Chocolate and Money

I am sitting on a plane on my way to California to speak about movement in the classroom to a group of teachers. I strike up a conversation with a Jewish woman next to me who is reading a book the Talmud. A young man who looks of Indian descent is having occasional outbursts is seated to my right. A Latin X gentleman in front of me is rocking the man bun while a woman of Asian descent is waiting for the food cart to move so she can sit back down.  I have officially left my bubble and entered the real world. The past couple of years has forced me to readjust how I look at the world and the people in it.

I received an email from Rich Dixon asking me if I would like to present to a group of educators about movement in the classroom in California. I met Rich at the Cue Nevada state conference last year which the fantastically amazing Heidi Carr had invited Sarah Thomas and me to attend as well as keynote. I have written previously how Rich opened my eyes to what badging should and could be. The idea is that a badge should be linked to the evidence that was created to earn it was definitely a game changer for me.

I responded that I would love to speak about movement let’s get this thing rolling! Rich got me in touch with Michelle, my conference liaison, and I asked her what they wanted me to speak about. She stated they wanted me to address crossing the midline, technology’s role in attention span as well as movement in the classroom. I knew one out of three of these topics extremely well so of course, I said yes! Wonder if this link has anything to do with that!

The first thing I needed to do was find the research about crossing the midline. I knew that Mike Kuczala had a boatload of activities that I could use to show how to cross the midline in his book the Kinesthetic Classroom. That seemed like a logical place to start. The problem is in his book he just states that there is not a lot of research showing the positive effects of specifically crossing the midline. My next step brought me to Brain Gym.

Brain Gym® movements, exercises, or activities refer to the original 26 Brain Gym movements, sometimes abbreviated as the 26. These activities recall the movements naturally done during the first years of life when learning to coordinate the eyes, ears, hands, and whole body. The twenty-six activities, along with a program for “learning through movement” were developed by educator and reading specialist Paul E. Dennison and his wife and colleague, Gail E. Dennison who say that the interdependence of movement, cognition, and applied learning is the basis of their work. Clients, teachers, and students have been reporting for over 20 years on the effectiveness of these simple activities. Link 

I ran into a couple of problems when attempting to find results from Brain Gym. In their own words, “Some academics consider only experimental research (statistical research with control groups) to be scientific. You’ll find the studies that most adhere to this standard in our Annotated Research subcategories “Quasi-Experimental Research” and “True Experimental Research”. Link  They also publish their own journal and cite evidence there. While I value anecdotal evidence I can’t in good conscience present material that is published by a for profit company by that same company. I also came across some information that directly discredited the company’s work. link

Luckily I had an ace up my sleeve. The man the myth the legend Mike Kuczala himself. Mike is on Voxer and readily gives the #PhysEd and #HealthEd community his time and energy. We had some really cool discussions and I was finally able to come up to terms with this thought process. Crossing the midline falls under that category of bi-lateralization. Bi-lateralization refers to the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner.

There are numerous valid and reliable resources that show how important bi-lateralization is for the human brain and body. All crossing the midline activities are bilateral but not all bilateral movements involve crossing the midline. Let me give you an example of this. In the beginning of Mike’s TedX talk, he has us grab our nose with our right hand and grab our right ear with our left hand. He then instructs us to switch our left hand to our nose and grab our left ear with our right hand. That is crossing the midline because our body parts crossed over the imaginary line that divides us into the left and right side of our body. Dribbling two basketballs simultaneously with your right and left hand is an example of bilateral movement because there are no parts of the body that are crossing the sagittal (lateral) plane.

What I can safely say about crossing the midline is that they are fun brain boosts and work on bi-lateralization which improves the brain’s ability to speak to the left and right hemisphere by creating a thicker corpus callosum well as creating thicker myelin sheaths. Myelin allows your brain to send information faster and more efficiently, making it absolutely essential for the optimal functioning of your nervous system. (link) I cannot, however, state that crossing the midline movements are better than bilateral movements that do not cross the midline.

If you thought that my journey on finding research about crossing the midline was difficult I came up with another journey when I tried to find a link between the increase in the use of technology and the attention span of our children. I actually found very little research about attention span at all. One of the reasons for this is that there are so many variables when figuring out attention spans. The same kids we label with attention span difficulties can participate in activities they find engaging for hours. Think about your own attention span. You struggle to listen to a speaker who talks at you yet you can binge watch on Netflix without looking at your phone for hours.

chocI did stumble across some research that allowed me to form an interesting hypothesis on why our students are so attachchoced to their tech. When you have something that is liked or favorited on social media that activates the same receptors in the brain that eating chocolate or winning money does. (link) Might this include getting a text message or alert on social media as well? We as teachers are forcing students to learn about things they may not necessarily care about and are simultaneously fighting the feelings of winning money and eating chocolate!!

The next logical question is what do we do with this information? Do we only teach things that our students want to learn about similar to an unschooling model? That may be one answer although I don’t know enough about unschooling to figure out its weaknesses as well as the ability for school systems to be able to implement the concept.

My idea is twofold. The first thing we have to do is increase the engagement of our students. There is no doubt about that. The idea that the teacher should stand and talk for 45 minutes or longer is antiquated and ridiculous. We need to involve our students in the learning. Those that do, learn. Have your ss lead and participate in discussions or group work. Play music, allow your students mini-breaks, utilize brain boosts, or show relevant videos and texts that the students can relate to. Figure out a way to stop being boring. A simple stand and turn and talk works wonders!

The second part of this is understanding that students need to build the capacity for doing things they don’t enjoy in order to learn and be able to do the things they do enjoy. An example of this is my friend Rob who is a brew master. He hated reading and only went to college because that was what he was supposed to do according to his upbringing. He now reads textbooks about chemistry and reads anything about brewing he can get his hands on. He is able to do that because he knows that this information is relevant to him right now as well as the future. He also has built up the capacity to get through the “boring stuff” in order to bring more satisfaction to his process of brewing.

Hopefully, the participants at the conference will take away some important pieces of information. The first part is that crossing the midline can only have positive benefits for our learners; however, there is not enough evidence that doing those movements will have more benefit than bilateral movements. The second big idea is that we are fighting the pleasurable feelings of eating chocolate and winning money which affects our students ability to pay attention and stay on task. Both these concepts can help shape your teaching. What will you do with this information?

 

#CharlottesvilleCurriculum

This blog has no other choice but to discuss what happened yesterday on Saturday, August 12, 2017. Here is what happened according to CNN:

  • Counterprotesters met white nationalists and other right-wing groups at the site of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” event hours before the rally was set to start.

  • Clashes broke out and police began to disperse crowds.

  • Local officials declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

  • About two hours later, a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters killing a 32 year old woman.

    For those who may be confused about the alt-right or white nationalism, it is no different than white supremacy. They changed the name to make themselves seem less sinister. To some white nationalism may seem like the antithesis of Black Lives Matter. That would be wrong.

    white supremacists or the alt-right as they are rebranding themselves, believe:

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value. Link

The alt right and white nationalists believe this is their country and that no one else should succeed but them.

Black Lives Matter believe:

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. link

Black Lives Matter want freedom and justice for themselves before they worry about others.

That distinction makes all the difference in the world. Black Lives Matter want the same opportunities and freedoms that whites and other groups have. They do not want it at others expense. white supremacists (the real term not nationalists) want to keep their advantage over other groups. Black Lives Matters believes that all groups can succeed. Their position statement explicitly includes the LGBTQIA community in their mission as well as other marginalized groups. As I read on someones Twitter feed they don’t want people on their knees in order for them to stand tall.

The leader of the white supremacists is a person named Richard Spencer. His idea is that we need to have an all white country. When asked how this could be accomplished he stated, “Look, maybe it will be horribly bloody and terrible. That’s a possibility with everything.” link What makes this scary is that these groups don’t even hide behind hoods. They protest without the use of hoods or identity hiding apparel. This isn’t some group of people way back in our history. This is happening right now in 2017.

This leads us back to the protests in #charlottesville on Saturday, August 12. The protesters for the white supremacists sprayed people with mace, kerosine, carried tiki torches and were giving the nazi salute and shouting nazi slogans. Link This was the fear I had over a year ago when I wrote this blog about how our students and our country would be put in peril with the election of Donald Trump. I am not blaming Trump for this only for emboldening the white supremacists by hiring their people on his staff and giving them every opportunity to believe that he agrees with them. Our citizens alone are to blame for the current state of the nation.

The blame lies fully in our politicians and Americans who voted for Trump and gave the white supremacists the courage to step out of the shadows. Some people said that having Trump elected was good because now we can rip the band-aid off and deal with our racial history and problems. Well, the band-aid wasn’t just ripped off we stuck the knife right back in where it has been for over 400 years.

What is more bothersome than old racists are young racists. An example of this is a picture of a young man who is screaming during this latest debacle. The 20-year-old college student was interviewed and stated, “I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was. I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.” Link  When you look like an angry racist and are protesting with an angry racist group what else would he have us believe? Here is where his racism stands out. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”

When you look like an angry racist and are protesting with an angry racist group that is attacking people and attempting to set a woman doused with kerosene in a wheel chair on fire what else would you have us believe? Here is where his racism stands out. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.” That statement is full of racism.

This country was founded and successful by creating the biggest slave trade market in the history of the world. What white people have has come at the expense of every other group that has either been forced in or entered of their own volition. This lack of understanding is what white supremacy is built upon. The idea that we (white people) have worked hard to get where we are. While that may be true we have been running the marathon on flat ground while others have been running up and down mountains.

How can we combat these young racists? What is the next actionable step we can take to remedy this as educators? My idea is to use Andy Vasily’s unit level planning guide.andy_ The part of the guide that I want to concentrate on is called the Suggested Related Concepts. This is where the students will be able to bring in their experiences with ethnicity, heritage, and gender. The toughest part will be for me to bring this authentically into the unit. I will keep you updated with my progress in this endeavor.

I would suggest to other educators that you do something in the same vein if you aren’t already. It does not matter what subject you teach. There has to be a way that we can reach and teach the whole child. One positive thing that happened from this was the creation of the #CharlottesvilleCurriculum. There are so many great ideas on what educators can do in their classroom. These suggested concepts will fit easily into social studies, language, art, music, and science. We have to do something to make this world better.

According to Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” If we go about our business as usual then we, in turn, are indifferent to hate.

Social Media and Reflection

Dear Educators,

How and why do we use blogging or social media to reflect and improve as a teacher? That is the question we are going to analyze and dissect on August 26 at 3 p.m. EST as part of the 24-hour online professional development known as the PhysEdSummit.

The #PhysEdSummit is a FREE online conference put on by health and physical education professionals for health and physical education professionals. It is a virtual conference featuring 50-minute #HealthEd and #PhysEd webcasts. It starts at 8am Eastern Time (New York) on August 26, 2017. This FREE PD event will provide the global #HealthEd and #PhysEd communities access to presentations about best practices, teaching strategies, top tips, and cutting-edge resources. (link)

I will be hosting a panel that will include: 

Victor Small (@mrsmall215)

Makisha Rogers (@kisha4tech)

Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe)

Dorian Roberts (@drroberts)

Mike Morris (@mikemorrispe)

Nicholas Endlich (@nicholasendlich)

Ron Madison (@madison_ron)

Toutoule Ntoya (@toutoulentoya)

What is amazing about this group of educators is that they use multiple platforms to reflect and grow. All of us use Voxer and Twitter while some also specialize in blogging, Periscope, Vlogging, and Zoom to grow both professionally and personally. The best part of this session is that it will be interactive. People can chime in on the side as well as pop in on air if they have any questions or comments.

If you are a Physical Education or Health teacher, supervisor, or just want to know more about the world of Physed and Health you should click this link to get to the conference program and RSVP for this free professional development. This is the PD of the present and future. You won’t find consultants talking about what they used to do. You will find real teachers and professors who are doing the work right now and sharing their knowledge with the world for free!!

As you reflect on your why behind your social media use and reflection/improvement please feel free to leave comments below. I will be reading them on air during the August 26 video hangout and 3 pm EST. As always I appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

Justin

Attitude of Gratitude: Andrew Vasily

The other day I had a conversation with a friend about all these young physical education teachers who have high social media profiles and have less than ten years of teaching experience. Many see these teachers as experts in the field due to their use and knowledge of technology. I would lump myself in that category as well. My technology knowledge may be beneficial to some teachers but teaching is more than just technology. It is about creating meaningful relationships with our students and allowing them to see that movement is necessary to flourish. The newest app or easiest way to collect data isn’t necessarily going to do that. Let’s not overlook the veterans of the teaching game, and their wisdom, just because they aren’t the Googliest of the bunch. With that idea in mind, this blog is going to highlight one of the greatest teachers I have ever come in contact with. His name is Andy Vasily.

Some of us only half-jokingly call Andy the Yoda of the Physical Education World. When you talk to Andy he has an aura that can only be described as Zen. He looks at life through a different lens. One of the reasons why I hold Andy in such high esteem is that he understands just how fleeting life can be. He seems to understand life at a much deeper level than the rest of us.

One of the reasons for this was his near death experience when he put his arm through a bus window. He talks more about that in depth during his Voxcast interview. Andy also has lived through the death of his brother due to drugs and alcohol. He speaks openly and candidly about it on episode 46 of his Run Your Life Podcast. I can only imagine that once you really entertain your mortality as well as your closest family member’s it will completely change your outlook on life.

Just to give you a quick understanding of Andy’s background:

Andy Vasily is a leading teacher who has taught at International Baccalaureate schools in 5 different countries over the past 18 years. He completed his teaching training at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. Andy is currently a pedagogical coach at the King Abdul University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. He is also an international educational consultant and founder of the award winning blog www.pyppewithandy.com. Andy previously worked as a Child-Youth Counsellor at a young offender’s facility in Windsor, Ontario and it was through this experience that he first realized the stumbling blocks and injustices that many of these young people faced in their daily experience. As a direct result of seeing a need for change, he pursued a full-time career as an educator. Wanting to push his own understanding of teaching and learning to a deeper level, Andy made the decision to begin blogging in order to share his teaching practice and connect with other educators and top researchers around the world. The value that he saw in this exchange of vision and practical applications led to an enriched professional learning journey that he has shared with practitioners and scholars alike. Andy is an innovator in the area of education and has continued growing his commitment to student learning by bringing the global community together to create meaningful progress in the way students learn around the globe. Link 

Here is the crux of Andy’s philosophy in his own words:

“I highly value the physical education profession and believe that we, as PE practitioners, can and should have an amazing influence on the students that we teach. PE is no longer just about teaching essential skills related to sport. We have a responsibility to empower our students to believe in themselves, to deepen their understanding of the life skills that are necessary now and in the future, and to provide them with as many opportunities as possible to learn about positively interacting with others.”

I am still finding my way in the education world. My educational philosophy has directly been impacted by Andy and two of his guests he has interviewed on the Run Your Life Podcast. Those two people were Dr. Kretchmar and Jim Roussin. All three of these people understand that teaching is about journeying to a deeper level. It’s not about movement or sport or even being healthy. It is about getting to understand yourself as a person. Our students are just starting to explore who they are and what they are about. The beauty of teaching though is that we as the teachers are gaining that same insight into our lives by interacting with our students. We are co-constructing this knowledge together. I may know more technical information that my students but I don’t have all the answers. Together we go on a journey and learn from and with each other on the way.

Andy is the embodiment of a life long learner. He continues to read, write, and interview people in order to achieve personal and professional excellence. The best part of that is he is allowing us to go on the voyage with him. I have to admit I am not only a better teacher because of him I am also a better human being.

You can find Andy’s blog, podcast, and tons of other resources here. I highly recommend you start with listening to The Power of Self-Authoring episodes #46 with Jim Roussin, #44 with Maddy Hewitt and Cathy Berger Kaye, and #52 with Dr. Kretchmar. There are plenty of other people he interviews such as Eric Sheniger, Dr. Kriellaars, Dean Dudley, Martha James-Hassan, Jorge Rodriguez, Jarrod Robinson, and Mike Kaczala who will expand your mind as well as make you question whether you are living your life to the fullest.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Andy for taking the time and energy to help the next generation understand the depth and complexity of teaching. We are searching for meaning not only in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. As Andy says there is no separation between the two. I know I personally have benefitted from his work which means that my students have had their class experience shaped by him as well. In an age where technology can be mistaken for excellent pedagogy, Andy is a beacon of light that shines high above the fray. He encourages us to be the best version of ourselves we can be, and that my friends is something to be grateful for.

 

Holstee Manifesto

The world is crazy. It has probably always been this way and I have been living in Matrix like world where “reality” really didn’t seep in. The problem with actively working to understand the world and its problems is that inevitably it will start to drag you down. How can learning about the White Helmets in Turkey and Syria not make you weep? How many videos can you watch where People of Color that are unarmed and not a threat get shot without it burdening your heart? When I read about 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen being raped and murdered in a “road rage” attack after leaving her mosque is it a wonder that I start to become despondent?

One of the ways that I try to refocus on things under my locus of control is by referring to the Holstee Manifesto. I will start off by saying that some parts of this are overly simplistic; however, most of it really helps me refocus on what I can control.

holsteeIt starts off with the great advice to find out what you love and do it often. Again such a simplistic statement but it forces me to reflect on what I love to do. I love reading, learning, and spending time with my family. Reading ends up getting pushed to the side often due to my millions of other things on my plate. I have been doing a decent job of reading this summer.

My favorite part of the manifesto is the statement, “If you don’t have enough time stop watching TV.” How many times have we said we don’t have time yet have watched every episode of Game of Thrones, Black Mirror, Queen Sugar, or House of Cards? We make time for what’s important.

Another part of the manifesto that I love is when you eat appreciate every last bite. This is right on par with mindful eating.

Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you recognize and cope with your emotions and physical sensations. It has helped treat many conditions, including eating disorders, depression, anxiety and various food-related behaviors. Mindful eating is about using mindfulness to reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating. (link)

We often find ourselves eating while watching tv, a movie, searching the web, or doing various other attention grabbing activities. Not only do we not appreciate our food we end up taking in more calories because our brain doesn’t fully comprehend how many calories we are taking in. We live in the golden age of food. When else can you get almost any food you want with little to no effort? I realize that certain areas are food deserts but overall we have access to food that would make our ancestor’s eyes pop out of their head. It is imperative that we appreciate our food. One way to accomplish this is to close your eyes and really try to taste and identify the textures of the food in your mouth.

The last part that really helps me refocus is the reminder that life is short. As corny as it sounds I learned this message early on in life by reading the Chicken Soup series. I sometimes find myself wishing time would pass so I can go do something more enjoyable. The problem of this is that this wastes time that I will never get back. In order to combat this, I force myself to smile every time I look at the clock. This reminds me that I need to enjoy the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s me waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in a meeting that is boring me to death. I do not want to let my life pass me by.

The other part of realizing how short life is that it forces me to stay active. I have to keep learning, attending conferences, getting off the couch and being active with my children, watching webinars or doing anything else to further my goal of actually living. It is not enough to be a watcher of life. I need to participate and the time to be an active participant in my life is shorter than I would like to think about.

Read the manifesto and comment on what part of it resonates with you.

I Am Not Your Negro

“Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” (link) Let’s expand that idea to my PLN or PLF (personal learning family) as some have started referring to it as. I surround myself with producers and creators who are constantly pushing themselves and others to learn. Andy Milne, the National Health Teacher of the Year, creator of slowchathealth.com and sendateacher.com, is one of these producers. Andy hit me up with the kind of text that causes immediate motivation. Check it out:

These texts are catalysts to my continued passion and growth. They are the wood that keeps my fire burning. For those who are unfamiliar with the movie here is a brief synopsis:

I Am Not Your Negro is a 2016 French, American, Belgian and Swiss documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin‘s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, the film explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar EversMalcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as his personal observations of American history. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards.

The first thing that was apparent to me is that I was ignorant of who Medgar Evers was. How did I not know about this man who is put in the same movie with Malcolm X and Dr. King!! According to the History Channel:

Medgar Evers (1925-1963) was an African-American civil rights activist whose murder drew national attention. Born in Mississippi, he served in World War II before going to work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After attempting to segregate the University of Mississippi Law School in 1954, he became the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi. Evers was subjected to threats as the most visible civil rights leader in the state, and he was shot to death in June 1963. Although accused killer Byron De La Beckwith escaped conviction, the unearthing of new evidence decades later resulted in Beckwith’s retrial and imprisonment. (link)

What amazed me about the killing of Medgar Evers was that his killer was finally convicted after 3 trials and 31 years. Mr. Evers death by most accounts had a huge contribution to the national outrage that forced the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His legacy should be celebrated by one and all.

After the movie, Andy Milne and I had numerous conversations about what parts of the movie stuck with us. The line that resonated with Andy was when James Baldwin stated, “…that the line which separates a witness from an actor is a very thin line indeed”. This started the conversation about what were we actually doing to make a change in the world? Check out his reflection blog about the movie by clicking here.

That line resonated with me but based on the other end of the spectrum. What do educators have to do not only abstain from being actors but prevent themselves from becoming witnesses? My first thought is that you must tailor your social media accounts to only follow education accounts that avoid discussions and posts about inequity within education and the United States. Unfortunately, it is all too common that educators with the biggest platforms avoid these conversations completely. This allows people to remain blissfully unaware of the harm they are doing to their students.

The next step you have to take is to insulate yourself from having real friendships and conversations with someone from a marginalized group. You can be acquaintances where you show up to work every day and say hello thinking it’s a real friendship; however, if you have not had a conversation about race, religion, SES, or the LGBTQIA community how deep is that relationship? I guarantee you if that person you are speaking with every day is from a marginalized group they have thoughts and ideas that they are willing to share if you only open the door.

Another necessary pattern that must be upheld is only reading writings that deal solely with the cognitive or psychomotor aspect of education. It is impossible to read about Social Emotional learning and the affective domain without addressing differences in how we look and act. I would add that the race, gender, religion, sexuality and national origin should be analyzed. If you are only reading material created by people who look and act like yourself you are only reinforcing your life experiences.

A big piece of the puzzle is that people must travel to conferences that avoid highering speakers whose passions lie in social justice. This allows them to feel that they are learning and growing professionally without having to confront the fact that they are harming the students who they don’t identify or empathize with. Organizers of conferences have a moral obligation to address the ongoing social justice crisis that is affecting our students and our world. This means being explicit with bringing in speakers who will address intersectionality.

The last thing educators must do is have confirmation bias when they do come across anything that deals with race, religion, gender, or sexuality. They must only go to the sites that are going to reinforce their views that People of Color should be able to work hard and get ahead or that LGBTQIA is a choice that people make. How else can you go through life never understanding how much harm you are doing? You have to have your thought process reinforced that things aren’t as bad as people say and that someone is just looking for the easy way out or is “milking the system”.

Circling back to Andy Milne’s musing that he is not doing enough acting I would say that learning is the first step in the process. Many well meaning white people have acted in a way they thought was beneficial to a cause without realizing they were co-opting or causing more harm to it because they didn’t do the necessary work to learn first.  In the movie, James Baldwin asks why we do not consider Nat Turner a hero. In order to form an opinion about Nat Turner we first have to understand who he was and what we did. In my opinion, we have to really understand history before we can even begin to address inequity in the present day society. How does slavery in the 1600’s effect black people today? How does de facto segregation and white flight in the 50’s and 60’s effect Students of Color today? We can not become actors until we become historical scholars. This is not said to absolve him or me from taking action it only speaks to the fact that before action is taken we must arm ourselves with information so that the measures we take are effective.

This is a movie that everyone must watch. James Baldwin is able to strike right to the heart of what is wrong with America and its history of race. There are numerous clips that show the level of his oratory skills. His words punctuate to the heart of how we have harmed People of Color in this country. It is worth watching the movie for those scenes alone.

Some of you may be wondering when will I stop bringing up race, gender, religion, and every other characteristic that separates people. My answer to you is never. Once we are aware that humans are being harmed how can we simply ignore it? As educators, we have a duty to foster empathy and caring within our students. This can only occur when we identify the differences between them and celebrate them. How can we do that if we are stuck worrying only about how to best present multiplication, writing, or movement to our students? We have to continue to learn about ourselves, our country, and our students. This means getting comfortable being uncomfortable. We need to be more like Andy. Become a knowledgeable witness first before becoming an actor.

Again read Andy’s reflection about the movie here.

No Badges for Me!

What is up with badges and professional development? I have to do this set of criteria that you want me to do to get a badge? A picture? How is this supposed to motivate me? I don’t even post my Master’s Degrees anywhere. Why would I care about a badge? My whole philosophy is predicated on the idea that we are all speaking on a level playing field, or as Eric Sheniger told me, “We are all playing in the same sandbox.”  Why are we separating ourselves? It seems exclusionary on multiple levels. Hey, look at me! Check this badge I have! You don’t have the same number of flair as me? If the word flair doesn’t immediately have a negative connotation than you need to watch Office Space immediately!  

I have to be honest I have earned multiple badges or am ambassadors to multiple companies that give you badges. I don’t flaunt nor care about the badge. The only reason I am lending my name to a company is because I love their product. These products include PaddleZlam, Seesaw, and Osmo. I present on these items and show how I use them at home and in Physical Education or Health. When people talk to me about a digital portfolio, a backyard game or a fun activity to use with the ipads for little ones I will speak up with no hesitation. I don’t need a badge to tell the world I love these companies.

It’s not just the companies that want to give you a badge. Conferences have now been all about badging as well. I understand the purpose is to show what you are doing or have done but it comes across as egotistical to me. Here check this graphic out that shows how great I am!

The biggest reason I hate badging is that I have to do something extra only because you want me to do it. Here is this badge now go do these things you weren’t going to do unless I showed you this shiny object. If I wanted to write a blog or promote your conference I will because I find value in it not because I want you to find value in me.

There is one aspect of badging that I do like though. This is the idea of micro badging. Rich Dixon was the first person who told me about this. The idea behind micro badging is that you will be able to see what that person did to earn that badge. That is a much cooler idea to me. The idea that something I have done will be archived together is really cool. I would not be completing the tasks for the badge but for the fact that my work may have real and lasting meaning.

When I step back I know that some people are motivated by the badges and it doesn’t truly harm anyone. I just don’t see the value in it for me. I hate doing paperwork for the state because it is buried there never to be seen again. The extra work needed to earn a badge seems much the same.