Today September 22, 2018, I attended a fantastic event called #EdCampNewark organized by the charismatic Juli B. I don’t really know how Juli is the organizer of both EdCampNewark and EdCampBrooklyn. It is a ton of work and they aren’t even near each other! Regardless the gathering that Juli organized was amazing.

I will start off acknowledging my bias about Newark. I was slightly nervous about going cause I have been conditioned to be scared of cities. I do not usually visit cities. This bias has some grounding in race no doubt. I was aware of what it was and why I was thinking it. I had also just listened to a Scene on Radio podcast in the Seeing White series that talked about a guy being held up with a knife in Philly. That was there in my mind somewhere as well. The idea that most parts of cities are fine has to be acknowledged. It also has to be acknowledged that there are parts of a city that I do not belong in as well. My mind was at ease when it settled on the idea that Juli would not plan anything where I would be unsafe. Those biases were a large part created by society telling me cities are scary. Shoot how many Law and Order episodes do I watch before deciding I don’t want to go to New York City?

There is a lot going on in a city and usually, parking scares me. I never know where to park and today was no different. Was my car safe? Was I safe? Would I remember where I parked? Would I get a ticket? (a ton of people did) I don’t know if all white people think like I do. Who knows? I am a mess. A hot mess. I first parked in a spot and I couldn’t figure out how to use the meter. It had an app then I had to load $25 on the app. I got back in the car and found a lot to park in around the corner. When I came out of the EdCamp the gates were closed and I couldn’t figure out how to get in. I dropped my speaker over a six-foot wrought iron fence followed by my backpack. I scaled the fence and jumped in. As I walked to my car I saw a woman casually open a small side gate on the other side and walk in the lot. What. A. Dummy.

I rolled into the building early as I usually tend to do. This allows me time to get lost on the way there as well as gives me time to scope the joint out. Once I manspread my things on a table I asked what help was needed. I pitched in where I could and overall the check-in was smooth.

The official day started off with Principal Kafele giving a rousing speech sermon. Most EdCamps don’t have opening speakers but when Principal Kafele says he will speak you gladly accept. His sermon energized the crowd. It was a little more rah-rah than I am typically a fan of. I personally don’t need to hear about how I need passion in my teaching because that’s not the cup that I need filled. (EdCamps are on Saturday and voluntary so simply by showing up most of us have the passion already.) The room seemed quite receptive to his message and it was obvious that most people enjoyed hearing the words that were coming out of his mouth. The room was silent and people were on the edge of their seat. There was no doubt that he started the day off with electricity.

The first session I facilitated with Shivan Persad (@shivanpersadedu) was titled Tech Yo Self B4 Yo Wreck Yo Self. Mainly because it makes me laugh. During the session, we talked about the four horsemen of tech: Seesaw, Flipgrid, Plickers, EdPuzzle. These tools allow you to run a class using technology to increase learning and make assessments better. The room was cool because two Spanish teachers (teachers who teach Spanish not teachers from Spain) lead a lot of the discussions about tech. It is fantastic when specialists can show how they use tech when they teach the entire school!

There was also an interesting discussion about how we spy on our kids when they engage in tech. Some programs allow you to see what the students are doing while others will automatically scan their work and send alerts to the administration if something raises a certain flag. This is problematic on multiple levels. Having companies spy on our students is super invasive. If we are not telling our students this is being done that takes the worry to a whole other level. I am hoping schools are thinking about what they use and why they are using it to monitor and control our students.

The second session I facilitated was movement in the classroom. Whenever I do this session it feels like I am presenting more than facilitating. I made sure that I went around the room and had the participants give examples of what they did in their rooms. We laughed a lot and we were able to sneak in social justice discussions as well. The ladies and Shivan were a blast to hang with.

The third and final session I co-facilitated with Fadé Ojeikere . This was the session I was most excited about! Social Justice and Intersectionality! I was in Newark, in a room filled with black and brown people, this conversation was gonna be solid. The session was placed in the courtyard in between the buildings. (Note to Juli unlock the gate so we don’t have to walk a full block to get in next time!) The setting was worth the time and effort though. 1If you look that is the fantastic Okaikor in the hat with Black Feminist shirt on! We started the session off listening to the song Strange Fruit, on my traveling speaker, sang by Nina Simone. The lyrics and the pictures of lynchings shake your essence. I did learn that the song was written by a male Jewish teacher and poet.

Fadé played then played the song Duckworth by Kendrick Lamar. He explained to us the meaning of how Kendrick was explaining how it all could have changed for him. This lead us to the conversation about #HipHopEd and Dr. Emdin. Fadé spoke passionately about introducing content that our kids can relate to.

Earlier I mentioned that Okaikor was at the session. If you don’t know Okaikor knows more about intersectionality that the whole patio combined. She dropped knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb on us all while graciously giving others the time to speak. I could honestly just listen to her for hours speak about anti-blackness and how everything stems from there. She is heavily involved with the MAPSO Freedom School.

The discussion did not go as we had planned. We really wanted to talk about what people were doing in their classrooms and the conversations went to resources and personal stories. It was even better than I had imagined. People were engaged and speaking freely. Fadé created a list of Twitter handles and emails so we can provide support moving forward.

I will close with my glows and grows. Before I do that I would like to publicly thank Juli B for giving her time and her energy to this unpaid passion project. The day was a huuuge success!

Glow: Principal Kafele getting people psyched.

Glow: So many People of Color!

Groan: Parking

Glow: HAVING A DJ!!!! Yes. They had a DJ. Sick.

Groan: Locked gate to the courtyard.

Glow: weather

Glow: Tons of Food

Glow: This was not about prizes or swag. I see EdCamps going too far in the direction of giving out prizes at the end. It cheapens the day.

Glow: Juli B. You are awesome.



Andy Milne Guest Blog; Music in PhysEd

Prologue: This week the illustrious Andrew Milne is the #slowchatpe guest blogger. I once heard, “Life is collecting good people”. (I believe that Brian Costello first said that) If that is true then I am glad that Andy is in my life. Due to his age and wisdom, mostly his age, I consider Andy a mentor. Andy is constantly highlighting other people and their work. This blog is no different. In addition, to being a fantastic amplifier he runs the sendateacher.com site. He sells various items and collects donations to send teachers in need to the National Health and PhysEd conference. 100% of the money he collects goes toward this fantastic charitable endeavor.  Please consider donating if you can.

I am a better person because of Andy. That is a statement that I don’t make often. I can’t thank him enough for his selflessness and passion for social justice, education, and lifting others up. Thank you, Andy, for being a part of my personal learning family. (credit Sarah Thomas with creating that phrase)

With no further adieu here is the #slowchatpe blog of the week:

As a teacher of both #HealthEd and #PhysEd my use of music varies depending upon what and where I am teaching. My love of music is no secret and one of my alter-egos (!) is DJ Milneshine. I love to collate playlists and share these with anyone who wants to listen. Before I share another playlist with you let’s consider a few ways in which I use music.

  1. State Management: Just as music can be used to motivate an athlete, it can be used to motivate students. Upbeat music makes a workout more enjoyable, and allowing students to choose the music played also energizes them to stay focused during the lesson. In his great book The Kinesthetic Classroom”, Mike Kuczala talks about a teachers need to manage a student’s learning state to stop their minds from wandering. Movement in the classroom, chewing gum and taking notes increase focus but so too can the use of music. I’ll play a mellow acoustic Pandora station in the background when students are working on extended group projects, just to take a break from the sound of my voice or (even worse) the sound of silence.
  2. Introduction of a Topic: At the start of my Identity unit I play Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as students enter the classroom. I don’t make any reference to it until the middle of the lesson where I ask what students think Lady Gaga means when she says “Rejoice & love yourself today, ’cause baby you were born this way“. This leads into a deeper discussion about gender identity. Andy Horne has a great lesson about love during which he has been known to play Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It” or Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”
  3. Shared Playlists: Shared playlists are a great way to make all of your students feel involved. I ask my students to suggest a song to add to the class playlist, that way I get to listen and pre-screen the lyrics. Then whenever we need music I’ll play the playlist on shuffle ensuring that everyone gets to hear their song eventually. Each class gets their own playlist, which in turn allows me to know my students a little better. When 15-year-olds suggest songs from the 70’s it makes for a great conversation with them!

Recently during a discussion on different types of ways in which to move, I asked my students to suggest songs with movement in the title. You can find the full Spotify playlist here, but here are 8 of my favorites from that list.

I Like to Move It – Reel 2 Real (Strictly Rhythym, 1994)

I like to move it, move it

I like to move it, move it

I like to move it, move it

You like to move it

MOVE. OK, so it won’t win any song writing awards, but here’s an example of meeting the students where they are at. This song was my jam in college but my students have no idea of the original 1994 version BUT they do know, and love this version from Madagascar. It is impossible not to move during this song, but how will you move, that is the question.

Shake It Off – Taylor Swift (Big Machine, 2014)

I’ll never miss a beat

I’m lightning on my feet

And that’s what they don’t see mmm mmm

That’s what they don’t see

SHAKE. My own sons love this track and it’s often on repeat during long car journeys(!). The song won Favorite Song at the 2015 People’s Choice Awards, and also received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards. I feel like #PhysED teacher Ben Pirillo could put a great routine together showcasing shaking movements. Oh, wait….HE DID ALREADY!

Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) – Kidz Bop (Razor & Tie, 2016)

Now watch me whip

Now watch me nae nae

Now watch me whip whip

Now watch me nae nae

WHIP/NAE. Originally by Silento I’ve posted the Kidz Bop version for two reasons. Firstly this is the version that we were playing at home for a while (the Silento video is awesome, but shows a bit more flesh in the video than you’d want to share with younger kids perhaps), but also the songs performed by the Kidz Bop Kids will alter lyrics deemed too explicit or suggestive for younger audiences altered to be more “kid-friendly”. I never really understood that concept until I became a father – now I get it. The free Kidz Bop CD in the #SHAPENashville swag bag was much appreciated!

I love the simplicity of the dance that accompanies this song AND, it introduces new gross motor skills – the whip, the nae nae, the duff, the bop etc. Don’t be afraid to embrace new language, new dances and new motor skills from your students – you might learn something.

Jump – Van Halen (5150 Studios, 1983)

I get up and nothing gets me down

You got it tough, I’ve seen the toughest around

And I know, baby, just how you feel

You got to roll withe the punches and get to what real

JUMP. Now, if we could just get SHAPE America to classify playing air guitar as moderate-to-vigorous activity, we’d be onto a winning formula here. Here’s an example of the type of random song suggested by a student – how do they know songs like this from 1983? Songs with a repetitive lyric mean that you could encourage students to JUMP every time Eddie Van Halen says JUMP – similar to the way that Alex O’Brien does burpees in this video to the word THUNDER.

Here’s an interesting fact. If I asked you to name another song with ‘jump’ in the title, you might suggest Jump Around by House of Pain. Well, did you know that Van Halen’s Jump was on their 1983 album entitled…..’House of Pain’.

Hit The Quan – iLoveMemphis (Rush Hour, 2015)

Clean pair of sneaks, with ADs on her belt

Please watch your step ’cause I’m feeling myself

Throw a flag on the play, man somebody get the ref

Go blah da da da dol, man somebody get some help

HIT. In the same vein as Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae), Hit the Quan came out of nowhere with it’s own dance that went viral. Talking of viral dances….are your students STILL flossing??? Did Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ viral dance reach you like it did my neighborhood over the summer? This comes back to my point made earlier – embrace the latest viral dance. If it makes students want to move, let them weave it into their school day.

Cha Cha Slide – Mr. C The Slide Man (Universal Records, 2000)

One hop this time, one hop this time

Right foot two stomps, left foot two stomps

Slide to the left, slide to the right

Criscross, criscross

SLIDE. There’s a great comment on the YouTube video that says “They played this at all the school dances. Even the non-dancers would join in.”. If you want to see the power of dance, play this. As #PhysEd teachers we state that we want our students to seek out movement opportunities, well the ch-cha slide is a movement phrase that they’ll need for every school dance, bar mitzvah, and wedding they’ll EVER attend. At the last two #PhysEd conferences I’ve attended I’ve witnessed a room full of teachers dancing to Wobble Baby. Now, I didn’t know how to ‘wobble’ the first time I witnessed this. Talk about NOT feeling competent or confident. Movement patterns are part of our #physicalliteracy journey. You can be sure I learned that dance in time for the second conference!

Here’s a challenge for you, wherever you are. In the style of the Cha-Cha Slide shout out…..”Everybody clap your hands” and see what happens.

Move Your Body – S.I.A (RCA, 2017)

Feel the beat in your chest

Beat your chest like an animal

Free the beast from its cage

Free the rage like an animal

MOVE. OK, I hear what you’re saying. These songs are great to dance to, my students want to dance to these songs….but I’m not great at teaching dance, how do I encourage my students to move to the music when I’m too afraid to do so myself. Well, in addition to the videos from Ben Pirillo mentioned above, you have to check out the work of Scott Williams and the #DanSirs. Scott coordinates simple videos showcasing #PhysEd teachers dancing using simple moves to popular songs – they’ve even got a video to this SIA song.  This enables kids/teachers/families to learn the dance without prior instruction and also builds confident dancers through the repetitive and simple moves. SIMPLE CAN STILL BE AWESOME! One of the many benefits of technology is that we can outsource expertise. Scott is a great dance teacher, I’m not. I can use his videos with students while I join in and facilitate the environment.

Traveling Without Moving – Jamiroquai (SONY, 1996)

Speed freak

Faster than a speedin’ bullet,

Slow down, if I don’t

If I don’t I might just lose it

WITHOUT MOVING. Ooh, now there’s a deep question for your students if ever there was one. “In what ways can we travel without moving?”.

This is MY playlist, and I get to add whatever I want, hence my addition of a Jamiroquai track. Music always transports me to a time and place in which I first heard it. This track takes me back to my early days as a teacher, seeing Jamiroquai live in concert a few times. However, in the spirit of collaboration here’s where YOU come in. My Spotify playlist is a collaborative playlist. That means YOU can add to it. Do you have a favorite ‘movement-inspired’ song, or a song with a great dance associated with it? Well, you can add that song to the list below. It would be great to see the playlist grow over time.


Shameless plug time. If you liked the movement blog, and the movement playlist, perhaps you’ll also like the movement coffee mug. The purchase of each mug goes towards helping a teacher in need.



First Days of School Routine

This blog will examine my first week of school routine. There has been a lot of growth in my professional life and I believe this routine mirrors that growth. A quick background about my job so you can put all this into context. I have been at my school for 8 years. I am the only Phys Ed teacher at the school which ranges in grades from Pre-K to grade 6. Finally, I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual male in a predominantly white institution.

The first day of school I planned on the students wearing their nicest clothes which means they some won’t be wearing sneakers. This meant that the activities I planned had to be low movement in order to have everyone participate. I didn’t want anyone sitting and I also don’t believe in coming up with a boatload of rules nor do I believe that going over the rules day 1 is a good idea. There is nothing worse than being excited for school and hearing the teacher drone on and on about rules. Can you think of anything that can suck the joy out of life quicker?

My pre-k and K are mostly new students. For these classes, the kids came in and sat in a circle. I went around to each child and asked their name. After they told me I repeated their names making sure I said it correctly. I then started at student one saying their name and continuing to the next student continuing this pattern until I arrived at the next student who had not told me their name or I had finished asking every student their name. Once this was accomplished I asked the kids to touch a wall and come back sitting in a new spot. When they came back I went around and attempted to say the name of every child without messing up. We did this 2-3 times until I learned every student’s name. This isn’t anything flashy or particularly fun for the students although they were amused watching me struggle during the process.

Every class did the same general activity called “toss 10”. You can find the resource by going to the esteemed @physednow (Jorge Rodriguez) page located here. The basic idea of the game is to toss a ball in the air and do a variety of motions before catching it. His activity was done under the cooperative games category. My children had the choice to choose a group or do the activity individually. I started every class out with a simple throw the ball in the air and catch it. I changed how many times they needed to do this consecutively in order to level up. I wanted the frustration level low and the success level high so I allowed them to pick one of the three numbers I gave them based on their ability.  For example, I gave my first graders the choice of catching the ball 5, 7, or 10 times before they would advance to the next level based on how well they thought they would do. Once they learned what the new challenge was they could pick a new number to complete the level if they chose to. Some levels are easier than others. The numbers I gave them to choose from varied by age.

Some classes finished so quickly that I had them create levels to add once they finished the levels Jorge provided in his resource. I used these levels with my others classes as well. I gave the creators credit of course. The students had a variety of projectiles to use as well. This gave them some choice and bean bags are easier for some levels where balls were easier for others.

At the end of the class, the students were in groups and discussed what they believe the purpose of Physical Education is. This was the perfect time for me to tell them my philosophy as well. The dialogue touched on the difference between physical education and fitness. I told them that my job was not to create sports players. My main goal is to provide them with various movement opportunities, alone and with others, that focused on happiness and joy. There is nothing more important than having my students develop a positive association with the movement.

Back to my not addressing rules and procedures. My first graders and up have had me as a teacher before. They know the rules. We don’t have to go over them. As far as procedures I addressed them as they happened. For example, when they asked me to go to the bathroom I referred them to the class to find out what they should say in order to go. The answer is some version of, “I am going to the bathroom.” We discuss how they are old enough to know they have to go they don’t have to ask. They just have to let me know they are in there in case there is a drill or emergency.

The second procedure that comes up naturally is getting a drink. Some students may forget or have been brainwashed that they have to ask to get a drink. The procedure is to get a drink whenever I am not talking. I keep my talking time to under 5 minutes a class period so this gives them a plethora of time to get a drink. We also discuss how they don’t need permission to get a drink. I equate this to them not asking if they can cough or sneeze. If your body needs water go get it why do I have to be involved in the process?

My rules are very simple. I stole this from someone I believe on the West Coast. Respect yourself, others, and the equipment. That covers everything. If you have more than five rules it is probably too much. #justsaying

This approach is intentional. My students came in excited and left excited. The students worked on their socialization, fine motor skills, and cognition. More importantly, my students came in excited and left excited. Can you tell just how important that is to me? Maybe this will help bolster my justification of my approach:

In the new study, the researchers noted a strong temporal relationship between the school year and the frequency of the encounters for suicidal thoughts or actions; link

If you are the reflective type, which you should be, what does your beginning of the year look like? What does your approach say? Does it say come enjoy yourself while we are together or does it say don’t do this and don’t do that? Hopefully, your approach says thanks for being here let’s have fun and learn.

As always I appreciate your time.

Scene on Radio

Here we go. ANOTHER blog post about race. Some of you are going to stop reading….. now. For the rest of you, I appreciate you staying with me as I learn more about the racial history of our country. I am on a never-ending journey. The scope of information that I am ignorant of is immense. It’s similar to working at a wine shop.  You can know a little bit about a little bit but you will never know everything there is to know about wine. The more I learn on this journey the more I realize I have so much I need to learn.

This past week I listened to the podcast recommended to me by Val Brown called Seeing White a 14 episode series created by Scene on Radio. I am on episode 8 and it is difficult to keep hearing how brutally we treated our black and Indigenous Peoples. Even as I write that I understand how fragile I sound. The truth is that this learning is heavy. It wears you down. You get empathy overload. Please don’t misunderstand me. This is something white people need to do. It is a drop in the bucket compared to what BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) deal with every day as a result of this history. What I am saying is that if you are an empathetic person this learning wears on you.

One example of this is when Doug Timm hit me up about episode 5. Episode 5 discusses:

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards. link

During the episode, they tell the story of Indigenous people being forced to leave Minnesota. During this march, a white lady ran out and grabbed the baby of an Indigenous woman and threw it to the ground killing it. How does that not shock you to the core as an empathetic human being? Doug was irate! He stated that we wouldn’t even do that to an animal. This is the type of learning that shakes my soul. I imagine the walk, the act, the mother’s screams, the heartbreak and rage of the dad. It’s brutal.

Some may say that was the past. Read it as information or knowledge. I am learning the story about human suffering. This would be like telling the congregation at a church to not feel empathy for Jesus suffering on the cross. We don’t get to pick and choose who we empathize with. I don’t even know if empathize is the right word. I don’t know what it is like to be discriminated or oppressed on that level so sympathy may be a better word except for the fact that I am attempting to put myself in the people’s shoes that I am hearing about. Either way, it deeply bothers me.

Being white allows me to take a break when I need it. I get to step back and take a day off from race if I choose so. I have rarely chosen to do so in the past couple of years. Part of this is my ability to rebound both physically and emotionally. I play basketball, have conversations with people about what I am learning, and eat somewhat healthy. I have outlets. I guess if there is a point to this rambling blog it’s that we need to make sure we don’t stop empathizing with those who have been discriminated and oppressed. They can’t just be stories. There were people. Real people. Who felt like real people do. They felt the physical pain of being whipped. They felt the emotional trauma of having their children ripped from them. They suffered due to the fact that rich white men wanted more money.

I don’t have any advice for you if you are on the journey with me. I don’t know when you need to take a break or how to remain stable when your emotions are going crazy.

What I do know is that now that we have the knowledge of our past we must connect it to the present. How did the past create the present? Most importantly, how can we impact the present to change the future?

Some you know I loooooove Dr. Reverand William Barber. He believes that we are in the midst of the third reconstruction. The first two reconstructions came after the Civil War and the Civil Right’s Movement. I hope this is true. It does seem like this country has been awakened and that we are on the cusp of major positive changes. This may seem far-fetched with what is going on right now.

If we are truly going to contribute to the third reconstruction white people must learn our history. Understand how the government systemically created the segregation we have today. We have to learn how Indigenous People were systemically annihilated and cheated out of their land. Only then can we contribute to the third reconstruction as true allies. This means that when the work gets hard, find out what you need to do in order to keep learning. Just. Don’t. Stop. Learning. We need you.

Dear White People

Dear White People,

Hello, my name is Justin Schleider. I am a white male. I am writing this specifically for the white people who are participating in the #ClearTheAir book chat for White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. We are entering a journey together that will change us. I have read the book, and was ready for the book. Some of us may be ready, while others may not be ready. Regardless, this book will change you.

Our students of color are being harmed by us. This occurs because of our actions as well as our inactions. Please keep this central during our journey. I will operate under the assumption that the rest of you, much like myself, did not get into education to hurt people. That is called intent. Our intentions were good.

However, WE ARE HARMING ALL OF OUR STUDENTS when we do not understand the roles history, discrimination and race play out in our classes. That is called impact. Impact matters more than intention. To put it in a common phrase, “Hell was paved with good intentions.” To put it bluntly. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t intentionally hurting our students, it simply matters that we are harming them.

I used to think that I was not a white supremacist. I do not use the n-word nor do I wear a white robe with a hood to meetings. It is easy to understand those actions are hateful. We can proudly say, “that isn’t us.”

We are the ones who have biases hidden so deep that we aren’t always aware that we have them. This quote from Robin DiAngelo allows us to understand how this happens. “While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture”. (link)

WE ARE ENTERING THIS JOURNEY AS WHITE SUPREMACISTS. Get comfortable with that uncomfortable idea. This will help you not feel judged as a person because all white people are already white supremacists. All we are doing is finding out where it lies in us and then addressing it.

Here is my final quote from Robin DiAngelo, “Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).” (link) This journey will be tough on us. I have already watched as white people I like have had their thoughts scrutinized and pushed back on in a way that has to be uncomfortable. It feels like being attacked. I have been there. I have felt attacked.

Instead of feeling attacked we should do what Tyler states in this tweet:

This feedback that makes us defensive is actually a gift that will allow us to help be better teachers and educators for ALL of our students.

My charge to all of my fellow white people out there is to remember first and foremost that by participating in this chat, we are trying to better ourselves. This means putting our egos second to our super-egos. We need to allow our social consciousness to be penetrated to the point that we will see what others have seen for years. We have come here to be pushed in our thinking. Allow that to happen! Listen when people are spending their resources on you. Don’t be mad, be glad!

Secondly, let us white people hold each other accountable for our words and actions. Why should the PoC (People of Color) do all the heavy lifting? We need to start stepping up and saying why the words and actions of our white peers are align with white supremacy. This public action will continue to create a wave of change that is necessary throughout all of education.

Watch this video where Jay Smooth explains how to properly do this.

Lastly, let’s not become another example of white fragility. I have included myself in this letter because I have been fragile and I may become fragile again. It will be as hard for me to do this on our journey as it will be for you. Together we can make some real progress in our awareness of how we are harming people in this world. Let’s not waste it.


Justin Schleider


The Binary of Good vs. Evil

Growing up things were always taught to me in binaries. Things were good or bad. Safe or unsafe. Happy or sad. There was little talk of things being gray. This may be because of how our brains work. One of my favorite rules in the Brain Rules book by Dr. John Medina is that:

“We pay attention to things like emotions, threats and sex. Regardless of who you are, the brain pays a great deal of attention to these questions: Can I eat it? Will it eat me? Can I mate with it? Will it mate with me? Have I seen it before?”

We had to rapidly judge things in the past because our survival depended on us being able to put things in the good or bad categories.

This brings us to Senator John McCain dying yesterday on August 25th, 2018. In his death I saw the binary being put forward. He was a war hero and prisoner of war! Obviously a good man.

Senator McCain was also the most vocal proponent for the Iraq War which was a huge mistake. McCain himself understood and accepted that he was a main architect of the war and had a huge burden to bear in that travesty. How can you call a man who advocated for an unjust war good? He was obviously a bad man.

The truth as always is the gray in between. There may be a spectrum of more good vs less good. I have read enough history to understand that there are no true heroes that were perfect. Everyone is fallible. The degree of our sins may vary as well as the perspective we view their actions through. I can’t imagine a citizen of Iraq believes Senator McCain can be judged as being more good than bad. Those of us in America who didn’t see the horror of the war caused or felt any ramifications of it may want to view him differently.

As always this leads me to the idea of racism. If someone does or says something I identify them as racist and put them in the bad category. When I do this it perpetuates that only bad people are racist. After reading White Fragility and understanding that it is impossible to be raised in America without drinking the white supremacy water this binary changes. We are all racist to some degree. The more we work on it the closer we get toward the side of good. The truth is we will never fully be there. The best we can hope for is that we get as far away from the bad spectrum as possible.



SHAPE America: Diversity Inclusion Equity

Preface: I support SHAPE America. I am a part of SHAPE America. This should be read with a critical lens not a negative one. Our organization is making strides in the right direction. This brings me hope and joy.

SHAPE America is THE national organization for Health and Physical Education Teachers.

“We provide programs, resources, and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.”

The organization is very interested in diversity, inclusion, and equity. I approach this initiative with some hesitation. The reason for this is that people have been fighting this fight for at least 20 years! There was mostly silence from them. I was at the national convention in Boston where they placed a social justice 6-hour panel on the far side of the hotel. There was not a representative there to even greet the presenters. It was apparent that no thought or effort went into supporting the speakers.

SHAPE America did not seem to want to challenge the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal culture in the past. This may be changing. The CEO is a woman (first woman CEO of SHAPE I believe) and the President is an openly gay woman. It still puzzles me that we (I am a member of SHAPE) have not embraced the LGBTQIA community when we have so many members from it. I know sexuality is still taboo in some areas. This makes it even more important for the organization to be explicit in its support of the community.

Look at the vision and mission of our organization:

Our Vision

A nation where all children are prepared to lead healthy, physically active lives.

Our Mission

To advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport.

You will not find a broader less defined vision and mission out there. Dillon Landi pointed out that there is nothing about diversity, equity, or inclusion in either the vision or mission. Where does it address diversity, inclusion, and equity? This push cannot be something that is a checkbox or a one year mission. This must be an ongoing journey that never ends. That means major changes must be made. SHAPE has been notoriously slow-moving on everything in its history. School is funneling students into prison and SHAPE has to figure out if the comma should go before or after the phrase. The red tape of an organization is hard to cut through. Most of the time it is necessary in order to ensure quality products and resources are created. Other times it just allows the system to bury anything that challenges the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal, wealthy culture. It will drag its feet waiting years to act on anything. By that time either someone has created that resource or they have successfully buried that idea into the ground.

SHAPE has created a diversity, inclusion, equity Voxer group and already has special interest groups you can join when you become a member. I joined the special interest groups but have no idea what they are or what they do. I don’t receive emails nor have I saw any evidence that they have produced anything. I may be wrong and if people do show me that I will update this with the appropriate evidence showing that. I personally know that I have never been contacted about these groups and I have checked them off in my profile.

Some people want to majorly disrupt the sytem. They see there are problems from the vision to every resource that does not authentically talk about power, gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and ableism. I agree that there is a problem when the most powerful organization does not consider intersectionality when it produces their standards and resources. I do not believe that a major disruption to the system is feasible nor do I think the organization is ready to be a phoenix and rise from the ashes stronger and with more purpose than their past.

Dillon Landi lays out this vox where he talks about 5 major points that he feels SHAPE America can take actionable steps in order to meet their goal of diversity inclsion and equity. Here are the 5 main subjects he addresses.

  1. Keynotes
  2. documents
  3. citation of PETE
  4. research council
  5. grants

I would listen to this. There is a lot of widsdom right there.

Here are some actionable steps I would like to see happen:

  1. Everyone from the CEO to the board of directors to the social media specialists is required to take basic courses on the history and impact of intersectionality. This will not solve the problems that SHAPE is having but it will give everyone a solid base to see how individuals and systems conspire against anyone considered outside the norm. You can not address any part of intersectionality if you don’t understand the big picture.
  2. Kennedra Tucker is given the resources to create a podcast on social justice. She is willing and there is a need. There is no need to create obstacles. Find the right people willing to work and get out of their way. Also, pay her.
  3. Keynotes should look like the students that are being taught by Physical education and Health teachers. This means black and brown speakers, speakers that are not Olympians or athletic champions. The speakers should also be explicit about their message that furthers SHAPE’s goal of #die. Dr. Martha James Hassan would be someone who understands that message and can package it in a way that resonates with people. She works at an HBCU! (historically black college/university) That alone is all the proof you need.
  4. The vision and mission need to include diversity, inclusion, and equity.
  5. SHAPE should reach out to GLSEN and Tolerance.org to create resources for teachers. The resources could link to those organizations or others. The bottom line is that SHAPE doesn’t need to reinvent or invent the wheel. Organizations are already doing great things in regards to intersectionality. USE THEM!
  6. Create ways to get BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) involved in the organization. This may mean creating grants to get to the national convention or free memberships for Title 1 schools.
  7. It’s not enough to get marginalized people to the party. We have to create a culture where every marginalized group has piece of the organization. How can we create the safe space for peopel to voice their opinion and than change actually occur. It can’t be solely on the people being harmed to lead us to become a better organization. We need to understand and support #blacklivesmatter #metoo and the various other social justice movements created to protect marginalized people. Teaching is not neutral. We are either anti-racist, anti-bigot, anti-hate or we allow the system to keep oppressing marginalized people.
  8. Produce resources that Physical Education and Health teachers can use tomorrow. Get the people doing fantastic things out there and bring them in.
  9. If you are affiliated with SHAPE America Read the books Social Justice in Physical Education and White Fragility. #ClearTheAir will be discussing White Fragility in the fall on Twitter. Come join us!! These will give you a nice base to address intersectionality in Physical Education and Health. You are the leader in your own growth. Read and learn.
  10. My final actionable step for SHAPE America is …. DO SOMETHING!!!! DO ANYTHING!!!! Don’t let this become another check box!

My final thoughts are for the SHAPE America affiliates that will read this. I am here to provide what I believe is necessary critical feedback for us to grow. I am doing or have done everything I am asking of you. Please learn about intersectionality and change the organization for the better. Our teachers and students need you to. If not, you as an organization, will continue to harm the 50 million (students) strong you are trying to reach by continuing to be complicit in the system of oppression you have participated in for the last 133 years. Stephanie and Judy I place this burden squarely on your shoulders. The buck starts with you. Where will SHAPE be in one year? What steps will they have taken. You have started to talk the talk. Now when the rubber meets the road let’s see if you will walk the walk.