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  • Emlen Miles-Mattingly

A Passion For Lasting Educational Connections

(Hold up! Have you heard the audio for this yet? Well, now's your chance!)


We are continuing our discussions about education for the entire month of February.


I was lucky to interview Dr. Shaun Woodly, who I met through Twitter. He graduated from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He’s a proud HBCU graduate.


He’s been an educator for 14 years and he’s also a fellow podcaster. His podcast and website are called Teach Hustle Inspire. You should check it out!


After completing university, he started teaching. It’s a field he loves and he said that he hasn’t looked back. He taught in urban schools for 10 years. For the past four years, he’s been a college professor.


Dr. Shaun Woodly is a busy man but there’s more to his resume.


He’s also a speaker and does consult work with school districts. His area of expertise is both classroom management and student engagement in urban and culturally diverse areas.


Let’s get into the weeds


What is HBCU?


Dr. Shaun Woodly explains that it stands for historically black colleges and universities.


His particular university holds a special place in his heart. He said it was the place that transformed him from a high school boy into someone who was ready to take on the world. He received a first-class education and made many lasting connections.


He met his wife there (they have two beautiful children).


He has also connected with other HBCU attendees and graduates. He still pledges to Alpha Phi Alpha. In fact, he holds his university in such high esteem that he’s still active and donates to them.


I can understand his enthusiasm.


Going to a school where the predominant people at the school are black would change any young black person's experience. Especially for those young people who come from a place where there’s not very much diversity.


Let’s see what else he’s enthusiastic about!


Teach, Hustle, Inspire


What are the similarities between being a teacher and working as a DJ?


During the 10 years Dr. Shaun Woodly spent in the classroom, he also created a side hustle to supplement his income. He taught during the day and was a DJ on nights and weekends.


He loved both jobs because he was able to bring out the best and engage his students during the day. When it came to the nights, he was creating an environment that brought out the best in any community (clubs, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs).


He began to recognize the similarities between the roles.


He stated, “When I'm in the classroom, I’m a source of energy. I'm taking standards and objectives, things that a lot of students can find boring, I'm transforming them. I'm adding my own creativity to it. When I'm in the club, I'm doing the same thing. If you're in a situation in a club, where the DJ just plays a setlist there's no excitement. Yeah, you might like the song but there's no excitement to it. There's no response to it. When you add a level of creativity and personalization to that experience, It changes things.”


Dr. Shaun Woodly’s makes connections that go deep.


He mentions a song by the 80s hip hop and R&B duo of MC and DJ, Eric B. and Rakim. He explains that during the song when Rakim said MC means to “move the crowd," it spoke to him about education. Dr. Shaun Woodly said, “That's not a title. That's a responsibility.”


“I took from that my responsibility to be the MC and move the crowd; as a DJ and to be the MC and move the class as a teacher." - Dr. Shaun Woodly

To say that I was impressed was an understatement. The ability to bring that type of energy to the classroom and motivate students is outstanding.


I asked him why connecting with students is important?


Dr. Woodly stated, “Without the connection, there’s no learning. It's that simple, particularly with students of color because of the way that we learn. Because of how we're first introduced to learning. That zero to five timeframes, as far as our brain and development really dictate how we learn from five through 100.”


He further explained that a lot of learning comes from connections and relationships. He’s able to leverage those two things for transformational learning in the classroom.


The Biggest Connection


Just as we parent the way we were parented, we teach the way that we were taught.


Dr. Woodly said that school wasn't an enjoyable experience. He was usually bored. However, he was able to graduate In spite of certain things happening in the classroom, not because of certain things.”


When certain things aren’t put into place, our children may become victims of the system and fall through the cracks. He points to the high dropout rate and the gap between the way that Caucasian and students of color achieve.


It’s all about connections.


  • Connections to the work

  • Connections to the teacher


We need our students to believe they can learn and achieve.


As Dr. Woodly said, “That student who doesn't have any belief, there's no effort, there's no effort, there's no learning.”


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