Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields, is well known in the Baltimore area for his work with youth. He was a teacher for 6 years at the Baltimore City College High School, where he taught Spanish. He then co-founded the Urban Leadership Institute with friend, David Miller, where the goal/mission was to provide educators with quality professional development services, which has since evolved to become a nationwide initiative.
Now, he has taken a leap of faith and partnered with Dr. Marina Gillmore of California to pen a book entitled, “What I Learned In The Midst of KAOS: The Making of An Ubuntu Teacher”. Thursday, November 19, 2015 will mark the Baltimore release of the book as the Black Mental Health Alliance will host a 45 minute talk and panel discussion at New Shiloh Baptist Church, located on N. Monroe Street.
According to Shields, people ask how long he’s been writing the book. His answer is his entire life. He said the story has never been told from his vantage point. Shields says as a teacher at Baltimore City College, he kept a journal of his experiences. By writing the book, he is writing a letter to the boys with whom he has come into contact, including his own son.
So, what is an Ubuntu teacher?
Ubuntu means humanist or humanity. It is a connection we all have. One of his parents told him that he possessed Ubuntu characteristics. When you possess those characteristics, you become a successful teacher. Shields decided to use the term to make people think and wonder what is it.
As a child, Shields attended a Catholic school on the southside of Chicago. He and several other African American students were struggling not only with schoolwork, but also with social relationships. They found and formed a common bond and decided to take on the name The Original Five. As the group of teens grew from 5 to 25, his buddy Steve thought of another name for the group, KAOS, representative of the struggles they had to endure.
The name now has become a metaphor for the KAOS which has taken place in his life both as a child, a college student and as an advocate for children against injustices. Shields’ book has a two-fold purpose. The educational narrative/memoir teaches teachers how to support and teach boys like himself, especially when they have lost their zeal for teaching. Shields also addresses issues of race as well as the paradigm shift from pedagogy to the heart of a teacher. It is his goal to leave a legacy to help those teachers who come behind him, working in the trenches in spite of everything.
As KAOS opens, Shields talks about he and his then-three-year-old son meeting the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. Dr. Shields offers a candid look into his life as a student, a mentor and teacher. He talks about how he and his friends made it out of KAOS and the lessons he learned from the relationships established with his friends in Chicago and his students. A powerful chapter in the book is entitled Chasing Curtis, based upon the theory that while you are chasing someone, you are actually running from something.
Shield’s book has garnered major reviews and endorsements. Several colleges are interested in using the book to study the subject and to empower others.
What’s next for Dr. Shields? He is working on another version of KAOS, geared toward middle and high school students. The book will include a soundtrack of five songs, written by the son of a friend, who will also use the music as a catharsis to tell the story through music and release his own pain and frustration.
In addition, Dr. Shields is working on another book with Dr. Marina Gilmore, whose focus is on educational justice. The book will be called, “Education in Black and White”.
“What I Learned In The Midst of KAOS: The Making of An Ubuntu Teacher” is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and his website ,
Dr. Shields can be reached via his website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.