Education is key! I’m sure many of you have heard this phrase a thousand and one times. In the case of Sean Larry Stevens, it is profoundly true. From living through many challenges in his past to becoming an entrepreneur and a successful author and educator, Sean has made an impact on many lives. Sean explains how it’s important to take time for yourself and your family at all costs during this unforeseen time. In this article, we will take a deeper dig into why education and self-care are important in communities of color and how Sean feels the school systems need to overcome this current pandemic.
As an educator, motivator, author, and life coach what is the greatest motivational lesson you want people to learn from your teachings?
The greatest light is always preceded by darkness; the lesson I want people to constantly ground themselves in is the idea of embracing challenges and finding the light. Challenges are not done to you, they are done for you – and this is something very difficult to hear and believe, especially while navigating through the challenging times that make you feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. From watching my mother do drugs in our living room during the short periods of times she resurfaced in our lives, to watching one of my aunts have her last seizure in our living room before she died as a result of the AIDS virus at eleven years old, to a car accident where my uncle died in my arms, to have to watch the video of my little brother being murdered in order to identify his body. Through all of that, it is easy for someone to emotionally and mentally break down and give up. Yet, what I’ve learned through all of these experiences is that when I work hard to find the emotional resilience to persevere and work hard at turning tragedy into triumph, I get stronger and stronger. Throughout every challenge that has impacted me, I have been forced out of my comfort zone to a place that made me think differently about the world.
What inspired you to pursue the education field? Does your past play a significant role in what you strive for today?
When I graduated from Cornell, we were in the middle of a recession. People were literally losing their life savings, the stock market had plummeted for the first time since the Great Depression, and businesses were folding. I had gotten into and applied to graduate school upon graduation but decided that financially this wouldn’t be a smart decision until the economy stabilized. I had already taken a number of education courses at Cornell and decided to join Teach for America, an organization that places students from competitive universities into under-served communities to teach for a minimum of two years. The moment I stepped into one of the lowest-performing junior-high schools in Washington, D.C., I knew that this was the place I needed to be forever. Growing up, I did not have strong teachers and certainly didn’t have a black male teacher until I was in college. I didn’t want that to be the narrative for students who look like me and came from my community. Additionally, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and college and when thinking about how disadvantaged we were it was clear that the lack of education was one of the reasons we grew up in the challenging circumstances we lived in.
What makes you the proudest about your firm Sapphire Education, Leadership, and Life Coaching?
I am proud that I can pour into others what people have poured into me. One of the things that I think I’ve become stronger at over the last 12 years of my life is being a leader. Currently pursuing my doctorate at Vanderbilt in leadership, I am taking even more of the theories of leadership that I am learning and putting it into practice on a daily basis. I became a principal really early in my twenties and now I have had the opportunity through my company to consult, coach, travel to different states, and plant seeds of influence that impact people beyond my wildest beliefs. It has been a blessing to be able to share successes, failures, ideas, and resources to others in a way that I know is going to have a lasting legacy. It’s so much bigger than me, and for that, I am grateful and proud to just be a small piece of a larger puzzle to create a better world.
With the COVID-19 pandemic heavily affecting the education system, what techniques do you feel educators should adopt when trying to overcome and rebuild from this pandemic?
I think the first thing that people need to be thinking about, while I know there are a million things we could and should be considering, is valuing and maintaining connection and practicing self-care in a way that supports emotional stability. It’s so easy for us as educators to be thinking about systems and structures, financial implications, etc. but at the end of the day, we have people dying by the thousands. We have families without resources to even allow them to engage in whatever systems and structures we put in place. In terms of rebuilding, I think we have an opportunity to build a strong future for our students by navigating the not-so-new way of educating: remote learning. There are probably educators all over the country who have never engaged in a form of remote learning before and this is essential for our future. I think one of the most important things that educators can do to rebuild our education system after COVID would be to continually engage in aspects of the remote learning processes that they were unexpectedly forced to create and utilize it as a way to enhance the experiences of our students whenever we get back to the physical schoolhouse. We’ve already seen that it can be done, so let’s continue it and make it better.
What was the inspiration behind publishing your book “UnSeen Thoughts”?
My pain! I published my first book many years ago in my early twenties and quite frankly I am thinking about revising it in a way that reflects even more refined thoughts and experiences. At the time UnSeen Thoughts was published, I was yearning for a way to let out some of my childhood experiences into the world. It honestly was a way to release some of the demons that had been holding me back from being the best version of myself. I was carrying baggage that prevented me from moving on from some of the pain my absent mother and father had caused me. I was holding onto some of the secrets that I promised I would take to the grave with me that I ultimately realized was just causing me more pain by holding internally. I was not forgiving some of the people who came into my life to teach me a lesson about love and it was time to let that out on paper. I started doing spoken word in middle school and as a result, I had a collection of stories and experiences that I wanted to share with the world to inspire others to persevere. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that have come because I was vulnerable enough to allow others into my heart.
Make sure to follow Sean Larry Stevens on Instagram.