Monthly Archives: October 2017


EdCampNJ­ is a user-generated conference, commonly referred to as an “unconference.” This unconference event is organized by groups o­f K-12 educators and administrators, specifically designed to create a participant-driven, fun-filled day of professional development. EdCamps are free for all who attend! Attendees include administrators, parents, students, teachers, board of education members, and other educational stakeholders.

Educational technology is a common topic area for EdCamps, as is pedagogy, practical examples in instructional use of modern tools, and solving the problems technology can introduce into the classroom environment. Educators can connect with like-minded individuals, collaborate ideas, brainstorm solutions to common education problems, have group discussions. Sessions at EdCamps are diverse and eclectic because they grow out of the interests and expertise of the participants. Most sessions are informal conversations or demonstrations. It’s common for many different people to take the floor during an event to share an idea, show student work, or ask questions. EdCampers are energized and receive information, tips and techniques that can immediately be applied in the classroom.

This year EdCampNJ will be held on November 18 at :

New Brunswick High School 

1000 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901



Please consider coming to this EdCamp. It will be held from 8:30 until 1:00 leaving the bulk of your day intact. It is a cost-free day which I guarantee will push your thoughts of where education currently is and where it is heading. Click this link here in order to sign up for FREE! If you have any questions please email me!


Justin Schleider


Stop Grading Participation

There once lived a young boy who tried really hard. He didn’t master the standards. He didn’t pass the class.

There once lived a young girl who didn’t work hard at all. She mastered all the standards in class. She passed.

Work ethic and participation have no place in a grading policy. A student should be graded purely on whether or not they learned the material required. This can be done via portfolios, tests, quizzes, essays, or a billion other ways. Grading a student on participation does them and you a huge disservice. You are believing the myth that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything.

You also believe that you can see past your own bias and viewpoint. How do you know how much a student participated? Where in the standards is participation? If it is one standard out of 10, 20, or 30 you are grading why is it worth so much weight?

Participation is an expectation.

If students are not participating they cannot demonstrate mastery of the standards. That is the issue. Find out why your students aren’t participating and fix your class, your teaching style, or your content.

How do we know who is participating? Ask them? Ask their teammates? Heart rate monitors? Does that tell the real story? It is a subjective process that is difficult to assess at best impossible to assess at worst.

Please stop telling our students that just doing something is good enough. They have to understand that learning is what we grade. Participation can be discussed and assessed but not graded.



#metoo #IBelieveYou

me tooIf you have noticed the #metoo in your Twitter or Facebook feed it means that the women you consider either virtual or physical friends and family have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Let me rephrase that. The women you value and believe are worth being connected to, have publicly posted that they have either been raped, physically molested, or verbally abused.

My timeline is filled with that hashtag. These women are baring their soul to the world so men like myself can understand just how prevalent this is in our culture. The worst part is there are probably more women who do not want to publicly relive their trauma and are staying silent (for which they should take 0 blame).

Here are what the stats say:

  • On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Link

  • Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault. Link

Rape and sexual assault start at 12 years old! We have to use this data to inform our students NOW! This means starting in 5th or 6th grade we have to talk to both our boys and girls about this. There is no time to waste.

  • As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape. Link

  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 90% of adult rape victims are female. Link

  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Link

  • Women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are 4 times more likely. Link

There is no question that women are the most vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. No one deserves this. Not a female wearing a short skirt or one wearing a parka. You can not ask to be sexually harrassed or sexually assaulted. When we teach our girls that wearing certain clothing will bring unwanted attention what we are really saying is that men can not control themselves so you have to make sure not to draw their eyes on you.

  • As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape. Link

  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Link

  • 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male. Link

Although #metoo is about women who have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted it does happen to men too. I am not writing this to derail nor detract from the hashtag at all. We do have to understand though that it does happen to men against their will. We have to get rid of the men can’t be raped culture.

21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males. Link

You see the stat. It needs to be addressed in our schools so our students who are TGQN and go to college understand the risks they are facing.

  • 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape. Link

  • 30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape. Link

  • 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide. Link

  • 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide. Link

  • Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. Link

This affects women for the rest of their lives. One of my friends told me she can recall every detail of her ordeal that was almost 20 years ago.

We could go on and on about how women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, lower life expectancies, and poorer job performance. It destroys women’s lives. We need to address this in schools. One way to do this is to show this video called Tea Consent. It really hammers home what consent is taking that abstract concept and putting it as concretely as a cinder block for our students. Charlie Rizzuto also just shared this rap about consent from Andy Horne. If you want more ideas about how to teach about consent, sexual abuse, and sexual assault I would recommend getting in touch with High School National Health Teacher of the Year Andy Milne (@carmelhealth). He has a million resources and a couple of blog posts he can link you to.

Finally, I would like to thank Steve Isaacs who credits Christina Marie with the idea of the #IBelieveYou. The statistics are out there. We need to start supporting the women who come out and report the sexual abuse and sexual harassment they are receiving when they report it. It’s time that we stop pretending that the .0000001% chance of someone lying is enough to wait until the evidence comes in. At the very least we need to stop victim blaming and worry about what they were wearing, what they had to drink, or why someone went to a hotel room. All of that is immaterial. The only time someone should drink tea is when they choose to. (watch the video)

To all the women who have had made the public sacrifice to step forward with your story #IBelieveYou.

Open Up

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 started off as a normal day. It was my wife’s birthday so I made sure I ate a pork roll egg and cheese on a whole wheat everything bagel (my favorite) to celebrate, woke up three little people, brushed their teeth, and made sure they were dressed and ready for school. I was halfway to school when I happily realized that I hadn’t left my lunch on the kitchen counter for the third time this month! I rolled into school ready to hit my Superintendent up with the new theme for our school next year. It was going to be MSGA; Make Springfield Great Again (not my idea). I was chuckling to myself when I saw all the teachers rolling out of the library. I was immediately flustered thinking I had missed a staff meeting! It is a recurring nightmare I have similar to the missing a week of my college coursework nightmare I get sometimes when stress kicks in.

It was an emergency meeting. The mother of two of my student’s had died. Worse yet she was one of my wife’s work friends at her school. I immediately called my wife and told her the news. She was devastated. This was a true friend. Someone who was able to transcend the daily niceties and establish deeper relationships.

The viewing and funeral were more brutal than you could even imagine. This was not the way things are supposed to be. Parents shouldn’t die before their children. I remember thinking children shouldn’t lose their mother’s when they are young.  I am not downplaying the significance or importance of being a father. I am upplaying the idea that growing a baby inside of you gives a degree of love that I don’t believe men can understand nor should be asked to. The idea here is that a mother’s love is a special bond that knows no comparison. Two young children lost that bond this week and that will devastate them for a long long time.

After the funeral, I went to visit a friend of mine. I was feeling some kind of emotional. I had just seen something so heartbreaking and was in a state of emotional turmoil. I started thinking about this article. It pointed out that all the white men who committed these heinous acts had something in common. They were lonely. Specifically, this stood out to me:

But do you have confidants? Do you have male friends who you can actually be vulnerable with? Do you have friends whom you can confide in, be 100% yourself around, that you can hug without saying “No homo,” without feeling tense or uncomfortable while you’re doing it? link

I am a touchy-feely person so the hugging part didn’t worry me. I understand that giving someone a hug of the same gender can be non-sexual. I also understand there is no need to say no homo because that is a homophobic statement and not one that I care to be in the habit of using.

The part of the author’s questions that worried me was the idea that I don’t have many people I can be extremely honest with. Especially male friends. I decided on that car ride I was going to really strive to know my friend on the difficult level. The my life is messed up and so is yours level. What would happen if we finally acknowledged everyone has issues in their life. Could we speak on a level that broke down those barriers?

It turns out you can. The conversations we had were deep and raw. There wasn’t a comparison of who had it worse or the thought that your problems aren’t “real” problems. All it took for the conversation to take that turn was me asking him, “how is your life on the personal level?” I opened the door to a real conversation and he walked through it.

The conversation we had that night turned toward the idea that a person’s problems can’t be ranked. It is not a competition. There are people who are always going to have worse problems. I am sure there are people that are having fewer problems. It doesn’t matter. The problem is that we all need people to show empathy and listen to our problems regardless of how big or small they are without judgment. We need to connect with others on a level deeper than a shared profession or sports team. That is the only way to eliminate this loneliness that men have.

I want to make the interactions I have more meaningful with people. It is time I stopped being afraid and really just make myself vulnerable. We never know what life will throw at us. I don’t want to be a guy someone used to talk to on Twitter or Voxer. I want to be the guy that people say that was a true friend. I want people to actually be able to say they know me and I truly knew them.

I understand that this isn’t going to be done on a macro level. It doesn’t have to be. It just has to be done with the people that I really feel I connect with on a deep level. Not the RT their funny meme or we hate the same thing level. I need to connect to my people with the idea that nothing is guaranteed in life including time. I want to get to the Chicken Soup for the Soul books level, the Tuesdays with Morrie level, or the Between the World and Me Level. A place where honesty and openness are more important than the facade we show the world.

With that being said I am not going to chase people down or just open up to anyone. This has to be a two-way street. Not everyone in your life deserves this gift of openness nor can you emotionally handle people abusing or misusing this connection. Some people are social media friends or work acquaintances. Others may be too busy to keep up with both the emotional and time-consuming toll it takes to develop and maintain these real relationships.

I would challenge the men especially white men who are reading this to look at their lives. Who do you have that you can speak to on the personal level? Who can you share the good, the bad, and the ugly? If the answer is no one that is a problem. I don’t want to be lonely nor do I want you to be. Open up to people. Make the most of every opportunity you have to love the people in your lives warts and all. Make the time and the commitment to really get to know your friends. Take the plunge before it is too late.


NJPAECET2 just wrapped up. In case you were wondering like most people will, ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It is a conference that is half fundraised and half paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They do a fantastic job of Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. Meals and lodging are covered allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the experience of a conference without having to worry about a thing.

This event reminds me of a smash between a conference and a summer camp retreat. They really work hard to bring people together and almost force serendipity to occur. The day started out with us having to stand and sing a song. The song was quick and easy but not gonna lie I hate singing with a crowd. I never remember the words, have a horrible voice, and no rhythm at all. With all that being said, the leader had a great voice and singing is a great way to get the crowd excited. Any time we are standing and not just sitting is also a bonus.

The opening keynote was great. They showed a clip with a Admiral William McRaven about how to change the world. He spoke about the importance of making your bed. The premise of this idea is that if you start out with an easy task and complete it that will help propel your day. In addition, when you get home at night you come back to a successfully completed task. It was very inspiring.

I also watched a clip of a football coach motivating a player by yelling at him in a positive manner. The coach was trying to help his player achieve more than they thought they could. I understood the video’s aim at showing if you encourage a child they can achieve more than they think they could. The video came across more like a coach uncomfortably yelling and wanting the goal more than the player. I do not want to have to yell at my students repeatedly even in a positive manner in order to motivate them. The video should have the coach walking next to the student or perhaps giving advice when needed. Even better what if the coach did the bear crawl with the student? Watch the video and tell me what you think!

The first session I went to was entitled Be an Advocate for the LGBTQ community. There were two members of GLSEN that ran a fantastic session! I learned the history of the LGBTQ community in a way that touched my heart. One presenter handed out cards with milestone events of historical events that impacted their community. Our job was to stand up and put those events in historical order. First, that is a fantastic way to run a lesson or professional development. We were up, working together, and learning all at the same time. I stole that idea right away. Secondly, when we were discussing the events that had occurred during their lifetime you could see how they had emotional ties to some of the events. It was powerful to watch both presenters speak with such passion about Title IX or the legalization of Same-Sex Marriages. You could see them reliving the moment. It was a fantastic session that I was happy I attended.

My second session was called Professional Development over Professional Dissonance: Designing PD from a Systemic Perspective. This session was presented by Mike Ritzius.  He is a NJEA associate director of professional development and instructional issues. I have heard him speak about this idea in the past but I was still confused and needed a much deeper understanding of the topic.

I walked away understanding a lot more about the why and the what and am still confused with the how. The system has no mechanisms for change. We are changing but the system isn’t changing around us. How can we change the system? Our school has the ability to change with relative quickness. We are a small school and are the only school in the district. I equate us with being a small fish that can adapt quickly to a stimulus. This gives us a leg up in our ability to make large changes with relative ease. I will be approaching my admin and union to see if we can bring the NJEA in order to make that happen.

The session was followed by the keynote of Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price. Okaikor shared her story which was clearly emotional to her. I enjoy watching people be real and hearing personal narratives. The idea that, “good teachers are also critical of society and push for equity in their work/classroom” is something every educator needs to hear and understand.

Her speech sparked a conversation later about when and where we need to hear this message. I understand that ECET2 is all about elevating and celebrating teachers. The teachers that were being elevated and celebrated still have the responsibility of understanding all of their students. That means that bias has to be addressed. People have, and always will, think that speaking about race and equity should be done at a different time. There is never a “right time”.  Let me switch that up. It is always the “right time” to speak about race. We saw torches and Nazis in 2017. We are not talking about that or what causes that in our classrooms. Worse our own bias is harming Students of Color. I think Barry Saide made a fantastic decision when he chose Okaikor to speak about her story and equity.

Session 3 was called Thinking Like Socrates: Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions At Every Level. Shanna Peeples told her story about changing her writing prompts from teacher centered to student centered. That wasn’t the gold nugget though. She asked her students, “What would you ask the smartest person in the world if you had the opportunity?” The responses she received were way above what she expected. One student asked why did God give us free will if he wanted us to be good? That is a pretty powerful question.

This is another really great way to get to know your students and use that knowledge to drive instruction. As most of you know empathy and the affective domain have been a large focus of my teaching in the past two years. This is another great way to start a discussion as well as allowing our students to have space where they can decompress and really reflect on their lives in an authentic fashion. Check out her presentation here.

Mike Ritzius ran an unconference called ProAction Cafe. People could pick a problem they had and post it. Participants then rotated to three different tables and answered the question that was prompted in the front of the room. It was a fun way to interact with different people. Sometimes meeting and hanging with different people is as important as the activity.

The evening keynote was done by Chrissy Romano. She rolls with the moniker @TheConnectedEdu on the Twitters. Her speech followed my rules of a great speech. Make me laugh, make me cry, and have me walk away with a message. Chrissy started out connecting the room with her kids with the help of pictures and anecdotes. She then went on to tell us how they both struggled with an illness that was invisible. I would be doing a disservice to both her and her story if I attempted to capture the feeling in the room after her speech. All I can say is that there were many sweaty eyeballs and not one bottom was sitting down when she was done.

I walked away with the message that just because the students in my class looked healthy doesn’t mean they weren’t struggling in one of a million other ways. This idea of building relationships and getting to know our students continues to be a message that we hear but don’t always practice enough. It’s funny how simple of a concept it is yet how difficult it is to achieve.

The next morning started out the same as the day before. More singing. I was more into it this time. It was time for my 9:20 presentation on Learning With Movement. The idea of the session was to give the participants some ideas on how to teach with movement. The idea is that movement can be used authentically to teach in a new way. It is a very powerful tool that we should be adding to our teaching toolbox. The idea that students learning will be deeper when we connect the knowledge with movement. If you want to learn more check out my presentation here.

The final session was called Supporting Ourselves and One Another Through the Lens of the Whole Learner. Amanda Britt ran us through personal wellness and hammered home the why. We briefly exercised using Her session again crossed into the idea that in order to help others we must help ourselves. I would imagine that Lavonna Roth would approve as this lines up perfectly with her movement of #IgniteYourShine.

I will finish my blog with Glows and Grows (thanks for that Grows idea Fade) from the conference.

Glow: There was a boatload of signs directing me on where to go. I need those.

Glow: The atmosphere was created where participants were encouraged to have fun and learn.

Grow: The picture of the organizing team racial makeup mirrored the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The team was all white with one visible Person of Color. This has to be explicitly and purposefully addressed.

Glow: Having the presenters that were flown in to run pd the day before the conference. That is brilliant. My school will be knocking on your door next year.

Glow: Lavonna Roth. She glows. #igniteyourshine

Grow: The crowd was very white as well. We have to reach out and bring in educators of Color.

Glow: Chrissy’s speech. Amazing.

Glow: The days ran smoothly and it was well organized.

Glow: The culture and climate of the conference was fantastic and positive.

Glow: Mike Ritzius. His hair.

Grow: Hotels were really far away. If possible switch them closer.

If you ever have the chance this conference is worth your time. I appreciate everyone’s hard work and effort they put into it for free!