Noelle: I love your analogy of the DJ. With
everything that you do, so you are a YouTuber, you teach freshman
English, you're a father, and you just wrote a book, right? And I don't
think it's been out there yet a year, or correct me if I'm wrong—
CJ: April will be a year. Yes.
Noelle: Okay. How do you keep it balanced? And how do you reflect and think about, "Ooh, I need to reprioritize some things?"
CJ: Yeah. Especially now, right? Where there doesn't
seem to be any clear-cut end on the school day. So, I used to leave the
building, and that was the end of my school day unless I wanted to do
work at home. But now, you're always in the building. Kids will text you
in the middle of the night. They'll email you at one o'clock in the
morning about an assignment. And so it's really about having those
boundaries and letting students know very clearly what time I am willing
to engage and what time I'm not willing to engage. And then, when I'm
doing anything, I'm only where my feet are. So I'm only doing the thing
that I'm doing. So when I'm doing schoolwork, I'm not having a
conversation with my wife. I'm not talking to my kids. I'm not doing
Real Rap Reynolds stuff. I'm only doing school.
And then, when I'm with my kids, I'm not checking my phone. I'm not
texting someone else or looking up something else. I'm just with my kids
playing video games or watching a movie or whatever. And I think that
has been the biggest saving grace because I can get a lot more done. And
the time with my kids is a lot more precious when it's an hour or two
in the night where we're not just around one another and counting that
as time. We're counting the time as, "No. I'm here right now with you."
And that's been really important too.
And really when we started COVID, when that first quarantine hit, I
just went off the rails. I was like, "This might be the end of the
world. Let's just eat cookie dough and drink beer all the time. Every
night, this is dinner." And that had to shift because I had to make sure
that I was making good decisions. Like I was still getting up early,
still praying and meditating in the morning, still exercising, still
finding things to learn and to do in the middle of our house. And that
has been huge as well. So overall, I know the state of the world 2020
was really difficult, and I don't want to minimize that for anyone, but
it has been a really great growing experience for our household
in this time.
Noelle: Yep. I can concur with that. At first, I was
apologizing for it, and then I was like, "Wait. I, too, was set back.
I, too, was just like, 'What am I going to do? How am I going to be?'" I
thrive being with people, in front of people, watching and learning.
And then, all of a sudden, it just clicked. And I started finding my
paths and different ways. I think I had probably the saddest,
hardest year, but also the most productive. Every time I think about
we're living history and it doesn't seem like it's going to necessarily
change overnight, we're still going to be working on it. But we've got
to keep making the best of it.
I want to ask you one thing, because you and I have these real
conversations. I want to know what has been the funniest thing that one
of your students has said about seeing a poster of you behind you? So,
for our listeners who aren't seeing this, CJ has a poster of his book
that probably marked the book as being released behind him. And when he
teaches, and he's in his Zoom calls, I know students aren't keeping
quiet about seeing Mr. Reynolds.
CJ: No, I mean, they notice everything, right? We've
talked about this before. You can't get a haircut in the middle of the
week because it's just going to…Like you get a haircut on a Wednesday,
your lesson's gone on Thursday. Everyone just wants to talk about the
haircut. And, "Do you dye your hair gray, Mr. Reynolds?" "No, bro. This
is my wisdom. I don't dye this gray." So, one of the things I love doing
is one, sharing some of my life with my students. I like them to
know. So, the other day, we were doing a Kahoot review in class, and my
kids came in, my own, like the ones I made, came in and were part of the
Kahoot with us. They'll come on and talk to my students about whatever
video game, whatever app they're into. That is such an amazing place to
connect with students. And then, they give them a glimpse of what your
So, look, it's flexing a little bit to have a poster of yourself in
the background. But you know what? I'm sure George Lucas has Star Wars
posters in his house, right? Wrote a whole book and you have a picture
of it behind, that's what I'm doing. But the other part of that has been
really everything I've done from YouTube to the book and beyond has
been the greatest lesson I've ever taught my students because they
remember when I had a YouTube channel, and I had three subscribers and
probably two of my grandmothers on different accounts because she just
loved me that much.
But over the years, to be able to see what has grown and to bring
them with me. Like the two kids that are on the front of the book are
students of mine. They are two of my favorite guys of all time. And the
book cover was meant to be a salute to my students in the city that they
come from. And one of my favorite graffiti artists did the cover for
the book. So, it is like a celebration of all the things. We've been
through so much together, and we've grown, and I've showed you,
literally, how to make something from nothing and made this business. So
that's part of it. It's like a reminder too. But for the new kids, it's
just the flex that I have a picture of myself in the background.
Because kind of a big deal, guys. That's what I tell them.