episode, but she and I would spend most of our childhood playing video games. And it was the coolest thing. We played race car games, fighting games, sports games sometimes, simulation games, RPGs, fantasy, Pokémon. We did all the things. We had all the systems. We would beg my mother all year. And she would say, "You already have a PS2." And I was like, "Yeah, we want X-Box. Oh, we want a so-and-so." So we had all these systems and we would spend all day playing games until my mother would come and be like, "Come eat," and we'd go eat and go back to play games.
And so people always I guess are shocked to learn that I'm a video gamer. I guess they don't connect me with that. But video games bring me joy. They bring me so much joy. Shane, what brings you joy?
Shane: Right now, it's video games a lot too. And as you're saying that, I'm thinking about all those times where what video games gave to me was that joy. Right now, actually right before I got on the call with y'all, I was playing Minecraft and... Literally. Full frontal. I'm 32 years old. I will never be ashamed. What I am wondering Shamari is what you saw on my Instagram page that gave me out?
Shamari: You were going back and forth with someone who had written something in one of the game magazines. Y'all were going back... Arguing.
Shane: Oh yeah. Oh wow.
Shamari: How much of a gamer... That he is willing to... He reads the game magazines and writes back to the authors and engages in conversations. I was like, "He's a gamer."
Shane: That leads perfectly into my answer, I think, because joy for me, the basic description is freedom, is liberation. And the idea that I can create and exist in creation and not have to worry about someone trying to rob that from me. I think that argument I was having was about someone who was trying to metastize and I don't know. Why would you encroach upon someone else's ability to game and enjoy their gaming? How dare you sir.
Shamari: Scientifically, if we can, if we can. Can you create joy? How does it work for you? Does it come from within? Is it triggered or released by external things? Talk to me scientifically. Break down joy, how you're living your life and...
Shane: So as a physics teacher, I kind of have to... I have a way of looking at this that is somewhat systematized. And I apologize for that full front, because sometimes it gets into, oh, vibrations and wavelengths and all that stuff is valid and true and joy exists as this thing that I think of. And I do think it's entirely external because what I think is we're entirely external as well, right? If I see myself in the scope of our universe, of our physical universe... I follow Hank Green on Tik Tok and he was saying this. He's like, "We're just chemical reactions, each of us. We're just individual chemical reactions that think and choose and desire and display."
And I took that route of perceiving myself as such, as external, as something that exists of my environment. Not necessarily... I'm not the main character, right? I don't traverse the game with all the options or whatever. I'm not even the player controlling the stick, right? I feel as if I am just the simple, synchronous reason why those two have an understanding of each other.
I don't think I can create joy. I don't think I can do that. I can... For example, I try to draw. One of my students, we have a thing. She provides me everyday to draw. And I say, "You're attacking me, first of all. This is a personal attack." But she's an artist and so it's one of her mechanisms too. And I can't just like... And I think that's part of the reason why... I heard, you mentioned the idea of ego.
If I'm able to deflate my ego to the base level of who I am and my existence, I become almost infinitely joyful. I start doing and creating. I start drawing. I start singing. I start running. I started doing all these things. I don't think I can create joy. I only think I can set up a system in which it can manifest. It can operate. I think I can harness it, but let it go. As soon as it comes... We talk so much I think sometimes about what it means to be happy and joyful. And I don't think we talk about what happens after and that balance and that exchange.
Shamari: And I think for me that's always been my work. I can get to happy places sometimes. I'm like, "Oh, I'm really happy. There's a joy here." My question is always, how do I stay here? What comes next? What was it about this moment that made me feel so much joy and so much happiness? The Mickey Mouse moment I think about a lot, especially as a teacher, what was it about that moment? Was it the surprise? Was it the shock? Was it that I had just seen my favorite fireworks show the night before and the combination of fireworks and... What was it? And so to go back to your point, what comes next? What are the next steps? How do we stay here?
My therapist and I are always like, "Shamari, you seem really good right now." And I'm like, "Yes. And I want to stay here. So I'll see you next week, Thursday at 11 o'clock," because I want to sort of pick apart why I'm here, why I feel like it is. What is this? And I want to hold onto it for as long as I can. And so I'm thinking about that and this sort of time of collective crises, and many of us would say we've been living in crisis since the day we were born, since this country was sort of founded. It's always been some kind of crisis. But what have you drawn on or what has been a source of joy for you during this time of collective crisis?
Shane: It's just such a good question. I wanted to take that moment, just real quick, to... For one, harmonize, like... This current crisis, we talk about generations and we think about impact. Something happened to my great-grandmother that made her or allowed her... Something she harnessed allowed her to start a family with my great-grandfather. And then they made my grandmother, who grew up in a world and a generation of which some crises happen to her. Yet I know that woman, in my life, 70 years later to express joy. And this time, both socially, politically, emotionally, spiritually has allowed me to hone in on that echo, right?
And I think often we say history repeats itself. Okay. What parts of history repeat themselves? Who decides that? My ancestors decided at some point, they were going to forward joy. I've seen my mother laugh, my father laugh, I've seen my grandparents laugh. And I think laughter, physically, is this thing. I can't laugh continuously, I couldn't laugh all day. I'd probably be-
Shamari: It hurts.
Shane: You... Shamari, you have that belly laugh. People who can laugh... A good laugh is something, I think, is that, again, that unbridled, unrestrained... I still struggle with that, because when I laugh, when I get a good [laughs] in, it comes from all these different points.
Shamari: Wait, what was that? That was like from a video game.
Shane: I've been playing Kingdom Hearts, and every character is getting to me.
I've harnessed so much. So for one, I bought about 18 video games throughout the course of this pandemic, and within quarantine, gaming and getting back into gaming, using it as an outlet, it's only brought me back in. And what has it really taught me? What has it really shown me? It's like, I just have... I think sometimes we over-complicate our jobs here. I just have a really simple job. I choose it, for one, and I can choose it right now, to be. I can simultaneously recognize everything that is happening around and everything that's happening inside of me. I can work to better understand that. And I can also create opportunities for joy.
And they've been so few and far in between... However, they've been there. And I can't ever say that they haven't. And I was able to, and I will be able to in the future recreate those moments, because someday they'll be historical. Someday that joy will echo into someone else.
Maybe my students, maybe, hopefully, someday if I have children or my partner and I have children, of course, cause I can't do that on my own. There's just this element of what I put forward into the world, what I want to do. Even if I'm walking down the street and I say hi to someone, any opportunity I have to create a system in which joy can flourish. This has been one of those times.
And I can say that that's been a lot of my processes throughout the last few months. Is just thinking about that, thinking about that echo. And when I hear it, not moving into it and not doing something when I feel it, but just stopping and just tasting it.
Shamari: That's right.
Shane: Drinking it in, if you will.
Shamari: That's right. It sounds to me like you're talking about this awareness and this ability and willingness to be fully present with what is, and so that when we feel these things, you're aware, of the joy or the happiness or whatever you define it as, and you're fully present with it. You actually enjoy it. You actually enjoy it. And so I wrote... Where are we? Some time, maybe 10 months ago, I was trying to explore the hardest lesson I had to learn. That was a question that I think Oprah throws out to guests, and I was like, what is the lesson that took me the longest to learn? And for me, it was being fully present. And so I had to write my way into that.
It was really hard for me to be with what is. I was someone who was like, oh, but the past, oh, but the future. And that was all of my ego. That was also space for anxiety to enter my life, so much, because the past is a gateway to my trauma. And then the future is anxiety because it's not here yet. And I was like, wait, the past is not anymore, and the future is not real. What you have right now, this is all that matters. This is all that exists. Be with it. Be aware of it. Be aware of the fear, if that's what it is. Be aware of it. You don't have to lean into it, but you can be aware of it. And if it's joy, you can be aware of the joy and be present with joy.
And so I asked all of the guests on this show in the entrance form, what was the lessons that took them the longest to learn. And you said it took you a very long time to learn how to listen to yourself, your heart, your mind, your body and your spirit. And so I want to ask, well then, what clicked for you? How did you learn to listen to yourself? Was it a moment, a series of moments? What clicked, where you were like, wow, that's me communicating to myself and I am now in a space to receive it?
Shane: Imagine that you were born with headphones in your ears, and whoever was controlling the headphones just kept playing Kidz Bop, old nineties retro disco, the kind you hear at two o'clock in the morning and think you were in a fever dream. And they keep playing this music. It's low though. It's like a dull hum. And it's always on. Sometimes it turns up, sometimes it turns down. And at any point in time, of course you start asking yourself, when there's no one around when it is still, when it is quiet... For me, it was like a little bit of anger, who is that? I'm not playing that music. Those aren't my tunes. Those aren't my tracks. Those rhythms aren't my beat.
And it was simply... And my therapist and I will talk about this so much, it was simply just, it only took that one question. Who's playing the music?
And, I remember it was probably August... My birthday's in July, which is another reason why I love...
Shamari: July what?
Shane: July 20th.
Shamari: You're a Cancer?
Shane: Yes sir.
Shane: Bring it in. Bring it in.
Shamari: Yeah, keep going.
Shane: I was like, I want to hear it.
Shamari: I'm a whole cancer, like a whole... Yes, water signs, but to go back, yeah.
Shane: All signs are beautiful. All the signs of beautiful in our way. But yeah, I think as a water sign, as I identify as a Cancer and I use that language to... Because that's what it is for me, it's language. Language is helpful. And it allows me to navigate these things, metaphorically, and for me, anxiety and doubt and fear are like water. I feel like I'm drowning. However, we know, philosophically, that that feeling of drowning, it can just be undone. You can, for example, just say to yourself, what am I breathing? And all of a sudden, it's water, and I can go up for air.
And it was in September or August that I came up for air for one of the first times in my life. And it wasn't long. It wasn't even joyous, Shamari, to be honest with you. It simply was a moment in which I took my hand to my ear and I took out the earphone and I heard nothing for the first time.
And I got super scared and I put the headphones back in and I was like, no, I'm good with this, okay. Cause that was creepier. And that lesson, I guess, and the lessons that I've received throughout my life, I've had to recognize they're being sent from somewhere else. Everything is being sent from elsewhere. How many things are we...
And if I look around my room and I see what I've created and I see the world that I've made for myself, everything that I've created around me is just a mirror. And the things that often are coming from other people, and for educators, I think we all know that sound, right? It starts when we were in academics. It's the sound of the good teachers, the bad teachers, the scary teachers, the kind teachers. And it's the way that we have to act.
I was solving a math problem for my kids the other day, cause I was about to teach them it, and I started panicking when I couldn't figure out the answer. And that panic was deep set, Shamari. It was all the way from, you don't deserve your degrees, take them down, and all these different... And I realized, I just took out the headphones again. And I realized, that wasn't me. I wasn't talking. That was someone else.
Shamari: The ego.
Shamari: The ego.
Shamari: Yeah. And ego, we know, lives in a constant state of never being satisfied, of never enough or too much, right? And it communicates all the time. You're not good enough, or you're too much. You're too loud. You're not pretty enough. You're too big. You're too small.
And I love that you've arrived at this place where you can recognize that, and take the headphone out. I think that level of awareness and of being present that I think I'm still trying to learn. I am still growing in my ability to recognize that's just the ego or those are messages that we've learned from society or those are ideas and beliefs that have been created and designed with a specific purpose. To get me and people like me to believe that we don't matter.
But I can take the headphones out. And I can say to myself, I know I matter, because I'm here, and because I'm breathing. I don't need any other confirmation but that. I know that I matter because I exist. And then I know that if I weren't here or any of us weren't here, the entire world would shift. That's how I know that I matter.
And so hearing you talk about it and using this metaphor of the headphones... It's beautiful, but it's also really helpful. We think about that, it's helping me articulate, that's what it is. It's an awareness that there are headphones in your ears, giving you messages that may or may not serve you, and that you can take them out.
I got to ask, who is one of your favorite people?
Shane: One of my favorite people?
Shamari: Yeah, just a question that just came up for me now.
Shane: Who I favor most? Who I favor right now? That's my partner. She has found a way throughout the course of the time that we've known each other, that we've become close. She's found a way to... I don't know how, I have no idea how, but she's found a way to attempt to try to understand me as a person. And I've hoped that I've done the same for her.
The idea of favoring is challenging to me because I feel as if I'm betraying everyone else when I'm saying that, and then I remember that it's not about that. When you asked that question, I thought you were asking... I heard you asking, my ego heard you say, who's your favorite student? And I was like, hmm, I don't want to go with the, I don't have one, because I do, there is someone I favor as my student right now. And yeah, my partner is that person in my life. She deserves that honor. Yeah.
Shamari: I ask people all the time, who do you love and these kinds of questions. And many of them have reactions that you've had. And I've had like, "Oh my gosh, no, there are so many. I don't want to choose. I don't want someone to feel left out." And I always say, we don't have to move as if there isn't enough for all of us.
Shane: Right, yeah.
Shamari: Love and peace and joy, there's enough for all of us. There's enough. It's who is one of your favorite people? You could have millions. There are what? Seven point something billion people, you can have that many. Thank you for that. So the next few questions I want to ask, I ask to every guest on the show, and then the final question, I'm going to just ask you as we think about the theme of today and think about joy. As a human who teaches, what do you wish others knew about you and your work?
Shane: I'm ready for this one. This is the one that I needed no breath. I wish that people knew that what I have in mind is far more easy than what we're doing right now. I wish that people knew that the key, actually, no, there's no need for the idea of the key. There's no door. It's just a path. And it may not look like a pathway right now. It may not seem real. It may not seem tangible to walk on this place that looks both far too soft and yet far too challenging to navigate.
However, it is just right there. It is just beyond our egos. It is just one step in a direction that we haven't taken yet. And that's okay. And I just wish that folks. And I say folks, I mean me, as well, because I'm just using them as a mirror to talk about the things that I'm most afraid of. I am afraid too, I'm scared too, of what it will look like when we say no. When we say no to these systems, to these structures, to these age old mechanisms of comfort that we have hoped for so long have kept us in the same place and realize that we never wanted to be in the same place in the first place. We're not meant to be.
I imagine a world, full sentence, that's it. That's my power. I can imagine a world. And the thing that has been robbed from us most is the ability to imagine. Microaggressions steer our day. We just have to figure out which one we don't want to bump into at each individual point. And as an educator, we know imagination is the key to what we do. We know that if we didn't have it, it would be so challenging to walk into that classroom every day or to open up our laptops every day for the current situation that we're in. At the same time, we still do it. We can apply that to something a little bit bigger and not bigger, bigger than us, bigger than me. It's just big. How about that? It's just a big idea. And I know it's scary because it's scary for me, but it's possible.
Shamari: Yeah. Would you say or offer to other educators right now?
Shane: Capture everything. And when I say capture everything, I think people are automatically going to say, "I'll record, transcribe or interview or locate." And I say, "No, no, no." Capturing, I don't think requires a lot of those different things. Capturing and documenting and storytelling, that's all we have to do. We don't have a big job right now. We just have to remember this. We have to remember this and who was important because we know that the systems will maintain, but we have to recognize who were the players? Who played the game and how did it come out? Did I play the game? Was I one of the players? And it's okay if I was, or wasn't it. All that is inconsequential to our simple need, my simple need, to just capture it all and to not forget about it. You see those TikTok videos where it's 20 years from now and the kid mentions what happened in 2020? And I'm like, "No, I'm going to speak about it." I'm going to speak about it in 2021 and 2022.
Shamari: Yes, yes, yes. So this podcast is called Water for Teachers. And we now know we're both water signs. Water for me is a really important thing. And I call it a thing because it's so many things in my life, but it reminds me to relax, to breathe, to nourish my body, to reflect, to heal. But I want to ask you, what is your water?
Shane: Home. Again when I say home, what comes to mind? The ego thinks about a bed, a place to sleep. A fridge to eat from. And home has become so much more than that for me, because now we work from home and some people are recharacterizing that of saying like, "No, our jobs have just infiltrated our work places, our home places." Right? They have just infiltrated and found a way, capitalism is all up in my crib. Eating the food out of my fridge. I had to navigate that. Of course, I think everyone has to in their own way. And I think what I've found the most is that when there is nothing to do and there was no one to please, who am I? And that is home. And that is the warmest place I could ever exist. That is the most satisfying place.
Once everyone around me is healed and once I am healed and I envision and imagine a world in which this is possible in my lifetime, I will then be home. And I have to know what that feels like now. I have to taste it now and try it on. I struggle to drink water. I struggle to give myself that little bit of home, but every day I just give myself a little bit more.
Shamari: That's right. That's right. Our final question, where do you find joy in teaching?
Shane: They still have their imaginations. And those imaginations cause them to say wild things, to do wild things, to be in wild places and to scare us as adults. But when my grandmother walked backwards through that doorway, when I was eight years old, and immediately the world became a cartoon. And I realized that even though I was in school, trying to make myself and my family proud, I didn't need all that to make this person that literally saw this thing, this kid, this creature that's running around, causing all this mayhem. And she cared at that moment in time, not about her job, not about me being in school. She cared about making me laugh. As she walked backwards, she did a little moonwalk as she shuffled backwards, she was getting up in her age, Shamari. She found a way to do that.
And she didn't make a lot of jokes. She wasn't a very funny woman to me, but when she did that, she broke that veil. And I can allow myself to know from that point forward, that when we look at our young people, when we hear them, we hear their voices because we don't see them anymore. Something is happening right now. We all know what it is and if we can give them anything, it's just a space to keep that one thing that we know the world doesn't want them to have. This is an imagination, the silliest, goofiest form, the ability to laugh from the belly to the throat.
Shamari: Yeah. Thank you.
For those of you at home listening, as always, I would love to invite you to join this conversation. And so I want you to reflect on the question I just asked Shane, where do you find joy in your teaching? And if you're feeling up to it, share your reflections and thoughts with us. I would love, we would love to engage with you in your humanity.
You can share your responses on Twitter using the hashtag #water4teachers or tag us, using our Twitter handle @water4teachers. That's the number four.
But when you identify this place that you find the joy in your teaching, wherever it is, whatever it is, hold onto it. Hold onto it. Thank you, Shane and a heartfelt thanks to all of you for listening. Until next time, in peace and love and joy. Bye.
Shamari K. Reid
I often refer to myself as an ordinary Black Gay cisgender man from Oklahoma with extraordinary dreams. Currently, that dream involves completing my doctoral work at Teachers College, Columbia University in the department of Curriculum & Teaching where I focus on urban education and teacher education. Before starting my doctoral program, I completed a B.A. in Spanish Education at Oklahoma City University and an M.A in Spanish and TESOL at New York University. I've taught Spanish and ESL at the elementary, secondary, and post secondary levels in Oklahoma, New York, Uruguay, and Spain. In addition to my doctoral work, I have spent the last few years as an instructor at Hunter College- CUNY offering courses on the teaching of reading, urban education, and language, literacy, and culture. I have also been engaged in work as a consultant for the New York City Department of Education’s initiative to combat the discrimination students of color face. My research interests include Black youth agency, advocacy, and activism and transformative teacher education. I am currently in the process of completing my dissertation on the agency of Black LGBTQ+ youth in NYC. Oh, and I have small addiction to chocolate chip cookies.
Shane Coleman is a physics teacher, Springfield, Massachusetts native, and doctoral candidate at Teacher's College, Columbia University in New York City. For the past seven years, Shane has worked at three different high schools, teaching a variety of subjects from Astronomy & Space Science to Computer Science. His interests are in developing a community of radical, progressive educators that see science education as a key to liberation. From public schools to private corporations, the history of science education enthralls him. He seeks to finalize his doctorate in the next few years and continue working at his current high school, the Academy for College Preparation & Career Exploration in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY.