The People We See

Who do I want my children to learn from and with at school? This was the question I was having discussing recently with a group of Super Friends. As a parent I want my child to be set up for present and future success. An education is a supremely important part of that. The school my children attend has a white student population of 89.2%, and the median family income is $126,849. The (perceived) benefits of being in this district are numerous. They have the tests scores, well-managed grounds, and reasonable class sizes. However, this presents a problem because they will be raised in an environment of whiteness. I want my kids to be raised aware of the actual makeup of the world and their school system is not representative of the world.

My children will be surrounded almost entirely by kids and adults who look and act like them. They will be educated during their most formidable years in a way that normalizes whiteness. Makes it the default. This will cause them irreparable harm. Yes, being raised in an all-white environment harms white people. We shut ourselves off from the humanity of others because we are not in the position of connecting with people who don’t look and act like us. This harms our souls.

In addition to race, I have been learning more about intersectionality, and how education and money come into power together. My kids will be surrounded by financial privilege. How will this impact them? Their environmental normal that they see will be vacations and new cars. We will not have those luxuries. My kids will not be wearing name brand clothes. Will they recognize this and how will that impact their future career choices? Will they sell their soul in pursuit of the $$$?

As a parent, knowing how race and class play a role in our society, I have to combat these negative consequences. The first thing I have to do is teach my children about race. I must point it out and be explicit about how race is not based on anything other than perception; however, this perception causes immense amounts of harm to people not considered white. We have created race categories where only the label Homo Sapien should exist. Only when my kids know the history behind race can they understand it.

I must also find ways for my children to be surrounded by kids who don’t look like them. I accomplish this by varying the parks my children attend. Simply changing what direction I drive in will change the demographics of the park. The County Park is the best for this because you will find people from all over the world there. Kids of various skin tones play alongside each other. Playing games has always been a conduit for crossing racial, cultural, and gender boundaries.

Secondly, the summer camp I take them has an equal distribution of AAPI, white and black kids. I love that they are surrounded by other children who look and act very differently. Some of the campers speak various languages and eat different food. All the kids eat lunch together so they get to see how the diet of their friends is similar to their diet. Whiteness is no longer the norm. It is important for my kids to learn this in an authentic environment.

Some of my family members are Latinx so that helps cut down the number of white relatives we are surrounded by. However, passably white is still the norm. I do not have many friends of color that have come to my house. This is an issue. I don’t want to make friends specifically because someone is a person of color, however, I do want to be intentional about who I am building friendships with and who is coming to my home. How else are people of color going to come over unless I invite them? How will my intentional decisions about my friendships impact how my children choose their friends?

There is no book of parenting or the right way to do it. Personally, I know I want my children to understand that they are connected to everyone in the world. In order to accomplish this, I have to show them what the world is truly like. I don’t always know the best way to accomplish this goal. It may simply mean moving to a place that is made up of a variety of races and cultures. That is a conversation that has been had, as well. Right now all I can do is be aware of the people that I keep company with.

This blog was written with the intent that those who read it will reflect on how segregated the lives of their children and families are. Hopefully, that will be the impact it has as well. This is not a how-to manual nor am I looking for pats on the back. I simply am reflecting on how I am trying to combat Nazi rallies and the newly public acceptance of hatred by resisting in my own life and that of my children. Humanism starts by teaching my own kids how to be anti-racist. Thank you for reading that’s my time.

 

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Hannah Gadsby; Nanette

The other night I get a message from Shrehan Lynch telling me about this funny as hell comedy she was watching. I saw her tweets and the quotes looked funny so I had myself a look. For some quick background, I am a standup comedy junkie. I have studied comedy a bit and believe that laughter unites us in a way that only music and food can.

Hannah Gadsby is a gender non-conforming lesbian comedian from Australia. I wouldn’t normally feel the need to describe her looks and sexuality but in this case, it will majorly come into play. Her delivery is fantastic. A quick smile combines with a dry wit makes her style fantastic. She is a master. I know this because in her routine she breaks down comedy. She points out how she creates tension and then quickly dissipates it with a well-timed joke. For much of her show she does just this. It truly is amazing when you see a master at their craft control the audience’s emotions with such power and timing.

About halfway throughout the special things start to change. She speaks about getting out of comedy. One reason she states is, “Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who is already in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak.” This is a powerful statement. Think about our students in class who obviously do not conform with what society believes is the norm. Do they have to put themselves down in order to be heard? How does the power dynamics play out? This was a powerful statement.

Another part of her special she speaks to the idea that straight white men are “suddenly a subcategory of a human”. The more I learn about intersectionality, social justice, and sexual abuse the more I see a lot of straight white men are a problem. We were the norm, the baseline, the standard while everyone else was labeled as some other category. Yet we are a major part of the problem. We have had the power for so long and look what has become of it. There is #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #takeaknee, and countless other hashtags that are mainly in response to the harm caused by white men. Before you get your undies in a bunch I understand that white men are not solely responsible for these issues. I also realize that not every person who is sexually abused was done at the hands of a white male, or not every police officer who harms a person a Person of Color is white so please don’t #AllLivesMatter me. The statistics show who has the power in this country and who is doing the most harm. It is clearly white men. If you need more proof look at the race and gender of mass shootings in this country.

Part of Gadsby’s power of her special is how she revisits some of her early jokes and adds an ending to them. Earlier in the show, she tells a story about how she forgot to come out to her grandmother. This gets some easy laughs. When she revisits the story she talks about how she was too ashamed to come out to grandmother. There were no laughs. It was just honest raw truth that makes the viewer slightly uncomfortable because there is no punch line. No laughs. It’s just raw honesty pummeling straight to your heart.

The most difficult part of the show to watch for me was when she revisited a story about hitting on a girl at a bus stop. The girl’s boyfriend comes out and pushes her until he realizes she’s a woman. In that part, he calls her Madam and apologizes. She jokingly talks about how as a kid she was in trouble when her mom called her that. Again a quick laugh. When she revisits that story she becomes visibly angry and emotional. She tells us how she didn’t let us know the whole story. Once the guy realizes she is a non-conforming lesbian he kicks the shit out of her. No laughs. It’s just raw honesty pummeling straight to your heart.

The final ten minutes of the show is riveting. The tension is high. You want a joke to come. To let you off the hook. It never happens. There is no final callback where everything is tied neatly into a bow. She talks about being raped by two men when she was 20. Talks about how she may have to quit comedy because she can no longer chop her stories into a beginning and middle leaving out the brutal end.

When the show was over I sat. In silence. I was emotionally raw. This was not the comedy I was expecting yet it was what I needed to hear. If you are a white male I strongly recommend you watch this. It will attack you. You will become defensive. This isn’t about you though. It’s about Hannah. It’s about every other person from a marginalized group. It’s about understanding that we have choices to make. We can no longer sit on the side while people are fighting for their lives. We are either allies or we are oppressors. I choose ally.

Paradox of Centering Whiteness to Deconstruct it

The title of this blog was created unknowingly by Christie Nold.  This was her summary of Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s thoughts on how in order to deconstruct whiteness we must analyze and understand it first; which further centers it, creating this paradox where we have make it the central focus in order to move away from it in the future.

Using this same paradoxical thinking I am going to center myself in order to illustrate how I deconstructing whiteness works for me and how I try not to always center myself. Hopefully at some point this will make sense to you soon.

The idea for this blog came when Julia Torres asked me why I don’t display white fragility and why I am the hype man for people who don’t have my cis-gender white male privilege. Here goes nothing.

I started on social media ready to learn with and from everyone. I read blogs and listened to podcasts but was unaware of my white cisgendered male privilege and had no clue about power dynamics. I got called out for my actions being problematic. I didn’t care until I was told my actions were white supremacist. Online. On Twitter. Where the whole world could see! All I was doing was reading people’s work and commenting. I was trying to learn. Couldn’t people see that? I wanted to grow to help my students and in the process the term “white supremacy” was being thrown out there with my name attached to it.

Here are the two major takeaways from that catastrophe. The first part is what happened after I got called a white supremacist. Guess what happened. Nothing. Not a damn thing. The police didn’t arrest me. My school didn’t bring me in for a chat. The people of color in my life didn’t shun me. Absolutely nothing happened. This fear I had was false. It wasn’t real. Having my actions labeled “white supremacist” wasn’t the end of the world for me.

Secondly after this happened Val Brown reached out to me. She showed me kindness when others did not. I don’t blame them. They go through this every day with white people not understanding race and power. What Val did was to simply see my humanity. She is someone who builds bridges. She helped me understand what was happening. More importantly, since then she has helped me and thousands of others learn about the three levels of oppression (individual, institutional, and structural) and how they have impacted people in America.

During my process of becoming racial consciousess on social media which is such a public form to explore such private issues, I have angered numerous people because of my mistakes and brash style. I have been blocked on social media and people have written me nasty emails.What I have come to realize, unfortunately, during the growth process, some People of Color are going to get hurt and question your motives. This is the natural consequence of so much hurt being caused by so many white people. Why would people see me as any different than those white people that had come before me? I understand their anger.

Through this trial by fire, I have gone through multiple stages in my awaresness of the interconnectedness of race and power. Jal Mehta wrote an article for EdWeek stating that there are five stages to racial awareness and People of Color’s reaction to them:

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I believe that I am in between Stage 4 and 5 currently. I have lead multiple professional development sessions for colleagues on racial consciousness. I am comfortable saying I love my white skin and also saying I love your brown skin or black skin. I have learned the language of oppression and also the language of liberation. I can speak about race and oppression without offending people. Learning to do that has has been the hardest part of this process. We have to learn the language and history before we can be credible when speaking about race and power.

MOST IMPORTANTLY I HAVE LISTENED! I have listened to black women, gay men, white women, Asian women, and every other group of people that exists outside of white men. I understand that I don’t know everything about everything. I listen to podcasts like CodeSwitch, The Stoop, Pushing the Edge and Empowerment Starts Here. I make sure that I interviewing People of Color for my own podcast called the Voxcast. On Twitter I retweet and amplify fantastic content. I look for nonwhite males and read their blogs. I comment and RT them. I actively look to amplify people who don’t look and act like me. I specifically say amplify because they already have a voice. My job is to make sure that the white people I interact with hear these voices.

Here is where things get confusing. Just because I understand the need for others to shine doesn’t mean that you or I shouldn’t shine as well. I work hard as hell to be a better person. I go to conferences, read books, listen to podcasts, interview people run book clubs and do a million more things to better myself and my profession. I don’t need to dim my light in order for others to shine. The content I create can help people grow and help me push myself to grow. There is room for everyone at the table. The point is I’m not more important than anyone else. There a tons of people doing what I am plus more. The key is to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to have their voice heard. This means that it is imperative we look at race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class.

For me, everything boils down to love. I love people. We are all connected.It is imperative to me that folks understand that if one group of people are hurting we are all hurting. My job is to make my life have meaning. I teach because I feel I can help students grow in a positive environment. I am on social media so I can learn from people and help others who want to grow. Right now white people have the most followers, are writing the most books, and are asked to keynote the most conferences. We must start to realize that there are people who are not white that are doing extraordinary things as well. The only reason we are not seeing them and hearing them is that we (white people) do not see how our race and power are playing out.

Look at your feed. Who are you following? Look at your last 10 retweets what is the gender and race of the content creator? Who’s blogs are you reading? Who’s books are you listening to? If the answers keep coming up as white people and specifically white people that is problematic.

Here is my charge to you. Actively look for black women and men, Asian men and women, Indigenous men and women, non hetero and cis gender people, and every other group I am missing that is viewed as being historically and presently marginalized and disenfranchised. Then LISTEN to what they have to say. Interact with what they create. Learn from and with them. Pay them if you can. Then amplify their voice and their work. In addition, when you get feedback from them that what you are doing is an issue LISTEN! Change your behavior. Figure out what is problematic and why. Ask questions. It will suck. It never gets easier. What does happen is you become a better human.

So now we have arrived at the paradox. You are reading a blog from a white cisgendered male. He is telling you to learn and speak about race and power as well as to amplify nonwhite people. That is the irony of this blog. In order to help decenter me here is a list of some people that you should follow. they are linked so it is as easy clicking on their name and then hit follow. Not one of them is a cis-gender white male. I write this with hope that the future can be better than our past and present.

Val Brown 

Julia Torres

Marian Dingle

Christie Nold

Julie Jee

Tricia Ebarvia

Dr. Rosa Perez-Isiah Xian Barrett Ben Doxtador   Sheri Spelic

Nate Bowling  Dr. Debbie Reese  Dene Gainey

Ebony Elizabeth Minjung Pai   Paul Suk-Hyun Yoon

Vivett Dukes   Gyasi Ross Christina Torres Phoenix Calida

 

 

The Negative Might Be A Positive

This video shared with me By Tony Alexander

This will be a quick one.

Think about a negative situation you had. Maybe it was with a co-worker where you butted heads. It could have possibly been with a long time friend speaking about politics or religion. Perhaps you had a situation on social media that went south. Whatever the negative situation it doesn’t matter. Just try to remember the situation in as many details as you possibly can.

Think about the emotion of the situation. I had a circumstance that was eating at me for years. I had feelings of anger and powerlessness. I couldn’t get my point across and felt attacked and belittled. Every time I thought of it all these negative feelings came up.

Then a friend told me to reframe my view. What good came out of the situation? How did you grow? What changed because of it? These simple questions blew my mind! There was a ton of good that came from it when I reflected back. It forced me to become a better version of myself.

Suddenly the anger was gone. The negative feelings that were only hurting me were gone. The other parties had moved on and probably not thought about it or me since. I was the one that was hurting myself. The weight lifted.

Hopefully, this will help you. It is not a new philosophy or something I didn’t know. I just needed someone to remind me about reframing the experience. Perhaps I can be that someone to you.

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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.

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