Monthly Archives: November 2017

Parent Teacher Conferences and Seesaw

Disclosure: I am a Seesaw ambassador. That means I get more classes to use for free.

The past couple of years I have had more parent conferences than ever before. They are mostly with my younger students. Their parents want to know how their child is doing in my class which is completely reasonable and should be lauded. I always tell the parents that if there was an issue with their child they would have heard from me well before the middle or end of November but I digress.

What I did notice with the meetings was that I felt a comfort level during those meetings that I hadn’t felt when I was first teaching. Some of that could be explained by my increasing knowledge of my subject area and the fact that my community knows me very well after 7 years. That is only part of the answer though.

The biggest factor in my opinion is my use of Seesaw. Every single meeting the parent commented how much they  enjoyed the videos. This gave them a knowledge of what my class is about as well as a comfort level with me. That cannot be valued enough! The conversations were pleasant and productive.

One parent told me they sit with their child and watch the videos together. They than ask them questions about what is going on in the video, did they have fun, and what were they learning. This made my year to hear that. There is nothing more powerful than enabling a family to have a window into my class that starts a conversation about learning and joy.

If you aren’t using Seesaw you are missing out.




EdCampNJ 2017

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. That means that another EdCampNJ was held on Saturday at New Brunswick High School. One of the reasons I was so excited about it was to see if our mission of reaching out to New Jersey and New York educators of color was going to make a difference. To paraphrase the great Maha Bali educators of color need to not only be invited to the table, they need to make the table and set the table. It was clear that our organizing team reflected the mission of EdCampNJ. Would the crowd be the same?

The answer was an overwhelming yes! With the help of Newark Public School, EdCamp Brooklyn, EdCamp Urban, and word of mouth the crowd was filled with a beautiful mix of people. We accurately reflected the rainbow of teachers that teach the students in the great state of New Jersey.

I personally spent the day in lovely room G 108. The NJ AHPERD was kind enough to lend us the Revo Labs UC 1500Revo Labs UC 1500. This allowed us to mic the room up so we had people from Texas, Las Vegas, Qatar, and Arizona join us via audio and video.

The first session held in the room was Social Justice. The conversations were amazing. We were able to honestly speak about race in an environment that was supportive and encouraging. I personally enjoyed the discussion when someone says they don’t see race. The gold nugget from this session was when Cory Radisch stated that some teachers are punishing their students for their disabilities. I was a tad upset that we did not utilize an LGBTQIA expert in the room or address intersectionality. I would highly encourage everyone to watch or listen to the session here. The session notes are also attached at the bottom of the video.

The second session was all about Tech Tools. This was a cool session because it was more like a demo slam. Everyone in the room was able to talk about any tech tools they wanted. There were definitely some experts in the room who chimed in a lot but that was needed because others in the room were there to hear about some of the newest tools available. I would highly recommend you check out the session notes or watch the video by clicking here.

The third session titled Social Emotional Learning was facilitated by @Bond007Laura (Laura Bond). We talked all about the whole child and also how we sometimes forget the teacher needs to take care of themselves as well. Lavonna Roth’s new Ignite Your Shine lessons were being lauded to the room. I would recommend checking out the notes and either watching or listening to the session by clicking here

The final session was run by Josue Falaise. The session was all about PLC’s. What I found interesting is how well Josue was able to handle the room. There were a ton of people there but not many knew or wanted to talk about PLC’s he had to do most of the heavy lifting during the conversation. He was able to answer questions and give everyone an idea of what PLC’s should look like. My gold nuggets from this session were the idea that PLC’s should revolve around solving a problem and that there need to be norms created and followed. Brian Costello told a hilarious story about how everyone has yarn balls and if the meeting starts to go sideways they have a quick indoor snowball fight than they get back on track. Check out his session here.

As always I have a list of grows and glows for the (un)conference.

Glow: Bibiana Prada @bookgirl614 ran a great EdCamp 101 three times before session 1.

Glow: New Brunswick High School. The internet was awesome and so was the facility and parking.

Glow and Groan: The prizes were numerous. There was a line at the end to receive them that held a lot of people up.

Grow: There was no real ending to the day.

Glow: Dan Borghoff and Meredith Martin doing their maker thing.

Glow: The diversity of the crowd.

Overall the day was a huge success for the participants. I only heard great things about the day and really felt like educators were able to learn about a variety of subjects. If you attended I would love to hear your thoughts!!


Sherri Spelic recently wrote this blog post about whiteboards. I agree with her that projectors and whiteboards are fantastic tools that are essential in the gym

stock-photo-empty-whiteboard-magnetic-board-isolated-on-white-208699177or the classroom. I use mine and find it an awesome teaching tool.

I would like to talk about the other whiteboards though. The ones that look like the image on the left. These whiteboards are quickly becoming one of my favorite forms of assessments.

My parents are always complaining that I use too much technology in my class. I poll my students often for feedback and they universally agreed this was true. The turning point for me was that the students said they would rather use paper and pencil for their reflections than using their Chromebooks. Using their feedback to change my teaching practice forced me to figure out new ways to have them reflect without technology. Hence the personal whiteboards.

My students will be given multiple tasks to do in class. One of them is to grab the whiteboard and answer some sort of reflection question. They write their name on the bottom and put the whiteboards on the side of the gym. I then take a picture of each whiteboard and upload it to their Seesaw account. This allows me to have evidence of their learning as well as continuing to inform their guardians about what we are learning in class. This has cut down on the amount of time that students are on technology during my class.

A fourth-grade teacher commented on how he liked this idea and gave me some information about evidence and elaboration stems. I created these two posters and display them using my projector.

Evidence Stems Elaboration Stems.jpg









As with everything else in my teaching. I will continue to tweak this and use the feedback from my students to improve their experience in my class. If you do anything similar please share with me on Facebook or Twitter!

Social Justice “Miseducation” In Our Schools

This blog post is a response to the article Social Justice Miseducation In Our Schools written by J. Martin Rochester who is a professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Mr. Rochester starts out his article by stating:

As I wrote in my book, Class Warfare “there has always been the temptation to use schools for purposes other than schooling, for proselytizing and other ends, since children are the ultimate captive audience.”

I would argue that not only has there been the temptation it has occurred since the inception of schools. We have taught our students a false narrative about Christopher Columbus, Thanksgiving, the Civil War, patriotism, and a multitude of other subjects. We haven’t just “stuck to the facts” because history has always been told through the eyes of the victors. The facts we use to teach are biased.

Mr. Rochester goes on to state:

First, schools should mainly stick to what they are uniquely entrusted to do—teaching math, physics, English, and other subject matter and, beyond that, a love of learning. Schools should not aspire to be churches or social work agencies. In an already overcrowded school day in which our schools struggle to find the time to get students to become proficient in “the three R’s,” social justice training can be a huge distraction.

Schools are not entrusted to just teach the cognitive piece of the child nor should they be. One of the aims of schools is to produce well-rounded citizens. To ignore the affective part of the child is a mistake that far too many teachers and administrators have made. It is one of the main reasons that students hate school and don’t identify with the material that is provided for them. This idea of just the facts is why testing is out of control right now.

In addition to the social and emotional part of the child, we return to that same pesky idea that what is being taught in schools now is already highly biased toward the white majority of the country. Why else do we have arguments that the Civil War was fought over state’s rights or ignore how the War on Drugs was really a war on urban youth? The idea that teachers need to stay in their lane is how we continue to hide the troubled history of our country.

J. Martin Rochester believes, “It is sheer hubris for teachers to bring their own personal political agenda into the classroom. What happened to free inquiry?” He goes on to state that he brings in a broad range of views from right to left in his class. Teaching facts is not a political agenda. Teaching our students that the indigenous people of our country were murdered time and time again breaking numerous treaties and agreements is not a political agenda any more than stating 2 plus 2 equals 4. In a world of “alternative facts” (lies) we can no longer allow school systems to lie to our students. This is not a right or left issue. It’s a lie vs truth issue. We need to stop lying to our students.

I am all about the students finding their own path toward truth but only providing the whitewashed information that our public schools currently do is a travesty of education for our Students of Color.

Here is where things get really interesting.

Educators for Social Justice talk a lot about diversity, but do they promote the most important type of diversity—diversity of ideas? Contrary to their claim that they celebrate “disagreement,” they seem to promote only a politically correct, left-leaning perspective. What are the chances they would have their students read analyses about poverty and race written by conservative writers such as Charles Murray (Coming Apart), Thomas Sowell (Wealth, Poverty, and Politics), and Walter Williams (Race and Economics) or—relating to the Stockley verdict and policing—the scholarly work of Heather MacDonald (The War on Cops), which shows “systemic police brutality” to be a false narrative?

I agree with the author here. We should always present multiple sides to an argument. This is where critical thinking has to be taught.  Students need to see what the counter-arguments to their thoughts are. Some may have validity others may not. Either way, you need to know all the facts before you make up your mind. Right now the facts presented to us are not diverse nor do they encourage critically viewing the actions of our country in the past.

This brings up the point of how we present all the sides of a discussion now in schools. The author must think we do this well because he writes this:

Educators for Social Justice are disingenuous in posing as facilitators of student-centered learning, when as teachers they have largely foreclosed the discussion or at least steered it toward a preferred outcome.

Right now I can say that 99% of teachers are doing this on the opposite end of the spectrum. How many teachers will be talking about what really happened during Thanksgiving and what happened directly after it? Where is the talk about institutional racism? We talk about the Civil War and Jim Crow laws and act like everything post-1954 was all good. These discussions aren’t being had in our classes. We have sanitized Dr. King’s work. Do we ever mention how he stated this:

“Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena,” he told the assembled crowd of mostly white doctors and academics. “They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking.” (link)

That is steering our student’s learning towards a preferred outcome.

Mr. Rochester finished his article up with the most asinine argument ever:

I would argue that, if you want to teach social justice, it should be taught not only through reading about poverty in America but also by modeling it first-hand—say, penalizing students who do not complete their homework. Aside from teaching individual responsibility, this gets classmates to understand the concept of fairness, treating all students with the same expectations rather than privileging some by cutting them slack.

How many issues are wrong with that above statement? Social justice is not simply about poverty it is, “…justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”. (link) Secondly, equality is not the same as equity so to bring up the idea of punishing students for homework equally as a way to model social justice is a horrible idea.

We have to do a better job of really understanding what our country is and is not. Our country provides massive opportunities to some but not all. Our history is one of domination and colonialism. We need to be honest with ourselves and our students. This is not about brainwashing a captive audience. It is about teaching what really happened in our order for our country to grow and flourish. It is time that we acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. We have become one of the greatest countries by exploiting groups of people. This has been done through slavery, colonialism, and systemic racism. That is what our students need to understand so we don’t repeat the same mistakes now and in the future.

In conclusion, this article reeks of privilege and elitism. When I take a look at my social media timeline it is striking how many white men cherry pick the one salient point about diversity of ideas and skip the 99% of the refuse that is the rest of this article while the Educators of Color I am connected to all feel that this article was heinous and privileged. Which side of the argument do you fall on?