President’s Day and the Real History of America

What is the history of the country that I live in? Growing up I believed we were the “Good Guys”. The one’s who came in to save the day. We saved the world from Germany. Twice. We had to be great right? Little did I know about the true history of the United States. The more I learn the more I realize the history of my country is both great and terrible. I am not a historian but I would imagine that is true of most countries. A website called historyisaweapon has helped me get a bit of a clearer view of what has happened. They take excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr., Noam Chomsky, Fidel Castro, Mark Twain, Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth and numerous other historical figures.

The website is the creation of author Howard Zinn. On the site Mr. Zinn writes a note and a disclaimer for the reader

The Note: This great book should really be read by everyone. It is difficult to describe why it so great because it both teaches and inspires. You really just have to read it. We think it is so good that it demands to be as accessible as possible. Once you’ve finished it, we’re sure you’ll agree. In fact, years ago, we would offer people twenty dollars if they read the book and didn’t think it was completely worth their time. Of all the people who took us up on it, no one collected.

The disclaimer: This version is made from OCR. That is a fancy way of saying that we scanned in and coded over six hundred fifty pages. There will be a few small occasional errors: spelling mistakes, odd punctuation, and the like. If you see any, please contact us. We have posted it in spite of these mistakes for two simple reasons. First, the book is worth a mistake or two because it really deserves the widest audience possible. Second, we are sure that once you new people begin reading it, you’ll go out and get a physical copy. You should go and get it (and ones for your friends and family). At this point, A People’s History Of The United States is available in regular form, read aloud on audio, on posters, in a teaching edition, and as just the twentieth century chapters (we have all but the posters). And now here. Please Enjoy!

I am writing about this because all across the country schools have been teaching about the Presidents of the United States and the history of this country from the viewpoint of the victors. The people who have gained and excelled by the atrocities committed in the name of America. My point here is not to solely bash the history of America. It is to make sure that we as educators understand that the history of America is why there are so many problems that exist in our society today.

The word intersectionality is something that is something that helps explain these complex problems with this country. Intersectionality is defined as… “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” We can not look at how our indigenous people are struggling today without looking at gender, class, or racial inequality as well.  You cannot talk about racism without addressing sexism. You cannot address ageism without looking at classism. The problems we face are not separate. They are all intertwined and connected.

Take a look at the website I have listed above and let’s continue our learning journey together. We will continue to push ourselves to be more knowledgeable about the country we live in as well as how we can make a positive change today. As Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I am still trying to change the world.

cropped-maslowbloom1.jpg & ConnectedPE Conference

Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) has created a physical education army. He teaches in Victoria Australia and has a passion and enthusiasm for the role emerging technologies play within teaching and learning. He is first and foremost an advocate for lifelong movement and physical activity, however, realizes the power of 21st-century technologies that can shape new age teaching pedagogies.

Jarrod is known throughout the online community as “The PE Geek”, and authors a blog of the same name at which has proved to be an invaluable resource for teachers seeking effective use of 21st-century tools in PE.  He has begun his own mobile development company, “The PE Geek Apps”, which builds mobile applications for teachers on both Android and iOS devices.

In addition to doing all the above-mentioned activities, he has created the most massive online physical education development around. He calls this conference the ConnectedPE Conference. The ConnectedPE Online Conference is a global Physical Education event that takes place over the course of one week. Each day there were three amazing Physical Education themed sessions led by presenters from all over the world. These sessions were pushed out through the platform Zoom as well as Facebook Live.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to present during this week event on the platform Seesaw. I call it a platform because it can be used on any device. It is a student-driven digital portfolio and simple parent communication tool. There is no better technology tool on the market than Seesaw.  Seesaw allows me to communicate what is going on in my classroom with the parents in my school. This can be done via a selfie video done by me, the students, or video captured of the students during my class.

The digital portfolio side of things is another game changer. Students can type, use a video, a drawing, a picture, submit a link, or upload a file. This can be used for formative or summative assessments. It is such a versatile tool that it has become my go to answer during Twitter chats! When someone asks how can I…… Seesaw is almost always the answer. It is a GAME CHANGER!

The best part of Seesaw is that it can be used for free! There are paid versions that do give you some more benefits. That is to be expected. They have to pay their staff and expenses somehow! They are a company that understands that teachers are cash strapped and have vowed to keep a free version available as long as they exist.

I am purposefully keeping this blog shorter about Seesaw because I have already done the hard work of showing you how I use it in my classroom here. Click the link and watch my presentation if you want to learn more. I want to go on record stating that I am not a paid representative of Seesaw. This allows me to freely state that this is a classroom tool that you need to be using. It will take the place of 7 different tools you probably have to use now as well as give you more options you haven’t even thought about! You can use QR codes to get into the program or use your GAFE id to set up classes and login.

Did I mention that they set you up with free blogging sites? Forget using Kidblog which charges you! Don’t mess around with Google Sites to find a work around. Simply click blog on and only your student’s first name will show up on the site.

I know this blog read like an infomercial for Seesaw; however, you need to check out how it can help you create a classroom with an authentic audience as well as keep track of your students’ work.

If you are a physical education teacher you should connect with Jarrod. He is always creating something useful for the physed community. In addition to that, he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He has donated money to numerous people and projects over the years never saying a word about it. I only know because those people have told me personally about it. I would like to publicly thank Jarrod for everything he is doing to make the physed community stronger. 



EdcampEncore 17 Reflection


This Saturday I was lucky enough to be a part of an amazing idea called EdcampNJ Encore. The idea or the why behind the Encore is that the first time we talk or learn about something we are just scratching the surface. We need time and space to bring the idea to life. Using that as our why, we planned a follow-up to the original EdcampNJ that would occur three months later and named it EdcampNJ Encore.

One change that was made under the direction of Stacey Lindes (who stole it from somewhere)  was to change the terminology from sessions to conversations. This subtle difference helps keep with the why of the day. We did not want “experts” monopolizing the time. EdCamps should really be about conversations and that the sum of the room is much better than its’ individual parts.

As far as we knew this was the first event of its kind. That means that there was bound to be mistakes and we were basically shooting in the dark. With that being said, here are the highlights and lowlights of the day!

The highlight of the day for me was going to the library and holding a Book EDU. We all sat on couches and discussed our favorite books that have helped shaped our thoughts. One of the books mentioned was the #EduMatch Snapshot in Education. There are many reasons that this book is fantastic. The number one reason for me was that the book is available on an E-reader for FREE and it was creator by people in education for people in education. The book takes little “snapshots” of what educators are doing in their buildings and shares with the reader how this will improve their educational practices.

Another book that received a lot of love from the crowd was the Hacking Literacy book from the Hack Learning series. This book was touted as having resources that the teacher can implement the very next day. That is the type of material I like to read. Lavonna Roth was given some love with her whole child approach to teaching book titled Brain Powered Strategies to Engage All Learners. A couple of other titles that were mentioned was the book Thanks for the Feedback as well as Start With the Why. Here is the link to all the notes and books discussed during that conversation.

I was slightly disappointed in the turnout of the day. We had over 150 people sign up and only 75 show up. I know that this was a normal showing for some Edcamps and that in general people blow off things they don’t have to pay for when something comes up, but it was surprising that the people who already had taken time away from their busy lives to come to the original EdcampNJ didn’t make it back. The upside to that was that everyone was truly able to get their voice heard during the discussions. In the end, it is not about the number of people who show up but the quality of the conversation that really matters.

The second conversation I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius. Mike is an Associate Director of Professional Development and Instructional Issues the ‎New Jersey Education Association. His conversation is one that was highly attended and really got my wheels turning. The basic premise I took away from his session is that the system (school) should be changed. Once the school is changed, which is driven by the students’ needs than teachers can be trained in whatever they need to be trained in. The training leads to professional learning which in turn leads to professional development. The professional development is done in order to change the system which starts the cycle all over again. If you would like to learn more about this I would contact @mritzius directly because there is still a lot that I need to learn myself.

The final conversation of the day was a forced reflection. We always talk about being purposeful and keeping the why in the front and center of our decisions. Why should educators, students, parents, administrators, or board members show up to Edcamps? Where is the value of them? How is going to EdcampNJ going to benefit students? All the attendees were asked to sit at a table with other random people. The table had chocolates, mint lifesavers, Swedish fish, anchor charts, and magic markers. The participants were given a prompt and then directed to write their responses down on the chart paper. They were instructed to move every twelve minutes to a new table.

This served a couple of purposes. The people were forced to get up and move as well as interact with people they didn’t know. I know I hate when this happens to me in the beginning but I always end up connecting with new people. The second purpose of this was to document how EdCampNJ had directly benefited students. In the immortal words of Doug Timm, “Connect globally; change locally.” This activity showed the how and what of EdCampNJ. Click this link to see some of the responses.

The final couple of minutes we had other EdCamp organizers stand up and give a quick 30-second speech about their EdCamp and when it was occurring. I was so surprised at how many organizers had shown up to the Encore!!

I am going to wait until the feedback rolls in from the survey in order to declare the day a success. There are going to be things that need to change as well as things that we will keep in the future. I am going to declare that I am proud of the day that the EdCampNJ team planned and executed. Next time I hope to see you there! 



What is in Your Heart

What is in your heart? That is a question that only you can answer. We have entered a period of time where teachers are being pressed as to why children aren’t succeeding in their class. Are you really doing everything you can for all the students in your class? Do you have a bias against a student? Only you can answer that question.

You send an email or post something online and someone gives you push back. Why did you post it? They don’t like it. You made them angry. Were your motives pure? Only you can answer that question.

Your boss isn’t happy with a decision you made. They call you in to “talk” about it. You explain why you did what you did. You have no idea if they believe you. Why did you really do it? Only you can truly answer that question.

Your spouse or significant other is peeved at a response or an action you took. It starts an argument. They don’t understand why you spoke the way you did. Were you being condescending, sardonic, or rude? Only you truly know what was in your heart.

A parent sends you an email that questions your teaching methods. Why is their student struggling in your class? You explain to them the situation. They aren’t buying what you are selling. Is it the truth or are you a charlatan? Only you know what truly was behind your actions.

It is time to look in the mirror and ask yourself what is in your heart. Do your words and actions match your heart? We are entering a time of soul searching where we need to really be aware of what we are doing and why. Like my friend, Toutoule told me, “Be intentional with everything you do.” I concur. 



Inspiration Outside of Education

My car starts to make a noise, a light on the dashboard goes on, or it’s time to change my oil. Any of those scenarios will trigger me to ask Siri to call Joe. Joe is my friend who fixes cars. Joe and I will plan a time and I will bring my car down to his shop. I am the designated flashlight holder and tool grabber. Together we fix the problem.  Every time we work on the car I am amazed at how fixing cars, what we teach in education, and technology are so similar.

Joe quickly identifies what the problem is. He uses his expertise from past experiences as well as research on the internet to find out different solutions to the problem. (We use his expertise because I am about as dumb and ignorant as you can possibly be when it comes to fixing things. I can use a hammer and screwdriver. That is where my expertise ends.) This is the same thing I do when using figuring out a solution using tech in class, as well as at my home. I identify what exactly I need to get accomplished (what the problem is) and use my prior knowledge of classroom experience, tech tools, as well as the internet to find out what is the best tool to use in order to accomplish my goal.

What happens next is the amazing part. Joe will tell me what the problem is and what parts we will need to fix it. We get the parts and then the fun begins. It NEVER goes the way we think it should go. A bolt won’t come loose, the piece we bought doesn’t quite fit, or another piece is in the way of where we need to go. Joe has a boatload of tools that he can use to saw a piece off, shave a bolt down, or find a way to rig something together in order to accomplish the task. Does this sound familiar to you?

How many times have we went to use a tech tool only to find out it doesn’t work anymore, another program is affecting it, or it is incompatible with the device we are using. We end up using one tool smashed with another tool to get the job done. We may have to download something or find a workaround to a problem that we didn’t foresee occurring. Technology NEVER works the way we expect it to! Both technology and auto repair are the ultimate trial and error experiences. We start to work and use problem-solving skills to accomplish the task.

How many times have we planned a lesson only to find out that it isn’t working? It may even be a lesson that we have used in the past that has worked wonderfully for other classes. Shoot it may even be a lesson we are using for a second time that day with a different class that worked with the previous class! Lesson plans NEVER works the way we expect them to! This may occur for a variety of reasons. The wifi might have gone out, the Chromebooks died, or maybe students just don’t click with the lesson. Whatever the reason we problem solve and figure out how to make that lesson stick. Both teaching and auto repair involve being flexible and finding multiple ways to attack the same problem.

Fixing cars, teaching, and technology has shown me that our students will need resiliency or perhaps that dreaded word grit long after they leave the school system. Rarely does anything work the way it is supposed to in life. I have worked at many businesses and all of them use this same process of trial and error in order to solve problems. It may be something simple like fixing a leak, setting up audio around a store, or more complex like fixing a cold box or upgrading software. It is rarely as simple as following simple directions and fixing the problem.

When things go awry and a solution doesn’t work how do we respond? We can kick and scream and throw a fit. Sometimes we do this and it possibly makes us feel better in the short term. However, it never solves the problem. We can whine about how difficult the problem is while we are fixing the problem. This only frustrates those around us and encourages negative self-talk.

It is how we deal with the struggle that matters. These are skills we are teaching our students no matter what the subject. We are always going to struggle. Will the struggle define us or will we focus on the journey and the success it will eventually lead to?

Some people will say that we can just pay experts to come in and fix the problem. This is a viable solution but we lose something in the process. That something is capital. In some cases capital is money. I can pay someone to fix the car; but, it will cost me a boatload of money. Companies can pay experts to come in and fix the solution but it will hurt their bottom line. In the case of our students and sometimes our co-workers the capital they will be paying is the ability to help themselves. This is a skill that physical education and health teachers excel at. We prepare students for the constant struggle of trial and error in life.

The immediate example that comes to my mind in physical education is that a professional baseball player will go to the hall of fame if they hit successfully 3 out of 10 times. They will fail 7 out of ten times. How many times do our students miss the kick, drop the ball, brick a shot, or lose the game? More importantly how many times do the students kick the ball again, catch the ball the next time, make the basket or play the game again? Our students in physed analyze why they didn’t succeed and figure out what needs to change in order to succeed. That is the same thing professional athletes do. Those are the lessons our students will take with them throughout life. 

Let’s go back to my friend Joe. Fixing cars is a side job for him. Joe did not go to college or particularly like school growing up. He might even be one of the students that education would focus on his weaknesses and attempt to negatively label him. Yet look at what Joe’s strengths are. He can problem solve and has developed resiliency in order to keep going until the job is finished. These are the skills that a teacher could have identified in him when he was young. Once he realized he had strengths he could have built upon them and lessened his negative association to school.

Companies want employees that can problem solve on their own. How useful would a mechanic be if every time something blocked them from doing their job they had to ask their boss what to do? Bosses do not want employees who need their hand held or that need to be micromanaged. How are we teaching our students to problem solve on their own?



Why Do You Post on Social Media?

Why do you post on social media? Some people post resources to help others. Some post what they are doing in class hoping to spark an idea for others. While others may post to raise awareness of an event or a cause. Have you ever analyzed why you post to social media? I am probably like most people and post for a variety of reasons.

Who you post to is just as important or perhaps more important than what you are posting. Most social media sites allow your posts to go only to people that you want it to go to or you can post it to the public. What is posted in private is your business. What is posted to the public is our business. When I post my blog, a video from my class, or a response to someone in public on social media I am opening myself up to the world.

Opening yourself up to the world can be scary. People who have never met me will be judging me based on one blog, one tweet, one post, or one picture caption. Not only will they use what I produce to judge me they will look at it with their bias. Bias combined with a lack of perspective can create some wild situations. I know I have been in them! A lot of time people read into your posts what they want to read into it without recognizing what they are doing. That is human nature.

I just had a woman of color ask me why I retweeted and agreed that we need to see more students of color being represented in the #physed videos we see on Twitter. I explained to her that I agreed with that statement and that was why I retweeted it. She immediately blocked me. I don’t know why she did but it was a stark reminder that when you talk about race, gender, sexuality, religion, politics or any other subject that people get emotional about you are opening yourself up to critique. This is the dark side that we don’t speak about enough when you become connected. The bottom line is that is their problem, not yours. You know your intentions and motivations don’t let others dim your light!

Opening yourself to the world can also open doors to the world that never would have existed before. You can gain valuable perspective, new friends, and create opportunities that you would never have had before. The smartest thing I ever did was to find people who are smarter than I am, have been doing their job better than I have, and know more about education than I do. By doing this I have ensured that my thinking will be pushed. When you follow those people and interact with them they will interact with you. They will give you feedback about your lessons, ideas, and pedagogy.

I have created some real friendships through my online presence. These are people I talk to every day. We have met in person, stayed over each others houses, and went on eduvacations together. These people could disappear out of my life at any time. Then again I have had other friends who I grew up with who live ten minutes away from that I haven’t seen in years. Anyone can disappear from your life at any time.

Being connected has made me aware of the many conferences and opportunities to present. I have presented at local, regional, state, national and international conferences. Last year I was flown to Vegas to keynote! (Thanks Heidi Carr!!) All of these opportunities came about because I was connected with other educators on social media.

What always surprises me is when I have responded to people’s posts online and they get upset. Why are you posting things to a public forum for the entire world to see if you don’t want people to respond to your post? There is no “safe space” on public social media. If people want to post things where they only want a clap on the back or affirmation of what they write post it in your private forums. Lockdown who has access to your posts. It just doesn’t make sense to be upset when people comment on your PUBLIC posts. Please remember that when people give you feedback it may not always be positive. It is up to you to decide what to do with that feedback.

My last thought about social media is that there is no vetting of material being posted on social media. Shoot there is no vetting of material that you pay for on teachers pay teachers. Not only is it our job to be critical consumers of information and ideas we need to respond if we see something that may not be best practice. This should be done in the most careful and respectful of ways. If you think something is awry ask the person first. There may be information that the person left out of the post. Go into every encounter with others assuming they have the best of intentions. This will help you remain positive during your interactions.


Restorative Justice in Education

I am not insane. This means that I can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. “Punishment is used to help decrease the probability that a specific undesired behavior will occur with the delivery of a consequence immediately after the undesired response/behavior is exhibited.” (link) This isn’t working. Some of our students are still exhibiting that undesirable behavior. We keep punishing our students for their behavior even though it hasn’t changed it. This means that the consequences aren’t doing their intended jobs. How can we change this?

One of the ways to change this is to look at using restorative justice in our classes and schools.

Restorative justice (RJ) is a powerful approach to discipline that focuses on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders. Implemented well, RJ shifts the focus of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community. However, it is often misperceived and misapplied. (link)

What a fantastic idea! Have the students repair the harm that their decisions caused. Right now our education system looks very similar to the prison system. If you make a decision you get penalized. Too many poor decisions and you are removed from your surroundings. This system is not working. It isn’t working for society and it isn’t working for education.

You may be asking yourself how this looks. I would recommend watching this interview I did With Victor Small Jr. and Jerod Phillips. This padlet was created by Victor and the Restorative Justice Voxer group. If you want to join the Voxer group click this link. One of the main ideas of Restorative Justice is the use of circles.

When we sit in a circle we experience a stronger sense of community. Every person in the circle shares responsibility for its functioning. Circle culture is more “yes-and” than “either-or.” Yes, there is a leader, and each person takes the lead in turn, each time it is their turn to speak. Yes, some guidelines are given and the group makes its own agreements. Decisions are made, but by consensus of the whole group, and sometimes this means decisions come slowly or take unexpected forms. Thus, one of the main purposes of circle dialogue is building community. Another purpose is supporting the kinds of honest, authentic dialogue that is necessary to effectively respond to challenging behavior and circumstances. These two intentions for circles take shape as two different types of circle: community building and responsive. A premise that runs throughout this manual is that responsive circles (for responding to misbehavior and harm) work best in classrooms where a foundation has been developed through community building circles.

There is a lot to unpack when it comes to Restorative Justice.  It is an alternative to quick and uncaring suspensions and penalties that simply don’t work. If you want to engage in a conversation about RJ come join the slowchatpe voxer group this week while we discuss the pros and cons and work our way through this new way to solve disputes and create a climate where students don’t fear the teacher while simultaneously learning how to deal with conflict in a way that will benefit them in the long-term as well as the present.