In the Spring of 2021, we brought you Water for Teachers with host Shamari Reid, a podcast aimed at connecting with the hearts and the humanity of humans who teach. As we continue to plan episodes for a future season of Water for Teachers, and as we come to the close of a truly unprecedented year of teaching, we wanted to be sure to check back in with our teacher friends.
We hope these “sips” episodes will help you to replenish, reconnect, and reinvigorate your heart, body, and mind over the summer. We’ll add each new episode to this blog, but we encourage you to subscribe to The Heinemann Podcast wherever you listen.
Below is a transcript of this episode.
Shamari: What an incredible first season. You know, I will be forever grateful to all the beautiful humans who teach for joining me to engage in such vulnerable conversations for the first season of Water for Teachers. And to all of you who have listened each week, I appreciate you.
And I am really beyond excited to share that season two is coming! While we anxiously await season two, you know we couldn't leave you with nothing. So this summer we've decided to release mini episodes featuring yours truly. And in the spirit of fun, corniness, and water, we're calling these mini episodes "sips." Because as humans who teach, we've got to stay hydrated and nourished, because we deserve it!
Okay ya'll, so forgive me if I sound a little winded or out of breath, but I just come back in from a wonderful bike ride around Central Park with my favorite Mariah Carey playlist, which I have titled "Mariah Bops." And I just got to say, it's insane I think just how many hits she really has, and how deep her catalogue is.
And so imagine this: I have this purple bike. And it's like a deep purple, kind of like a gem tone. I love gem tones by the way, so if you ever see my house it's like a kaleidoscope of just gem tones. So the bike is this really deep purple, and it has these baby blue handle bars. And I'm now wondering if I can include a photo in the description of this episode. Maybe I can, you know because folks always ask like what kind of bike is it, what kind of model? Yeah ya'll I don't know. I'm not really a biker like that. It was a gift that I tried to return but the person really wanted me to have it, and so I kept it.
So this afternoon, I was riding my bike. And slowly as I make my way to the park, the buildings turned into trees, right? And the car horns and the sirens and the sound of the trains brakes, were replaced with birds singing, as to accompany Mariah in my headphones. Joining in perfect harmony, was also the beautiful laughter of children, the bells of other bike riders, and people singing their favorite songs as the ran alongside me in the running lane.
I was in the park, on my bike, with Mariah, nature, and other beautiful humans. And as I picked up speed during the end of the first hill, the wind sort of teased my hair and gently caressed my face. And as Mariah sang about finding love on the fourth of July, the sun was as present as I was.
Bike riding and Mariah for me are two things that always invite me to reflect. And so while yes, I get some necessary exercise, I get to think. And so before my bike ride I was trying to get through some grading, because I felt behind, and final grades are due for me soon. But I just... I couldn't do it. I didn't have it. You know after being on Zoom teaching all day, I had nothing left to give. And so I decided to go for a bike ride instead of beating myself up about all the things that I hadn't gotten to do.
And so on my bike, I remembered that as human who is teaching and living during a time of collective crisis, I have to extend grace to myself. And I have got to hold onto my redefinition of productivity in a time of collective crisis.
Earlier this year, after feeling unaccomplished, I felt behind in many ways. I had to pause. And really sit with how I had been conditioned by capitalism, but really other forces too, to feel like I was only as valuable as the things that I could do or produce. I had to sit with this idea that as humans who teach, I was expected... I think we're expected sometimes to deny our humanity, right? And ignore our needs to serve others. And so I had to unlearn that. I had to unlearn that I could not just go on and on and on, and teach on Zoom all day and then grade all night, and then on repeat. I could not compare myself to how I was before this crisis.
I had to accept reality. And my bike ride today ya'll, reminded me of that. Which lead me to these sort of three things that I want to share with you.
The first thing I think I had to do, in thinking about what it means for me to really address my expectations during this time, is I had to admit to myself... and I know that I said this somewhere on season one of the podcast, on Water for Teachers... but I know I said this. That I had to admit to myself that this was my current reality. That I was living in a pandemic. And that ignoring this crisis, was not healthy for me or my students. I had to accept that I feel drained. I have less energy. I take longer to grade. I tale longer to respond to emails. Sometimes, I'm lesson planning right before class. And that is my truth.
But in admitting that to myself, I was able to extend some grace to myself, and focus on the things that I needed physically, emotionally, spiritually, to sort of make it through this moment with some peace and love and joy, because I deserve it. And so I stopped beating myself up, and I started giving myself what I needed. And it began with one, admitting to myself where we are in this moment.
The second thing I wanted to share was that I had to admit it to my students. And that was actually an easier conversation than I thought it would be. You know I simply said to them, "Look ya'll. I know you have become used to something from me. I used to grade a lot faster. I was probably a lot faster responding to emails, and maybe I seemed overall that I had more energy... that's just not where I am right now. As you all are navigating what it means to learn in a time of collective crisis, and really social distancing, as a human who teaches I am also navigating the same things. What it means to teach during these times. And the truth is, while I will of course extend grace to you all as you explore learning during this time, I need to ask for the same grace from you. And understanding if I am not as fast as I used to be, or as you would like for me to be... If I don't seem as responsive. It's hard for me too. And I'm trying to do the best that I can."
The third thing that I had to do was admit it to my administration. And really not even admit it to them, but to just share with them where I was, ask for grace, and articulate my needs. To say "hey, I am... I'm trying. But it's really hard for me. And here is what I need from you all as I try to do this as effectively, but also as healthily as possible. I need time, and I need patience."
And so I just share those three things with you all, and really with myself again, just to remind us to extend grace to ourselves, ya'll. That we can rest when we need to. We can ride our bikes or go for walks when we need to. We can stop grading when we need to. We are more than our productivity. And I now that's hard to navigate as not only people and humans who teach, but as people who find themselves in a society that really does promote capitalism. But we can stop. We must.
And so to all my humans who teach. Take care of yourselves. Because you deserve it. You're human. And even in a time of crisis, we can still focus on our humanity, and giving ourselves what we need to navigate this moment with some peace, some love, and some joy.
Thank you all for listening. Until next time, in peace and love, bye.
Below is a transcript of this episode.
Welcome back, everybody. Welcome back to Sips. So, we've shared before that season two is coming, but while you all are waiting, we wanted to make sure that we're giving you something to keep you nourished and hydrated, and so here is another sip.
Okay y'all, check this out. I finally did it. I did it. Well, at least in my opinion, I have perfected this smoothie recipe, and it took some time, but I was dedicated. So I kept tweaking and watching my tab with the Brown videos on Instagram. I'm like on repeat, really trying to learn as much as I could from her about combining different ingredients, and I think that I did it. I think today was the day. So, I'm always talking about nourishing our bodies and our minds and our hearts, and at the beginning of my journey, I really struggled with this. I really struggled with this sort of nourishment and this self care because I would confuse it with overindulgence and things that brought me pleasure.
So for example, after a long workday I used to come home and I would bake a pan of brownies. The brand didn't really matter. I used all the different brands. I actually thought one was better than the other, and then I did a little bit of research and realized they're all the same. Brownies are brownies, and I loved them all. But anyway, I bake them and eat them all in one night. And I was like, "Oh, this is self care. This is so great." It was, of course, pleasurable, but I later realized, and my therapist definitely helped me realize, that this wasn't necessarily good for my body. So I started saying, "Okay, when you want a brownie, eat one and enjoy it, but also be critical of how you are or are not taking care of yourself."
So during this pandemic I really have become a lot more intentional about my physical needs, which led me to these smoothies. Smoothies really, as a way to get my fruits and my veggies, and so today was the day, y'all, that I figured it out. This is the recipe. So I want to share it with you all. Again, feel free to modify it. I'll make sure that we drop the details and the ingredients if you will in the description notes.
But here's where I always start. So I take an orange, just like a regular orange, a large orange, and I have this really cute juicer. You have the orange, put it on top and then you rotate it and there's juice. So the juice from one large orange, I put that first. Then I add a tablespoon of oatmeal, which is really for fiber, and the oranges, as we know, have tons of benefits, vitamin C being one of them. But after the oatmeal, I add a handful of blueberries, strawberries, sliced carrots, and one banana for sweetness just for me. I know some folks don't need that, but I do need a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of sugar, and some banana is just one healthy way to get it. Then I top that with a handful of spinach, half of an avocado, and a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and then I blend. And then you can use anything you want. I have a... Oh my gosh, what is this? I think it's a Ninja, but I've had the NutriBullet. They're all really the same. It depends on the consistency you want, you can really add more or less juice, depending. That is the recipe. That is Shamari's smoothie.
But let me say this. Starting my day off with the smoothies has really been amazing for my body. I feel better. I have so much energy. And my skin, I think... So it's the skin for me. I remember growing up a lot of people would always say, "Thank goodness I don't look like what I've been through." That's really how I feel with this smoothie. It has me glowing, my skin is popping. I feel like I look great, even though this time right now is a lot, you know what I mean? To teach and live during this time, it's just really heavy sometimes, but I don't look like what I'm going through because of the smoothie. So try it if you want to.
So in thinking about how we're navigating these times and not looking like what we've been through, I was talking with a teacher friend of mine just this past weekend. We were unpacking and unraveling together and crying together, because that's what we do when we get together sometimes. And we realized that even though the skin looks great and I feel amazing, we realized just how much we've been carrying. So we both spoke a lot about navigating less than desirable work environments, and dealing with discrimination in education. So as we drink our smoothies this morning, I just wanted to share some of the highlights from that conversation in case any of you listening are navigating similar circumstances because we're human, and we know that oppression is real, first, and that discrimination can really hurt. So in talking with my friend, unpacking these things as humans who teach in schools, I want to share this.
The first. Find community. We don't have to work alone and that community might not be in your school building. It'd be great if it is, but sometimes we know we just can't find community there. So find community on Twitter, if possible, Clubhouse or some other space. It could be digital or virtual, but find community. Find people who support you and who will back you up when you stand up for yourself, because I don't think we can be naive anymore. I think that we know that there are people in schools, unfortunately, and in positions of power who are still unlearning and unpacking their participation in oppressive systems. They have a lot to unlearn and unpack. So it should come as no surprise that some of us are experiencing discrimination at work and in schools. So I want to say to all of you listening who may be experiencing discrimination, you're not the only one. You're not alone. You're not over-exaggerating. You're not being dramatic. You're not being irrational. This happens, and it hurts. But I want you to know that you're not alone and you don't have to work alone. So find community if you can, so that you have people to lift you up when you are taking a stance.
The second thing I really wanted to share that my teacher friend and I were talking about as we were thinking about how we navigated, is document everything. Document everything. Every encounter that you think is discriminatory, I want you to take thorough notes. I mean, the date, the time, the place, the name of everyone who was involved, what was said, because something I learned two or three years ago from Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is that people in power love paperwork, and so we're going to have to use paperwork in our advocacy. So document everything that's going on, which might mean you push people into email. I left a job a few years ago that just wasn't healthy for me, and toward the end when I was really sharing about my experiences, I really did not take phone calls or in-person meetings. I wanted to do it all on email, not because I was shy or I didn't want to confront anyone, I just wanted to document it because I know that sometimes people will say that things didn't happen the way that you saw them, or it becomes your word against theirs. So if possible, keep a running record of everything that's happening so that you can, one, present these things as patterns.
So my friend and I were talking about this and he was sharing that particularly when you go to file any kind of claim, and I don't want to get too sad here, but when you file any kind of claim of discrimination, they're going to ask you for proof and evidence. It's a lot harder when you don't have any written evidence and just say, "Oh, it's my word against theirs." But if you have emails and you have thorough notes, it makes it a little bit easier to advocate for yourself. So for those of you who might be going through things because it's real and it hurts, just take note of it, just document it. And when possible, rely on emails.
The third and final thing I want to share is this. Think about your home place. In her book We Want To Do More Than Survive, Dr. Bettina Love references bell hooks, and she references bell hooks' idea of home place, which is really just a space or a place, as Bell Hooks talks about it, these are spaces in which black people sort of learn to matter, spaces where we could experience genuine care and love. Think of your home place so that you can find it or create it because you deserve it. Because sometimes even after finding community, even after documenting everything, and filing claims, there are times in which nothing changes. So sometimes we have to leave because we still feel that our workplaces are heavy and oppressive.
I don't think this is an easy conversation or an easy decision because we all have different access, obligations and privileges. But if you can leave and you feel that you must, consider what it means to go somewhere where you are loved, a home place. If you have sort of spelled out what that home place looks like and what you need, you can then narrow your search as you look for new schools and new positions, but you can also ask very particular questions in interviews to make sure the next space isn't as harmful.
So I know this is a lot, but we're not alone. You're not alone. So thank you for listening. Take care of yourselves, because as humans who teach you deserve it. Until next time, in peace and love, bye.
Shamari's Morning Smoothie
About 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (you can add more or less for desired consistency)
1 Tablespoon of oatmeal
One handful of blueberries, strawberries, and sliced carrots
One handful of spinach
A few spoonfuls of yoghurt
In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
Below is a transcript of this episode.
Thank you all for joining me on another minisode of Sips and so here's something I've been sipping on lately. I've been thinking a lot about this concept of learning loss and I want to just talk about it, just quickly. This morning on my drive home, I woke up early and decided to take my mother to breakfast and on the way home, I decided, I don't know why, this came over me to like turn off the music and open the sunroof, which I really never do because the sun, I don't know, it just bothers me and gets in my eyes. I'm not even sure why I have a sunroof, but I have it. I don't really use it. But on the drive home, I said, "Just use it." So I open the sunroof and I'm driving around my hometown, by the way, here's a life update.
I've left New York and I've moved back to Oklahoma City for work. So I'm driving and I saw this random field. I don't know if any of you have ever been to Oklahoma, it's just tons of fields all over the place. So I pulled over and I wanted to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing, honestly, and maybe even try a little bird watching because my dad has recently taken up bird watching in his retirement and he swears it's the most exciting thing someone can do. So I'm in my car and I'm looking out at the field and there were no birds there at all. I didn't have the music on. There was no anything really and I just exhaled and decided to just sit in that moment. One of the lessons that took me the longest to learn is to stay fully present and to focus on my current reality, right, and to focus on now. In 2019, when I was really exploring this lesson, I wrote the following quick little blurb on my website.
I wrote, "Sitting still being in this moment, happy even with the uncertainty about what comes next, not defining or evaluating my present life based on my expectations of the future with myself in this moment, enjoying myself and the universe, loving my present more than loving any idea I may have about the future. Not loving the potential of all of this more than loving the reality of what it is. Living and acknowledging my only real purpose, the inner one, is just to be fully present."
So when I think about learning loss, and I think of this fear that is often generated by this concept or this idea that learning has been lost, it reveals to me an over-engagement with the past and in comparing what our reality is now and what we're doing with regard to teaching and learning in schools now with what we used to do. But the past is no more. The past is no longer here. All we have is this present moment and so what does it mean to stay fully present with the now and not over-engage with the past? What does it mean to not obsess over the future and to think, "Oh my gosh, summer is almost over and I should be thinking about next year and I'll have to catch my students up because they'll be so far behind. They will have loss learning," but that's the future, which is also not here yet but what we have right now is our current reality in which there are many students who we have the privilege of getting to learn and teach with, but what do they need right now?
How are we helping them navigate this current moment? And like I always say, helping them navigate this reality, this current reality, but with some peace, love and joy, how are we doing that? Because I think that's all that really matters right now. The humans we're teaching right now, not what we used to do, not using any kind of test scores or past measurements to evaluate this current moment, not thinking about the future and putting together plans that are going to require hours and hours of work from both teachers and students, but to focus on where we are right now.
For many of us, it's unprecedented to teach and learn during a pandemic, during a global crisis. We've never had to do that before. So how do we focus on doing that now, but in ways that are healthy and what is unhealthy is overburdening students to catch up. What is unhealthy, I think, is centering fear over expecting, that's unhealthy. So let's stay fully present and focused on what we need and what our students need to navigate this moment as humans. As we think about what we need, we're not comparing our needs to the ones we had in the past or the ones we think we might have in the future but right now, as humans, what do we need? What are our students deserve?
Perhaps those questions can guide us toward honoring the humanity of everyone in the classroom, whether the classroom is in person or virtual. So that's where I am right now as I think about sort of learning loss. I think about the power and the possibility of what it means to be fully present. Until next time, thank you all for tuning in. Thank you for listening. In peace and love. 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.