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Marines In Schools

SHAPE America and the Marine Corps Partnership

Throughout our journey in life, we inevitably encounter numerous valuable lessons that shape us as individuals. As we navigate the highs and lows, both triumphs and missteps contribute to our growth as human beings. Among these valuable insights, one stands out as the most important: the significance of being critical—of ourselves, others, and the world around us. In this pursuit, introspection becomes a powerful tool to examine our beliefs and behaviors, and how well they align with each other.

Just as a sports team reviews game films to engage in honest conversations on how to improve, we must adopt a similar mindset when reflecting on our actions, decisions, and interactions. This concept of criticality extends beyond our individual lives and should permeate into our professional endeavors and the organizations we associate with.

Taking a critical lens to our profession can make meaningful change. We have witnessed the pendulum swing towards a more just and inclusive health and physical education field. Notably, we observe positive shifts in areas such as elementary school fitness testing, the reconsideration of dodgeball, and the adoption of skills-based health education. These changes reflect our collective commitment to evolving and ensuring equitable opportunities for all learners.

In this thought-provoking guest blog, we delve into the partnership between SHAPE America and the Marine Corps. As we advocate for criticality in all aspects of our lives, it becomes crucial to apply this lens to such collaborations because we genuinely care about the betterment of our profession. Who better to scrutinize this partnership than an individual who occupies both worlds—an esteemed educator in health and physical education, as well as a veteran?

Therefore, I invite you to engage with this blog using the same critical lens that we apply to ourselves and our teaching practices. Embracing this perspective prompts meaningful conversations, enabling us to introspect, challenge prevailing notions, and drive positive change within ourselves, our professional community, and SHAPE America. By undertaking this journey of self-reflection together, we contribute to an ongoing dialogue that shapes the future of our field.

Thank you for dedicating your time to exploring this guest blog, and my gratitude extends to the author who penned these insightful words. Let us embark on this conversation together, fostering growth and development within ourselves, our profession, and our shared aspirations.

Guest Post:

One of the best things about being an independent organization is that we can influence change from the outside. And that’s exactly what this blog post aims to do. Today, we delve into the partnership between SHAPE America and the US Marine Corps. While collaborations between organizations can bring about positive outcomes, particularly in terms of financial support, it is crucial to examine the implications and alignment of such partnerships with the values and goals of SHAPE America. 

From the Marine Corps perspective, the objective of this partnership is to legitimize, normalize, and increase military recruiters in schools. While I have no problem with people joining the military (I’m proud of my service), I don’t believe we should be trying to influence children along that path. They are more easily influenced and don’t fully understand the complexity of military service. Personally, I didn’t enlist until I was 22 years old. While I was not a wise old man, I certainly understood the world better than high school students did. It really is a “grown up” decision.

And maybe it wouldn’t be as bad IF recruiters were open and honest about issues in the military and veteran care. It is essential for recruiters to openly discuss both the advantages AND disadvantages of military service with students, enabling them to make informed decisions about their future. As someone who went through the enlistment process and even assisted recruiters after completing Marine Corps boot camp, I have first-hand knowledge that this is not what happens. There is a lot of misleading and lying by omission.

And schools are not the only environment where recruiters attempt to influence children. Recently the Army tried using esports to help desensitize young individuals to the realities of war. Fortunately this initiative faced a significant backlash from the youth who continuously questioned the morality of warfare and our country’s history. The result? The US Army retreated from Twitch as their recruitment drive backfired

More alarming is that recruiters target low-income areas, capitalizing on the financial insecurities faced by high school students. This raises ethical questions about the recruitment practices used and whether they exploit vulnerable individuals.

So how does the Marine Corps’ goals of this partnership align with SHAPE America’s stated goals and values? Our profession advocates for social justice and health, making it imperative to scrutinize whether this collaboration serves these principles. And this is not the only partnership that should be evaluated. I think we as a profession should think about what inclusion and exclusion criteria we want for ALL partnerships. What are the desires and expectations of SHAPE America’s members? Are we willing to bend our values if it lowers membership and conference rates?

In conclusion, this blog post attempted to shed light on the partnership between SHAPE America and the Marine Corps, highlighting the concerns surrounding military recruitment practices. As an independent organization SHAPE America has the power to influence change and shape the future of health and physical education. It is essential for us to engage in open and critical discussions about the alignment of partnerships with our values and goals, ensuring that we prioritize social justice, health, and the well-being of young individuals.

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The Educator Conference on Human Connection #ECHC2023

This weekend I saw reality bend to an individual. This is not hyperbole, embellishment, or exaggeration. The idea was sparked years ago through multiple conversations, arguments, debates, and dissension around people’s hatred of icebreakers. The smoke came first. Wisping through the air like an engine on fire in the distance of a traffic jam. The smoke arrived in the form of disbelief that teachers honestly didn’t enjoy human interaction with each other. With each exchange, I could see the idea being formed through the wavy lines of the increasing heat. “How can I create human interactions that aren’t poorly created, that have a purpose, and don’t seem like forced vulnerability?” When the inevitable inferno started sucking in vast amounts of oxygen to keep itself alive and the flames rose the idea was fully formed. Dr. Valeria Brown stated aloud that her dream was to create a conference around human connection. 

You may be reading this and saying that there are lots of conferences every day across the nation what is so reality-bending about that? The incredible part of what I saw this weekend was not that there was an education conference; it was the precision and vision that was created first in her mind and then willed into existence. 

This conference was going to be Val’s dream of what professional development could be. A day where joy would hold hands with vulnerability. A eutopia of learning where humanity would be the theme and love would be the decorations. 

Val told us exactly what she wanted. Her idea was less the road less taken and more the road that was never created. The destination was clear as the North Star and the path was as clear as the ocean on a moonless night. There was no funding, no place for it to be held, and no guarantee that anyone would show up. 

She secured the funding with the help of the very people who she has helped over the years through a Go Fund Me as well as other donations. Dr. Kate Spence stepped in and was able to provide us with a space at Fairleigh Dickinson University that had everything you could possibly imagine. The moon glistened off the ocean waves. The path was lit. 

You will read below exactly what made the Education Conference for Human Connection the best conference that has ever been created before or will possibly exist again. 

The doors to the Monninger opened and on the registration table sat the typical litany of pins, name tags, sign-in sheets, and wifi directions. The music filled the air with a chill vibe. There were no signs that this was going to be the conference of all conferences. You were directed upstairs and you see a free breakfast buffet that has eggs, potatoes, fruit, coffee, danishes, and muffins. Educators usually aren’t treated like this! 

Breakfast ends and the beats of drums start to echo out of the ohrangerie. Yes, the ohrangerie. A former orange citrus greenhouse that is now a beautiful room with statues, a piano, a pool table, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The drumming was coming from a group called Drum Cafe.  This was not the ordinary keynote you would have expected. 

Each person was given their own drum that was hand-made in Africa. We were led through a variety of activities that created the very feeling of community that Val had imagined. We played solo, split in half, and used call and response all while finding joy together. The closest description I can give to the experience is the feeling you get at the end of an intimate concert that exceeded your expectations. You feel closer to the people you went with. You shared in something special and you all knew it. Our hearts were open and vulnerability was achieved. Any illusion that this was going to just be another conference quickly disappeared.  

After the drums, Scott Bayer (@Lyricalswordz) was up. Now Scott did not know he was going to be running a session directly after a group that has over 45,000 performances in 80 countries. No pressure Scott! Much like Lamont Butler from SDSU, Scott was cold blooded and stepped up with the perfect activity. Around the room were 11 different quotes from books, songs, and poems. Our job was to discuss with our partners or groups how the quote made us feel in our hearts, heads, and guts. 

With quotes coming from Clint Smith, Octavia Butler, and Lauryn Hill this was bound to poke at your feeling like an annoying younger sibling in the car on a road trip. The drums helped us become a community and become vulnerable. Scott’s activity allowed us to enter that vulnerability with each other. This conference was shaping up to be something special!

After Scott’s session, we broke up and you could choose Art as Activism & Healing with Lizzie Fortin (@lizziefortin) & Tiferet Ani (@tmalkaa) or Creating Classroom Community with Theresa Bunner (@RdngTeach). 


I ended up going to Theresa’s session. The session was great. What made it even better was the people that were there. My first partner for the activity was Tricia Ebarvia (@triciaebarvia). We were given one minute to ask all about the things that we don’t know about our partner. The partner was then given two minutes to answer anything they were comfortable answering or talk about anything they wanted. This was a nice twist on an old idea. I knew a decent amount about Tricia already so I was able to ask some more delving questions. I walked away with a better understanding of who she is a mom as well as an educator. 

My next partner was a fantastic human named Chandra. We did a cool activity with legos. We were sitting back to back and each had the same bag of legos. My legos were already completed into a creation. Chandra’s bag had the legos broken down. Our job was for me to communicate to Chandra how to replicate the creature. I wasn’t allowed to use numbers or colors. We were able to pass the test without me messing us up too badly. Again the activity was fun and the people made it better. 

After the session, it was lunchtime. Yep, another free male catered with healthy choices and low sodium. This was shaping up to be special! 

The next session was a full group session that was virtually run by Cherilyn Barrett called Connecting with Deaf Students. In the session, we learned about various tools that help our deaf students as well as different modifications we could make. Once again Val is thinking about marginalized groups that are underrepresented in education. 

Following this session, we split up again. Tricia Evarvia and Chandra Singh were offering a dope session called Community Inside and Outside the Classroom. I really wanted to see and support this session and I couldn’t ignore that Ralph Pantozzi (@mathillustrated) had a session called Meet, Play, Move. I wanted to move it move it!

Ralph’s session was super fun! Once again the people made the session. Val, Scott, Kate, Nolan and everyone else I am forgetting to name came together to dig deeper into the meaning of play and how it shows up around us.

It was time for the final session of the day. I was psyched! Epic Theatre Ensemble was here. “Epic’s artists challenge the institutional status quo by making theatre radically accessible, engaging thousands of students and first-time audiences in the transformative process of telling their own stories and learning to deeply empathize with those of others.” 

Four young powerful women mesmerized us with their dialogue and ability to tap into the emotion of racially charged subjects. One of their pieces consisted of performing excerpts of interviews they did with teachers, admin, and superintendents. They also wrote and performed responses to those interviews. 

Once the performance was over the four young women sat for a Q and A. It was inspiring to hear how much passion they had for social justice. Their awareness of self and ability to tap into the anger and pain being caused in schools right now hit hard. This was the perfect way to end the sessions. 

After Epic finished dinner was ready to go. Another fantastic meal with healthy options and dietary restriction friendly. 

The biggest unknown of the night was up next. Val trusted my judgment and we booked DJ Reggie. Dr. Brown had no idea who he was or what he was about. I assured her that this man brings the heat! Reggie shows up and gets started. While he is djing a tornado watch goes into effect! Reggie had us dancing salsa, doing the gritty, and making up line dances. Every person danced! We danced through a tornado!! 

The best part of the night happened next. While Reggie was djing the FAU vs. SDSU basketball game was on behind him. Once he finished there were about five minutes left in the game and we turned up the volume. Everyone was rooting for FAU. Lamont Butler stole that joy from us. (along with the two horrible calls from the ref down the stretch) When his shot went in the whole party jumped out of their chairs. It was an epic moment. (call back!) 

Sunday morning came quicker than expected. Once again a catered breakfast awaited. Val did the final debrief and I ran a couple of activities that focused on joy and community. 

With the conference summary done, I would like to go back to my earlier statement, “This weekend I saw reality bend to an individual.” Dr. Valeria Brown created a community called Clear the Air. She then envisioned a conference that would change the way we saw conferences. AND she set a bar for herself that Dick Fosbury himself would have had a hard time getting over. Dr. Brown managed to find the funding, gather her people, get the perfect performers, trust in her people they would show up for her, and show that it is possible to have an educator conference that fosters human connection. 

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SHAPENJ 2022 Conference

The whirlwind of SHAPENJ’s 103rdconference is over for me. It started early on Super Bowl Sunday. A handful of dedicated people showed up before the convention in order to get the registration booth organized, set up the convention hall, and do the other million things that need to be done at the last minute. 

Once this was done we were able to breathe and get ready for the Super Bowl! The game was awesome and the people were even better. A crooked pool table wasn’t going to ruin the night for us!! Once the game was over it was time to get ready! 

Monday morning came way too quickly. I was able to shove some food and drink down my throat and then was ready to hear the keynote and start the day! Kevin McGrath was the keynote speaker. As an aside, all I want from a keynote speaker is someone who can allow me to laugh, allow me to cry, and give me one actionable thing to do in the future. It is no small feat. Kevin did all that and more. His story is amazing and I can’t wait to get him on the Shapes of Identity podcast! What Kevin is doing is amazing. It is truly a story of love for humanity. 

Adopt-a-Gym is a “by kids, for kids” fundraiser where schools raise funds to purchase physical education equipment for other schools that are short on resources to purchase adequate equipment for themselves.” 

KEVIN get no financial compensation out of this fundraiser! That is the true definition of agape (selfless love). Check out more about his project here. You can follow Kevin on the Twitter @AdoptAGymKM. 

The sessions were amazing as usual. There were so many health and physical education sessions that I was able to create a smorgasbord of professional learning to suit my soul as well as my profession. Candace Young, Brian Devore, John Jones, Victor Spadaro, Dan Rice, Mike Kuczala, Nick Kline, Thomas Gelardi and so many more presented fantastic sessions. 

One particular session that touched my heart was the Attitudes in Reverse program. Tricia Baker story and delivery were engaging and informative. It was both heartbreaking and encouraging to hear her story and learn more about suicide prevention.

“Attitudes In Reverse’s (AIR’s) mission is to create a community of understanding, kindness and empathy through mental health education and awareness. AIR offers many programs that, when combined, remind students throughout the year that there are many people, perhaps their friends, family members or classmates, who may be living each day with mental health disorders. We must always be kind – no matter what people’s differences are. We must understand that NO ONE CHOOSES to have a mental health disorder.

AIR strives to provide unlimited mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs to youth and young adults, regardless of their ability to pay. AIR aims to inspire hope for those suffering from mental pain to seek assistance while instilling empathy and understanding of mental health disorders throughout society.”


I would highly recommend you go to their website for programs and resources to teach in your health and physical education programs.  Also, there were dogs. Everyone wins when dogs are involved! 

Heath Moves Minds was in full effect! The booth was rocking and the information was readily available. Most importantly our students will benefit socially and emotionally! Learn more about them here

My final thoughts focus on relationships. Conferences are about information, participation, and most importantly relationships. Over the course of 15 years, I have gotten to know so many educators. This allows the conference to morph into reconnecting with old friends as well as learning. SHAPE NJ does a great job of fostering community by creating FREE events for the people who stay there. Monday night they had a bonfire on the beach and Tuesday night they have a band and the exhibitors bring their games to play. It is hard to leave our obligations in life I get that. And part of nourishing the soul is connecting with others. I highly recommend this conference to all educators. 

Glow: Free food. Breakfast and lunch were covered! The food was amazing. So many healthy options. Oh and free coffee!

Glow: Kevin Mcgrath. Nuff said

Grow: It’s been five years since the left hotel door entrance worked!! Cmon man!

Glow: Therapy Dogs

Glow: Bonfires and Bands

Glow: Judy Lobianco. Her energy and passion are unparalleled. We are going to miss her next year.

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Relationships Matter

Whenever people talk about what is the most important thing in education you always hear relationships. Relationships matter. The three R’s. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Everyone agrees relationships are important.

The value of relationships to me cannot be overstated. It would be like trying to describe how great pizza is. How underrated putting mayonnaise on the outside of a grilled cheese sandwich is. (Thanks Christina Torres Cawdery) Or just how much fun Wordle is. We simply can’t exaggerate how powerful each of those things really are.

Once I realized how important relationships are I wanted to become better at them. The first way I worked on this was by using my assertive listening skills.

“Active listening involves listening with all senses.  As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening – otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener. Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue.  By providing this ‘feedback’ the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.

Read more at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

Once I realized how important active listening was, I tried to be aware of each interaction I have with others. I have ADD so one of the hardest things for me is to not interrupt others when they speak. My struggles also lie in listening to understand instead of listening to respond. If you have interacted with me via face-to-face or phone call I am sure this is no surprise to you. I still fail at waiting to respond, or listening to understand sometimes; however, I am much better at it now. I work hard to improve because I know that listening is vital to creating and maintaining positive healthy relationships.

The next part of relationships I learned was important was via Dr. Angela Dye (@ejuc8or) author of Empowerment Starts Here. She taught me to understand how power is displayed in relationships. Due to her podcast, I started looking at who I had power over, under, and within my life. Every middle of the trimester I send out surveys to my students to see what I can do better and how I am being received by them.

The good Dr. also made me think about how all of my majority identities impact the power I have. My identities as a white, cis-gender, hetero, able-bodied male give me a power that is never identified outright yet has as much control as a honey badger fighting the snake. Understanding my power allowed me to see how others who are not in the majority groups are treated. I can now be a much better ally, comrade, supporter, or whatever name is given to those that share power and elevate others.

The biggest part of relationships that I have worked on is the art of restorative practices and justice.

Restorative practices is a social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities. The purpose is to build healthy communities, increase social capital, decrease crime and antisocial behavior, repair harm and restore relationships.


As an educator, I work with people all day. I have bosses, co-workers, students, guardians, bus drivers, and a plethora of other people I come into contact with. The most important thing I do is create a relationship with those people. If there is a conflict with any of those people I cannot restore a relationship that has never been built.

To create a relationship with anyone, you must validate their humanity. The first and most important way to go about that is simply saying hello or good day. That simple act points out to them that you see them and acknowledge them. I say hello at least 300 times a day. I am not kidding when I say that. There are times when I say hello to 20 kids in a row in the hallway. Every adult I see gets a quick interaction. This goes for secretaries, custodians, administrators, parents, the UPS guy, or the resource officer. Every one of them has value and deserves to be seen and acknowledged. My job is no less and no more important than theirs.

Unfortunately, I harm people all the time. My mouth runs quicker than my brain. When I harm a relationship with anyone and I know that harm has occurred I apologize and work on restoring that relationship. This includes the people I have power over. (my students) I am not above saying I was wrong to them or their guardians. I will say I am sorry in front of the class or my boss. Shoot I am one of the first people to tell on myself when I mess up. I have no expectation of perfection (thanks ADD) nor do I expect those I have power over, under, or with to be perfect either. When people interact there will always be conflict. We all have different wants and needs. This is why conflict is inevitable. All we can do is work on our communication and address conflict when it arises.

If you want to learn more about restorative justice I highly recommend Victor Small Jr. and his resources which can be found here.

We should all value our relationships. Rita Pierson summed this up on her Ted Talk when she stated, “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” We can extrapolate that. “People don’t go out of their way for people they don’t like”. Or maybe, “People don’t find joy in places where they aren’t loved.”

I am writing this on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nationally recognized holiday. He is quoted as saying, “Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos.” Love is a verb. It is an action, something we do. If we truly love people then we have to work on creating relationships with them. Active listening, understanding power, and restorative practices are three ways we can love each other. I am sure there are more. If you truly value relationships what are you doing to learn about them, create them, and maintain them?

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Olympic Lens

This post was written by Andy Milne. He is the 2017 National Health Teacher of the Year and all around amazing individual. He is always looking at the world through the lens of equity. Take a read.

The quadrennial behemoth that is the Olympic Games is the sporting celebration that can be everything to everyone. Depending on the lens through which you view the Games, you’ll notice things, have different views and experience the event in ways different to others consuming exactly the same events.

If you’re a traditionalist, like me, you view the Olympics through an Ancient Grecian lens, admiring the efforts of those athletes competing in ‘traditional’ sports. There’s something very Olympian to me in the sports of boxing, wrestling and marathon running. None are sports that I watch at any other time of the year but somehow they just feel…so very Olympic. For someone like me, if I can’t envisage the winner of a sport being painted on the side of a Grecian urn, then it doesn’t feel right. For someone like me, there is no place in the Games for tennis, golf, and skateboarding.

If you’re a modernist, perhaps you view the Games through a lens that embraces professional athletes, and want to see the best performers, from the biggest and most exciting sports, irregardless of wether they personify the original Olympic spirit. “The size and scope and riches of the 21st century Olympics are a far cry from how the games began, and there’s no going back. Few people seem to want to. The spectacle is hypnotic.” Amateurism restricted the spectacle, watered down the performances, and stopped the global audience of over 3.5 billion from seeing those at the peak of their athletic brilliance. The modernists among us might find Olympic events such as race walking, dressage, shooting and fencing boring, and lacking in entertainment value.

Perhaps you see the Olympics through an inclusive and inquisitive lens, embracing the stories behind the performances. You enjoy the trials and tribulations that broadcasters tend to lay on thickly, so that we get caught up in the emotions of the competition. You might relish the fact that world number one Ash Bartey lost in straight sets in the tennis. You’ll appreciate the story of San Marino (population 33,000) winning it’s first ever medal in women’s trap shooting, and you’ll be inspired by Simone Biles and her placing mental health above all else. Like the IOC, you’ll root for weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and her “courage and tenacity” in becoming the first transgender athlete to compete in an Olympics.

I recently posed a question on twitter to see what people thought in terms of the sports on display during this summer’s Games. The responses got me thinking.

You’re allowed to replace one Olympic sport.

What are you dropping and what do you add?

— Andrew Milne (@carmelhealth) July 26, 2021


My suggestions, remember I’m more traditional, were to drop skateboarding – it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel Olympic enough.

I also suggested dropping golf – those multi-millionaire athletes don’t ‘need’ the media coverage that comes with being part of the Games. Plus, they get to play all year round, travel the globe, and always seem to be on TV.

Finally I suggested dropping some of the gymnastic events. The two weeks of Olympic TV coverage has felt like Groundhog Day. Same events. Every different day.

Sports I suggested adding included squash, similar to racquetball but played more widely. Bowling could replace golf – both are target games and bowling is more accessible than golf. I also think that 3v3 basketball (what’s the point in that?) should be replaced by Netball, which is huge in the Commonwealth and is a game gaining in popularity here in the States.

Twitter had some fun with my question with Ultimate Frisbee being a popular suggested addition. Spikeball was popular, so too was ‘tag’. Pickleball, cricket, futsal, orienteering, and tchoukball also received votes in my unofficial poll. Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg also joined in the fun, suggesting the addition of Horse Crip Walking as a new event.

While this is all in good spirits, it took days before the Twitter suggestions eventually went in the direction that I had hoped. You see, the sports that were suggested seemed almost like-for-like. Replace one widely played North American/European game with another widely played North American/European game. The Olympics has a murky history of elitism, sexism and racism and although it would be highly unlikely that the Games would do so, I think it would be awesome if the IOC were to use their global reach to embrace indigenous sports.

To those people that suggested that tag could become an Olympic sport, I recommend that they check out Kabaddi, an ancient Indian game now popular in many South Asian countries. It’s actually the national sport of Bangladesh and is played in the Asian games (current champions are Iran.)

Like your PE curriculum, the Olympics has it’s fair share of invasion games in basketball, field hockey, soccer, handball, and rugby sevens but wouldn’t it be cool if the IOC were to follow the suggestion of @Physed2020 and introduce Gaelic Football. Not only is it unlike any other team game that you’ve seen, it’s perhaps truer to the Olympic spirit than other sports in that along with hurling and camogie, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining strictly amateur sports in the world.

Drop the big professional sports and add Gaelic Football and Wallball!

— RYANEd (@Physed2020) July 27, 2021


As someone who has written about my desire to decolonize my PE curriculum, I have had much success in researching the history of indigenous Maori games from New Zealand. I loved this suggestion from @pouakotom when he suggested a game that teachers such as Sarah Gietschier-Hartman and Seth Martin have introduced to their students here in America. The Maori sport of Ki-O-Rahi combines elements of rugby and handball, two existing Olympic sports.

Drop dressage, add Ki O Rahi! #wishfulthinking

— Pou Tom HPE (@pouakotom) July 29, 2021


Did you know that there is in fact a World Indigenous Games?

When I posed this question on Twitter, I was talking about the Olympics, but really I was also talking about your PE curriculum. Is your PE curriculum full of the same activities that you received when you were a student? When I said at the start of this post that the Olympics can be everything to everyone, is that the case for your Physical Education lessons? How about when viewed through an immigrant lens, a non-white lens or the lens of a student with disabilities?

To conclude, if I were to make one change to the Olympic Games I would remove the equestrian events – alien to almost all viewers, dominated by a handful of countries and requires a horse (!!). I would replace equestrian with a team sport growing in popularity, is fast and entertaining, and is the oldest sport in North America (dating back to the 1400’s). Lacrosse make for an exciting addition to the games, it would place this Indigenous game on a global stage, and I would also invite the Iroquois Confederacy to field a team, just as they do at the World Lacrosse Championships.

If you are interested in exploring global games, you should check out this amazing resource collated by Sarah Gietschier-Hartman. You might also like Teaching World Games the blog post in which I shared my journey towards teaching the Maori game of Tapuwae.

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June 2021 The Month an Educator Needed

Today June 14, 2021 was the final day of the marathon school year that will forever be known to me as the CoVid Years. To separate the last two years would be like asking what would Pinky be like without Brain? Who would Ben be without Jerry? What would peanut butter do if it had never met chocolate those many years ago? The years will be lumped together forever much like the blizzard years of 2006 and 2007 that created the wildest winter experiences of my childhood.

This was an extraordinary time that honestly pulled me toward my limits. We can safely say that most of the world experienced an insane amount of trauma. Due to the lack of fanfare and ending of the 2020 school year and the inability to begin in-person at the beginning of the 2021 school year, education was robbed of endings and beginnings, emotional embraces, a lot of the chances for authentic connections where teachers were able to step out of their teaching roles and meet students who had shed their labeled exoskeleton and enjoy moments as humans sharing time and space with little to no power imbalances. It felt like my spiritual journey had taken me down a path devoid of the emotional connection I so desperately need.

Teaching feeds a part of me that yearns for purpose. The slightest hope that I may have positively impacted someone and that impact can help improve their lives. This June was needed. It helped quench my hypertonic loss of the teaching liquid that is my soul and spirit.

June 2021 brought field day. It was a new field day. A trimmed down smaller version that didn’t seem to bother any students. At the very least the students had a day where they moved with joy. It was perhaps the three hardest days I have worked since I turned 9 and my dad realized he had free labor. It was invigorating though. Students were connecting with each other. Teachers were smiling. We were together. The why was being met. My teaching soul was become hydrated. And also there were rocket pops. What would field day be without popsicles?

June 2021 also brought about the first Pride Parade that I have ever helped organized or participate in. It started with a student’s idea. My principal has the astute ability to hear what students are saying and acting upon their appeals and requests. Two weeks later we had a Black woman who was a member of our staff and the LGBT+ community, Tia Brown, kick off the event with a heartfelt and emotional speech that set the tone of love and pride in who you were. 200-300 students and staff rolled in wearing shirts, holding signs, Philadelphia Pride and pan sexual flags, all there ready to connect with the joy of the occasion. Students made speeches about their families, being an ally, and why their culture matters. The walk was quick. The event seemed rushed. And it was best school event I have ever participated in. The emotion of the day helped raise the level of hope and change in my teaching cistern.

On the last day I saw the tears and hugs. I made my favorite joke about crying as the busses left because I knew I wasn’t getting any more paychecks for two months. There were parties, kids playing outside, laser tag in the woods, balloons, parades, and so much more. It was the celebration we needed. The celebrations that water the soul. Spiritually, I feel better. I saw how the impact that teachers and students had on each other. I saw the concrete results of why we teach.

The work is never done. The road never paved and level. The loops of the roller coaster that is teaching will hopeful be a little less vertiginous in the future. Right now I am just going to decompress for a little. Let the pressure slowly seep out before I worry about next year’s curriculum, schedules, lessons and units. I want to truly appreciate the ability to visualize my why again. To see the bonds that were formed. To be a part of something that put positivity into the world. Teaching is truly a remarkable gift that I was given. Thankfully this June reminded me of that.

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LEGAL ONE Evolving Legal Standards for LGBTQ+ Students

There is nothing better in the world than learning. Connecting new information to old information is one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings. My newest dive into learning was created by the New Jersey Principals & Supervisors Association.

I was extremely interested in the law surrounding LGBT+ students and their rights. David Nash, Esq., LEGAL ONE Director, was running the show in the morning in conjunction with Robyn Gigl, Esq. Together they created a calm efficient way to disseminate the information. If you are involved in the NJ education system I would highly recommend you attend. Also Robyn has a legal thriller coming out at the end of the month that you can purchase here.

The morning flew by. I found the NJDOE Guidance on Terminology to be a fantastic resource. One nuance they discussed is the terminology of Sexual Orientation vs Sexual preference. This is so basic yet something that I forget sometimes.

They spent a large majority discussing how school districts should provide support for a student that is transgender. The biggest takeaway is that a school district is not required to gain parental consent in accepting a student’s asserted gender identity. Not only do they not need consent, they are not required to notify a student’s parent or guardian of the student’s gender identity or expression.

My biggest question going into the session I had was how early can we start teaching our students about this legally? The answer I received was that it should be implemented through the curriculum which has to be approved by the school board. There should be no opting out of this curriculum. The content should be embedded across multiple subjects and school districts are legally allowed to teach this as early as the curriculum allows.

One final nugget was brought up by the amazing Robyn is the idea of being “culturally humility”.

Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998 They defined cultural humility as “a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing power imbalances . . . and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations” (p. 123). Furthermore, Tervalon and Murray-Garcia stressed that “culture” should not be limited to dimensions like racial or ethnic identity, but should include, for example, the culture of the physician or public health professional, which also requires humility in dealing with patients, families, and communities. link

This idea of cultural humility makes so much sense. When I look back at the arc of my journey I am much farther ahead now than where I was five years ago. Hopefully, I will learn more and be a better human in five years than I am now. The key is constant critique and self evaluation and avoiding saviorism. It is difficult when you learn more information to not want to share it with the world. Saviorism is sneaky though. You think you are “enlightening” people when in reality we are centering ourselves. No group needs us to save or rescue them. The best we can do is support and amplify those communities who have people already advocating for themselves. Finally, the learning journey never ends. We need to stay abreast of the newest language and always learning how the history of our systems have created the circumstances we see today.

There were also two more speakers who presented. Kristina Donovan, Ph.D., Supervisor of School Counseling in Princeton School District. She packed a boatload of information into 45 minutes. I really enjoyed learning how Princeton supports their LGBT+ students and their privacy.

Jackie Bramble spoke about a resource spread across NJ called High Focus Centers. One of the centers is located right in Lawrence!

Our mission is to provide the best possible care for our patients. Adults, adolescents and families struggling with addiction or psychiatric illness call us in search of relief. We strive to provide them with elite-level care in the least restrictive setting possible, while matching them with a program that best fits their individual needs. Each individual is given the tools to achieve maximum benefit from treatment while being afforded the flexibility necessary for maintaining a productive life outside of treatment.


In conclusion, I would highly recommend you attend the session if possible. Here is the site for checking out other events.

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White Toxic Masculinity: Written For White Males by White Males

This blog post was a collaboration between Justin Schleider and Doug Timm. We are good friends as well as accountability partner. We both believe in and are actively working towards Collective Liberation

Together we, Doug and Justin, (his name goes first because of alphabetical order not because he did more work or is more important although we let him think that) feel a drive and commitment to offer our voices and ideas to issues we feel are important.  Based on the growing evidence from the insurrection and reporting with primary source video from the insurrectionists themselves, we felt a need to put pen to paper.  Our attempt here is to not defend, but rather examine how white males, a group we belong to, are driven by rage, falsehoods, and toxic masculinity.  

These are our thoughts and experiences. We wrote this as white, cis-gender, heterosexual males for white, cis-gender, heterosexual males. We fully understand this is only our truth and we still have areas of unawareness that need to be addressed. 

Doug- I can only speak for myself, but having had a lifetime of interactions with other white males, and being a white male, I have seen the best and worst of white males.  My voice in this is to hopefully give some insight into thought process, history, and then give suggestions or ideas on how to become better.  I have been lucky enough recently to be a part of some conversations, webinars, readings, and videos shared that have allowed me to be in a place where I am ready to put some of these ideas down on paper and share with the world.  All my thoughts are subject to and should change as I learn more.  But this is where I am now.  

Justin- A quick background. I am an openly white male (if you didn’t laugh at that you probably want to stop reading now) who grew up in a segregated white middle class neighborhood raised by two teachers. Even though my Jewish upbringing othered me at certain times I was fully able to assimilate into whiteness.  My elementary school was 90 something percent white. My middle and high school years were much more diverse although white was still the majority. Growing up I participated in many activities including Boy Scouts, 4-H, summer camps, and played multiple varsity sports in high school. I speak for all Jewish white males with my thoughts. (I implore you again, if you didn’t at least chortle at that please stop reading now.)

Let’s Go!

We are going to define white toxic masculinity as the negative thoughts and behaviors of those who have the ability to pass as white by society’s definition as well as identify as a male. We are going to focus on those two groups of identification and their intersection, because in our eyes this is the group that over the past four years has done more harm to America than any other group.  

Let’s start off by understanding that there are branches of white toxic masculinity and that we are only examining how it showed up in our lives.  

Justin- In my opinion the more majority and power groups a white person belongs to, the higher the rate of othering they can potentially tap in to. “By “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”.” (link)

In other words a white, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian male would be able to ‘other’ most groups of people. Through no choice or fault of their own they are able to tap into the most amount of toxicity. This does not in any way shape or form insinuate that all people in that category engage in toxic masculinity. What it does show is that through their membership they are exposed to, as well as able to ascribe to, the worst forms of toxic masculinity. This shows up in hate groups as patriarchy, anti-feminism, anti-semitism, xenophobia and racism. In my life I never notice one cruel joke or disparaging remark about being a white, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian male. Instead the jokes that either dehumanized at the worst, or ‘othered’ at the best, those outside of that specific group. 

Justin- People become toxic when we feel that we are superior to the other groups. It puts one group above another by chopping them at their knees in order to stand taller. This allows the power-over mentality to become the norm instead of the power-with. The masculinity aspect of white toxic masculinity shows up when males elevate themselves above women. We may learn this from our parents reinforcing the attitude by reinforcing gender roles, schools separating by boys and girls, the physical changes between the multiple sexes, movies, or any other reason. I noticed this belief coinciding with the sexual maturation of myself and my male peers. We were able to bond over the objectification of women. The objectification of women is what I have noticed as the biggest trait of toxic masculinity (which obviously differs from white toxic masculinity). It allows men regardless of race to have something in common and bond. 

Justin- This is also where the fear of being rejected takes ahold. I feel that if we are able to talk down about a woman it is a safety mechanism against rejection. 

Justin- Toxic masculinity finds various ways to speak down and about women. This is why you saw such a reaction against Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Kamala Harris. Men will hate on women regardless of party. Patriarchy is fully embraced and celebrated in all forms of toxic masculinity; it is not specific only to white toxic masculinity. 

Justin- Whiteness showed up differently than masculinity. I honestly have no idea when I realized I was white. I was always the majority. My family did not discuss our whiteness. It was rarely if ever even acknowledged. In my experience whiteness showed up when racist slurs or jokes were said outside of my family. My middle school experience is when I first started hearing and understanding this. 

Justin- As a teen when the pain of being ‘othered’ isn’t about you, it is easier to say nothing or laugh. There were times when I said nothing when I heard racist thoughts and ideas cloaked in the veil of humor. In education we call this being a bystander instead of an upstander. This allows the behavior to continue by giving our tacit approval and not addressing the harm as it occurs.  

Justin – This exposure to racism becomes a fact when you are surrounded by those that reinforce the idea. For example, when I repeated a racist phrase in front of my dad he addressed it with me explaining what it meant and why it was wrong. He asked me where I heard it and what it meant. I had no idea of its significance nor the harm the phrase carried. If he had not addressed the phrase, or worse had reinforced it, this would have become solidified in my vocabulary without my full understanding of the meaning. Plenty of other young teens would not have been chastised. The phrase would have been lauded or appreciated, reinforcing and continuing racism. 

Doug – We are taught a narrative at an early age from family, school, media, and friend groups that white masculinity is our lane.  This is then reinforced constantly in interactions and power dynamics of society.  Breaking this cycle has to start early.  Breaking this cycle later in life, when perceived power is achieved, becomes much more difficult.  My disruption happened in elementary and then was really reinforced in high school and beyond through experiences and choices in life. 

Doug- My chosen profession of education also assisted in this disruption. This is also an advantage I have as an educator and a father of a son, to help disrupt this cycle with young white males.  

Doug- There were and are always experiences which pull(ed) me back.  They tug me back back to feeling superior, because I can fall back in that lane and be safe and secure at any moment.  I am a white cisgendered male.  I am reminded constantly about that lane.  I think if you ask those closest to me, they will say, they see it creep back at times.  I think this will be a filter and self pushback that I will have to deal with for life.  

Justin- One of my last thoughts is that I know various white men with guns. Some of those that own the guns have openly said that they have them because when “they come for them they will be ready”. Sometimes the group they were referring to was Black people; I know this because they had made racist comments before or they explicitly talked about the race riots that “were coming”. Other times they were referring to the government or someone robbing their house. Males in general are taught they have to protect their family. From my experience the more I have interacted with someone who believes in white toxic masculinity the more invested they have been in firearms. That is not to say this is a rule or even a generalization that can be made; however, this is what I have noticed in my experiences. 

Justin- I highly recommend people read this writing on toxic white masculinity written by Jayson Harsin (@jaysonharsin). This paragraph explains how toxic white masculinity has created and embraced fake news:

“These toxic male ‘truth’-tellers are often associated with flouting ‘political correctness’, saying what is on their minds – snowflakes and trigger-warnings be damned. Such speech is ‘honest’, ‘trustworthy’ – and therefore deemed to be true. The auratic quality of emo-truth performances is characterized by displays and perceptions of hate, rage, intimidation, insensitivity and violence; bullying, yelling, lurking, trolling, with only scorn for dialogue and listening.”

In short if it is said loud enough, often enough, by white males perceived as being strong they are believed by other white males. This is how white male toxicity has successfully combatted universal truth. We have seen toxic white masculinity not believe in climate change, wearing a mask, or that individualism will ruin planet earth. The internet has allowed white toxic masculinity to run rampant and the fringe to join together. Their combined belief in an alternate false reality is what lead up to the Capitol Insurrection on January 6. It was not economic worry, the pandemic, nor was it the often repeated yet untrue tale of a “stolen election”.

Doug – White males don’t have a group.  If you asked a white male what is your culture, the answer you would probably receive in most instances is “American”. This is understandable, as our history has been taught to us, through a very narrow lens. Our schooling has taught us “ownership” and “deserved rights”. Our schooling taught history that we “discovered” we “revolutioned” we “innovated” we “expanded” we “fought slavery” we “gave civil rights” we “fought wars” and we were taught so many wonderful things that we were able to do. 

Doug – It is really important to understand that the “we” referred to are all white males. A white male “discovered” America. White males conquered the land because it was our “manifest destiny”. White males created the Constitution, which we have lionized as the greatest document ever created. A white male led a white army to defeat the British. White males fought great white males in the Civil War. White males saved the world from the Nazis. A white male was the first on the moon. We can go on and on with the examples. We are constantly told either implicitly or explicitly that the world is ours. The single story has been reinforced over and over in our school system. 

Doug- At the same time, the narrative about other races and cultures has been taught to us from a deficit mindset. This narrative has inherently created a psyche where many white males feel they “own” everything about being American. This was evident and in your face on January 6th.  

What can we do to combat white toxic masculinity in our lives and school?

Justin- White males need to learn. Learn about adultification, ageism, patriarchy, race, history, othering and belonging. If we can’t name and identify our actions how can we figure out the harm we may be causing. 

Justin- Teach identity in school. Students have to understand who they are. When we explore identity in this way we can also teach them about the hypocrisy and deficits that each identity contains. We can combat the ideas that there are only two sexes, that white males did everything great in history, or that being a man means hiding emotions and being aggressive. We can teach about how whiteness was created to divide us and hoard the wealth and privilege that America had created for a group of people. 

Justin- White males have to be allies, comrades, co-conspirators or whatever the in phrase is at the current moment. Regardless, we have to act. It is imperative that we name white toxic masculinity when we see it. More importantly, we have to see where it lies in ourselves. We have been, and continue to be, the problem and need to be a part of the solution. Finally, we have to start to surround ourselves with people that aren’t white. Authentic friendships and interactions with those outside our identity group is the only way to truly understand what we are missing. At the same time we have to be the voices that interrupt white toxic masculinity when it arises. Speak up when you see it. Call our peers in. And most importantly don’t be a bystander.  

Justin- We have to teach about consent. This entails everything from teachers asking students if they can post their work on social media to teaching our students that they have every right to say no to anything they do not feel comfortable with that involves their body. Normalize consent. Use it across the classrooms and subject areas. 

Doug – We have to put ourselves out there.  Be willing to sound stupid in order to make sense later.  Speak your truth, the important part is your words.  Sometimes we are taught to listen.  That is important at times, but in this work, you have to speak to make sure you understand yourself  and where you are coming from.  

Doug- Make sure we teach more about other cultures, races, genders, etc. from a mindset of achievement and growth.

Doug – If we continue the narrative of the white men as heroes through a very narrow focus, and don’t disrupt this, we will continue to produce white males that are entitled.  In every reconstruction there were white males who stood alongside those being oppressed. White Quakers were slavery abolitionists starting in the 1600’s. Thomas Jeffererson wrote an anti-slavery passage in the constitution (yes there is more nuance to the story). What if we added white men that fought against injustices created by white men? What if we added to the narrative of our white historical heroes, and found a new purpose? 

What if the narrative was about white abolitionists?  What about Cassius Clay, not the boxer.  Muhammid Ali’s birth name Cassius Clay came from this man.  Here is a video as well – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7A7kn6zQe4&ab_channel=WeirdHistory

What if the narrative were about John Gregg Fee or Oswald Villard who helped form the NAACP?  

The call to action is to gain experience and talk with lots of other people.  The work then is in disrupting this white toxic masculinity.  Only white males have the real ability to interrupt other white males.  At that point there can be no “but” or “let me play devil’s advocate”.  I am you, you are me, I just need you to see the world as I see it.  

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie on Netflix. It is Chadwick Boseman’s final movie ever. That is literally all I knew about the film when it came out. Truthfully, what else do you need to know? I round up my people and ask them if they want to do a Netflix party (now Teleparty) and watch it together. We watched the movie typing away in the chat box. The movie ended and I was left wondering just what exactly I was feeling.

So to fill in a couple of blanks without giving the story away Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play. Ma Rainey is a big blues/jazz singer who the studio has paid to come down and record a record. It is set in the 1920’s and racism is everywhere.

I don’t want to give the movie away. My descriptions wouldn’t give it justice anyway.

What I do want to convey is that this movie is powerful. Boseman has multiple soliloquies and monologues that are stunning. They are stunning not only because he is an amazing actor, they are stunning because he knows he is dying in real life and his dialogue is so darn powerful. It is hard not to watch and try to put yourself in his shoes.

My final thoughts are that I have been thoroughly Disneyized when it comes to movies. The protagonist wins. They guy gets the girl (yes I understand the issues with this). So yea maybe something may happen in scene one but the ending is always one of hope and happiness. This movie punches the Disney model in the throat. You feel the tension building and when it finally boils over you are left sitting there just staring at the screen saying wow.

The final scene makes a powerful statement. It shows the juxtaposition of the two worlds that don’t quite coexist. The imagery is unmistakeable.

The older I get the more I look forward to things that make me think and feel. Ma Rainey does that. Do yourself a favor and watch it. It won’t lift you up but it sure won’t let you down.

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Remote Learning Just Doesn’t Work for Some Kids No Matter How Hard We Try

My son and I struggled so much during remote learning I have to put our health in danger. I don’t write that line lightly. Allow me to explain.

This school year I am working remotely and my kids ages 10, 8, and 6 had the option to stay home or go to school. My wife and I made the decision to keep them home because we know schools are petri dishes for airborne diseases. This is not a knock on schools just how things are. So we decided that I would keep the kids home and my wife would go to work.

Now on to my son who is 10 years old. He has ADHD or ADD hyperactivity depending on how current you want to be. This impacts his executive functioning. That means that he struggles with the cognitive skills that help plan, prioritize, and execute complex tasks. Take that information about the executive functioning of ADHD and think about how remote learning works. You have to follow schedules, navigate between Google Classrooms, check due dates, have your materials ordered in a way that you can access them quickly. Guess what that falls under. Executive functioning.

Knowing that he was gonna struggle, we met with his teachers and tried to get them to understand what they were up against. We consulted an ADHD expert for advice. We bought a watch that sets timers, gave him a desk area, printed his schedule every morning, moved his desk so it faced me and I could see what he was doing at all times. If you thought about it we tried it.

Sure enough, the struggles ensued. We met with his teachers again, talked with him, set new procedures for him to follow. Nothing worked. He was reading books during lessons, downloading games, not showing up to meetings, and not getting his work done.

I have ADHD as well. This means that we were both struggling with our schedules and how one day never looked like the next. I wasn’t doing a great job of supporting him.

Honestly, I was not super worried about his academic progress. He reads extremely well and is proficient in math. Here’s why I sent him back into danger. Our relationship was becoming negative. I was becoming an education warden. Every statement was about how he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. My questions all centered around whether he was in the right meeting. The positive interactions were becoming extinct.

We know as educators that we are supposed to say 5 positive things for every 1 negative thing. That goes for typical children. Children with ADHD may suffer from rejection sensitivity disorder.

“Individuals who have this condition respond extremely negatively to the perception of being rejected: It goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill discomfort that most of us experience.”


I did not want to have our relationship fractured to a point that there was no coming back. That coupled with the work not being done was enough to push us to send him back to school.

I realize the privilege I have in keeping him home and that some people had to send their kids in without even knowing how safe the schools were. That is not the point of this. The point is that some students are going to struggle even with supports being implemented and a fantastic home and school connection. Remote learning just doesn’t work well for some kids no matter how hard we try. 

This is not to say that it doesn’t work for anyone, nor am I saying that remote learning shouldn’t be used if the school shuts down for snow or pandemic. What I am saying is that if you don’t understand that remote learning doesn’t work well for all students you are going to cause a lot of damage to your relationship with them, their guardians, and yourself. 

Give your students some grace. Still call home and try to get the students involved. Just remember that not every student is going to thrive in this environment. Don’t judge the parent who is working and can’t provide support. Don’t write it off as the kid not wanting to be there and do the work. Learn about the family. Keep asking how can I support the student and their family. Send positive notes when something heck anything is done. Check-in on the student and just say hi with no other motive than to keep a positive relationship going. 

When all this clears if we are not careful we are going to have even more jaded parents and students who will have a negative association with school. 

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The World is Closing In

I am trying to keep perspective.

I am small. Barely an atom in the universe. My trials and errors matter none in the history of the world. I am one of billions living on this planet at this current moment. Unknown to the masses and scarcely known to those who I am lucky enough to interact with. No matter my course of action, history will largely forget me. This I know as fact. It is not negative. Instead It helps me put myself in perspective and not become overcome with burden.

I lay this out before you because my levels of fear and anxiety are rising by the day. Temperatures are rising, storms are becoming stronger and doing more damage, Black people continue to get shot by police. White supremacists are shooting protestors and walking away unscathed. The economy is crumbling. The days of change that Obama spoke about seem to be light years in the past of our history. I worry about my children’s future, my future, the world’s future. 

Everywhere I look I see hatred. White people refuse to listen to their darker melanated brethren as they scream and plead for social justice. Kaepernick protesting was peaceful and was treated with disdain. Rioting is not peaceful and treated with the same disdain. There is no right way, place, or time for People of Color to demand change. Our prophets of Malcolm, Martin, Hooks, Freire, Lourde, and Barber go unheeded. The wealth in this country continues to get funneled to the top while the poor and barely middle class continue to struggle through life.

Honestly it is getting harder and harder to find joy. To see hope. To continue to believe the arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice. 

One thing has allowed me to breathe. To believe that I may be a small part of change. It is the equity work that my school is doing. Val Brown and Rebekah Cordova have come in and trained 20 educators to be equity warriors. It may seem that the world is falling apart around me but the hope that my school district is moving towards social justice for its students keeps my soul afloat. To see a district’s leadership bring in top notch professional development around race gives me hope.

Maybe, just maybe, Lawrence can shift their moral arc. Maybe just maybe, Lawrence can create an environment where all students can feel celebrated for who they are. Maybe, just maybe, Lawrence can provide an environment for students to be their authentic selves without fear of repercussion. 

I know it may seem like I am grasping for straws. Truthfully, I am. And yet hope is the only thing I have. The driving force that allows me to continue to believe that my life can be meaningful. That I can make a positive impact. That maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I need the light. I need to feel that I am here for a purpose and that the world can be a better place. We all need the world to be a better place. 

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And We Still Need You

Dear White People, (to steal from an awesome show)

We need you in this fight toward collective liberation. Val Brown and I have been grappling with the idea that:

“No one is free until we are all free. My liberation is tied up in yours and vice versa. For example as long as White people are invested in their racist ideas, Black people won’t ever have true liberation. Until Black people are free, White people will be prisoners of their racist ideas.”

I am specifically talking to White people because we are the ones who created the problem and we are the ones who need to work towards rectifying what we have done. Plus I can only speak to the groups I am a part of and understand.

If you have already been joining the fight towards collective liberation since the beginning of inning one skip down to the second to last paragraph.

If you haven’t started yet I am glad you are here! There will be some who rightfully question what took you so long. That is a question you will have to wrestle with. What bias and hatred allowed me to go so long without working towards correcting the wrongs of this country? How could I live without knowing how much my inaction was harming people? How come I am just arriving to the fight in the tenth round? And we still need you.

Some of you have been asked, begged, besieged, and implored to use your massive platform for social justice which you have ignored. Your blatant disregard for the most vulnerable students allowed harm to be reproduced in classrooms around the country and the world. You have some hard questions to answer when you see yourself in the mirror. Why are you arriving in the tenth round when you could have been fighting since the third? And we still need you.

Still, others may be young and just entered the field of education. You have been raised in a White bubble (like myself) and through the purposeful guidance of our communities and family, you have not fully grasped the magnitude of the problem that permeates school. Now is the time to listen before you act. Listen to queer Black feminists and the leaders in social justice within the world of education such as Val Brown and Dr. Rosa Perez-Isaiah. Listen to professors of sociology like Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom. Once you have listened follow the people who have been doing the work for years. Nothing you are thinking of is new. Activists have been working toward collective liberation for years. You as well are just coming into the fight in the 10th round. And we need you.

Finally, to those White People who have been passionate about working toward social justice and collective liberation accept the new members who are here. You may have been here since the beginning bell or some round in between. Make George Floyd’s murder the crack that allows the light in. This is not to excuse those who have allowed harm to be inflicted on their Black students (again myself included). I am not writing to say let White people colonize movements because suddenly they see there is a problem. What I am saying is that in order to make meaningful changes in our schools and society we need everyone on board. Every human needs to come into the fold and work towards collective liberation.

Actively hating on where people are in this journey doesn’t bring us closer toward our goal. And most of all we continue to need you because you can check those of us who are just realizing there is a fight. You can help us avoid the pitfalls that will either get us knocked out or cause us to throw the towel in. You are the coach in the corner giving advice. You are the coach in the corner connecting us to training camps to grow and sharpen our skills. Without you we will get rope a doped by whiteness. We will flame out throwing punches in a flurry and exhausting our resources. You may be tired and angry with us as well for being ignorant and foolish. And most of all…we still need you.


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The Feeling of Being Appreciated

It was the second day of a new journey I will call the Swing Set. To give you some background my father had guilted me into buying my kids a giant swing set from Costco. The price was right and with his help, I could afford it. “There are only two left” he proclaimed not allowing me the option of procrastination until the decision was made for me like I usually do.

Five giant boxes later my calendar was filled for the week. Every hour not working online would be dedicated to the swing set. On Day one it took me two hours just to unpack everything and get it ready to assemble. Every piece of wood was numbered and had to be laid out in order. A table was set up and was looking closer to the letter u than I would have liked due to the weight of four boxes of bolts, nuts, washers, and screws.

In total, I put in over four hours of work on day 1 and was on step 10 of 55. Not exactly blazing speed. If this was an episode of Man vs Swing Set; Swing Set would have destroyed me.

The next day I was ready to start again. Kidz Bop was blaring over the speaker because that is my favorite music to listen to, or my children were “helping me”. You decide. I wouldn’t say I was frustrated but I wasn’t cool calm and collected when my youngest hit the screws off the platform I was working on into the thick grass never to be seen again.

At this moment a small sporty Mercedes pulled into my driveway. It was a two-door sleek black vehicle much too inconvenient to be of use to Amazon or UPS which were the only other vehicles to grace the driveway in the past month.

As the driver got out of the car I experienced a moment of something isn’t right. Something similar to a 7-year-old seeing their teacher in the grocery store or the mall. The idea that this doesn’t make sense. Why is this person here? I thought all of our interactions happen in that brick building.

The driver was one of my administrators named Dr. Toohey. He proceeded to place a red rose down on the ground along with a cookie in the shape of an apple and decorated with the phrase Thank You.

tooheyInstantly I realized that the administrators at my school were dropping off teacher appreciation gifts to all the staff. The momentous amount of time and effort needed to do this for every teacher in the school was not lost on me. Lawerence Intermediate School has teachers from all over NJ and into PA.

I will never hate on a free meal. I love when the teachers get lunch or breakfast at school. Driving to every single teacher’s house was so far above and beyond the norm that it made me feel appreciated in a way I have never been before. It was even better than a glowing evaluation or an email stating how great an event or lesson had gone. This was people giving up their time to show appreciation for their staff. To me, time is the ultimate gift. It is so precious that I personally feel honored when someone is willing to give me some of theirs.

So thank you Dr. Toohey, Ms. Fischer, and Ms. Rello for showing our staff how much you really do appreciate us. Your actions spoke much louder than any words could.



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Saving the Sneetches?

Read Across America has come and gone. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Read Across America was created by the National Education Association to, “help you motivate kids to read, bring the joys of reading to students of all ages, and make all children feel valued and welcome.” A lot of schools use Dr. Suess as a huge part of the week. They read his books, dress like his wacky characters, and create a festive atmosphere to foster the love of reading.

The problem of this is that Dr. Seuss and his characters are racist. The Cat in the Hat was based directly off of a blackface character from the minstrel shows of the past. The portrayal of  Mr. Brown, who is Asian, is portrayed negatively as well. If you want to read more about his racism read this article: The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children ‘s Books.

I want to talk about my favorite Dr. Seuss video though. The classic Sneetches. The Sneetches basically is about an in-group and an out-group. A guy comes along and plays both groups by changing the groups until no one knows who the in-group or out-group is. I used to think this was the best way I could possibly teach anti-racism to my students. I then read the paper above and realized that the Sneetches weren’t about being anti-racist but was more about being confused about which group should be oppressed.

My knee jerk reaction was that we should leave Dr. Seuss in the past. The problem is even if I wanted my school to my school was still using it. Instead, let’s talk about how all of our heroes are gray. Let’s discuss the issues with the characters. This is exactly what happened in my health classes this week. The conversations were driven entirely by the students. They knew more about him then I did!

This article: DR. SEUSS’ RACIST PAST ISN’T THE PROBLEM – YOUR REFUSAL TO HAVE HARD CONVERSATIONS IS makes a great point on how Dr. Seuss grew over time and evolved.

My final thoughts are that in the era of cancel culture let’s be transparent about our past history as a country. We can’t act like this never existed. Let’s be honest with our students, don’t they deserve it?

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It’s been a while since I have written a conference reflection piece. It’s time for #njahperd20 day one to be reflected upon.

Glow: The keynote to the conference was Michelle Carter and Yasmeen Taji-Farouki. Together they shared their stories growing up Puerto Rican and Muslim in America. Their stories made you want to cry. They were vulnerable and authentic. The crowd was introduced to privilege in a way that wasn’t attacking or dismissive. They talked about privilege being, “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” We all have various privileges and most have identities of marginalization. The idea is how do we use the privilege that we have to help our students and how do we shine the light on the marginalization that our students are having imposed on them.

Glow: Health Moves Minds. This is the future of SHAPE America and NJ AHPERD. Not only does it teach SEL it will also be lifeblood to sustainability. Check it out and get signed up.

Glow: Dr. Irene Cucina’s session on consent. Consent is more than tea. It is more than physical touch. One newer idea that was presented was about enthusiastic consent. This is where all parties are willing participants in whatever endeavor they choose. One ironic part of the session is that most students don’t willingly consent to be in our classes. How do we address that while still giving the students the autonomy to have some control over their lives?

Glow: Beyond the Binary: Understanding Gender Identity. Dan Rice took us through a basic vocabulary of sexual and gender identity. The gender unicorn was a really cool resource.

Grow: Communication Skills for Middle/High School students. The session was decent but I need more activities. Show me multiple ideas about what we can do.

Grow: NJ standards are changing. They are being paired down from 6 to 3. Naturally, that means a lot of what is being taught under the standards will disappear. Listen I have to be honest. The newly provided standards need a lot of work. Identity has been completely stripped out of the standards. We have moved away from an abstinence-plus program to a program where drugs and alcohol will give you STI’s. Pregnancy is talked about only once and there is no mention of abortion of other pregnancy prevention methods. The new NJ standards are HOT GARBAGE! Linda P. Eno, assistant commissioner, said to me that the state is not looking to roll back the sexed standards and this was an oversight that will be fixed. I have to be honest. If you do not speak up and email chpe@doe.nj.gov our state will have one of the least progressive curriculums in the union. You need to look at these standards and speak up!! You can find the new standards here. Again our most vulnerable students will be ignored and our sex education will be almost nonexistent. Speak up, people!!! This is an attack on our children!

Glow: The backyard bbq was amazing! The band and the food rocked.

Glow: Literally the bonfire glowed! What a fun time to hang out and connect with our peers.

Day one in the books.

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The Art of Connecting

I have come to the conclusion that the content I teach has less value than the manner in which I teach it. 

We hear how important relationships are yet we rarely hear how to create and improve relationships. Sure, we have all seen the video of the teacher doing the high fives handshakes and hugs at the door. If that was all it took every teacher would be a master in relationships.

The first thing I do is I specifically go out of my way, say hello, smile, and check-in with my Black and Brown students. I do this because I know I have bias (white guy) and I want to establish multiple positive interactions before there are any negative interactions. This also forces me to create positive associations with the students in my own head. I am basically making sure that I am not allowing my internalized racism to go unchecked.

Another tool I have in the old belt I use is to circle the class up and ask the students to share with me. This opening allows both them and me to talk about our lives and to see each other outside the student and teacher power dynamic.

Learn the students’ names and use them when I pass them in the hall. Smile at them as well.

Give the students room to be kids. Kids are going to talk. They are going to laugh and fool around. People want to talk and fool around. Check out your faculty meetings and see how many are sitting there talking when they should be listening. There is a fine line between high expectations for behavior and unrealistic ones.

Check-in with students when you feel there has been a negative interaction between you and them in class. This can be done after the class or before the next class. Either way, ask some questions. My newest one is, “I feel like there was some resistance when we spoke about…..” This gives them the opportunity to give you their point of view about what happened.

Talk about the tough topics. People, (kids are people too) will respect you more when you aren’t scared to talk real to them. When a subject comes up spontaneously go with it. If you don’t know anything about it tell them you are ignorant about it.

Here is the toughest one. Find something to like about the student who challenges you the most. Everyone will tell you to not take things personally. That’s impossible to do in my opinion. What is possible is to force yourself to find positives about the student. The next class keep repeating that positive to yourself. Another trick is to thank them for coming to your class.

Play music. All types of music. Sing badly.

Make bad dad jokes.

Final Advice: Liking the kids you teach is a good start. Being reactive to their wants and needs is necessary as well.

Minimize the harm you do. Maximize the joy you bring to the class. Celebrate the identities of those that are in the room with you.

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There is a #DecadeChallenge going around the interwebs that asks you to reflect on the last ten years and give a quick recap of what you have accomplished. The responses on the thread are amazing. People have gotten doctorates, created their own companies, and done things that make me feel like I am on the Average Joe’s dodgeball team.

Today I finally understood what my #DecadeChallenge was.

Today was the fifth time I cried this decade. Today I put my second dog down in the last three months. We got my first dog when we got married. Sasha was her name and she came from a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was a protector and smart as a whip. Both my wife and I work so I felt bad leaving Sasha by herself. The only sensible answer was to get another dog right?

Duke came from a breeder in Missouri. He was a long-haired German Shepherd and Belgian Tervueren. We picked him up at the airport and immediately fell in love. He was a prince of a dog. We brought him home and he immediately became part of our family. He was a gentle soul. My kids would climb on him, use him as a pillow, put sunglasses on him, and he would bask in their attention. I never worried about him. He was the greatest friend a man, a dad, or a kid could ask for.


Duke has been getting sicker and sicker over the past few months. Today he couldn’t get up. It was time. I never thought about this day when I got my dogs. I was naive and young. I know better now. This day sucks.

Driving to the animal hospital I was filled with regrets. I didn’t play with him enough, walk him enough, show him enough love. There was no music in the car. Just the heavy silence of melancholy and the infinite sadness.

Walking into the clinic I was filled with dread. We filled out the paperwork and get called to enter the final room Duke would take a breath in. The walk down the corridor seemed endless. We finally arrive and the nurses and doctors come in and out asking questions and preparing us for the final moment of Duke’s life.

The time comes and the medicine flows through his veins. I put my head on his. Tell him I love him. Willing his last visions to be of my face. The last smells of my skin. The last touches of my hands on his face.

He is gone. The tears flow down my face. My heart breaks, reforms, and breaks again.

He was a dog. Yet he was a part of the family. A friend. A child’s playmate. An owner’s emotional support. The type of animal that made you feel that you were loved and appreciated. The unconditional love that only a dog can give you.

Life continues. The feelings of melancholy will slowly dissipate. Until then we just cry and remember. I love you Duke.



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I’m an Ally Not a Co-Conspirator

We all want to be “good” people. We want to be down with the cause. Yet most of us do nothing more than puff our chest out online and make minor changes to our lives. This blog was on my mind all day and then I read Pran Patel‘s blog so I knew it was time to race to my computer and clickety-clack away until some sort of written thought tornado was transferred from my brain to the screen in front of me. If you are reading this then you definitely should go check out his work. His blogs are about Leadership, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Decolonisation of the Curriculum.

In Pran’s blog, he uses the term “allyship”.  According to his definition:

The whole point of allyship is to redress the balance, to use that proverbial unearned money to:

  1. To amplify the voices of the silenced (oppressed).
  2. To use my systemic privilege to support those without privilege.
  3. To give up the systemic privileges which we did not earn and use them to do the above.


I feel like I do this well. I amplify the voices of the silenced, use my privilege to support those with less, and attempt to share my systemic privileges which I did not earn (white male). To be honest this isn’t that hard. Once you realize the overrepresentation of white males in all education areas you know something has to change. Recognizing that being an ally is needed is the hard part. Allyship is the easy part.

The problem is being an ally is relatively easy and does not take a lot of energy nor exposure to harm in order to achieve. While it is a great first step it is the bare minimum that we (non-oppressed people) can and should be doing. It simply means we redirect focus elsewhere, take up less space, and amplify others. Is that enough though?

In the article titled Ally or co-conspirator?: What it means to act #InSolidarity posted on the Move to End Violence website we find out just what the problem is. They state, “… many activists now bristle at the word “ally” and how people have used it to claim that they are supportive of a cause or community without having to actually engage in meaningful action or build meaningful relationships.” This idea that all we have to do is retweet Black women or like a post about a social justice conference isn’t actually doing anything. It is simply a keystroke that does amplify but requires little to nothing from me.

Ernest Owens penned an article in Philly Mag that explicitly lays out why being an ally is not good enough.

1. Allyship arises from and perpetuates a self-deluding savior mentality.

2. Allyship sees conditions to supporting the marginalized where there are none.

3. Allyship validates the ally and not the marginalized.

4) Allyship treats advocacy as a transaction rather than a moral obligation.

5) Allyship and being in solidarity are two separate things — and it’s the latter you should strive for.

The idea of being a “coconspirator” goes beyond simply being an ally. In the Move to End Violence article, we can see clearly why being a coconspirator is so important.

“Co-conspiracy is about what we do in action, not just in language,” says Garza, “It is about moving through guilt and shame and recognizing that we did not create none of this stuff. And so what we are taking responsibility for is the power that we hold to transform our conditions.”

Coconspirators are doing something. Something that oppressed people tell them that is needed. They listen to those they are trying to serve and decenter themselves in the process. They put themselves in harm’s way. They give up something while gaining only the knowledge that they are working toward the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

At the end of the day, I go home to my suburban house, in my white neighborhood to my family. I easily slide back into my power and privilege without even noticing that I have. I am working towards self-actualization which looks very much like being a  coconspirator. Right now I am simply an ally.


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Eat Your Vegetables Children

Last week we started a new unit that I had never tried before. I am sure that somewhere someone has been doing this and I have stolen it from them. To that person, I apologize.

I introduced this game on the basketball court. The court was divided into thirds. On each third, there were four students. On the first third the blue team was on offense and the shirts were on defense. In the middle third, both teams were receiving the ball and progressing it to their offensive players. On the final third the shirts were offense and the blue team was the defense. There were two basketballs in play at one time. If the ball went out of bounds or a basket was made the defense in that third retrieved the ball and used the rules of basketball to progress it to the middle zone.

The defense could steal a pass or a dribble but couldn’t take the ball out of the opposing team’s hands. The rest of the rules of basketball were loosely adhered to.

This blog is not about the game though. (Although you def should play it!) The students didn’t want to play the game at first. I heard the classic, “why we can’t we just play basketball?” In which my response always is that they should sign up for a league and play there. It is a beautiful reminder that this is not a sports class. (nor is it a fitness class)

Some students hated basketball and experienced trepidation going into the game. The beauty of this particular game is that I split the groups up so that the person guarding them was close to their ability level. They had as fair of a matchup as I could possibly make it. The small-sided approach guaranteed they would get the ball and that they would have numerous chances to shoot the ball unaccosted.

I love basketball because it is a game where there is a lot of success. The ball goes in the hoop a lot. This makes the students feel good. That reward and the hit of dopamine released when the ball goes in does wonders for students who don’t always experience sports success.

The kids looooved the game! Once everything was rolling on both courts I was able to give tons of feedback as I vacillated between groups.

I am always pushing for student-centered games with student voice and choice that I sometimes forget that I am still the most experienced person in my class. I have taught thousands of students and can almost forecast the successes and failures that will occur. I am not discounting what the students think and want to do; however, sometimes they just have to do things that they may not want to because at the end of the day we as educators have a duty to guide them. This means we have to make some decisions they won’t like. Like I tell my own kids when they don’t want to eat their vegetables. “You don’t have to like it you just have to do it.”

I am not advocating for a dictatorship where it’s my way or the high way. The opposite of this is true as well though. The students don’t always know what is best either. While I place little stock in degrees and certfications I do place a high value on experience. Too often we as teachers don’t give ourselves enough credit for the knowledge that we have amassed over the years.

The education trends come and go. People with two years of experience are keynoting education conferences and have written manuals on how to teach. It’s time we started trusting ourselves again. As Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stated, “The more you are blessed with experience, the fuller and the more enriched you are in your craft.”

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EdCamp Trauma-Informed Care

Last Saturday Lynne Traina and Jay Billy organized EdCamp Trauma-Informed Care. I was super interested in attending because I know little to nothing about this subject. To prepare myself and those who knew nothing about Trauma-Informed Care I asked Alex Shevrin Venet where I should start off if I wanted to learn. Alex sent me this link which was absolute gold! It had everything I needed to facilitate Trauma-Informed Care for Dummies! The conversations were fantastic!!

Specifically, this video by Jacob Ham is a fantastic way to learn and understand why it is so important that we understand what our students who are experiencing trauma brain is doing. This image really stuck out for me. The calf is only able to play so freely because it knows they are safe and secure with all the elephants protecting it. elephant

The second session was facilitated by a parent in the district. The basic premise was how can parents establish relationships with the staff and advocate for their child without becoming shut out or looked at as a “problem parent”. We talked about how teachers have to balance the idea of not putting too much of themselves out there where a parent can use what they say or do against while simultaneously keeping their heart open to doing what is best for that child and their family. I know from personal experience that parents can turn on teachers and one day you are the best thing since the remote control and the next day you are the worst thing next to nuclear waste. Regardless of how many times I have been burnt I will still keep my heart and class open. It is not fair to the other parents that I bring the baggage from past experiences and lay it on them. Parents do have to understand though why teachers are guarded. Our livelihoods are important to us and our families as well. We can’t just start over in another district without financial and social repercussions. It is a balancing act for sure.

That session had lots of tears and a very open and honest conversations. One other idea that came up is the “bubble child”.  These children aren’t classified and aren’t high flyers. They may end up slipping through the cracks if we are not careful. Amanda Fry also brought up a great point that I & RS can still help students that aren’t classified. This is something that both parents and teachers should keep in mind.

The final session I attended was titled, “Should Race Be an Aces Score?”. All day race and Trauma-Informed Care seemed separated. The question of the session was can white teachers use Trauma-Informed Care if they are not actively working to be anti-racist. While the conversation was slightly male-dominated it was still extraordinary. We discussed everything from how to right the system to what can we do tomorrow to change things. In short, you can not say you use Trauma-Informed Care if you are actively harming the students in your classroom. This means we need to understand the history of the country and that it was built and continues to operate within a racist system. Here is a great article that explains more about historical Trauma and its’ impact that is felt today.

The day was a major success for me. I knew nothing and left knowing more than nothing. Thanks to Jay Billy, Lynne Traina, and the Lawrence Township School District for hosting the conference. I have so much more to learn about Trauma-Informed Care and I am confident I have found the right people to learn with and from.

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Flocabulary Rapped Me Up

Flocabulary is legit. You can stop reading the blog now and figure out how to purchase a license for yourself. If my affirmation alone doesn’t convince you then I will attempt to persuade you by explaining just what it offers.

At its’ core, “Flocabulary is a learning program for all grades that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement across the curriculum.” The music and the knowledge that it transmits are worth their weight in gold. The kids watch, rapt.

It is so much more though. When you log in you can choose to play the video, use the vocab cards, play a vocab game, read & respond, quiz, or create your own lyrics using the vocab words. Capture

One of the features I love is how you can click the discuss tab on the bottom right of the videos and questions come up just like they would in EdPuzzle. Capture

The vocab words cards are filled with colorful pictures that really grab the students’ attention.

The vocab game is a cool click and drag game that reinforces what we have discussed in class. Capture

The literacy component of reading and responding helps me infuse literacy into my health class as well.


This quiz is a quick formative way to get some data to assess where the class should be directed next. Capture 1.JPG

The lyric lab may be the coolest part of this!! You can choose various beats as well as the vocab words of the lesson. The students can voice over the beats. The program also gives you rhymes for the vocab words. Capture 2.JPG

In conclusion, I usually am not a super geeky tech tool blogger but Flocabulary is a really cool tool to have in your belt as a health teacher.


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Immediacy of Action

Last week I received this email:

Hi Justin, hope all is going well for you.  I’m — one of the OT’s at LIS.  I was wondering if you have a few minutes if you could stop by to talk to me about a student in Mrs. —– class.  I’m in room — all day today.

When I get an email from a colleague like this I like to go find out what is going on right away. I immediately went to speak to her. To make a long story short one of the students was upset about something from my class when they went down to her class. After a quick conversation about the student, I left her office.

I had a decision to make. I could go on back to my office and continue to try to get everything set up for the year and keep my head above water, or I could go and make sure that the relationship between the student and I was not frayed.

You can probably guess from the title that I walked down to the student’s class and asked their teacher if I could speak with the child quickly. The teacher agreed and I was able to speak with the student in the hallway. I had a pretty good relationship with the student and I asked them if I could put my arm around them as we walked and talked down the highway. They responded yes and we spoke about why they had been upset. Once I made sure the relationship was repaired and the incident was addressed we walked back to class together.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me about this situation. I could have first repaired this relationship sooner. I can give you multiple reasons why I didn’t; however, what I need to remember is you can’t move on to the next task until the prior one is finished. This means that I may have a slightly agitated teacher who lost a couple minutes of prep or was slightly late to a meeting because I refused to leave relationships frayed.

The second thought was that it was amazing that the OT took the time to email me and make sure that both the student and I were able to repair our relationships.

Finally, I am glad that the day did not end before I was able to address this situation. Issues no matter how big or small are best dealt with as soon as possible. This was a minor issue to me but obviously bigger to the child.

If you take away anything from this blog it is that relationships are more important than content. Next time there is a conflict in your class, especially as a Physical Education teacher, find a place and a time to find the student and address it. It can be a simple question such as, “We good?”.

I am sure most of us know and do this already. And sometimes we just need a reminder.

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The Blinker is the Indicator of Success

The other day I was having a fantastic conversation with a friend about using a turn signal when driving. Some of you may call it a blinker while others use the term indicator. The more we talked the more I wondered if you could use someone’s use of a turn signal as a gauge of their communication in a relationship! I am personally not a great communicator in my personal relationships and it was not lost on me that I don’t always use my turn signal when driving either.

In my professional life, I am much better with communication, especially with my students. I am new at my school and they have typically started their year off with fitness testing. One student asked me why we haven’t done fitness testing this year. In response, I asked her and the class what my philosophy was. They said to have a positive association with the movement. This proved to me that I had communicated clearly my philosophy of Physical Education to them. I followed the question up by asking how many students liked fitness testing. About two to four students raised their hands. I asked how many students did not like fitness testing. Over half the class or about 12-15 students said they disliked it. Knowing that I am not mandated by the state to do this and it is in direct opposition with my philosophy it was an easy decision to not engage in this practice.

This is not a knock on fitness testing. If physical educators have done research and honed their philosophy down where fitness testing is an integral part of their program they have to do what they have to do. It just doesn’t fit into my philosophy.

Being clear with our students about the why behind my decisions will help them understand the importance of Physical Education. In school, my blinker is always on. I want my staff, my administrators, the parents, and most importantly my students to know why we are doing what we are doing. A blog you may find interesting that goes deeper into this idea is called Walk the Walk by Dr. Ash Casey. He states that we have to have, “purposes evident in our programs.”

My final thought is that we need to have our philosophy’s finely tuned.  Judy Lobianco calls it the elevator speech. This involves us having to read, write, listen to podcasts and continue to learn about our craft. After all how can we use our blinker if we don’t even know we need to turn?

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This Friday I attended another ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers). I have to admit these have been some of my favorite conferences. This year was Jen Sarravallo was the keynote speaker. Well she wasn’t exactly the keynote. It was a question and answer session with the legendary  Barry Saide asking her the questions that were preselected from the crowd. I don’t know if this was because Barry wanted to get some stage time or because this was a nice twist on an opening keynote. Either way it was really cool.

There was one part of the interview/questions that was super interesting. Barry asked Jen why it was important for classroom libraries to reflect the broad range of students in the world even outside their class. It seemed like Jen struggled at first but then she told a story about how she was running professional learning and the teachers were balking at the idea of having diverse books. She then told them that her daughter would not have any books showing families like hers with two moms. I had not known that she was part of the LGBTQIA community and it was awesome watching her calmly state this fact in front of the crowd. I don’t know if everyone picked up on this. In fact, I later had a conversation with a teacher who watched the keynote and hadn’t picked up what Jen was putting down.

After the keynote I presented with the legendary Valeria Brown. The session was titled Community Building Through Movement. The session was not heavily attended. By not heavily I mean there were 7 people including Val and I. Two of the seven were people I had texted to make sure they would come. I personally don’t care how many people attend my sessions and it shows how teachers don’t value movement in their classroom enough to choose that session when there were other banging sessions at the same time. This brings me to a pet-peeve I have. Why don’t local conferences spread out the sessions a little more of people who present for a living or present at numerous national, state, and local conferences? Anyway if you are interested in the session slides click here.

The rest of the day was a blur. I went to Valeria’s session about creating equitable schools and was faced with the colorblind kindness individual. This person overtook the session with the idea that if we were just kind to each other schools would be more equitable. We didn’t have enough time to properly address this in the session. The bottom line is we can not undo 400 years of brutal treatment and the flourishing of America on the backs of black and brown people with simplistic idea that being kind will solve all our problems. We need to be explicit about who and what our students are as well as viewing what they bring into our schools and classes as being positive. In order to accomplish this we must understand that their identity matters and we as white teachers need to learn more about our students who don’t look and act like us.

I have to thank Barry and Glen for hosting and bringing in some fantastic people. It was a blast hanging out with Juli B and seeing some of old coworkers. I hope people understand how much work that Barry and his crew did in order to pull this off. If you have a chance you should check out ECET2 if they have one near you.



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Mere Civility

One of my favorite podcasts is called Philosophy Bites. The idea behind the podcast is: “top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics”. One of the most recent episodes talked about the idea of modern-day civility. The philosopher they interviewed on the episode is Teresa M. Bejan who is the author of Mere Civility and also has a Ted Talk about the same subject.

What interested me about the podcast was when Ms. Bejan spoke about modern call-out culture. It always has interested me how more and more people are calling out injustice when they see it. This idea that we “call out others” and “cry out against injustice” while not allowing the feelings of those that are actively harming students specifically in our schools stop us from speaking truth to power. This does not mean that we go out purposefully attempting to harm people. It means that we don’t allow other people’s sensitivities to get in the way of us getting the truth out or compromising our views.

In the interview, Ms. Bejan talks about the idea of civility skepticism. Civility skepticism is:

“…the idea that civility is not a virtue at all. Its a way of trying to silence the speech of others. The way of trying to suppress ideas that you don’t like or even exclude or marginalize those twithwhom you disagree or don’t even see as members of a civil or civilized polity. Civility in an unjust society isn’t a virtue at all. Not only do we have a duty to tell the truth and not to censor ourselves out of respect for someone else’s feelings it’s actually a duty to offend their sensibilites because those priviliged by an unjust status quo will always be offended when they are presented by the truth.”

It looks like she is actually making the case for being uncivil. We have a duty to ourselves to be open and honest when we have a disagreement. Dr. Brene Brown calls this “clear is kind”. There is a point to disagreement though where being uncivil is counterproductive to our goal of engaging in the disagreement.

“If civility is a kind of claim to regulating or governing our disagreements on the basis of something shared then what really matters is exactly what we need to share in order to have a civil disagreement. Rejecting civility all together under-reacts to the challenges that disagreements particularly disagreements about questions that we deem fundamental, maybe questions about religion and politics (and race), that go to the heart of how we see the world and each other. That those kinds of disagreements are hard to have and yet we need to be able to have them. When we talk about civility we talk about what are the qualities of a conversationalist that make those really difficult disagreements possible. “

To me, this makes civility a fluid idea. Civility would vary by who we interact with and what both of us consider civil. This also raises the idea that being civil with people who do not honor your humanity is a pointless endeavor. If we both don’t come to the disagreement with the idea that the other deserves the basic rights and privileges of a human being on this planet than we don’t have a disagreement, we have incompatible views of right and wrong. In my opinion, civility is not called for, nor needed in this scenario.

The gold nugget from the podcast was Teresa M. Bejan’s philosophy of Mere Civility.

Mere Civility I would define as minimal conformity to social norms of respectful behavior. Specifically the minimum necessary to keep the conversation going. You can tell the demands of Mere Civility in any given conversation are highly context-dependent and highly audience dependent. Instead of fixating on rules of civil conduct we think about civility as a prudential or practical judgment about what’s required in a given conversation with a given conversationalist so that conversation can continue. But then it has this other element which is that it remains committed also to telling the truth to our interlocutors and part of that truth involves telling them what we really think of them and their views. Mere Civility is a commitment both of not pulling our punches but also to not landing them all at once so that conversation can continue.

This was mind-blowing to me. I recently have had a friendship stop because I landed all my punches at once. The conversation no longer continues. That is not what I wanted to happen with this particular relationship. There have been other times where I have been in disagreements with those I have no social capital with and Mere Civility was not necessary because I did not want nor need the conversation to continue.

As always I appreciate you taking the time to read and engage in my work. If you have anything you would like to add or discuss please leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter @schleiderjustin or join me on Voxer as we discuss everything education.

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This week New Jersey Association of Health, Recreation, Physical Education and Dance had their 100th convention! Holy shnikes was it amazing. I am going to go straight into my glows and grows cause there is so much to discuss!


GLOW: Meeting Kim and her son Joey Catalfamo.


Kim is an Adapted PE teacher and Joey is a pleasure. They have been coming to the convention for years. While I have interacted with Kim before we did not hang out and really talk. That changed this year. Our conversations went well beyond surface level and Joey is a wealth of knowledge. It was truly a pleasure hanging out with both of them.

Glow: Jody Duff (@JodysAPE). Yep, All of Jody is amazing. It started out with me attending her session. What she does in an adapted environment is nothing short of remarkable. She uses leaf blowers and some sort of magic electric switches to create an environment where her students can succeed. We progressed past mere professionals when she willingly opened up about her personal life when we hung out after the social. Her contributions in my session helped everyone refocus on why identity is so darn important. If you get a chance to hang out with her. You will be a better person for it.

Groan: The hotel did not accept credit cards for lunch. We were given a voucher for lunch but that alone wasn’t enough to purchase something decent. I don’t carry cash and it would have been cooler if we could have used the voucher and debit card to purchase food.

Glow: The games social. All credit goes to Nick Kline (PeTop5) and US Games for sponsoring it. EVERY conference should do this. So the first part is we had the band Front Lawn Barbeque.  They were amazing! On top of that vendors allowed us to use their games. To summarize there was food, drinks, games, dancing, and great people. This is a relatively easy way to get people who love to play games, eat, drink, and listen to music to come to the events that are planned.

Glow: Stephanie Morris SHAPE America CEO. 1Stephanie is leading us through one of the most turbulent time in our organization’s history. I was lucky enough to connect with her in various sessions and at the social. We have numerous conversations and I believe that she is the right person to lead us through these turbulent times. We will come out stronger on the other side as long as we continue to support our national organization.

Grow: The technology at the conference needs to be stepped up. There were multiple issues with projectors and not all the rooms were hooked up with speakers. Someone needs to talk to the technology director of NJ AHPERD and get them to step up their game!

Glows: The speakers at the conference. Between Dr. Repollet, Judy Lobianco, Cory Booker, and Stephanie Morris this conference was supported to the max!

Glow: The free breakfast was fantastic!!!

Personal Glow: My presentation on identity and social persepective went well. If you would like to access it here is the link: Tinyurl.com/njahperd

Conclusion: This conference was the best one I have attended yet. The quality of presenters, the social, the breakfast, the vendors, and the participants were fantastic. NJ AHPERD is a shining example of what conferences can be if members attend, people volunteer, and the national organization is supportive. What an amazing time!


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Social Identity Theory

The other day I was attempting to learn how to go deeper with my students and their identities. I stumbled upon the idea of  Social Identity Theory. I will attempt to tie this theory into my Physical Education and Health Class. I am not an expert in this area and if you have feedback or push-back I gladly welcome it.

Social Identity Theory was created by Henry Tajfel in 1979. “Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.” (link)

“Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory explains that part of a person’s concept of self comes from the groups to which that person belongs. An individual does not just have a personal selfhood, but multiple selves and identities associated with their affiliated groups. A person might act differently in varying social contexts according to the groups they belong to, which might include a sports team they follow, their family, their country of nationality, and the neighborhood they live in, among many other possibilities.” (link)

This is where the theory gets super interesting. When we see ourselves as part of a group Tajfel labels this the “in group”. The other comparable groups that we are not part of “out groups”. This creates us verse them mentality. Think of how nationalism works. I was born in the United States. I look at other countries as being the outgroups. Before I delve more into the in groups and out groups lets look at how Tajfel tells us how we break down groups and how we act upon that information once we do.

“The first is categorization. We categorize objects in order to understand them and identify them. In a very similar way we categorize people (including ourselves) in order to understand the social environment.  We use social categories like black, white, Australian, Christian, Muslim, student, and bus driver because they are useful.

In the second stage, social identification, we adopt the identity of the group we have categorized ourselves as belonging to.  If for example you have categorized yourself as a student, the chances are you will adopt the identity of a student and begin to act in the ways you believe students act (and conform to the norms of the group).  There will be an emotional significance to your identification with a group, and your self-esteem will become bound up with group membership.

The final stage is social comparison.  Once we have categorized ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups. If our self-esteem is to be maintained our group needs to compare favorably with other groups.” (link)

For the purpose of this blog let us look at this from a Physical Education class lens. Our students could categorize themselves in various ways. One way they could categorize themselves is by sex. We know that there at least three sexes although most of our students would fall into the male/female trap. This is one reason why dividing groups up by boys and girls are a problem. We have the issues of students who don’t identify with the sex they are born with, are intersex, or are gender non-conforming and would find the idea of being in the male/female as an issue because this is analogous to them having to choose a gender.

Let’s say that I am a teacher who doesn’t care about their students and just said boys and girls split up. What is the identity of the groups that were just separated? Society has told us that males act a certain way. They are aggressive, don’t cry, and should care about winning. If I associate myself with the male group as being the “in group” how will that impact my actions? What if I am not aggressive and hate athletics? Where does that leave my self-esteem?

When we flip the script and I am in the female group how does that impact my actions? Society tells me I should be docile and passive. How does this impact the way I interact during the activity with other girls? What labels will be put on me if I am aggressive and care about winning?

Finally, what happens when the ingroups compare themselves to the outgroup? How does this impact the female group’s self-esteem when they compare themselves to the male group? I am not looking at this from a deficit mindset either. The female group may be more athletic and better at the activity than the male group. That would positively impact their self-esteem. Would that negatively impact the males’ self-esteem?

There is so much more to social identity theory and I don’t have the time to really break it down like I should; however, this is something that we as educators should look at. How do the categories that our students identify with the impact their thoughts and actions? There is so much more to unpack when we think about race, religion, ethnicity, SES, physical ability, and all the other categories that our students own. Hopefully, this blog will make you go check out the links and start understanding how being part of a group impacts how we think and how we act.




Dear Physical Education Teachers,

Can we talk, please? It is time that we come to a consensus about what our job is. I understand we can’t fight the past, so articles will come out that pick at the low hanging fruit of horrible past experiences. However, this isn’t just about correcting the ills of the past. We already know playing dodge ball psychologically and emotionally traumatizes students. We also have the other side of the spectrum that believes that Physical and Health Education should be all about fitness.

We are not fitness experts. We do not run fitness classes. We are not fitness trainers. I am not knocking fitness nor do I believe that teaching about fitness is an issue. What I am saying is fitness is only one part of Physical Education and Health. I vehemently disagree with using MVPA, heart rate monitors, fitness testing or the Perceived Rate of Exertion as the sole focus of my class. The reason I believe this is because we are losing sight of our students. We are boiling our children down to numbers.

Now that I have told you what I believe Physical Education isn’t let’s delve into what it is. I will use Dr. Lynch’s words because I haven’t heard it phrased any better yet.

Educating the whole child means understanding that they are gifts that walk into our class and we need to appreciate them as such. I know that sounds like kumbaya hippie garbage but it is the truth. When we realize that each student is a gift walking through our doors we will see them. I am not talking about watching the children enter your area, I am talking about actually seeing them for who they are. We will see the gift of their race, sex, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, language, family, sexual orientation, and everything else that makes up their identity. We will see their humor, their energy, their enthusiasm, and even their attitudes as being a part of the class. This will erase the deficit mindset that we will have to “overcome” what they bring to our class. Once we fully see them then we can start to provide meaningful experiences for them.

Meaningful experiences are created when we can get to the core of the students. This takes hard work and lots of listening. We need to ask our students how they feel about our class. Figure out how to tweak our teaching so that we provide an atmosphere where our kids want to be there. Together we can co-construct a program where students walk away feeling ownership of their learning.

When we explicitly focus on the interpersonal aspect of our class we are allowing the students to focus on their social wellness. We can teach students how to engage in conflict resolution, interact with people they don’t like, and be assertive with what they want and need.

There are few people more critical of a theory or idea than myself. Here are some critiques that you may have that I can address right now.

Do I just let my students run the show? Why do I even need to be there then? I am not saying that you as the educator should turn your program over to the kids. What a co-constructed program looks like is the room for voice and choice. Our job as teachers is to know when to facilitate and when to direct. There is a need for both in our classes. Their knowledge and our knowledge work in tandem to create a learning space that allows everyone including ourselves to learn.

It sounds like fitness has no part of this “dream” program. Fitness is a part of a quality physical education program. We should teach about fitness and incorporate fitness into our program when we can. This means limiting the time students are standing around and not being engaged. I refuse to believe a student doing jumping jacks in line is learning more than a student who is blindfolded and being given directions by a partner. Fitness has its place in our program but it should not be the main focus.

The system of school doesn’t allow me the freedom to do this. I get it. Mortgages need to be paid. What we can do is slowly work identity, voice, and choice into our program. We give out surveys to students and show our administrators the how and why we are progressing towards a more inclusive program. We read and learn about child development, play, movement, and pedagogy. Then we can challenge the status quo with facts and data.

School is not a place to speak about identity. Identity is who our students are. If we ignore who they are then we are teaching what WE want them to learn and who WE think they are. This doesn’t bode well for creating meaningful movement experiences. Our students will go through the motions and then either forget our class or worse begin to hate our class. This negative association can have a long-lasting impact that may never be unlearned.

What about physical literacy? Here is the best part! Physical literacy will be in our class like it has always been!! Students will want to move more because they have a voice/choice and they are being seen as a human being. They will not be afraid that they will be made fun of because of the way they look, act, or their physical skills. The more they move and participate the more they will become confident and competent. The more confident and competent they are the more likely they will become life-long movers. Physical literacy is a result of our quality program that we have created just not the reason for it.

Physical and Health Educators let’s come together and start to figure out how to produce a program that starts creates a love of movement, educates the whole child (socially/emotionally) de-emphasizes hyper psychomotor focus (strength, flexibility) and start to teach through a sociocultural lens. Only then will we able to say that we are truly doing what’s best for kids.


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World Read Aloud Day

Confession: I am a book nerd. I took Harry Potter books on a ski trip and curled up by the fire reading when I was in college, read a book in the middle of a party in high school, and would sneak a flashlight under my covers and read till the wee hours of the morning as an elementary school child. Growing up my friends all made fun of me because of my affinity for reading.

My parents had the most ingenious way of helping me read. When I messed up they would punish me and send me to my room. Now when I was a kid (I am laughing so hard at that phrase and how that sounds in my head) I had nothing in my room but books. No radio, no television, no toys, nothing. What was a boy with attention issues going to do in a room with nothing but books? He is going to read! And read I did. I read everything and anything. It didn’t matter if it was written by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, or Sun Tzu. If it had words on paper I was devouring it.

I have plowed through books that are windows, doors, and mirrors. “A window-type book is one that engages children into imagining what the world looks like in places and circumstances that they have never experienced.” Books allow me to see the world through the lens of characters that don’t look and act like me. I recently read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The story is told through the lens of a young black girl. I was able to see life from a different vantage point. We need to “see” through these windows if we hope to grow as humans.

Books open doors to places that my mind couldn’t possibly create on its own. I have traveled across galaxies, been to foreign lands, battled impossible odds, and have even climbed in the middle of a giant peach!

Finally, books can be mirrors that show characters that look and act like me. It is important to see characters that reflect myself because it allows me to identify with the characters and normalizes how I look and act. As a child I read Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and The Outsiders identifying with the characters who either because of the illustration on the cover or the description stated I identified as white males. It was easy for me as a white cisgender male to find books that acted like mirrors. This was not as easy for black and brown students, although #DisruptTexts is making sure this is changing.

I tell you all that above because February 1 is World Read Aloud Day. This is not to be confused with Global Read Aloud created by Pernille Ripp which, “picks a book to read aloud to students during a set 6-week period and during that time tries to make as many global connections as possible.” “Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people.” Andy Milne has organized the hashtag #HPEReadAloudDay for Health and Physical Education teachers to post under if they want to participate. #WorldReadAloudDay is the official hashtag of the event. You can read all about his idea here.

I am going to be reading a variety of books that are doors, windows, and mirrors for my students. I will start off with my 2nd-grade class reading Donovan’s Word Jar. The cover shows a black boy who is approximately 9 years old.

“Donavan Allen doesn’t collect coins, comics, or trading cards like most kids. He collects words—big words, little words, soft words, and silly words. Whenever Donavan finds a new word, he writes it on a slip of paper and puts it in his word jar.
But one day, Donavan discovers that his word jar is full. He can’t put any new words in without taking some of the old words out—and he wants to keep all his words. Donavan doesn’t know what to do until a visit to his grandma provides him with the perfect solution.”


My kindergarten class will be reading Skin Again written by the queer feminist writer bell hooks. They will also be reading the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

“Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.

This award-winning book, with its myriad of faces, introduces a strong message of loving yourself and others that will appeal to parents of our youngest readers.”


“Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.”


My third graders will be reading the Giving Tree. It is a classic book that for brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

“For those of you who don’t remember, The Giving Tree is a 1964 children’s book about a tree who happily gives what she can to a young boy.  First, she gives him shade.  Then apples.  She even lets him carve initials into her.
As the boy grows up, he needs more. So he takes her branches and eventually cuts down her trunk. At that point, the tree is alive, but nothing but a stump.  Yet the boy, now an old man, still needs more.  He needs a seat.  She gives it to him. “And the tree was happy.” (The last line of the book.)


My first graders will be reading the book Princess Truly in I Am Truly. I picked this because the main character is a young black girl. This will be a book that is both a window and a mirror for the various students in that class.

“Brimming with warmth and color, Princess Truly’s rhythmic rhyming adventures are a celebration of individuality, girl power, and diversity. A perfect graduation gift, this heartfelt story is a reminder to young girls everywhere that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it and dream big!”


My fifth graders will be reading two books. The book is called For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever. I am choosing this book for two reasons. First I want to start the conversation about what exactly gender is. This will be a perfect lead into the idea that because you may identify with a gender does not mean that you will automatically like certain things or that certain subjects are off limits to you. The second book is my favorite book of all time called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This book shows various women (including Women of Color) throughout history and give a one page summary of their accomplishments. The illustrations are fantastic and will hopefully help combat the idea that only white men have made all the major breakthroughs throughout history.

As you can tell it will be a busy day. I hope you will stop your class and read a book aloud even if it is for five minutes. It doesn’t matter what the subject area is; we all need to support reading. Lastly, remember to post on Twitter under the #HPEReadAloudDay as well as #WorldReadAloudDay. If you want more resources or to register for World Read Aloud Day go to this website created by the creators of the event Kidlit.

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I Have A Dream

This year I have picked some quotes from Dr. King’s most famous speech that most people have not read in its entirety. If you would like to read the entire speech click on this link.

“So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”This

This speaks of the urgency that Dr. King felt in 1963. Too many white people have accepted the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. We allow People of Color to suffer believing that as long as there is some progress towards racial equality that is enough. While we stand on the sideline observing this slow progress to occur, our black students are being harmed. If you are not addressing race in your class you are willingly ingesting the drug “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”.

“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

White people need to stop feeling anything but a need to help our Black brothers and sisters attain equality. We feel ashamed when we learn the ghastly history of our past without using that to fuel our anti-racist actions in the present and the future. We should be conscience-stricken about the past because it was vile and we (white people) are benefiting from that abuse of Black People today. However, if that is where our actions stop it is not enough. Black People statistically don’t have the power to do the work of changing society alone.

As educators, we have the ability to co-liberate our students and ourselves. White people fail to recognize that we are suffering from racism as well. You see we (white people) have separated ourselves from other Black People who deserve equality. Together we can make a more equitable world where “we could join forces to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth that would benefit us all”. (link) Most importantly,
“we are missing out on the benefits of deep human relationships with people of other “races” and cultures, and all that can be learned and enjoyed in such relationships.” (link) Segregating ourselves has negatively impacted our souls.

“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”

Here we are 55 years later and we are still speaking about police brutality. It is more than just the police however. “Bias by decision makers at all stages of the justice process disadvantages black people. Studies have found that they are more likely to be stopped by the police, detained pretrial, charged with more serious crimes, and sentenced more harshly than white people.” We have to look at our criminal justice system and understand that is not working for everyone equally.

Voter suppression is still alive and well. Shelby vs. Holder decimated the voting rights acts. Just look at Georgia in the last election. “African-Americans make up thirty-two percent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy percent of the suspended applications.” (link) We need to call for election day to be a national holiday. Need a day to get rid of? Cancel the false worship of Columbus and now you have the opening to make election day a national holiday.

I will leave this blog with the part of Dr. King’s speech we all know. Honestly, I need some hope right about now.

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Mary Turner

Saturday was my son’s eighth birthday. To prepare for his birthday dinner I stopped by Amish market after work on Friday and dropped 25$ on pickles as part of his hamburger bar toppings. I also picked up some chocolate covered bacon as well because well, it’s chocolate covered bacon and it was in the same place as the pickles and I am in impulse consumer with very little will power.

After working my second job at the liquor store till 10:30 and then going shopping at Wegmans after that I was exhausted. I came home and fell asleep. It seemed like 30 seconds later, although the clock told me it was 8 hours, and Saturday morning was here. It was time to go coach basketball. Being my son’s birthday and the fact that I have an addiction to bagels, we stopped and grabbed some delicious pork roll, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches topped with ketchup and hot sauce. The day was going well.

Practice ended and it was time to clean the house and get it ready for the birthday dinner. This means that headphones go on and I clean for about six straight hours. I started cleaning the kitchen and all was going well. I had a clean dishwasher ready to be loaded and the pots and pans were soaking. Motown was blaring in my ears and life was moving along.

I moved upstairs to clean the bathroom and I switched over to Audible and continued listening to #ClearTheAir book of choice White Rage. I had already learned about Reconstructing Reconstruction and was now learning about Derailing the Great Migration. The book is hard to read (listen to) because it shows how black people have been systematically kept down every time it looked like there would be progress. I am ok with hard. Then it became unbearable.

WARNING: The historically accurate narrative I am about to relay is brutal and may cause an intense emotional reaction. The rest of the blog is emotionally charged as well.

Dr. Anderson, the author of White Rage, recounts the tale of Mary Turner. The story starts out explaining just how horrible of a human being Hampton Smith was. Smith was a plantation owner who abused his workers to the point that he couldn’t pay any more people to work on his farm. “Smith often had to resort to the debt peonage system as a way to find workers for his farm. Back then, it was common for cops to arrest black people on frivolous charges, then give them fines they couldn’t pay. But employers like Smith could pay off those fines, then force the black arrestees to work off their debt—a system that took the place of slavery in many parts of the South.” (link)

One day Hampton Smith had the tables turned and he was shot by 19-year-old Sidney Johnson after he had beaten him for not showing up to work because he was sick. It didn’t matter that Johnson had already paid his debt back and was in no way shape or form obligated to work for Smith. Days later Sidney Johnson grabbed a shotgun and killed Hampton Smith. “The following week Brooks County saw a mob driven manhunt which resulted in the lynching of 13 people including some who were in the local jail.” (link) Sidney Johnson was one of the 13 people killed.

There was no evidence that any of the other people killed had anything to do with the death of Hampton Smith. One of the other men who was hung was named Hazel “Hayes” Turner. Turner had a wife named Mary who was 8 months pregnant. She denied that her husband had been involved in Smith’s killing, and threatened to have members of the mob arrested. What happened next is one of the most brutal things I have ever heard.

“According to investigator Walter F. White of the NAACP, Mary Turner was tied and hung upside down by the ankles, her clothes soaked with gasoline, and burned from her body. Her belly was slit open with a knife like those used “in splitting hogs.”[11] Her “unborn babe” fell to the ground and gave “two feeble cries.”[11] Its head was crushed by a member of the mob with his heel, and the crowd shot hundreds of bullets into Turner’s body.” 1

“In their mind, they’d taught her a lesson, made of her an example. And despite the fact that a full report, including the names of instigators and over 10 participants, was given to Hugh Dorsey, the governor of Georgia, no one was ever charged with the murders.” 2

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_%22Hayes%22_Turner
2 https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/sayhername-100-years-ago-mary-turner-was-lynched-1826019454

There have been not been many times when I had to stop reading or listening to something because something shook me to my core. This was one of those times. I started to take long deep breaths. Tears flowed from my eyes. I had to sit down in the bathroom. I paused the book and opened up my Voxer and tried my best to explain to the book chat just how hard that was to read.

I imagined what it was like for Mary knowing the mob was looking for her, what she felt when they found her, and the sheer fear and terror of being tied upside and have gasoline poured on her. She had other children who had just had their father taken from them. She had a baby in her stomach. She knew that she and her baby were going to die a painful excruciating death. The scene played out in my head and I just sat there all sort of shook. It took a good 10-15 minutes for me to get up and start cleaning again.

How do we get people, specifically our students, to understand exactly how brutal it was for black people? Obviously, we aren’t going to unleash this emotional fecal bomb on elementary or middle school students. We teach about slavery, lynchings, and poor conditions for Black people yet I never understood exactly what that entailed. They were words or phrases that did not paint a very clear picture in my head. It took me seeing pictures to truly understand what a lynching was. How do we shield our children from the trauma of understanding rape, hangings, and physical abuse yet expose them to the truth about just how sickening those things really are on a level they can take meaning of?

Speaking as a parent, I want to shield my kids from this; yet I feel a responsibility that they fully grasp what our country legally sanctioned. They need to understand the true history of our country in order to grasp the conditions that exist for Black people today. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Mary Turner and her child were executed in the worst possible way only 100 years ago. I don’t have any answers for this. I don’t know how we have people grasp the depth of the brutality of the history of the United States. I do know that I will always err on the side of giving too much information to my children instead of too little. At some point, my children will learn about Mary Turner from me and I will be there to hold them as tears flow from their faces.

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Blog Alert!

If your timeline did not have stories about #SurvivingRKelly you need to follow more black women. I say that for two main reasons. First, the black women I follow are brilliant and are tweeting some of the most important events going on in the world. This includes the government shutdown, astrophysics, mathematics, and history. Secondly, black women live at the intersection of both racial and gender oppression. This gives them a point of view that NO ONE else has. Black Twitter was going crazy tweeting about the repulsive story that is R Kelly. Andy Milne’s blog addresses both dating violence and sexual assault.

Andy Milne’s #SlowChatHealth blog Uncomfortable Listening is a crowd-sourced resource of podcasts dedicated about dating violence/sexual assault. I know this is not light listening but if you interact with students there is a really high chance that one of them will experience dating violence or sexual assault. As a teacher, we have to understand what experiences our students are walking into our classes with as well as understand how to broach the subject of violence and sexual assault if the need arises. As a health teacher, we need to be explicitly discussing sexual assault with our students starting in 1st grade. Yes, 1st grade. It should be a simple as discussing what your bathing suit area means and that you have control over your body. If you can listen to the podcasts that were crowdsourced. Surviving R Kelly is linked at the bottom of the blog.

The next blog I read was penned by Sherri Spelic. It was titled Weight Gain. I love reading Sherri’s work because her heart and soul shine through her words. You feel her emotion when you read her work. This weeks blog was no different. In her blog, she relates shame, disappointment, guilt, struggle, expectations, being a woman, the past, the present, and the future all related to her body weight.

Her blog made me think about my weight related to my job, which is Physical Education and Health Teacher and my gender. As a teacher of both Physical Education and Health, I have an expectation that I look a certain way. I don’t need to be jacked but I do want to show students, parents, other teachers and the community that I practice what I preach. This means that I have to be physically active and keep my weight somewhat under control. This will be something that is harder to control as I age. As a male society also gives me a little more leeway in how I look. That will definitely impact how I view my body as I age. I highly recommend you read her blog and see her insight into how her husband, society, and her own views influence how she sees herself.

The third blog I recommend you check out was written by Dr. Ash Casey. The Concept of Physical Literacy breaks down this simple yet complex idea of physical literacy presented in Margaret Whitehead’s 2001
European Journal of Physical Education article The Concept of Physical Literacy. Every teacher should know what physical literacy is just like every like they know what numeracy and literacy are. Specifically, Physical Education and Health Teachers need to understand this concept because SHAPE America has built our future upon it. Here is an excerpt from Ash that sums up why we need to understand this concept:

…”She did, however, conclude by saying “as an aspect of human potential integral to a fully realised human existence and influencing much of life as habitually experience, the achievement and exercise of Physical Literacy plays a significant part in the development of self-realisation, self-confidence and positive self-esteem” (p. 136). Taken this way, Physical Literacy deserves a place in our discussions about the future of physical education.

The final blog I recommend Physical Educators check out is Shane Pill’s blog Closed and Open Practice. The basic premise of the blog is that closed drills serve a purpose.

“Closed drills are those that provide a relatively stable practice environment. For team sports, that means a practice environment where defenders or opposition are removed from the action, or placed in passive roles.”

We are in education so we know that the pendulum swings with gusto instead of gently swaying. There is still a place for working on skills in and of themselves whether they be physical skills or mental skills. Practicing your math facts will make you better at math just as practicing dribbling with your hands and feet will make improve your physical skills. I am not advocating for drill and kill of either math facts nor dribbling. What I am saying is that there will always be a place for honing your skills by yourself or in a closed drill environment.

Hopefully, I have given you something to think about as well as highlighting some people doing great work in the field of life and education. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the blogs I have listed above. As always thank you for your time.

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One Word: Support

Sometimes I don’t want to do things simply because everyone else is doing them. To this day I still haven’t fully embraced the Dave Matthews Band simply due to the fact that everyone around me couldn’t stop talking about how great they are. That’s how I feel about this one-word goal setting blog mania that sweeps the edusphere every New Years. I want to hate on it but I can’t. When I read the blogs every year I get inspired. The kind of inspired you feel when the Patriots lose in the Super Bowl. That is what keeps me taking the #oneword challenge.

Before I get started I will recap my last two one word challenges. In 2016 the subject was fear. It was based on the fear that Donald Trump was going to win the election and what that was going to mean for every student who was not white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and Christian. What followed was exactly what was feared.

” The report found that 7,175 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in 2017, up from 6,121 reported incidents in 2016. While the number has increased, the number of agencies reporting also increased by about 1,000.

Of the 7,106 single-bias hate crimes reported, 59.6% of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 15.8% were targeted because of sexual-orientation bias; 1.6% were targeted because of gender identity bias; and 0.6% were targeted because of gender bias. Sixty-nine multiple-bias hate crime incidents were also reported.”


In 2017 my #oneword was disallow. I stated, “The number one reason I am choosing that word is that someone needs to stand up when they see things that go against what they stand for.” I believe that I did start to change how I approached things. I no longer allowed the people I cam in contact with to get away with saying things that were either dog whistles or just plain hateful. This is embarrassing because I came so late to the party. I lived over 30 years either being a white supremacist or allowing white supremacy to continue without ever addressing it. No cookies will be eaten over here.

In 2018 I took a break and took the 100 word challenge from my man Dene Gainey blog. Here is what I wrote:

“Teaching is sharing time with people. Every day I get the opportunity to provide a safe environment for kids to explore and have fun. We form connections and memories that will leave a lasting impression on all parties. Together we enjoy creating new neural connections constantly challenging ourselves to grow. I get to feel that I am impacting the world battling hate and fear. Future generations will be changed for the better if I continuously grow and make a positive impact on my students. I am leaving the world a better place than before I got there.”

Now that I have reflected here is why my 2019 one word is Support. It is time that I consciously make sure I am using my platform to support what others are doing. Specifically I would like to support those who are not white, cisgender, heterosexual males like myself. The reason for this is not because I don’t feel like we don’t have anything to say or that we can’t add value to the world. The reason is because we don’t need the support. It is there simply because of who we are. Here are the three movements that I support through my time, my money, and my standing in the #physed community.

The first person/movement I would like to publicly support is #ClearTheAir created by Valeria Brown. ClearTheAir has allowed me to learn more about race and power than anywhere else. The books, Twitter chats, Zooms, and Voxer groups that Val recommends and creates pushes my thinking and make me extremely uncomfortable. That is probably why I have grown so much in my worldview in the past year. In order to support her I will be donating money so she can start to build the ClearTheAir community further and donate books to those that can’t afford them so they can be involved in the movement. I will also be using my time to show up on Twitter chats, Zoom gatherings, and whatever else she has in mind.

The next movement that I would like to support is the MAPSO Freedom School. The idea behind their organization is:

“Freedom Schools were temporary, alternative free schools for African-Americans mostly in the South. They were originally part of the Civil Rights Movement to organize African Americans to achieve social, political and economic equality in the United States. Our (Maplewood South Orange) MapSO Freedom School events will capture that historical spirit as we struggle together and move forward.
Our classroom sessions, professional development, and community events seek to develop understanding of racial justice in students, teachers, and parents while empowering those same groups to take action in an effort to make social change.”

I first learned of this organization through Okaikor Aryee-Price. She will rightfully say that there are a lot of people involved and doing the work; however, she puts in a lot of work and is the face of it to me. Okaikor is exactly the type of person we need if we are going to make a systemic change in education. She is brilliant, passionate, and willing to give of herself and her time in order to shed light on anti-blackness in America our schools.

I have supported the MAPSO Freedom School by donating money. Secondly, I will be showing up to at least 3 Zooms in preparation for BLM Week of Action at schools and the Teaching Tolerance Workshops. Lastly, I will be attending the Teaching Tolerance workshop in March. If you are interested in supporting them contact Okaikor. Also, follow @mapsofreedom.

The final people I will be actively supporting are Kennedra Tucker and Stephanie Sandino. They are in the midst of creating a Social Justice podcast for Physical Education and Health Teachers. This project has taken a while to get moving but I am so excited to see it come to fruition. Both Kennedra and Stephanie are amazing educators whose passion is apparent to anyone that has ever come in contact with them. I will be definitely be amplifying their work! Follow them on Twitter or join them on the Voxer equity, diversity, and inclusion chat on Voxer.

My goal this year is to continue to de-center myself as well as raise the social consciousness of others who are doing great things in the field of education. It will be a busy and tiring year for sure. That will not deter me from continuing to better myself and those around me by supporting others who are doing the important work.

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Reflection: Grace and More

The end of the year forces us to reflect. This holiday season/new year I am going to focus more in the vein of Yom Kippur than Rosh Hashanah. What that means is I am going to focus more on being forgiven for my sins than celebrating the New Year’s arrival. I believe I have grown a lot both personally and professionally.

The biggest growth I had was in confronting the harm that I had imposed on others. This blog post named the people directly who I have harmed as well as me attempting to repair the harm. It was time that I openly admitted to my errors to these people and the world. This also forced me to constantly remind myself that I make mistakes all the time also prompts me to realize that others are doing the same thing. We are all making mistakes of one kind or another.

Reflecting further I know that I have not reflected the grace that I hoped would be shown to me when I attempted to repair the harm. This does not mean that I need to forgive and forget. It means that if someone did something and truly felt remorse for it I need to make sure I am being as magnanimous as I expect others to be. Honestly that does not always occur.

One of the areas that I am attempting to learn more about is power. I don’t always understand power dynamics. I have come to realize this is because I have usually had the power or possessed the ability to ignore the power in my interactions. My goal is to make sure I listen when people call my attention to this.

This year I brought the idea of identity and intersectionality into my Health and PhysEd classrooms. This was a direct result of me seeing a world that treats people inequitably simply because of their race, sexuality, gender association, religion, and socioeconomic status. I felt it was time that I started showing my students how there are different systems in place that have (and still do) created obstacles for certain groups of people to live their best life in the United States.

Last I am grateful for all the people that are actively working to help ignorant individuals like myself grow. Arthur Chiaravalli wrote a fantastic blog post and follow up thread that names a lot of the people I would like to thank.

To conclude this reflection I would like to recommend some chats and resources you should follow if you want to make changes in your pedagogy and social awareness.

#ClearTheAir Val Brown creates a bridge where people with an open heart can learn without being fearful of being attacked. You will be challenged for sure. It will be uncomfortable no doubt. And you will grow as a human being.

#EduColor- “was founded by people of color, with people of color, for people of color. We are an inclusive collective, and have co-workers in the work for true equity. Our members come from many parts of the education sector, including educational technology and higher education.”

http://www.peprn.com/ – “The aim of PEPRN (which originally stood for the Physical Education Practitioner Research Network but now, like the BBC or NBC, is now better known for its acronym) is to bring together physical education teachers, coaches, physical activity leaders, volunteers and university practitioners from around the world to talk about practice, young peoples’ experiences of physical activity, and research.”

http://eshpodcast.libsyn.com/  – Dr. Dye runs this podcast that, “Empowerment Starts Here is a podcast that explores power, social change and disrupting the margins.” Dr. Dye allows me to help uncover my blind areas when it come to power. I have soooo much work to do.

Rethinking ‘a broad and balanced’ PE curriculum

This was a great way of rethinking our curriculum.


I dislike the guiding principles of ‘broad‘ and ‘balanced‘ when it comes to thinking about the PE curriculum and the selection of activities and sports within it. They are vague, they don’t help the design process and they don’t really apply to an individual subject but to a school curriculum (for a nice critical perspective read Colin Richard’s Impact magazine article Broad? Balanced? Curriculum?). However in attempting to remove these principles from people’s thinking I have been met with strong resistance. They are (in PE Departments in England) a sticky concept that has created inertia to more contemporary ways of thinking about PE curriculum design and activity selection. Rather than advocating for binning them, perhaps a better starting point is to consider other options of ‘breadth and balance’ beyond the dominant ideas a range of sports or ensuring each activity area is accounted for.


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