Teachers Reduced to a Number

My school year is coming to an end. That means that the dreaded end of the year evaluation had to occur. You know where teachers are reduced to a numerical score. This is much the same as when our students get PARCC tested. The outcome of both is the same. You walk away feeling that there is so much more to you than a number score.

I do want to state for the record that my administration has never made me feel like I am only a number. I get much more support than most teachers in other districts.  Educating my students about intersectionality has been received with open arms. If I roll into the office with an idea and a plan the answer is usually go for it. This is in no way a knock on my administration. They have done nothing but vigorously prop me up with both words and actions.

My observations had gone well so I had no worries about those scores. My professional development plan (pdp) had met two of the three goals I had set up to attain. My school is negotiating our contracts and we were working the contracted hours so every committee was canceled. This made my goal of creating an edcamp professional development day impossible to put into motion.

My student growth objectives were an issue. One of them I met with flying colors. This was actually the coolest SGO I had ever done. My students created videos on any health topic they wanted. We then self-assessed the videos against a rubric. The goal was to have them get a higher score on the second round of videos. If you want to see the rubric click here.

The second video they made revolved around one of the eight main ideas of intersectionality. The idea was that they would get a small snippet of the subject and then we would research more about it. They would then make a video enlightening others about what that idea was and how it negatively impacted people in our country. I conferred with the students often during this activity. This was my first time teaching this material and I already know some of the changes that I will have to make in order for this to work better next year. If you want to see the assignment click here.

My final SGO was a simple catching one with first grade. I failed this miserably. I did not readjust the SGO during our mid-year check in which was completely my fault. I will also take the responsibility that I did not teach them the skill well enough either.

This brought my overall evaluation score down. I did not, nor do I currently, care about that number other than making sure I still have a job. I know the system I work in and want to make sure that I can continue to play the game as long as I need to. That means understanding the rules of the game and working within those parameters. What was interesting was the discussion that ensued from my administrator. He brought up the point it’s about what I deserve not the importance of the number.  This new way of framing was interesting. Another point he brought up was that if I scored in the highest bracket I will be able to have only one observation and do a reflection piece for my second. This sounds intriguing to me.

I value my administrator’s opinion and ultimately they are the boss. I want them to see me as being valuable and want to keep my job. And I don’t think that number at the end of the year defines me. My evaluations from my students are where the power lies. The trimester check-ins, the affective data collected, the amount of hugs I get in the hallway, and the positive association with movement is where the evaluations that truly matter occur. If that sounds progressive it’s probably because it is. I am a non-tested area and I embrace that. It gives me the freedom to teach using my philosophy.

Einstein is commonly credited with saying, “‘Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters’. I will never truly know what impact I am having on my students. They may not even remember my class or identify that they may have learned to love moving there. The point is that we as teachers will always be more than a number just as our students are more than a test score. I take the score for what it is. An attempt by an imperfect system to reduce teaching to a quantifiable number. I understand the need for it and I refuse to let it derail me from my goal of creating an environment where students want to move and learn together.

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Critical Race Theory

This blog is going to be one of those tough blogs. The ones where my white readers will question why they continue to read and follow. Some of you who I consider friends, allies, or more will not be happy.  That’s too bad. Get ready. It’s. About. To. Go Down.

What exactly is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs:

CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. (link)

You may be white. You may be reading this and say this is malarky. Black people have affirmative action (which benefits white women the most), or perhaps people should just get over race. After all, when is enough enough? Well here is a question for you:

There is the question. What amount of compensation would you seek if you were forced to become black?

I will walk you down my thought process here. My first thought is would it cost money for me to willingly turn black? The answer is yes. Yes, it would. How much would it take to worry about driving, get the police called for BBQ in a park, or walk through a department store and be accused of stealing your own clothes? You get the idea. I have a ton of privilege. I feel relatively safe in America. (Jews are third or fourth on the you are destroying America go back to your country list I believe)

Once I realized that being black would definitely require that I receive compensation, the guilt set in. I didn’t dwell on it cause not only is guilt a useless emotion it didn’t further me learning or reflecting. I recognized it and moved on.

After I moved on I decided on $500,000-$750,000. I arrived at this number because I wanted a house and cars that would be paid off. I wanted loot for my kids to go to college. The money would make sure that if I didn’t get hired or promoted at the job I deserved because of my skin color I would still get by working at a lower paying job. It would also ensure that the neighborhood I lived in would be safe and hopefully, I could be active in the neighborhood without having the cops called on me.

UPDATE: One thing I did not address is the life expectancy of  blacks vs whites. “Blacks now have a life expectancy of 75.6 years, and whites can expect to live on average for 79 years.” (Link) The reasons for this are too many for me address at this time.

My next thoughts were how much harm was I going to do to the black people in my social media networks? How must they feel that it would take an enormous amount of money to be like them? To give up my privilege of safety and security? The feeling was and still is, awful.

And this is the crux of the issue. White people will deny that racism exists. White people will use the bootstrap theory that black people should just educate themselves (which society has gone to great lengths to avoid allocating reaources to doing well). Maybe you believe the idea that if black people had a work ethic and didn’t rely on welfare maybe they would get ahead (which is false white people receive more welfare than any other group). All that gets thrown out the window when it is time for us to be in that position. Wouldn’t you work hard? Wouldn’t you educate ourselves? Yet why would it take millions for you to be black? It would take millions because we have privilege! That is the point of this blog. Recognizing that any amount of money you would require shows how you and society values being white over being black.

Personally, the amount you would demand is immaterial. The fact that there is any price you would demand shows how much we value white skin in America. Next time someone denies there is white privilege, or explains to you all the ways that black people are better off now ask them this simple question. What amount of compensation would you seek if you were forced to become black?

Watch them stutter. They will try to circle around the answer. Try to turn the question on its head. Don’t give them the leeway. Press them. They will give you a number. That number shows how we have a problem in America.

My question to you is how much would it take for you to be black? Be honest with yourself. Share with me if you want. Keep it to yourself if you want. The important part to recognize is that if you chose any amount of money you understand that there is a problem with being black in America. Now ask yourself what are you doing to combat that problem?

PS follow @theL0rdByr0n he is doing the work

Twitter Thread Blog Post

Thread by @SchleiderJustin: “This may be a bit of a long thread. The purpose of the thread is not for me to claim I am a great teacher. It is simply to show that what I […]” #physed

21 tweets a day ago
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This may be a bit of a long thread. The purpose of the thread is not for me to claim I am a great teacher. It is simply to show that what I preach, I do and it works. We are always asked to show evidence of what we are doing to prove it works. What I will show you is all the evidence I need.
Everything I share with you I have asked for permission from the two students to share. I will make up fake names and blur an evidence that will tie back to them. Again I have asked both students and got permission to share our stories.
Every year my 6th grade teachers have their students (we go prek-6) write letters of gratitude to anyone on the staff that they feel thankful for. The notes are hand written. It is an honor to receive them. They are only allowed to choose one person to write them to. (update found out they can write as many as they want. Still makes me feel good about receiving the letters.)
One of the letters I received was from a boy I will call Pat. When Pat walked through the door with the letter I almost started crying. I had wrote in an earlier blog this year about him. You can read it here slowchatpe.com/?s=trimester. Every trimester I do a check in with my students one of the questions I ask my ss is How much does Mr. S like you? He gave me a 1 out of 5. A one. I was perplexed. He was white, a male, athletic, and rarely ever in trouble. I had no implicit bias I could see against him. I liked him! I was flummoxed as to why he thought that.
My next step was a meeting with him. I asked him why he thought I didn’t like him. He said because I never listened to his ideas. I thanked him for his time and sent him back to class. I made no promises nor argued with him. Who was I to tell someone that what they were feeling was wrong? What I did for the rest of the year was listen to him. When his ideas were able to be executed we did them. I met him halfway. What I did was not miraculous nor extraordinary. It was something every Jo or Jane Shmo can do. The difference was I constantly check in with my students. I care about what they think. This didn’t take some crazy amount of technology nor a masters degree. It took me liking my ss enough to ask them what they thought. That. Simple. Here is the letter he wrote me.
To summarize this first half of a crazy long post ask your ss what they like, what they don’t like, what they think you think of them. We serve them. This is the easiest way to improve your classroom management, behavior, test scores etc. Use your power for good.
The next half of this thread is about what I teach. I have been learning about the negotiated curriculum. I have also honed my #physed philosophy to a couple of basic tenets. The first one is create a positive association of movement. There is nothing more important than that.
The second part is connect what we are doing to the outside world. That being outside of the gym/school. The third part is moving should be a part of socialization. Once I figured this out I have been actively working to become the best at delivering these ideas to my students.
You never really know how much things are sinking in even when you are assessing them. So this next young lady walks through the door with a hand written letter for me. Again I am overwhelmed because they could have chosen anyone to write to and she chose me.
This is what she wrote. Let’s break this down.

She thanks me for making class fun. That’s cool but fun isn’t the end all and be all.

She goes on to say that games have more meaning and yes playing games and learning are important.
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If it ended there I would have been bowled over! She goes on. she writes:
GAMES CAN BE USED IN THE REAL WORLD TOO!
Do you know what that means to a #physed teacher? It is validation. It is years of stereotypes being thrown out the window. Yes what we teach is not just for
being done in school. It is something that you can and will use outside of school. You know where we want the knowledge accrued in school to be used! Is there anything more important a student can say to a teacher? Don’t think so.
Again my point is not to crow about what a good teacher I am. It is to show those out there that if you have a philosophy and you show them just how passionately you believe in it the students will get it. The trick is to really work on the why behind your teaching.
So to conclude my longest thread ever here are some actionable steps.

Check in with your kids every trimester or marking period. It can be a google form or a simple pencil and paper check in.

We have the power. It’s useless it is shared.
Use the data collected to actually change your approach. This negotiated curriculum or critical pedagogy is not new nor was it created by me. It is common sense. Let’s make it common again.
Finally find your philosophy. Why do you teach your subject? Why is it important? Why should the students care about it? Please don’t say cause they will need it for middle school, high school, or college. Why is it useful to them now and in the future. Why is it useful outsideof school? There is nothing more important than the why. Simon Sinek wrote the book and I am drinking the Sunny D.
Then show the ss why you are so passionate about your subject. Tell them your philosophy. Be open. Be human.
Finally like your students. Love your students. #physed

Tolerance.Org

Today I attended a conference that I had been very excited about. The kind of excitement usually reserved for the first ice cream cone of summer. The kind of excitement that kids feel on field trip days. The kind of excitement when you realize Coco has just come out on Netflix. You get the idea.

I was excited for a couple of reasons. The first reason was Val Brown was going to be there. Val has single-handedly done more for me on social media than anyone else. She showed me kindness and compassion during a difficult time on social media. Because of Val, I was able to dust my sorry behind off and get back into the world of social justice. This has not only lead to me being a better human being but directly impacted my teaching of social justice to my students. Val Brown has directly impacted my students.

Val was one of the facilitators of the Teaching Tolerance workshops today. “Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use our materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants.

Our program emphasizes social justice and anti-bias. The anti-bias approach encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives. Our Social Justice Standards show how anti-bias education works through the four domains of identity, diversity, justice, and action.” Tolerance.org

One of the ice breakers that was cool was the moving poetry. We wrote four lines that told our name and things about us. We then walked around until the stop signal was given. We then got into groups of three and read our poems. This was a cool activity. I have to admit that I thought my use of woke, the numbers in line two, and sliding my name in there was underappreciated by my triad!!!

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Another activity I really enjoyed was listing 8 things that identified me. We then had to cross off seven of those things one by one until based on which was the least essential to who I am today. The first couple were easy. I was surprised how much I valued my ableism. I was left with English language. I am my language. How I think, act, and communicate are all tied to English.

1                 2.Another activity we participated in was inside and outside circles. One of the questions we discussed was what is the hardest thing when talking about race. My answer was language. It’s hard to speak about race when you are worried about offending someone by using the wrong words. Should I say black, African American, Person of Color or something else entirely? What if I mess up and say something racist? I don’t want my ignorance to be confused with racism!! Learning the language allows us to have these conversations with some comfort. To be honest I am still not 100% comfortable when talking about race. The language is always shifting. The more I learn and have the conversations the better I am getting at it.

The second question we spoke about was the beneficial part of talking about race/racism. Speaking of race to my students and colleagues is the only way we are going to address the issues we have in America. Personally, I want to leave a positive mark on the world. Teaching my students about race will help me in achieving this goal. Learning the history of and current effects of racism early in their lives will hopefully allow them to interact with each other in a more accepting manner. It will also help my students of color feel that their skin is something to be celebrated instead of looked at as a deficit. I don’t know how often they have conversations about race outside of my class.

One common belief we were asked was if the gap in achievement among students of different races is about poverty and not race. I thought it was more to do with poverty than race. The document they gave out explaining why I was wrong spoke about “stereotype threat”.

“Stereotype threat is defined as a situational predicament in which individuals are at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their group. It is the resulting sense that one might be judged in terms of negative stereotypes about one’s group instead of on personal merit. Research over the past 15 years has shown that stereotype threat contributes to low performance among African Americans, Latinos, and the poor, but also among women in math and science, the elderly in memory, and even whites in athletics.” (link)

I would also venture to say that if Hattie’s work is even half correct teacher expectation has a huuuge roll to play in student success. We know that there are mostly white teachers teaching students of color. If those teachers have low expectations for their students this could be a reason for that as well.

The most moving part of the entire day was when we had to dissect a case study from the Justice in Schools site. I would highly recommend you click that link and read the study. Our group had to decide should the department use the Muslim registry as a debate topic. This mirrors a lot of what we see in public these days. Our group adamantly agreed that setting this question up as a debate would show that putting all Muslims in a registry would be seen as a viable option when presented as being one side of the debate. That is not, should not, and will not ever be an option that could or should be tolerated.

If we look at history the Jews and the Japanese were put into databases and ended up in internment camps or being put to death. What would a Muslim student’s reaction be if this was actually put up as a debate? In the case study, this line stood at to me, “It’s also our responsibility to ensure that we are upholding basic democratic principles like tolerance, equality, and human rights.” Debating a Muslim database would not be ensuring tolerance equality nor human rights.

One major theme of the day was active listening. One of the activities we did was we had 90 seconds to speak. Our partner could not say anything. They could not give us verbal or body language feedback. The first time I did that I spoke for 15 seconds. My partner and I then stared at each other for 75 seconds. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. We answered the questions numerous times using this active listening technique. It definitely got easier the more we did it. This is a skill that I will be bringing back to my students to work on for sure!

I will finish with my classic grows and glows of the conference:

Glow: The people that were there. I am not gonna get all social media name dropper on here but good lord was there a boat load of fantastic people that I spent my time with.

Glow: The facilitators. Hoyt and Val were amazing! The tone was set very well by the leaders. They shared their stories when appropriate and stepped back when needed.

Grow: Fresh mozzarella sandwiches need balsamic vinegar. Cmon now!!

Glow: The DJ

Grow: Mel needs to sharpen her rock paper scissors game.

Glow: My table rocked. They were much smarter than I was.

 

Appsmashing Social Media for Deeper Connections

The best part of social media is that I get to connect with people that are always thinking. Always trying to improve themselves and others. While I like getting likes and retweets there is nothing quite like conversations that keep me coming back for more. One of the recent conversations I had on Voxer was about social media and relationships. Tammy Neil (@tg_neil) dropped this mind bomb. She said, “You need two forms of social media if you are going to know a person well.”

Sometimes it’s the most innocuous statements that have the deepest impact. I began to analyze the friendships that I have made over social media. Most of them started on Twitter or Voxer. (I sparingly use Facebook and only because I help run the NJ AHPERD and Paddle Zlam pages.) When I look at the people I consider confidants I realized the truth of that statement.  I am connected to those people through two or more of the following social media accounts: Twitter, Voxer, Whatsapp, or Facebook. Even within those apps, I am connected to those chums in various ways. Other people use Instagram, Snapchat, and Marco Polo in addition to those previously mentioned!

Being connected to two mediums allows a couple of things to happen. The first way is that most mediums allow a private connection to occur. Almost every day I am messaging either an individual or a group privately on social media. This is where my unfiltered thoughts are posted. I value those people and look for their feedback. Sometimes it is to avoid getting myself in trouble when talking about race while other times it is simply to rant about something that isn’t a big deal to the world but bothers me in some manner. When people are in smaller private groups that they trust they are able to speak freely without worrying some stranger will come and piss on their pee. This freedom allows that deeper connection to occur.

The second thing that occurs is that you see different sides of people. For example, some people only post pictures of their families on Facebook or Instagram. The voice message apps allow you to hear the tone inflection of the person. This also allows humor to show through in a much clearer manner as well. When we read the text we project a lot of our feelings onto the tone of the writer. Voice allows us to hear if they are angry or calmly explaining a point that may be unclear via the written word. The more we learn about another person’s life and invest time with them the deeper connection we make.

There is the risk that social media can overtake your life. I have watched numerous people get carried away with FOMO (fear of missing out) and think they have to have every platform out there. Time is always a limiting factor. The number of people who I feel I have deep relationships is tiny. I would rather go a mile deep and an inch wide that have thousands of “friends” whom I know nothing about. Those people who go 100 inevitably flame out. You simply can’t be everywhere at once. If you don’t believe me watch this video:

 

If people are using social media simply to learn more about education or any other reason that’s fine. I’m not advocating you do anything you don’t want to. I simply heard a thought that resonated with me. If you believe you know people from social media think about how many platforms you interact with them on. Everyone has multiple sides and every platform has its various. If you want to get to know people at a deeper level you may want to analyze how you are going about doing that. Think about it.

Love

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Nate Babcock (@coachnateb) posted this on Twitter. It spoke to me. I enjoy reflecting and this is definitely something I have never saw before nor thought deeply about.

When I look at level one I think of my most basic needs which would be food, air, water, sex, safety. Sometimes I make decisions based solely on those.

Level two reminds me of the I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. I am not above this at all. This makes me think of how I interact at school. I will help the custodians, my principal, other teachers, the PTA because I know at some point in time I am going to ask them to help me. This is not the sole reason but if I am being honest it is definitely in the forefront of my mind. If I help them out I expect their help and support in the future. That isn’t the selfless let me help you because you need it; is the let me help you because I know one hand washes the other. There is nothing wrong with that because I believe that is human nature but it is not the selfless love that we will talk about later.

Level three doesn’t exist so I won’t waste my time on it.

Level four is where I would like to spend some time reflecting. My current journey in the constant effort of bettering myself makes me feel that I am working toward level four. I want to better myself so I can serve others. This is why I am learning so much about intersectionality. There are so many people being harmed that I don’t want to add to it. Instead, I would like to be a force that can help stop the pain that is being caused.

Writing that sounds very similar to being a white savior. My aim is not to “save”people. My aim is to understand how people are being harmed in my school and make sure that I am not harming them as well. Not only do I not want to harm them I want to provide a space where if they are being harmed they can heal or escape from that harm while in my safe area.

In order to accomplish that goal I need to learn and understand the system that I am a part of and how it is harming students. I also need to use my privilege and status as a leader to address this harm when I get a chance. I am not “the answer” in my school. I am simply one part of a solution that takes all of us working together to achieve.

I attempt to keep myself healthy by playing basketball and eating as healthy as I can. I am currently in the process of learning about adult executive functioning and how I can improve mine. This is an area that I have always been weak in and I will start addressing it soon.  This will improve my health and ability to serve others.

I am not living at Level Four. I would guess that most people are a variety of levels. My goal in life is to keep level four in the forefront of my mind when making decisions. Is this benefiting me or others? What am I going to gain from making these decisions? Is it the accolades, the pat on the back, the likes or retweets or is it about me being able to help others.

My challenge to myself is how can we continue to grow our love for ourselves in order to better others. What books or podcasts can we learn from? How can we change our eating habits or exercise routines? How can we expand our social networks to make a larger impact? Most importantly how can I love and serve others simply because it is something I value?

 

 

Spheres of Influence

Disclaimer. I wrote this blog and did not realize that each section should be it’s own blog. Honestly this should be a book. My apologies.

What is a sphere of influence? The definition that I would like to dissect looks like this: a field or area in which an individual or organization has the power to affect events and developments. (link) Since this is my blog I would like to talk about the individual (myself) and the power I have combined with others to affect events and developments.

On Twitter the mysterious Sporticus shared this image:

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We must first focus on ourselves if we wish to make a change in the world. This makes sense. If I am looking to have a positive effect on the world I must understand what that looks like for me. Am I at my best? What am I doing to learn about myself? How am I going about being the best me I can be? Where am I harming people and how can I stop?

The next step is the impact or influence I am having on my family. My job as a parent is to raise children that can understand themselves and the world around them. This means that anti-racism has to be at the forefront of what I have to offer them. In my house we read Rebel Stories for Rebel girls, have a large library full of characters of color, teach the true story of Columbus, the Civil War, Redlining, and every other piece of American history that has contributed to the hate that we have in this country towards our black and brown brothers and sisters. We model and demonstrate support for every marginalized group including the LGBTQIA community, black and brown citizens, as well as our Indigenous people who have been harmed from day one.

I am not even close to understanding the bulk of what my kids need to learn. They will learn with me as I learn. Most importantly I will make sure they see me having relationships with people that don’t look like them. They enter our house and be treated like every other guest we have. I have many more thoughts about this but not the time to continue. You get the gist of how I influence my kids.

The next circles of influence on the image show fellow citizens and countrymen. I would like to combine that for my purposes and change it to people I come in physical contact with. This can be friends, coworkers, and for me my students. What should my impact be on these people? Right now I have three major ideas I would like to impact on others. The first being that movement is essential to a happy well life. The second is that anti-racism is the responsibility of all of us. The final idea is that we need to make every minute the best we possibly can. This means focusing on being positive, enjoying life, and not sweating the small stuff.

How I vote will also affect my fellow citizens and countrymen. Again there is so much more to write I just don’t have the time.

How do I affect mankind as a whole? This is where I believe everything I have stated earlier combined with social media is how I contribute to mankind as a whole. My own children, my students, and the people I come in contact with will all have their spheres of influence. If I am making a positive impact on those around me that has reverberations that will go further than I will ever know.

This brings me to social media. I now have the ability to impact educators from all over the world. I do this through Voxer, Twitter, Youtube and my blog. If I have changed people’s thoughts towards power structures, movement, the need to be anti-racist, the idea that time is fleeting and we need to love one another my sphere of influence can help change mankind toward the better.

Some of you reading may say your ego is so big. You are one person. How can you change the world? I would argue it is not me doing the changing. I have been influenced by others way smarter and better humans than myself. I am just taking what I learned and repackaging it for others. Together the change can occur. I don’t believe that when I die they will write great poems and books of my achievements. What I do know is that I am learning from and with amazing people who all want the world to be a better place. My job is to shine the light on how we can make life better for others.

To finish this rushed blog that should be a book, I want as many people as possible to use what I am doing to make the change where they are. I am using what others are doing to change where I am. There has to be a tipping point where the change impacts the world. Honestly, what do I have to lose in trying?