Diversity is a fact of life. As educators we will have new students coming in each year from different socio-economic statuses, abilities, religious backgrounds, gender identities and much more. So, how do we become empowered to honor those different lived experiences of the children in our care, without being intimidated by that diversity?
Dr. Denise Reid is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Biola University in La Mirada, California. She conducts research on the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities as they rise through their educational careers. Dr. Reid has authored several articles including, "Lessons learned: Educational experiences as described by individuals who attended Black segregated schools during Jim Crow" as well as, "Disproportionality in special education: The persistent reality for African American students."
In our conversation, we talk about the realities of diversity in the teaching environment, how we can manage the stress that may arise from simply wanting to honor each students lived experience, and she talks about the importance of starting a daily wellness journey we maintain consistently.
This project is funded through a grant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and Signal Centers, Inc.
Fri, 8/19 4:39PM • 37:52
educators, wellness journey, classroom, children, care, disability, important, diversity, students, people, thought, breathe, teachers, day, podcast, individuals, early childhood, energizes, talk, experience
Denise Reid, Alex Farrell, Wesley Mayes
Denise Reid 00:00
When I think about this wellness journey, I think about not waiting haha man I can't wait for, you know, juices taste to come so I can get a break. I can't wait for you know those are long term things. But in terms of a wellness journey, I would argue that a wellness journey is a daily journey.
Alex Farrell 00:27
Hey everyone, this is Alex and Wes from lean into podcasts. And today we are really excited to talk to Dr. Denise Reed. We were introduced to Dr. Reid's work, because she was a speaker as the signal centers Accessibility Awareness Summit. And we were honored to get to talk to her a little bit about diversity, how we can kind of shift our mindset from being intimidated by having a diverse setting in the classroom to be empowered by it.
Wesley Mayes 00:52
Yeah. And I really like how she brought self care into the conversation. She made the connection between our own self care work and how that feeds in informs our equity work in the classroom.
Alex Farrell 01:02
One of the big takeaways from this conversation for me was her emphasizing that a wellness journey has to be something that we maintain daily, but she really encourages us to find kind of the little moments in each day to find rest to find balance and to create a daily action plan around this wellness journey. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with doctors nice read on creating a daily wellness journey. Hello, Dr. Reid, how are you?
Denise Reid 01:36
Good morning. I'm doing well. How are you doing quite well. I'm great.
Alex Farrell 01:40
Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today, we're really excited to talk a little bit about diversity. So it's something that we've kind of touched on in some previous episodes, but how you diversity is a fact of life and it is an enriching thing, and not something it can be intimidating from time to time. From a perspective of wanting to honor diversity in wanting to do right by diversity in be inclusive. But how do we kind of shift our mindset to be empowered educators in approaching diversity, making sure we're honoring the lived experiences of all of our students, all of our families, all of our co workers even so but before we start talking about that, that stuff, can you just introduce yourself for people that aren't familiar with you what your work looks like now? And then what feels really urgent to you and your work?
Denise Reid 02:39
Thank you. Well, I am Dr. Denise Reed. I'm an associate professor at Biola University in La Mirada, California. Let's see my past research has involved in US research regarding students, college students, who actually had identifiable disabilities, they had identified they were self identified as disability but chose not to request accommodations in higher ed. I also have done work on the transition of high school students to the post secondary setting and the successfulness of those students in their transitional planning. And so that is is important to me, because I do have a visual impairment and was kind of my story didn't align with what many people experience. And so one of the reasons I wanted to do the study information regarding the transition was because I when I found out about my visual impairment in high school, I never received special ed services. So I just had teachers that accommodated me and did what they needed to do to help me get through high school. And so that was very interesting to me to have gone through two years and never had been enrolled in special ed. So that was just very interesting. So I do have a passion for just equitable education for all students. Any student that belongs to any of the diversity categories is of interest to me, my current work right now, but I'm looking at as i i am investigating, I interviewed individuals who attended all black segregated schools during the Jim Crow era. And it's interesting because although I did not intend to, I didn't have the focus just on students with disabilities. One of my participants, one of the participants actually was went through that hint her entire K 12 class of Setting a school setting and was profoundly deaf and did not identify it and did not know it until she was in the 12th grade. Wow. So I'm going to do some more analysis just on her case and look at disability and segregated schools during the Jim Crow era. Because that's a whole nother area that is unexplored. And so I would have to say that right now, that's where my focus is, is I'm going through my data on these individuals, because there's, that's a voice that's soon to be lost as these individuals get older. But at the same time, I think we can learn something from the Jim Crow teachers, because these individuals, teachers taught students who became lawyers and doctors that were successful. And in this case, there was a student with a disability who matriculated through and, and ended up in science and math, and computer science. So so so that's what my current research looks like, it looks like.
Wesley Mayes 06:10
Such an interesting topic.
Alex Farrell 06:12
Yeah. Cuz I know, just a little background, we were introduced to you, because you were gracious enough to fly out from California to be a panelist for the signal centers Accessibility Awareness Summit. And you talked a lot about some of the things that we're talking about today. But in that, and then some follow up, you did with signal center staff, you gave us a little bit of your personal history of your own visual impairment, and your, your kind of career through trying to advocate for yourself to some degree. And it was really interesting hearing the barriers that you kind of met along the way. And it makes total sense, then that you a lot of your work, your research that you're conducting, would be for the sake of trying to remove as many of those barriers as possible, and to empower people to both identify when they may have a disability, and also seek accommodations for those things. And also make sure that the environment they live in, is attuned and sensitive to the diversity of lived experiences that we know absolutely exists in the day to day.
Denise Reid 07:16
Yes. And that lived experience piece is so critical, because we can't underestimate lived experiences. And I think in our country, we don't value that. I think, generally we say, well, you know, that's not my experience, therefore, it can't be relevant. And it should not be that way. And so I see when we when we really are intentional about seeking and understanding the lived experiences, whether you can relate to it or not. It's their experience. Once I think we get to that point, and not be offensive or offended, if someone's lived experience, you know, is the opposite of what you your experience is or may have lead you to question, you know, how you were raised or how you were socialized? Without offense, I think would just be to a point where if we just, if we would just say, oh, okay, that's, that's that person's lived experience. Let me hear them out. And learn from it, ask questions, sometimes we need to sit with, you know, with what someone has said, you know, in order to process it, as well. So lived experience is critical.
Wesley Mayes 08:40
And that really just speaks to the importance of the work that you're doing. I mean, going, going back to those lived experiences of individuals who were in the segregated classrooms in the Jim Crow era, who also had disability. I mean, what an interesting subset of the population that we don't hear from, you know, yeah, and I think I think, like you're saying, it's really important to look for different perspectives. Right. And, and having an an interested and curious mind that wants to see from a different perspective, takes away a bit of that intimidation, really.
Alex Farrell 09:21
So your work. I mean, so our population that listens to this podcast is largely the early childhood. So the birth to five years. And your focus of study has is, you know, about the educational path and career of people, you know, from, you know, all the way up through through college. Obviously, that starts at the very beginning, though, in early childhood. So if we think about our educators, early childhood educators in the classroom setting that have, you know, a full range of diversity, whether it's, you know, race, religious background, ability could be anything And how, if you're an educator that really cares about your job, you want to show up and do do the best for each individual child. But if you have 10 kids that come from vastly different perspectives, that can be intimidating, right? To be able to do that, and it comes from a good place, it comes from again wanting to be the best for each child. So how can we, how can our educators kind of honor diversity in the classroom? Without for lack of a better word, becoming intimidated by serving that diversity, if that makes sense?
Denise Reid 10:33
Yeah, yes, it does. Let me let me before I answered that, let me just preface what I'm going to say with to the listeners that I just want to affirm you and say that you are seeing and that you are valuable, because I think oftentimes, early education is doesn't get the respect it deserves. Right? Because that foundation is critical. And there's research to support that the early that that excuse me, that there's a strong a positive association between children's lifelong well being and the recipient and being recipients of early childhood services, which one of them includes early education? Yeah, sure. So it's very important to to acknowledge that, and not to think that, you know, that we have to, we have to dispel the, the narrative that, you know, just dropped the kids off, they'll play a little bit and you know, give mom a break, and then we go back and pick them up. No, early education is critical. So and it is the foundation. And what's really noteworthy is that it's equally as important for children who are at risk. For those who don't have, who may have less of a favorable lifelong wellness, well being outcomes. It's important. So when we think about the diversity categories, and we think about ability, disability, children coming from lower maybe socio economic statuses, it's very important to understand that early childhood education is key and critical. And so I wanted to just make sure I started off by saying, you were saying you are appreciated? Because we need you.
Alex Farrell 12:28
Can't say it enough. Really can't.
Denise Reid 12:30
Yes. And so it's very, very important. And so with regards to thinking about how to, you know how to honor this is, first of all, to understand that you don't have to be trained as an early childhood special educator, you know, to know that you're going to work with children from diverse groups. So oftentimes, you know that that's, that's a given. So whether you took any special ed classes are you have a tie, if you don't have a title of every childhood special educator, you're going to work with children from diverse groups, and that includes children with varying abilities ratio, you mentioned that, Alex, different racial, ethnic, ethnic backgrounds, religions, gender issues with gender, gender identity. And, and I think that was it, I think, and nationality. And so those are very key. And that's very important to understand. And then what I would, I would like to encourage the listeners to think about this. And when you look at intercultural interactions, there's some stages that, that are said that individuals go through when we look at when we're looking at intercultural. And so now let me say this. So, when I use this term intercultural right here, I'm not just referring to just race and ethnicity. Okay, so let's just think broadly during our conversation today. So if you think about these areas, the first one is, is an emotional arousal, meaning that you might get anxiety you might think, Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do I have these nine kids, 10 kids, you know, you might feel anxiety, you might get depressed, because now you're thinking, how am I going to do this? Then the next step, before we go, you ask more questions, then the second step is, is to think about your understanding of unfamiliar behaviors and traits. Okay? It's very important to understand that just because a behavior or a trade is unfamiliar, that doesn't equate to a deficit, it doesn't equate to being something that can be problematic, right? So we have to get that in our heads that okay, I need to understand This. And then thirdly is we then have to begin to look at us, we have to begin to turn the camera on us the lens on us and say, Okay, how can I adjust? And how can I grow from this. And so I believe when we get to the point and acknowledge that when we have children in front of us, or whatever level, in this case, early children, preschoolers, when we have these children in front of us, okay, it's okay, that I'm feeling anxious, you know, it's okay. But then let me once I get through that, let me think about, okay, let me understand what's in front of me, let me understand these behavior. How am I processing this, these behaviors? Am I seeing it as a deficit? Am I Am I saying no, culturally, you know, children in this culture, they're from cultures that, you know, they speak louder than, you know, they're just, you know, they're expressive, right? And then let me think about how I can adjust and grow from this. Right. And so I think that's it because I think oftentimes, I think educators, men, many educators feel the need that they have to be good at everything. And when we feel anxiety, I shouldn't feel that way. Right? It's, it's okay. It, can't it you know, we don't want it to linger on and on and on, but to acknowledge it and say, Okay, let me breathe, let me get me, you know, let me get myself together, then it's okay. So I think one thing is we have to do is realize that we're human, yeah, have emotions. And it's okay. To feel that. It's a it's a reality. And I think that when we we meaning society, put pressure on individuals that get in that classroom, Do this, do you know, without acknowledging the emotional aspect, I think we do teachers a disservice, right?
Wesley Mayes 17:10
I think it's a subtle shift, right? From a fear response to a response of how can I grow from this? You know, how can I grow from this experience? How can I learn from this, and I think it's, it's easy to be in the classroom and want to be, I don't know, for lack of a better word perfect, or, or all knowing, right? When there's a new when there's a new experience that you're having, when in all actuality, you know, we're all at different stages of growth personally. And so whenever we, we make that subtle shift from a fear response to an opportunity, then we can start really assessing what's going on, really looking for the tools that are often times right around us, because like, for example, our educators here, you know, here at the CCRN are we have resources of it for inclusion. But without that, you know, looking at that, like an opportunity, you're not going to seek out the the ways in which you can grow and become a better educator.
Alex Farrell 18:18
Right. And I think this is kind of a multifaceted thing, because the the fact that the assertion that growth is uncomfortable, or is vulnerable, that's just true for everyone. If you're a living breathing person on this planet, that's going to be true. But there's the extra layer of teachers being seen as the authority figures within their classroom. And so that pressure that you talked about is doubly, you know, doubly pressurized, because they they are the ones that should have the answers because they are the teacher in their respective classroom. But it's really interesting, if you go back and listen to any of our episodes where we talk about leadership, or we talked about strong leadership, it all centers from a place of humility. Yeah. And all centers from a place of curiosity, willingness to grow. So I think that really kind of can, if we can adopt that mindset, whatever you have to do to kind of be able to adopt that mindset. It's gonna alleviate that pressure. Yeah. And it's going to help you to be in the moment more it's going to be able to, you're going to be able to be there for your children in the moment.
Denise Reid 19:21
And in preparation of today, you know, I was actually thinking about actually, when I flew to Tennessee, to be with you with thee to be there was actually the first time I had been on a plane since 2019. Well, I was experiencing some anxiety you know, I'm not afraid of flying but I was experiencing some anxiety and I had to you know, sit in it for the moment acknowledge where what I was going through, but what got me was this, and this why I hope will help someone listening is You know, when the the flight attendants, they began to do the demonstration and talk about safety and when 90% Of the passengers are not even listening to the person talking, they're doing something else intently listening, just in case you don't have any of this, I'm paying every judge and I have the manual out in front of me and following along, filling under my seat to make sure that the raft is under there.
Alex Farrell 20:28
You got your flotation device and ready.
Denise Reid 20:32
So, you know, so but one thing that the flight attendant said that really stood out to me was if we lose oxygen in the cabin, and the oxygen, the mask drops, put yours on first, before you help you have come you help your children or any my anyone with you. And I just got to take it on that. And I thought about, you know, that's really good. Because if I don't help myself, right, if I don't have breath in me, I'm not gonna be able to help anyone else, I'm not gonna be able to have minor children if I was traveling with minor children. And so that really lingered with me. And it came about as I was actually preparing for today, because I thought about that as as educators, right? If we don't we store and we don't have the breadth of for us? How are we going to show up for our children? How are we going to, you know, be the best educators that we can be? You know, so one of the tips is put your oxygen mask on first, you know, sure, it'd be out of place. I thought that was so it just has lingered with me since that flight. And although I've heard that many times before, before I flew to Tennessee, it was just something about what I was experiencing, and hearing it at that time.
Alex Farrell 21:57
Right. And we've we've tried to be really intentional on this show to kind of redefine what self care can mean, because it's you know, we've had a ton of guests that are like, super uncomfortable with the term self care, because it's just always feels like bubble baths. And one night, and it's, you know, it, no one ever speaks to being more than that. But we've we've worked really hard to try to redefine self care as, hey, that that moment of emotional regulation, where you take a second and try to sit with your emotion and identify that that is also self care, right? mindfulness, meditation, yoga, that is self care, of course, you know, if you want a bubble bath with a glass of wine at night, that is also self care as well. But it's it's about kind of expanding and breaking open this idea of what self care can be. Yeah. And what we're talking about as wellness. Yeah, balance and wellness. And I think once we redefine it a little bit, it becomes a bit more tangible for people. And they're like, Oh, actually, I do need that. And it kind of gives them permission to turn inward in a way that maybe they haven't done in the past, you know?
Denise Reid 23:03
Exactly. And, and I do like that wellness. And that is the concept of a wellness journey. Because it implies for me, it's an application, that is something that's ongoing, when you're on a journey, you just trekking along and you're just going at it, you know, you're just keep moving. And so when I think about this, this concept, I think about us not waiting for the vacation. When I think about wellness journey, I think about not waiting, ha man I can't wait for you know, June 15 to come so I can get a break. I can't wait for you know, those are long term things. But in terms of a wellness journey, I would argue that a wellness journey is a daily journey. I look at a wellness journey as we get up and we brush our teeth every day. Right? So we can have good hygiene, dental hygiene, you know, and we do it every day. We don't say well, you know, I think I'm gonna you know, just wait till June 15 to brush my teeth. We don't do that. Right? Because we take care, we maintain this that maintenance is that maintenance, we floss, you know, some people floss right before they have a dentist appointment. That's the story guilty. But there's things we do for maintenance. And so one thing that I would like to to challenge the listeners to do is to just to take the action plan, have a plan of action, think about a daily wellness journey. And so and not waiting for the big things. I mean, you can look forward to that, but have a daily wellness journey. Sure. And so I think when we think about that At, there's a few things and I am called by a few of my colleagues, not many, but just a few who know me, I am called the wellness guru. They say, We like you and I grow up, because I am very intentional about maintaining a level in my day, a daily that I don't stress out. But that looks like for me, and I know this is everyone can't do this. But for me, it looks like always having a cushion in between appointments. So if I know I'm gonna meet with the student, and it's gonna take 30 minutes, I block off 45 minutes in my calendar. Yeah. And I never booked myself to the max. Because one thing that I have come to learn just being just being alive is that a failure to plan on your part doesn't equate to an emergency on my part. And so if you're in a position, and I know with early educators, it's a little bit different than working with adults? Of course it is. But the concepts the same, I think, when we get to the point, I think we have to really be intentional about what we take on. There's just certain things we won't take we can't take on. And one thing I learned early on is many people have a, they like the desire to know everything that's going on. So there's stress added to what's happening in the classroom down there. What did that teach you do? You know, I saw the director going to there, what's going on down there, just there's things you don't need to know. That's added stress to get off your plate.
Wesley Mayes 26:48
It's interesting, both Alex and I have talked about this a decent amount. Coming into our day, it's a lot about mindset. So you know, we have a job that we're constantly jumping between projects. And so a morning routine, where we sort of set our intention, at the beginning of the day, waking up five minutes extra, to have a little bit of a quiet time with our thoughts is really important to set that and be prepared for it. Be prepared for for, you know, whatever our day looks like. But of course, you know, we don't have kids. And I know parents might have a hard time doing that. So. So maybe there's a like you're saying time and space for a little cushion somewhere in the day that they might have. And that's going to look different, or, or cutting out, you know, you know, taking a little digital detox or a news detox from, you know, because it's easy to be overwhelmed with what's happening. That is outside of our control, like you said, so there's all of these things that I think can serve our wellness journey that is a little bit. It's it's very personal. And so we have to look at our, our day with creativity and say, Where can I carve out space for me.
Denise Reid 28:02
Just to really think about what refreshes you. So in this think about what refreshes you, is refreshment to you just a walk down a neighborhood street with that's treelined. Yeah, where I worked. Many years ago, there was a neighborhood of block away that was had older homes treeline Street, and sometimes I would just leave campus and just walk down that street for 1015 minutes. Yeah, go back. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So think about what refreshes you.
Alex Farrell 28:35
Something that our second episode ever with this in this podcast was with a friend of mine, Dr. Chris Collins. And he talked a lot about exactly what you just said, the example he gave is, he's like, Hey, I love to sleep in as much as the next guy. But I find that when I wake up at 4am, whenever he wakes up at some ungodly hour that I can't I haven't seen then I go to bed at 4am Way more than I wake up at 4am. I'll just say that. But when he wakes up super early in the morning to start his routine of being quiet, doing some reading, doing some journaling, even though he's not getting as much sleep that really energizes him more than having the extra few hours of sleep. Yeah, so it's exactly what you're talking about of like, hey, let's just have a scale of figuring out like what gives me life? Are you an extrovert? Are you energized by people? Are you carving out space to really seek out community? Well, that's going to energize you as much as sitting on the couch at home, you know, watching Netflix or making sure you're getting an extra hour or two of sleep or you know, something like that. So just being kind of on top of what energizes you? How you find rest, in like prioritizing that.
Denise Reid 29:54
And on the other side of that coin is not only what energizes you, but what takes your energy. I loved your example about digital that digital. What did you call it?
Wesley Mayes 30:05
Denise Reid 30:06
Detox, yes. You know, stay, you know, just put down the phone, put down your tablet, you know, stay off of social media for a minute. And you know, yeah, that's, that's great. Another thing I thought about for the action plan that I think many of us don't do enough of is just to breathe. Yeah. Just just to breathe. Yeah, even if we just take a minute here and just talk. And just take a deep breath. That's refreshing. It's refreshing to me. And sometimes we get in the midst of our day, and we're going in, we're going and we're going. And sometimes, we may just need to stop and breathe. And I think there's value to that. Yeah, and these are some things that can happen immediately, right? I mean, we don't have to wait for vacation to take a deep breath. You know, sometimes you may have to take a deep breath, you know, 1314 times a day.
Wesley Mayes 31:22
When we talk about the classroom setting, you know, taking a breath, and like you're talking about being able to recognize that. I mean, we talk about the energy that we give off affecting the kids in our care so much, right? That's going to affect the energy of the classroom, being able to emotionally regulate like that.
Denise Reid 31:44
Thank you. That reminds me just an example. My oldest grandson is on the autism spectrum. And when he was probably about three and a half, is when he was diagnosed. And my daughter started to when he was short, we were you know, he's learning how to regulate his behavior and his emotions. And she started implementing breathing with him, she'd take a deep breath, slow down. And so now he's five. And when he gets upset, if you start to release, these gets started to have any emotional needs to regulate his emotions. He'll he'll start breathing on his own. Well, and he's five. And I think about what and I compliment her on saying that that is really excellent. I'm so glad you gave that to him. Because he's able to do that now. Right. So and, and I was with him a few days ago. And he was and he did it on his own. And I thought that is excellent. Yeah. What a gift. What? Oh, yeah. What a gift. And that's something that even for us, we can, you know, like you said that implements the classroom setting what you bring, and how your children you know, will will see that. Your students so yeah.
Alex Farrell 33:22
Yeah, it's interesting. I've, I've really enjoyed this conversation, because we kind of started out talking about diversity in different stressors that can show up in the classroom as a things that can be intimidating. What I've loved about this is that we didn't really talk about that very much, to be honest, like, we talked about that for a little bit, but then the rest was like, the priority here is like, if we are giving the time to ourself, first and foremost, that other stuff kind of takes care of itself. So thank you for for your insight in that. So just to kind of sign off, we usually like to sign off with our guests giving a little word of encouragement to our educators. And then also we're just curious about what you specifically do for self care.
Denise Reid 34:10
Oh, wow. Well, what I personally do for self care on a daily basis, I mentioned I never booked my calendar Max. After today after this podcast, I have an hour and a half before I have to get on another call. Nice. So I am intentional. I breathe throughout the day. But once a month, I get a pedicure. And then also once a month on the same day, I see a chiropractor and I get a massage. And it's in the same, it's in the same office.
Wesley Mayes 34:47
Denise Reid 34:50
And it is it is a sacrifice on time. And it is a sacrifice on money. Now I know you might be thinking well she As a professor, she can, you know, she can swing that. But whatever it is, even if it's just sitting in front of, you know, Netflix, you don't, this is my self care. This is what part of what refreshes me. And it helps me in my in my physical health as well, the practic and then the massage right afterward to stay well so I can do what I'm called to do. That's what I do for myself. So for myself care, and always have, the last thing that's really important is I always have a day, depending on the week, sometimes two days that I don't do anything with technology. And then what my word of encouragement for the listeners is to know that you're valuable to know that what you do matters and, and to know that those children when they sit there for you, you never know who you're who you're teaching. I think about greatness. I think about those people who are great, you know, who end up doing great things, they have teachers, they have someone pour into their lives. And so I would just encourage you to continue on in your calling, to continue on pouring into the lives of children and to be there to whatever capacity that they need. Some you might be a mother, some you might be a big sister, some you might be the uncle that they don't have.
Alex Farrell 36:40
So good. It's a really beautiful sentiment of for some people you might be another for some people, you might be a sister for some people, you might be an uncle. It's a really beautiful sentiment. I think that's a great one to close on. Doctors. Nice read. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. We hope you have a fantastic week.
Denise Reid 36:54
Thank you for having me. You too.
Alex Farrell 36:56
It's been fantastic. Take care. Thank you. Thank you for tuning into the podcast today. This podcast is funded through a grant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and signal centers. Signal centers is a nonprofit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose mission is to strengthen children, adults and families through services focusing on disabilities early childhood education and self sufficiency.
Wesley Mayes 37:18
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