Monday Musings: Slow Progress

img_6129I have been dreading Saturday.  I couldn’t sleep last Friday night and I woke up early on Saturday because of the swim lessons I am taking with my kids.  I mistakenly thought getting these cool prescription googles would help ease my anxiety, but my lack of sleep on Friday night says otherwise.

If you are born, you will die.  We all know this, but we don’t think about it a lot or we wouldn’t be able to function during the days we are alive.  When I do think about it, I think the worse ways to die are being burned alive or by drowning.

On Saturday, the swim instructor helped me to float on my back and I was fine until I got into my head and freaked out. Getting out of my head has been hard lately.  I feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff but everything is taking a long time.  Enter the Ph.D. program.

This program is tough. I know I can do it, but it is hard.  There is tons of reading, so many assignments, group work, and class discussions.  It takes me forever to complete assignments unlike that amount of time it took when I was doing previous graduate work.

I want to accomplish both of these goals, learning how to swim and earning my Ph.D, but I see it is going to be a long road.  One day at a time isn’t going to get it.  Some days it will be one hour at a time.  I almost didn’t even write anything today because I am soooooo tired.

Then, I think about my children.  I have these two wonderful black sons looking at me.  We talked about how I feel about my homework and my fears about swim class.  I wanted them to know that life is hard.  Achieving a goal is hard.  Many times as parents we want to shelter our children from the truth.  I need them to know that sometimes I have fears that I will fail or sometimes I am struggling.

I don’t have any fast solutions except some parts of life takes time and that’s okay because at some point you’ll be on the other side and have completed your goal.


Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Monday Musings: Educator Barnes’ September Review

POPSeptember was a busy month.  On top of writing articles, filming videos, being a guest for other publications, I also had to get my Ph.D. assignments completed.  Most of this month I slept three-five hours a night because I had so much work to do.  The good part is that I am enjoying what I am doing and I love being a writer.

I’m reorganizing my schedule to help me get more sleep.  Mr. Barnes was rambling about me being cranky or something…nonetheless, I know I must sleep more. Check back for the October review to see if that actually happens.

Here’s my work from September.  

Education in Our Schools Articles

indy ed

9/26/2018 College Application Day
9/25/2018 Banning Books Silences Stories and It Kills a Love of Reading
9/23/2018 Do Fountas and Pinnell Care if Children of Color and Poor Children Can Read?
9/21/2018 Cafeteria Food Sucks for All Students, so When are We Going to Address This Issue in Schools?
9/20/2018 If We Don’t Support the Whole Child, Violence in School Will Continue
9/19/2018 Should Corporal Punishment Make a Comeback in Schools?
9/15/2018 School Leaders Need to Pay Attention to World Afro Day

TER Writer

9/23/2018 3 Reasons to Burn Reading Logs
9/16/2018 Social Media: Should You Friend and Follow Your Colleagues?

Education in Our Schools Videos

Click here to subscribe to my education YouTube channel to get notified when new videos are uploaded.

9/24/2018 Say and Spell My Name Correctly Challenge (VIDEO)
9/2/2018 Regulating Black Hair is a Way to Control Black People & Traumatize Black Children (VIDEO)
9/1/2018 Black with Kids:  When Will Having a Black Teacher Become the Norm Not the Exception? (VIDEO)

GSUrban Gardening Educational Articles

9/29/2018 It’s Time to Ketchup!
9/5/2018 Stacking Green

Podcast Guest

9/17/2018 dfree Podcast: In the Black Episode 50: In the Black with Jermaine and Shawnta Barnes
9/9/2018 Truth for Teachers Podcast Why great teachers get saddled with the biggest workload (and how to advocate for yourself)

Guest Writer

9/10/2018 One Voice Blog Magazine Was School Integration a Blessing or a Curse?

I appreciate your readership.  If there is something you would like me to write about or talk about on video about, please let me know.  Thanks!

Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Racism is Why Most Black People Can’t Swim


Educator Barnes and her sons at Community Healthplex for swim lessons.

It is clear from our current political climate that some Americans are in denial about the far reaching hand of racism in this country and how it affects people of color today. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, “nearly 64 percent of African-American children have no/low swimming ability, putting them at risk for drowning.”  The reason so many black children cannot swim is racism.

In the article “Swimming While Black” the author states:

Swimming and African Americans are not a classic pairing either. Imagine a pool party. The Black people mingle around the pool, while the white people are in the pool.  African Americans’ antipathy towards swimming is rooted in segregation and racism. It was not so long ago that public beaches and pools in the United States displayed “Whites Only” signs. Blacks who entered these beaches were chased off or got a good beating. Pools were drained if a Black person got in. One Black person contaminated the whole thing.

The author also points out that even after black people were allowed to go to any pool that white people would find ways to discourage black people from entering the pool.  “June 1964. Black children integrate the swimming pool of the Monson Motel in St. Augustine, Florida. To force them out, the manager of the motel pours acid into the water.”

In the VICE News article “Most black kids can’t swim, and segregation is to blame,” Jeff Wiltse, a professor of history at the University of Montana, and the author of “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America,” added further background:

Pools were desegregated after World War II, frequently by court order, but like America’s public schools, integration in the water was more of a legal concept than a cultural one. In fact, racial desegregation of public pools rarely led to any meaningful sort of interracial use.

Why would black people even bother to go to a pool let alone learn how to swim when they could be threatened, have acid thrown in the water, or called racial slurs?  When your grandparents can’t swim, your parents probably won’t learn how to swim. I did not need to read any articles to know this. All I had to do is recall my own experiences and speak to my family members.

I’m 35 and I can’t swim.  My younger sisters can’t swim.  My mom and dad can’t swim. My maternal and paternal grandparents can’t swim.  When I asked my dad if he could swim, he said, “Where could I go to swim? I would have been chased out of there.  All we had in our neighborhood was a wading pool.  We couldn’t go to Garfield Park because we weren’t welcome.”  Because my parents could not swim, they weren’t thinking about taking us to the pool during the summers and not being able to swim has caused me some negative experiences.

In fifth grade, the end of the year party was a field trip to a swimming pool.  It was my least favorite day of the school year. I was part of desegregation busing, so there weren’t many black kids enrolled in my school.  I don’t recall any of the black kids swimming during the party. What made matters worse is my eyesight. I am severely nearsighted. My teacher would not let me get into the water with my glasses on nor would she let me not participate.  I had to get in the pool. Do you know how much it sucks to try to hit a beach ball when you can’t see that well? I eventually just walked to the corner and stood there until we left for the day.

In high school, we had to take swimming as part of gym class.  We had to do a test on the first day. Most of the black kids, including myself, just walked across the pool during the test because we could not swim. After the test, we were put into groups based on ability.  I was in the beginners group and every kid in this group was black. Only a few of us made enough progress to move to another group. Besides my vision people a barrier, the teacher was another barrier. It is the only time in school that I yelled at a teacher.  She kept calling us slackers and didn’t understand why we were afraid. She also kept mispronouncing my name. I snapped and told her why I didn’t like her or the class. When I got home, I told my mom what happened. My mom called the teacher.  I don’t know what my mom said just like I don’t know what my mom said when I had a similar incident about my name being mispronounced in 7th grade, but the teacher apologized to me the next time I had her for class. I earned a D on my report card for that quarter. I was completing coursework for the academic honors diploma, which I did earn, but I was devastated to have a D for that quarter listed on my transcript because I couldn’t master a skill that I had a real fear in learning.

Fast forward to today.  I am the mom of 7 1/2 (yes the 1/2 matters) twin boys and they can’t swim.  We signed them up for swim lessons when they were three but it didn’t go well. My husband can swim.  We went to the same high school, but he was a year ahead. He started in the beginners group but learned how to swim.  He was so good that he was even asked to try out for the swim team, but he declined because he didn’t want to be the only black kid.  In this particular swim class, the parents had to get in the pool. My son James was with my husband and Jerry was with me. James was doing fine, but Jerry was crying during every class and wanted out of the pool.  I’m pretty sure my low key complaining and comments about him slipping out of my hands was not helping the situation. When they were five, we signed them up for another class.  James made more progress, but he still couldn’t swim. Jerry made progress too. He would actually stay in the water. He didn’t do anything but at least he stayed in the pool this time. It probably helped that parents especially me didn’t have to get into the pool.  My kids still can’t swim and I still can’t swim.

I don’t want my sons to be embarrassed on a school trip or avoid a party at a pool.  Even worse, I don’t want them to drown. I also knew that I had to be a role model, so I needed to learn too.  First, I talked to my optometrist about my eyesight being a barrier. He sent me to see a consultant for LASIK.  There are two types of LASIK that can be done and I didn’t qualify for either type. Apparently, you can get permanent contacts.  I didn’t qualify. It just seems weird, so I probably wouldn’t have done it even if I did qualify. The only option left was custom prescription goggles.  My vision is different in both eyes so I had to find a place that would customize two different lens; all prescription swim google places don’t do this.  

Next, I had to find a place to learn how to swim.  I checked out Community Healthplex which is super close to my home and they offered private instructors.  I hired a person to teach my boys and me at the same time. It is harder to quit when young people are watching you.  Yesterday, Saturday, September 29, we had our first lesson. When the swim instructor said we were going to work on floating on our backs, that is when I would have quit.  I had a bad incident in high school. There’s no need to describe that here. My boys just tried it so I knew I should just at least try it. I floated on my back for two seconds.  That’s better than one, right?  

Racism is still a barrier today.  We know this from the event involving the lady named Pool Patrol Paula.  Racism is still a barrier, but I know the 64% cannot be lowered if black people don’t sign up their children for swim lessons.  Some of my black friends kids can swim even though they still can’t. I was honestly perfectly content dying as a non swimmer, but I want to be part of changing the narrative that black people don’t swim.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Monday Musings: It’s Hard Not to be Hard on Yourself

img_6129I’m in this Ph.D. program at the moment.  This is my first semester in the program and I am currently taking two classes.  I received my grade on my first essay.  It was an 89% B+.  This grade is so frustrating because it is so close to the A range.

I know I should be happy that it wasn’t a grade of C or D or F, but I wanted an A.  I know this is just the first assignment and I am getting back into the swing of writing academic work, but I’m still not satisfied.

I decided to open a Google document and keep notes of feedback so I can be mindful of issues my professor highlighted in his comments on my paper.  That’s the only advice I can offer when you can’t get past how you are feeling about a situation. You have to take some sort of action to help you next time.  For me, it is creating this document.

I’m waiting on another assignment to be returned…so we shall see how I feel after I receive that grade.



Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged | 1 Comment

Monday Musings: Life in the Black


Many people know about our journey to add children to our family.  I was told during the second year of marriage that the chance of me ever getting pregnant without any intervention was between 1/2-1%.  Because we wanted children, we went through years of infertility treatments and tons of cash.  We got to the point where we had to borrow money.  The year we took out a loan to cover the next infertility treatments was the same year, I found out it had worked…and I was pregnant with twins.  The joy quickly turned to anxiety after several medical scares where I thought I had lost the pregnancy.  I ended up being rushed to the hospital during the school day and being put on bedrest for four months.  Two of those months, I was in the hospital.  After four months on bedrest, our sons were born ten weeks early and had to also stay in the hospital for two months.  If you add all of that up, that is six months of hospital bills, plus the loan we took out, plus normal bills, and then a daycare bill since I had to go back to work so we wouldn’t be under a mountain of debt forever.  This is when we decided to learn about dfree.  At this point, we thought it really couldn’t get any worse.

Since 2012, we have eliminated over $100,000 of debt.  Last month, we paid off my husband’s student loans.  Now, the only debt we have is my SUV (which I had to purchase after some idiot hit and totaled my car that had been paid off for six years) and the mortgage on our house.  The silver lining is because we were committed to the dfree lifestyle, I was able to upgrade from a car to an SUV unannounced and was able to put down a decent down payment.  I got my SUV right before Christmas 2017 and we have already paid off 1/3 of the loan balance and hope to have it 100% paid off by the end of 2019.

Today, at 5 p.m. my husband and I are featured on the dfree podcast In the Black, where we share an update of where we are today.

Click here to listen to the podcast.  Below is a video of us shortly after began the dfree lifestyle and won a dfree contest at our church (You get to see all my post twin pregnancy chubby face-ha!).

If you want to know more about dfree, please let me know.

Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Monday Musings: Two Days – Two Features


Feature One

I’m newbie when it comes to listening to podcasts.  The first podcast I ever listened to was Dead Oaks which was created by a cool guy, Christopher Waltz, who I taught across the hall from in a former school.  (Now, he has a new podcast called All My Ghosts, so check it out). Last year, when I started writing for The Educator’s Room (TER), was the first time I listened to an education podcast which was the one produced by TER.  I never imagined I would actually be on one.  Over the last months, I have been asked to be a guest on four different podcasts and my third guest podcast spot aired yesterday.  I was on Truth for Teachers hosted by Angela Watson.  On her website she shares:

Truth for Teachers is consistently ranked in the top ten K-12 podcasts on iTunes. Each Sunday, a new short episode is released to speak life, encouragement, and truth into the minds and hearts of educators. Subscribe below to get a fresh dose of inspiration for the week ahead!

My episode is called, “Why great teachers get saddled with the biggest workload (and how to advocate for yourself).”

Here’s an excerpt:

But the problem occurs when you’re doing your job well and then there are other people in your building who aren’t doing so well. And instead of helping that person get better, it’s like, “Oh, Shawnta can handle those kids, just transfer that person to Shawnta’s class.” That’s where I started to notice and would say, “You know what, no big deal. If the kid was struggling in that class, they can come to my class.” I didn’t even make a big deal of it, but then it got to the point where on one hand as an educator, they make you feel guilty. When you don’t want to work with those kids anymore, you don’t want to do your fair share, and it’s like, “Well that’s not what I’m saying. This is not fair. Your solution to the problem is just to remove them, not deal with the problem of someone else not owning their weight, and just let me take it on.” That’s when I really started to feel burnt out.

I was at the point that if I didn’t do something differently, I was going to walk away from education, and I did not want to do that. So I said, “What can I do to stay in education, refocus, get myself together, and not walk out on the profession?” Because I did what I tell teachers to do, such as to advocate for yourself. And it didn’t really get me anywhere, so the one lever I had was to leave.

Click here to read the transcript and/or listen to the podcast.

Feature Two


Today, I was featured in the September issue of One Voice Blog Magazine.  I was honored to be included in this issue.  The women who are part of this publication are women I admire and they fight for children that look like my sons.  I wrote a piece for the September issue called, “Was School Integration a Blessing or a Curse?”

Check out this excerpt:

Today, we are in a struggle for education equity within integrated schools.  Is this the case in all integrated schools? No. But for inequity to exist in even one school, it is one school too many.  As black parents, all we ever hear about is the achievement gap and about how numerous methods implemented to ensure our black children are achieving at the same rates as their white counterparts are not working.  Then, these so-called education reformers get mad when we move our children to a different school. They even try to tell us that our children will suffer if we pull them out of an integrated school and put them into a school that happens to be predominately black.  You don’t see black parents going up to the suburbs and telling white parents their white kids are going to suffer from being around too many white people, so don’t question black parents when you are comfortable with your children being in a mostly homogenous school.

Click here to read the entire piece.

Moving Forward

I am appreciative of all of these opportunities, but sometimes it is overwhelming for an introvert like me.  I push forward because I know we need more transparency because it helps others.  As of today, I have two more upcoming features that I’m excited about and possibly a third, so stay tuned!

One more thing…I love this comment!




Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Educator Barnes Speaks: Policies and Procedures in Schools

Posted in Educator Barnes Speaks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Musings: Educator Barnes’ August Review

POPIf you read my blog “Beginning 35” posted on my birthday, you know I outlined four goals for my 35th year of life.  Goal three is to work on my platform.  For the last several months, my first Monday Musings of each month included links to all the pieces I wrote during the previous month and my reflections about a few of those pieces.  Starting today, I am changing the format to include links to all my work: written pieces, videos, guest spots on podcasts, and links to any work that will be housed under my platform Educator Barnes which includes my garden education work under my Gardener Shicole platform (Shicole is my middle name if you were wondering).

Before we get to the new format, I must address an important issue…

As many of you know, one of the publications I write for is Indy/Ed, an education blog that is part of the Citizen Education network. This network includes blogs in L.A.D.C.NOLA and Memphis.  Citizen Education decided to move our platform from Squarespace to WordPress, which means all of our articles have new URLs.

This is the second time I have written for a publication where my links have disappeared AND I was not informed before it happened.  I should have learned my lesson the first time, but there will not be a third time.  As my work expands, many times people request copies of previous work and this is why there is a publication tab on my website Educator Barnes (EB).  Typically, I just send over the link to my publication page on EB and that is sufficient.  That doesn’t work if all the URLs no longer work.  Moving forward, I will be posting a PDF of any pieces I write.  I’m thinking about not even using the URLs anymore and just the PDFs, but I’m still working that out in my mind.  For now, I will provide both.  I have only updated some of the URLs and added PDFs besides them.  Any Indy/Ed pieces that were written before June 23, 2018, I haven’t fixed yet but I will have all links updated soon.

Here’s my work from August.

Education in Our Schools Articles

indy ed

8/19/2018 If Schools Don’t Like Black Hair, We Shouldn’t Give Them Our Black Children PDF
8/18/2018 Arsenal Tech High School Fight – The Community was Right PDF
8/16/2018 Compensation is the Reason Teachers Hop from District to District in Indy PDF
8/13/2018 To Improve Education, We Need the Entire Story PDF
8/12/2018 If You’re a Struggling Educator, It is Okay to Admit You Need to Find Another Profession PDF
8/5/2018 Teachers, Male or Female, Who Engage in Sex Acts with Children Have No Place in the Classroom PDF

TER Writer

8/10/2018 What Teachers Get Versus What They Need

Education in Our Schools Videos

Click here to subscribe to my education YouTube channel to get notified when new videos are uploaded.

8/30/2018 Black with Kids: Teachers, If You Value Us, We Will Support You
8/20/2018 Life as a Black Educator:  When You are Asked to Answer for the Black Race
8/14/2018 Black with Kids:  When Your Child’s Teacher is Afraid of You
8/9/2018 Being Culturally Responsive Starts with Pronouncing Names Correctly

Urban Gardening Educational Articles


8/23/2018 Who’s in Your Garden Network?
8/19/2018 Zucchini & an Apple Slicer?
8/18/2018 Caprese Zucchini Boat
8/16/2018 Pest Problems
8/15/2018 Yummy Carrots Quick


I appreciate your readership.  If there is something you would like me to write or talk on video about, please let me know.  Thanks!

Posted in Monday Musings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beginning 35

My first day of year 35

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I set goals in August when my birthday is.  These are my goals for year 35 of life.

Goal 1 – Determine if the Ph.D. program is for me.

Last week, I was crazy enough to begin a Ph.D. program.  This was not a goal I ever had for myself.  I have a few mentors that have pushed me in many other areas including encouraging me to apply to the IUPUI Urban Education Ph.D. program.  After about four years of encouragement, I finally applied during the last school year.  My thought was I won’t get accepted and because I felt like I bombed the interview portion of the application, I was certain I wasn’t going to make the cut.  Fortunately or unfortunately (I haven’t decided which) I got accepted.  I enrolled in classes a couple of weeks before the program started.  I know I have the capability of doing the work.  I just don’t know if I want to devote the time. I don’t know if I really have a novel idea to research to add to the body of research that is already out there.  I’m not a person who quits stuff, but I have been thinking about quitting every single day since the first class.  We will see if I stay the course.

Goal 2 – Learn how to swim.

my glasses

If you saw my tweet the other day about climbing a fence to escape a mouse, you know I fear those rodents.  I also fear large bodies of water.  I cannot swim.  On my high school transcript, I have one bad grade, a D in swim class.  My fear was real, but the teacher didn’t believe me.  My eyesight is horrible; I’m severely near-sighted.  My right eye prescription is -10.50 and my left eye is -11.25. I also have astigmatism in one eye too. My glasses cost around $500.00.  I have to get extra stuff done to my glasses so it doesn’t look like I am wearing two coke bottles on my face.  My eyes are so bad that I don’t qualify for Lasik.  I don’t even qualify for permanent contacts.  I didn’t even know that was a thing.  Even if I did qualify for that, I wouldn’t do it.  After eliminating those options, my optometrist suggested I order prescription swim goggles so I could learn how to swim.  Since my prescription is not the same in both eyes, I had to get them custom made.  They arrived in the mail two days ago.  My fear of large bodies of water is really tied to me not being able to see well.

my new swim goggles

When I was in college, I was a chaperone for a summer church trip to Kentucky Kingdom.  I rode a few water rides with my glasses on, but on the last water ride, I got kicked by a kid who chose to go down the slide too soon after I had gone. My whole body hit the side of the slide and I lost my glasses.  I freaked out and had a whole meltdown after I hit the water at the bottom of the slide.  They had to stop the ride to calm me down.  They did find my glasses.  Once I got my glasses back, I got out of the little pool and this group of kids I was responsible for keeping an eye on were just staring at me.  I said, “I think it is time to go eat some food.”  No one challenged me since I was pretending that my meltdown didn’t happen.  After that incident, I pretty much decided for the most part to stay out of the pool and large bodies of water.  My sons are still learning how to swim.  My husband can already swim.  I really want to conquer this fear; I don’t want to be the only person in my family that can’t swim.

Goal 3 – Work on my platform.

I technically started this a couple months ago.  People are listening to what I have to say when I write, when I do videos, and when I have been a guest on podcasts and several people have suggested that I focus on building my own platform.  It has been pointed out that I have been giving my all and helping move other people’s platforms forward. A few of my mentors even feel like some people are just using me.  I haven’t come to any definitive conclusions on that yet. If I feel that people are not allowing me to have input, but my work is helping you move your work forward then maybe I will have to reevaluate where I am contributing my intellect, time, and resources.  Regardless, of how I work, where I devote my time, I am carving out some time to develop my platform.  I have someone who is helping me brand myself and I also have a coach who is helping me focus my vision for this work.  I don’t know what all will be involved, but I am excited about the journey to work this out.

Goal 4 – Continue eliminating debt.

My husband and I adopted the dfree lifestyle in 2012.  By following those principles we have eliminated over $100,000 of debt since 2012.  It’s not because we are rich; it is because we are focused, have a plan, and are willing to make sacrifices. The only debt we have left at the moment is my SUV (you know the vehicle I had to buy after the idiot hit and totaled my paid off car last December) and the mortgage on our house.  Our long-term goal is to be debt free by 50 and our aggressive goal is to be debt free by 40.  I have already paid off 1/3 of my SUV and I’ve only had it for eight months.  If you want to learn more about our dfree lifestyle, listen to us on the dfree free podcast, “In the Black” on September 17 at 5 p.m.

Those are my goals for 35.  I will leave you with this closing thought.  If you don’t set goals for your life, how will you know if you have ever really accomplished what you wanted in life?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Concluding 34

img_5901In about an hour, I will officially be 35.  As I close out my 34th year of life, I am grateful.  Thirty-four was a chill year.  It was a year of growth where I started to become more self-aware of what I had to offer others personally and professionally.

I have had so many opportunities in this last year because people wanted to work with me and to pick my brain.  I always knew I had worth.  I just didn’t realize so many people thought I had something of value to contribute to their work or their goals.

I know every year in life isn’t rosy.  People at my church frequently say, “You are either going into a storm, in a storm, or getting out of a storm.  I hope year 35 is great, but if it isn’t, I believe I have the endurance and the will to overcome.

Check back tomorrow.  I will share my personal goals for year 35.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment