Monthly Archives: October 2015

I Am

What was the last movie that changed your thinking? Was it Fight Club like @sarahdateechur or maybe it was the Matrix? Perhaps you are wondering if we are a dream within a dream within a dream? The movie that changed my thinking came from a recommendation on Twitter. @Sisyphus and I were having a conversation about socialism. (not getting political here) Someone in the feed mentioned to me to see the movie I Am. I did. Now my mind is trying to sort it all out. Here is a quick summary of the movie.

“I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?   The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.”   However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world.

Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment.  Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers–remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith–including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch –  Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible “Everyman” who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways.  The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit.”

One great point I walked away is that the heart is more important in leading us through life than the brain. Compassion and emotion affect our bodies and may affect outside of our body. He illustrates the point by showing how his emotions affect a bowl of yogurt. It is no secret that stress and worry can cause disease and physical pain. Can our heart and emotions play a part in the physical world?

The greatest part of the movie is that cooperation not competition is how nature functions. Mr. Shadyac illustrates this by showing insects, birds, deer, and fish all working together. This is where the mind bomb was dropped. He stated that Darwin only talked about survival of the fittest twice, but wrote about love 95 times in the book The Descent of Man. That is a pretty significant difference.

I think about my privilege a lot. Would I be able to get ahead in life if I did not have the love and support of my family growing up? Would I have been able to go to college? The cooperation it took from my family and community in order for me to succeed is miraculous. I firmly believe we need to work together in order to achieve. This can be at the micro level of a household or the macro level of a country. Our country thrives on competition yet cooperation is the only thing that enables us to live quality lives. Corporations have grown so big that they don’t care about the individual at all. Have school systems done the same? Have we put our students into a competition ring where we measure them against each other? Have school systems grown so big that we can’t change them so we keep ignoring the individuals that need the most help?

The movie makes me question how connected to each other are we? I am not talking about social media connections or even family connections. I am talking broader connections. Connections outside your church, mosque, synagogue, yoga studio or any other physical space where we connect to other people. How much does my action in Trenton, New Jersey affect someone in Tokyo? What influence do I have on people in my own town? Think about this fact, “The reality is that the odds of breathing a single molecule of air that once passed through the lungs of Jesus, even in a single one of your breaths, is near certainty. The odds of encountering even one of those molecules within your entire lifetime is even more certain.” What does that mean for us? Nothing it was just a cool fact.

The movie leaves me feeling scared about the fate of man (and woman) kind. It also leads me to believe that helping other people has never been more needed in the history of the human race than it is right now. Watch the movie and Tweet or Vox me with your thoughts!

Q1: What does education do to support the idea that we are all connected in one way shape or form? #slowchatpe

Q2: How does your school make sure that your staff stays connected as people and not just coworkers? #slowchatpe

Q3: What do you do in your class to make them realize your class depends on cooperation in order for everyone to succeed? #slowchatpe

Q4: Do you feel that American life is more about cooperation or competition? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who in your PLN is your connector? The one who knows people. #slowchatpe


Colonial Tech Conference

This tech confweekend I was privileged enough to attend and present at the Colonial Technology Conference at William Penn High School in New Castle Delaware. People love to make fun of Delaware. It is one of the smallest states in the union and gets a really bad rap due to the infamous Wayne’s World bit. Doug Timm has been single-handedly changing the way educators perceive Delaware. His dedication to his #cddolphins is second to none. What I love about Doug is that he thinks globally but works locally. He doesn’t post to social media about what he is doing. His posts highlight what his students are doing. We have talked many times about how important it is to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk. People came from Texas, NJ, and Virginia, (@techedupteacher, @sarahdateechur, @nicholasendlich, @theEdsanet, @btcostello, and myself) all to attend and present the conference because of Principal Timm. That is the kind of inspiring and dedicated leader he is. Not only does he inspire teachers, his call to arms should have all administrators rallying around their staff’s and showing what great things they are doing. Read more his charge here. 

The drive down to the conference was enjoyable. I was able to vox with @nicholasendlich and @btcostello all the way down. This prepped me for the learning I was about to encounter. I arrived early to hang out with @theEdsanteT and @rosy_burke who decided to roll in late and leave me hanging by myself. This was fine as I was able to eat like a pig and not have to worry about talking with my mouth full. The food choices were superb. They had a healthy option of fruit, a decent option of bagels, and the dreaded donuts. Coffee was in full supply and this made me very happy. Nick and Brian rolled in and we started talking and laughing early and often.

Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) was the keynote speaker. I have followed him for years and knew that his site was second to none. This man pushes out content like no other. His youtube channel has how-to videos that make tech so easy. We were able to talk before his keynote and he was personable and entertaining. His keynote went off with a couple of technological hitches which he handled like the pro he is. The highlight of his speech was when he told teachers to share their plans and not just on teachers pay teachers. This is a philosophy that I have embraced and trumpeted myself over the years. Lift education up. Help students from all over the world by sharing what we are doing for FREE. Rant over.

Richard’s session on creating videos and pictures was very informative. I have been to conferences where I have not learned a ton. This was not the case on Saturday. When you go to youtube and hit upload there is a slew of options. One of the best options is to create a photo slideshow. Click here  to see how to do it. The slideshow took seconds to create and there are over 150,000 free songs to choose from. I was so excited to learn about this that I created this video after my family went to sleep the night of the conference. I highly recommend you follow Richard on Twitter and follow his youtube channel.

Lunch was fun. There were plenty of food, drinks, and connections being made. The afternoon presenters each was introduced and told to speak about their sessions. Some people danced in while others did this:

The conference was awesome and I was stoked to learn a lot. All of that paled in comparison to the fact that I was able to spend quality time with Nick, Rosy, Brian, Doug, Amanda, Sarah, and Lori. Relationships mean the world to me. Without them, we are just boats floating along an endless ocean. Together we are a fleet that can watch out for the wrath of Poseidon and help each other achieve the impossible. Thank you Doug, and the Colonial School District for allowing me to attend and present at this wonderful conference.

Q1: How often do you use Youtube to show videos in your class? #slowchatpe

Q2: Do you use youtube to create content for your students? Examples? #slowchatpe

Q3: How have you used youtube to create PD for educators? Examples? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do your students use youtube in your class? #slowchatpe

Q5: What youtube channels do you follow? #slowchatpe

Finding My Purpose

This month’s blog challenge by @iamwill is finding our purpose. What is my purpose? This has changed over the years. I started out with the purpose of increasing student’s physical skills through practice and games. This started out well enough until I realized this was a poor purpose. Students don’t need their physical skills improved through practice and games. Students need to understand how these skills will benefit them now as well as in the future. That still isn’t my purpose in teaching, though. My new purpose is to create a positive association with movement for my students. That is my main purpose in teaching. I have many other things that I want to teach my students, but nothing is more important than them believing that moving is fun and wanting to do it on their own.

My die hard physical education community members might give me pushback on this. They will tell me that physical literacy is the most important thing we should be teaching students. Others will tell me that if the students don’t understand why they should move we will lose them. They would all be correct as well because physical literacy and the why help create that positive association with movement. When students feel they can do a variety of physical activities well, they will be more apt to look upon movement in a positive light. In the same vein, when students understand that moving will make them smarter, healthier, and happier that will also create a positive association with movement.

My purpose is simple. Create a fun atmosphere where students will learn why movement is important, become skilled at a variety of physical activities, and believe that movement is one piece of the happiness pie. If I am able to do that as a physical education teacher I have succeeded. Not only have I succeeded I will be able to die knowing that I made a positive difference in thousands of people’s lives. That makes me happy.

Q1: What is your purpose in your current job? #slowchatpe

Q2: How did you first figure out what your purpose was? #slowchatpe

Q3: Has your purpose changed over the years? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do you ensure that you are achieving your purpose? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who do you follow on social media that helps you achieve your purpose? #slowchatpe

Cool Kids Table

Growing up I hated the Dave Matthews Band. I had never really heard them or given them much of a chance. I hated them because everyone and their mother loved them. Looking back this was a dumb reason to not give a band a chance. It did make me realize that some part of me was always going to rebel against the what I felt were the norms of society. This carries over to education and my teaching.

My classes are loud with music and tons of movement. You are probably thinking well you teach physical education this makes sense. However, my health classes are loud and filled with music as well. I have been using brain boosts and movement in my health classes years before @gonoodle improperly mislabeled them brain breaks! This ran counter to every class that I had taken as a student and almost all of them that I had observed as an adult. Classroom management used to be how well you could have students sit in a desk and listen to you. It is starting to catch on now that this is not the best way to teach. I didn’t need a book or an expert to tell me that. Did we need studies to remind us how much it sucked sitting for long periods of time listening to a teacher drone on and on when we were kids? This is just one educational norm that needed to broken.

The dress code that schools adhere to is hilarious to me. Does wearing a suit make you a better administrator? Do uncomfortable shoes allow you to move around the building better as you visit classrooms? Oh, you have to show parents and other stakeholders that you are in charge. The suit shows that. It is impossible to be unintelligent or be a poor administrator if you are wearing one. But society expects administrators to dress a certain way to be taken seriously. It wasn’t long ago that businessmen all had to wear suits. That has changed. Check out this article. I really loved Steve Job’s suits. Oh, wait. This is another educational norm that needs to be broken.

Teachers must dress up. You can only wear jeans on Friday. The ability of a teacher changes with the attire they don. Fridays they teach at a much lower caliber because they are “dressed down”. Does that mean that 20% of the year teachers aren’t being as effective as they should be? It wasn’t that long ago that women were told they had to wear dresses. Did their ability to teach decrease when they were “allowed” to wear dress clothes that weren’t dresses? Yup, you guessed it. Another educational norm that needs to be broken.

Do I even want to get into student dress codes? It discriminates against girls at an alarming rate. There is article after article about dress codes and rape culture. This article explains how a dress code that limits what a girl can wear puts boys educations ahead of girls. This article shows how forcing girls to dress a certain way puts the onus on them that their body is the problem. We hear how boys can’t control it or they are biologically programmed a certain way. This is the same mentality that allows 1 in 5 girls to be sexually assaulted in college. Society needs to change the way they look at what girls wear and what is appropriate. Education needs to take a hard look at what their hidden curriculum is really saying to both boys and girls.

My counterculture rebel attitude doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at all the great phrases and buzzwords that have taken control over education. Grit, rigor, growth mindset, connected educator, for the students, and so on and so on. When these ideas reach the tipping point they become watered down versions of their origins. I love the growth mindset. It has become so overused and watered down that even Carol Dweck went back and revisited it and found fatal flaws with how it was being used. It has become a reason to tell students it is ok that they are not learning because they are working hard. Check her article out here. It seems that the more something catches on the less effective it becomes.

My point to this blog is that I will always be on the outside looking in. I won’t have a seat at the cool table. I will always be that cynic that sees what everyone else is doing and see if that is really the best way to do things. Usually, it isn’t. Do you want to be a cool kid sitting at the cool kid table or do you want to make your own table and force them to sit with you?

Q1: What is the band you love to hate because everyone else loves them? #slowchatpe
Q2: How do you feel about the dress code for teachers at your school? #slowchatpe
Q3: Do you think the dress code for students discriminates against girls? #slowchatpe
Q4: What buzzword do you think is overused and under practiced? #slowchatpe
Q5: Who is the cynic that you follow that will always alert you to the problems of education? #slowchatpe