Throughout our lives, many things change: attitudes, health, friendships and of course our hair styles. One thing that has remained consistent for Rodrick Samuels, is his love for teaching. He says, “It took me 27 years to be an overnight success.”
From co-hosting the North American Hairdressing Awards in 2022 with his Texture NAHA-winning spouse Lauren Moser and winning this year’s Educator of the Year, Samuels never forgets the valuable insight his mother, who was a teacher expressed, “Understanding and building relationships is the basis of teaching.”
Now in the 21st century and teaching future barbers at Hair Lab Detroit Barbering School, Samuels reflects on the difference when he was a student to how he approaches his students today. “Back in the day, I listened to teachers because they were authoritative figures and I believed they had my best interests for me to succeed. We didn’t have the internet or social media, my generation had to hustle to get our information. It took literal legwork to get ahead and succeed. I’m finding kids today lack confidence because they don’t have to work as hard as the generations before them. I’m not blaming them, it’s just something they have to learn.”
Recognizing the changing attitudes and shifts in education, Samuels has changed his approach to teaching and in addition to the cutting fundamentals, he has added a course to his curriculum called Professional Development.
“In Professional Development, we teach intangible skills like problem solving, entrepreneurship, budgeting, income tax information, customer service, mental health and coping solutions," he says. "As a teacher, I actively listen to my students with compassion and understanding. All kids want their voice heard, but some of them are not speaking a coherent language.”
He credits his personal journey of parenting with Moser as making him a better teacher and mentor by leading by example. Their marriage is also a celebration of changing times as interracial marriage was not legal in the United States until 1967. For this couple, advocacy and education becomes a Love Language to their students.
“Having frank conversations about social issues that affect barber and beauty students like racism, police brutality, and current events aren’t options for our schools anymore. It's a must, they’re essential. Today’s tough love is holding the kids accountable for their actions. They’re going to need to learn how to be resilient from their mistakes and failures," he says.
"We hold Shark Tank style competitions where students must present marketing plans and a product. Prizes are awarded so they learn healthy competition. Hair Lab has counselors that are like life coaches. We look at the students’ grades and lifestyles and how to get them over any mental barriers that prevent them from achieving their goals.”
Being in the Motor City, Samuels offers this analogy, “Like the car makers in Detroit, they want the best product leaving their assembly line. Those cars are indispensable to carry out their duties whether it be a family car or work truck. The owner doesn’t need to worry about the performance. Our barber students graduate not as cookie cutter barbers, but a complete package for success.”
Who knows, one of Samuels students may just become a teacher and cosmetology school owner in the future.
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