Monthly Archives: August 2015

Toilets; The Great Connectors

My Four year old woke up from his nap today and declared, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I escorted him to the toilet which he promptly sat down on. I already knew what was going to come out of his mouth. Sure enough I heard, “Dad can you sit on the step stool so I can tell you a story?” This is a regular occurrence with him. I pulled the step stool across the tile floor and sat down incredulous that my life had taken me to a point that would have appalled me ten years ago. He proceeded to recite every line from the book Sleeping Beauty to me. I sat there with the fan on and looked at his angelic face and realized that the toilet was connecting us in a way that I had never thought possible. My phone was away and we were mere feet apart sharing a moment together.

My mind wandered off for a bit about how much I knew about the toilet. (I had heard Sleeping Beauty well over 100 times already) Did you know that Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day? It is an event hosted by the World Toilet Organization to raise awareness for the 2.5 billion people around the world who live without proper sanitation. The history of the toilet is quite fascinating. A Scottish settlement had drains that extended from their walls that historians believe could have been the first bathrooms in 3000 B.C. The Palace of Knossos on Crete, built around 1,700 B.C., features definite latrines.

We have to leap all the way to, “1596 when Sir John Harrington, godson of Elizabeth I, published Metamorphosis of Ajax, in which he described a new kind of water closet: a raised cistern with a small pipe down which water ran when released by a valve.” (Suddath 2009)  Two hundred years later, along came Alexander Cummings, who developed the S-shaped pipe underneath the basin that kept out foul odors.

“In the 1880s, England’s Prince Edward (later to become King Edward VII) hired a prominent London plumber named Thomas Crapper to construct lavatories in several royal palaces. While Crapper patented a number of bathroom-related inventions, he did not — as is often believed — actually invent the modern toilet. He was, however, the first one to display his bathroom wares in a showroom, so that when customers needed a new fixture, they would immediately think of his name.” (Suddath 2009) Today only 60% of the world’s population has access to proper sanitation.

Now that we know the history of the toilet I will revisit why the toilet is the great connector. Most people in America use a toilet. All of my students use toilets. I believe that everyone who has ever been in a room that I was facilitating professional development with uses a toilet. I realize that I use the toilet as a reference during my teaching to connect with my students an awful lot.

When I explain how to do a proper squat I tell the students to imagine they are sitting down on a toilet. We play a game called toilet tag where a frozen person gets on one knee with an arm out and other students unfreeze them by pushing down their arm simulating a toilet flushing. My students are encouraged to make toilet noises when they do jump squats as a warmup. The laughter and giggles that ensues makes me happy. The engagement of all my students makes me a happy teacher.

My health class is another arena where toilets come into play. In 3rd grade we discuss the digestive system.  Guess where solids and liquids end up after they have been digested? You guessed it. The toilet. In 4th grade we cover septic systems and sanitation plants. More toilet talk. I never have to redirect my students during these lessons. They are in to win it.

Whenever I talk to anyone over the age of 75 it seems that the conversation ends up talking about how they visit the toilet too often or aren’t able to get there enough. Both are problems that need to be discussed in detail by them whether you want to or not.

At Edcamp NJ last year I demonstrated my digestive system lesson to the group. It was a way to show how having students demonstrate the digestive system kinesthetically helped the lesson to stick. Guess what. 100% of my students scored a perfect score on the digestive system assessment. I can tell you @dougtimm34 and @btcostello won’t ever forget it. Ask Ross Lebrun about the lesson!

Next time you go somewhere and see a toilet reflect on the multiple ways that it can be used as a connection between people. Everyone uses them yet we are afraid to talk about them. If you want to relate to your students, your staff, your grandparents, or a stranger bring up a toilet. We all need to reflect about the toilet and appreciate it for more than just the most sanitary way to ship out human (or cats can be trained to use them to) waste. After all it is the Great Connector.


Q1: What is the one topic that all your students can relate to? #slowchatpe

Q2: What topics are you uncomfortable discussing in class? Why? #slowchatpe

Q3: How do you stay relatable to your students? #slowchatpe

Q4: What activities do you do that others may raise an eyebrow but you know the ss learn and love? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who do you think are great connectors with their ss? Why? #slowchatpe


From Good to Great

Summer camp just ended. I get four days to relax. Scratch that. Four days to plan how I am going to attack this year. I have learned more about teaching, building relationships, the whole child, racism, SES, sexism, and drama than I have in the past 32 years of my life. Learning has been great but if I don’t put my knowledge to use than what good is it? This blog is my attempt to lay out what is important to me this year. If you don’t care what I have learned and what I plan to do with it I thank you for your time and bid you adieu.

My main goal is to have my students see each other with empathy. This will be a most difficult task for myself as well as my students. I want them to see each other as children, humans, and peers. I want to strip away the previous year’s labels of the nose picker, the dork, the athlete, the suck up, the violinist, the kid who peed their pants and any other labels they may have accumulated.  I will do this by using this site. Neila Steele (@neilasteele) also taught me a great idea about having students sit back to back and focus on each other’s breathing patterns. I will use this to create physical connections with the students. I am going to be purposeful in my delivery as well as my expectations for my students.

The second goal is vital to the success of me becoming a great teacher this year. My goal is to address social justice in my class. This TED Talk hammers home how important being color brave is versus being color blind. I use the sneetches as a lesson to my third graders about racism. I use this Frontline story about Jane Elliot to teach my 4th grade students. She was a teacher who knew she had to make an impact on her 3rd grade students’ views on racism. If you have never watched the videos it is earth shattering how easily hatred and bigotry rise from students. It is a great discussion starter for my students. This video shows my 6th graders how the color of a person’s skin changes the perception of their actions. I will continue to use these lessons and use the website for more resources. Hopefully these lessons will teach my students metacognition.

The next goal goes hand in hand with the second goal. I want to be intentional on who I choose to be the demonstrator of ideas, concepts, exercises, and anything else that is displayed for my class. I have always made sure that I chose girls as well as boys. I have also made sure that I chose students of all different races and ethnicities to go in front of the class. What I have not made sure to do was include outside resources that showed people of multiple races and genders as role models. When I show videos of soccer players executing moves I will be intentional that they will include all genders. If I show videos of the overhand throw I want students to see Mo’ne Davis throwing the ball. The key to this is I remain intentional about who I display to my students and why. I will be intentional and not allow the hidden curriculum to teach anything that goes against my philosophy.

My final goal will be to continue to improve my pedagogy. Jo Bailey ran a great session on solo taxonomy at the #peinstitute15. I have been reading up of teaching games for understanding. See Saw will be a great way for me to keep a sportfolio.  Class dojo is a great tool to communicate to the parents about their child’s behavior in my class. All these will be tools that I can use to increase my student’s learning.

There is so much change that I will be implementing this year due to the knowledge I have acquired at conferences and using social media. What will not change is the passion I for teaching or the relationships I have with my students. I am not reinventing the wheel this year. I have just upgraded the rim, purchased new rubber tire, and am using nitrogen instead of air. I have been a good teacher in the past. I now know how to be a great teacher. I will evolve into a teacher who not only teaches the content in a way that resonates with my students but allows the students to gain control of their learning. I will be teaching the curriculum as well as equity, social justice, and physical literacy. I refuse to see my students as physical education and health participants. I will see them as children who need to learn in a variety of ways about a variety of things.

Q1. What is the biggest change you will be undergoing in the classroom this year? #slowchatpe

Q2. How will you encourage and support your ss empathy? #slowchatpe

Q3. How are you able to connect the outside world into your classroom? #slowchatpe

Q4. What is your role in teaching your students about social justice and equity? #slowchatpe

Q5. Who will be checking on you to make sure you are hitting your goals this year? #slowchatpe

Good to Great

What the What???? WTW

The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system

 (authored by Alfie Kohn)

This article resonated with me this week written by Alfie Kohn. Please read it. I read the whole article and kept waiting for the part that showed growth mindset is a danger. His article is based on the premise that this popular educational idea is a threat to students:

“Kids tend to fare better when they regard intelligence and other abilities not as fixed traits that they either have or lack, but as attributes that can be improved through effort.” (growth mindset)

Mr. Kohn starts the article getting everyone to agree that poor pedagogy is a problem. I am fully in support that facts being crammed down students’ throats, lack of student voice, lack of student choice, and ignorance of project based learning are not great teaching practices. I am still looking for a valid argument why growth mindset is a problem.

Mr. Kohn supports that the growth mindset is indeed research based and backed up with facts. “Dweck’s basic thesis is supported by decades’ worth of good data. It’s not just the habit of attributing your failure to being stupid that holds you back, but also the habit of attributing your success to being smart. Regardless of their track record, kids tend to do better in the future if they believe that how well they did in the past was primarily a result of effort.” This did not convince me that the growth mindset is a risk to students. It further convinced me Dweck is onto something here.

His next statement is where his failure to separate growth mindset, which he uses its previous label of incremental theory, is where the problem originates. “But books, articles, TED talks, and teacher-training sessions devoted to the wonders of adopting a growth mindset rarely bother to ask whether the curriculum is meaningful, whether the pedagogy is thoughtful, or whether the assessment of students’ learning is authentic (as opposed to defining success merely as higher scores on dreadful standardized tests).” Why would they? Their job is to analyze how students behave not the rigor and effectiveness of the curriculum and pedagogy.

When you lump poor pedagogy, ineffective school policy, and the growth mindset together two out of the three are clearly wrong.  Change the pedagogy and ineffective school policy. Do not throw growth mindset in there and label it part of the problem. Alfie Kohn further mangles the growth mindset issue by drawing in the anti-test crowd. What does testing have to do with teaching growth mindset? They are two separate issues. Even if testing and growth mindset were hand in hand testing is only one part of the child. Growth mindset looks at the whole child and how they are able to reflect back on what happened and use that information to positively impact the future.

Kohn goes on with rhetoric such as this: “Small wonder that this idea goes down so easily. All we have to do is get kids to adopt the right attitude, to think optimistically about their ability to handle whatever they’ve been given to do. Even if, quite frankly, it’s not worth doing.” If something is not worth doing it is the job of the administration and teachers to change that assignment. This still does not illustrate how the growth mindset contributes to this problem. Change the system keep the mindset so far is my opinion.

This next statement boggled my mind. “The more serious concern, however, is that what’s really problematic is praise itself. It’s a verbal reward, an extrinsic inducement, and, like other rewards, is often construed by the recipient as manipulation. A substantial research literature has shown that the kids typically end up less interested in whatever they were rewarded or praised for doing, because now their goal is just to get the reward or praise.” I see a problem with extrinsic rewards such as praise but that is not a growth mindset. The teacher that was modeling a growth mindset wouldn’t say, “Great job working on that project Johnny.” They would state, “I noticed you were working hard on that project.” That praise is placed in a way that values the intrinsic trait of work ethic not the extrinsic praise of the project looking nice.

Mr. Kohn gives some conflicting evidence for his claim that, “A 2010 study found that when students whose self-worth hinges on their performance face the prospect of failure, it doesn’t help for them to adopt a growth mindset. In fact, those who did so were even more likely to give themselves an excuse for screwing up — a strategy known as “self-handicapping” — as compared to those with the dreaded fixed mindset.”  The article he cited stated that “People who hold incremental theories of intelligence (growth mindset), however, tend to exhibit more adaptive academic behaviors and report a diminished tendency to self-handicap. (Ommundsen, 2001; Rhodewalt, 1994).”

The study did try to prove that growth mindset was a problem. They came up with these results:

“When highly contingent incremental students fail without prior practice, poor performance does not reflect lack of ability, as they have a valid external excuse for failure and a path to future improvement. However, when they fail despite practice, they no longer have an external excuse for their poor performance. Therefore, they attribute failure to lack of ability and consequently experience lower self-esteem.” (Niiya, Brook, & Crocker 2010)

Read that again. When you fail and didn’t study or weren’t giving the opportunity to practice you placed the blame outside of yourself. The study states that is valid. I agree. The next sentence states that when they failed after they practiced they felt worse about themselves. I agree again. What does that have to do with growth mindset? Wouldn’t you be upset if you studied and didn’t get the desired result? A fixed mindset blames the test or outside sources when they become upset. A growth mindset reflects on why they didn’t succeed and tries to figure out how to succeed. I am still not convinced that growth mindset is the problem here after dissecting this study.

Alfie Kohn ends with this proclamation:

“And this brings us to the biggest blind spot of all — the whole idea of focusing on the mindsets of individuals. Dweck’s work nestles comfortably in a long self-help tradition, the American can-do, just-adopt-a-positive-attitude spirit.(“I think I can, I think I can…”) The message of that tradition has always been to adjust yourself to conditions as you find them because those conditions are immutable; all you can do is decide on the spirit in which to approach them. Ironically, the more we occupy ourselves with getting kids to attribute outcomes to their own effort, the more we communicate that the conditions they face are, well, fixed.”

That was sneaky right there. You took a conversation about mindset and threw in the whole politics, conditions of the world, racism, classism, sexism, and every other outside problem that is wrong with education and the world. Do every one of those problems exist in the world? Darn straight. Does that mean we shouldn’t be teaching growth mindset? Not a chance. We have to teach that working hard and not giving up are important. We also need to teach that there are major problems in the world that may affect you because of your race, gender, or ethnicity. That does not negate the need for students to understand that when they work hard they will get smarter and better at something. The amount may vary. Other people will tell them it was good enough or not good enough. Their job is to keep in mind that, “intelligence and other abilities not as fixed traits that they either have or lack, but as attributes that can be improved through effort.”

Mr. Alfie Kohn you make a great argument for why the school system needs major overhauls. You brought up problems with standardized testing, extrinsic rewards, poor pedagogy, weak administration and many more things that education needs to identify and change. What you did not do is convince me in any way shape or form that having a growth mindset is a “peril” and that “we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system”. I don’t believe that growth mindset proponents feel that it is the answer to all of education’s problems. They believe that it is a great way to live life. Fix the teaching, the administration, the school, the politics, and everything else that troubles education. Leave the one trend that is actually making a positive impact on students long after school matters to our students.

Niiya, Y., Brook, A., & Crocker, J. (n.d.). Contingent Self-worth and Self-handicapping: Do Incremental Theorists Protect Self-esteem? Self and Identity, 276-297.

Q1. What does the growth mindset mean to you? #slowchatpe

Q2. How do you students engage in self-handicapping? #slowchatpe

Q3. What problems does you see with the growth mindset movement? #slowchatpe

Q4. How do you teach growth mindset to your students?

Q5. What educators on social media display a growth mindset?

I’m a Hustler Baby I Just Want You to Know

I’m a hustler baby, I’m a hustler
I just want you to know, wanna let you know
It aint where I been, it aint where I been
But where I’m bout to go, top of the world!

This week my blog is dedicated to the Dr. Will show. I love this man because his energy is infectious and his brain is moving faster than mine ever will. This month he switched up his blogging challenge and threw out two ideas. The first one was interesting because it dealt all about how we dress. This is a great topic that is definitely blog worthy. However, it did not grab my attention like his second choice.

The second blog idea he threw out was finding your hustle.  This resonated with me on a personal and professional level. I have been working since I was 10 years old. I had a newspaper route that netted over $150 a month. This was a boatload of money when I was a child. My bike had all the bells and whistles and I always had money to order food after a day of romping through the town.

The ability to make and spend money on my own has followed me through the years. My high school years were spent playing sports and working at an Italian restaurant. The lessons I learned at the restaurant were certainly journal worthy. I learned every aspect of the business as well as how to interact with people. There were workers from various countries that all wanted to laugh and mess with you. This experience allowed me to find humor at work and realize that you can work hard and have fun at the same time.

My college years were some of the hardest working years I ever had. I worked at a liquor store, summer camps, and a night club. The money rolled in and payed for my car, insurance, cell phone, apartment, books, and nights out on the town. Summers were brutal. I was working 60-80 hour weeks while my friends were partying at the shore. My long hours certainly helped keep me out of trouble and allowed me to interact with all types of people. All the jobs were hard work but I was able to have fun at them as well. This reinforced to me that no matter where you were or what you were doing you could enjoy yourself and make the best of any situation you were in.

Once I started teaching I thought I would be on easy street. I was wrong. I continued to teach, work at the liquor store, and bartend. The bills were getting paid and I was keeping my head above the water. Little did I know the real hustle was just beginning!

My wife and I enjoyed the birth of three children in four years. During this same time I completed two masters’ degrees. My hustle was going strong. I have never been so doggone tired in all my life. It felt like my past jobs were cake compared to parenting, teaching, working at the liquor store, and bartending. My hustle was on and the direction my life was going was making me extremely happy, but I did not feel that I was changing the world. I needed a kick start to my life.

Social media took ahold of my life. Passion and exuberance abounded everywhere. Motivational quotes floated around everywhere I looked. These people got it. The first few months were great. My soul was alive and fired up. Then without me fully understanding it the bubble popped. Group think was the norm rather than the exception. Everyone was back slapping and saying how great they were. I needed more. I needed to help change the world. I was tired of consuming and wanted to start producing. Then it happened.

The #physed community was blowing up on Voxer and new projects were being organically formed right before my eyes. I had finally found my hustle. Something I was passionate about and would do for free. (much like the Dr. Will show) I was going to create free projects that would help pick up the #physed world as well as the rest of education. The biggest hustle and project that I collaborated on is the National Lesson Plan Creator. Eight physical education teachers used social media to create the greatest lesson plan creator in the history of physical education and we were able to offer it for free. We worked well over 200 man hours and received $0 for our work. We hustled because we wanted to create something that would change the world.

Nicholas Endlich (@nicholasendlich) Adam Llevo (@mradampe) and I created two projects for teachers that we felt were needed in the physical education and education world. If you would like to see our balancing project or our student workout videos click here. Those two projects took at ton of time and effort. We offer it to anyone in education to use for free. Our hustle, our passion, is lifting up the entire profession of physical education.

My hustling doesn’t stop there though. I blog every Sunday. This blog is the jump off for #slowchatpe on Twitter. The blog allows me to refine my thoughts.  The Twitter chat was much needed at the time. There were only a couple of chats that related to #physed. The chat allows an arena for all educators as well as physical educators to come together and discuss real issues in education. Some weeks are geared more towards the physical education crowd and others toward all educators.  This could be my most passionate hustle. I pour my heart and soul into the blog and Twitter chat. The chat is not just people telling each other how great they are. It really tries to delve deeper into subjects and make people defend their position as well as reflect on their teaching. I know this has definitely done this for me.

My final hustle is a podcast called the Voxcast.  The Voxcast is a podcast that is created on the Voxer application and is now being sponsored by SPARK!  Jorge Rodriguez (@physednow) is the brains behind the operation. We interview educators across the spectrum. The idea behind the podcast is to figure out how typical teachers can improve their pedagogy. Everyone has a story and something great to share with the world. The Voxcast is set up to discover what that is.

As I reflect on my hustle it has occurred to me that I am getting closer to my goal of changing the world. I have found a group of people who are willing to join my hustle and become producers. My question for you is what are you doing to better our profession?

Q1. What is your hustle? What passion are you pursuing? #slowchatpe

Q2. How does your hustle contribute to your life? #slowchatpe

Q3. What was the hardest project outside of college you ever worked on? #slowchatpe

Q4. Are you a consumer or producer? Why? #slowchatpe

Q5. Who’s side hustle should we know about? Who is lighting the world on fire? #slowchatpe

#PEINSTITUTE2015 Reflection


This weeks blog post is a reflection of the #peinstitute2015. Going into the conference I was hyped up. The great Adam Llevo (@mradampe) was flying in from Saudi Arabia. I was going to pick him up at the train station and together we would drive 2 hours to Pennsylvania to pick up the notorious Nicholas Endlich (@nicholasendlich). This would start a 10 hour epic road trip that started at midnight and ended at ten in the morning. Adam slept through most of the night while Nick and I played comedy bits and our favorite songs from our library. We struggled through the night and arrived tired but full of adrenaline.

Check in did not occur until 2 pm. so we picked up the naturalized U.S. citizen Jo Bailey, and headed to Ashville for breakfast. I wanted to taste authentic Asheville cuisine so I asked the waitress to order me the best thing on the menu. She came out with fried chicken and pancakes!  What a deliciously unhealthy meal to eat for breakfast. We sampled the local beverages at another establishment where Jo Bailey saw firsthand how Baggo should be played before heading back to the hotel.

Upon returning back to the hotel we went straight to the high ropes course. I started on fire. There were no obstacles holding me back. I clipped myself in and bolted as fast as I could. The course was no match for me. I quickly distanced myself from the rest of the group and was the king of the course. Then came the platform of doom. The platform was over 200 feet in the air. (ok maybe 30 feet but it felt like 200) I was frozen for 20 minutes unable to summon the courage to jump. Jo Bailey caught up to me and talked me down. She even offered to go first!! My ego wouldn’t let that happen. I would rather have two broken legs than let her go first! With Jo’s assurance and my ego I finally jumped off the ledge. The anticlimactic nature of being gently lowered to the ground was amazing! I finished the course making a complete fool of myself and having the time of my life! Check out the videos below:

Sleep finally conquered me and I woke up the next day ready to learn. Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) was the opening keynote to the conference. He spoke about the power to connect and mentioned Adam, Nick, and I. What an honor it was to be in the opening keynote! Check out his slide share here. His speech was a curveball for many because it wasn’t all about tech. This was brilliant because tech is only one aspect of teaching physical education. His speech centered around 7 super powers of a great teacher. They were connection, reflection, mobile, video, outsourcing, learning, and sharing. Each one of these areas are so important for a teacher to consider when improving their pedagogy.

The next three days flew by and the learning never ceased. Wednesday came quickly and it was time for our presentation that Nick, Adam, and I had planned. The session started off super rocky. Our tech expert was flailing and things were not looking great. The room was packed and the temperature was rising from the massive amount of heat that was being generated. I was sweating profusely and was happy with my choice of headband attire. Everything finally worked and our session was off and running. We presented plickers, NLPC.US, Soyouthinkyoucanbalance, Soyouthinkyouarefit, padlet, Team Shake, and Nearpod (click nearpod link for our presentation). The feedback we received was amazing. I believe we helped some teachers with tools that will enhance their teaching. This will in turn enable students to learn better which will in turn help change the world. (this is my parade don’t rain on it)

I will leave you with my hits and misses from the #peninstitute2015. Keep the conversation going on the blog or #peinstitute2015

Hit: Jarrod Robinsons keynote avoiding just tech in physical education.

Miss: Lack of racial diversity of the keynotes in 2015 and 2016.

Hit: The diversity of the attendees. (gender, race, origin of country)

Hit: The wifi once it was rolling.

Miss: Most presenters and keynotes making people sit for 45 minutes at a physical education conference (practice what we preach?)

Hit: Hidden curriculum teaches our students via Dr. Ash Casey. Pay attention to what we aren’t saying or doing as much as what we are saying or doing.

Hit: Provocations. Tying our content to the emotional and empathetic side our students via Andy Vasily.

Hit: Free coffee at the conference center.

Hit: The basketball game on Tuesday.

Hit: Tons of free resources given out.

Hit: UBD emphasis propogated by Joey Feith.

Miss: The audio at the conference.

Hit: The dj at the hotel

Hit: The Pe Institute signs that saved the attendees money.

I left the conference feeling closer to people than ever before. My Voxer and Twitter PLN was super strong! It was great meeting the people face to face who I am in contact with all the time via social media. I highly encourage you to attend this conference whether you teach physical education or not. The passion and dedication to learning was second to none!

Q1: What is the greatest takeaway from a recent conference you have attended #slowchatpe

Q2: Do you feel that conferences are worth the time and money? Why or why not? #slowchatpe

Q3: How do we get more presenters and keynotes of racial and ethnic diversity? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do you keep the flame lit after conferences you attend? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who is someone you heard speak or present at a conference that others should know about? #slowchatpe