Monthly Archives: November 2018

This week was filled with multiple conversations about intersectionality on Twitter, Voxer, and at dining room tables. For those of you who are tired of reading my writings about this subject, your perusing journey is over. Click the X on the top right of the browser because guess what I am going to talk about again? Yep. Race. 

Before I go on I would like to address why I keep writing and talking about how race. Everywhere I look I see race impacting our country. The elections in Georgia and Florida showcased just how important race is in our electoral process. The number of People of Color who had their votes suppressed in the last election was ridiculous and without a doubt swayed the elections in favor of the party who did partook in the suppression.

In the past two weeks, two different black men were shot by police when they were not the shooters the police were called in to respond to. This is a trend we see again and again. This is the exact reason why #BlackLivesMatter was started and why Kaepernick doesn’t have a job! Race impacts every aspect of our lives in America and not learning about it and naming white supremacy when we see it can not continue to happen.

Speaking of Kaepernick, this was one of the conversations I had during the Thanksgiving festivities. “I can’t support Nike because they support Kaepernick and in some countries, he would get shot” is how the conversation started.  After informing the person that Nike is playing both sides as evidenced in this article,  I explained how Kaepernick is fighting because black people are getting killed here for no reason other than their skin. The exact problem that they alluded to in other countries!

Another conversation that occurred was about good ole Paula Deen. This was a much more nuanced conversation about how long ago did she say her comments and had she acknowledged the harm she had caused and tried to repair it. The conversation started because of butter (her favorite) and one of the guests wondered aloud how her restaurants were doing.  Before I could censor myself I blurted out, “She’s probably raking in the dough! did you see what happened during the election in Georgia?” The conversation went well with the points being brought up that what we have said and thought 20 and 30 years ago has drastically changed. The key is to own up to our harm and continuously work to better ourselves as people.

A conversation I had on Twitter revolved around my blanket statement that if you celebrated Thanksgiving you were also celebrating the annihilation of the Indigenous People of America. After much debate and reading the writings of Indigenous People that celebrate Thanksgiving I have moved my position to a much more knowledgable stance. Celebrating Thanksgiving is fantastic in my opinion as long as we explicitly talk about how the Pilgrims murdered and stole the land of Indigenous People as well as support them today.  Here is a great article that explains how we can support Indigenous People.  This line of thinking is the same when we talk about playing Thanksgiving games in #PhysEd. It’s great to play the games just make sure that we are explaining what happened after the feast. If not then we become part of the whitewashing of history and continue to be the problem.

I am sure that many of you had similar conversations. Some people may have spoken up while others remain silent. At this point in my life, I am no longer able to stay silent. The key to me is speaking from a place of knowledge. We can not have conversations about race and politics if we do not know the history behind the subjects. 

Finally, I would like to talk about room for giving grace. When we speak about ways to teach children, different units to incorporate into our schools, or the way to bring student voice and choice to the forefront I am all about grace and open-mindedness.  When the conversation turns to ignoring intersectionality (which includes race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and gender plus more) I have no room for grace. This is because to disregard these subjects is to continue the system of white supremacy that runs our schools. This does not mean that I will not engage in conversations about it I just have no room for debate because we are talking about students who are being harmed. This leaves us no room to “debate” these topics. We are either anti-white supremacy or we perpetuate it. There is no in between.  I will tell you my thoughts as respectfully as I can. You can either choose to listen or ignore it. Do not expect me to change my mind though because again we are talking about students being put in harm’s way. 

My learning journey has taken me to this place. This is a result of reading a boatload of books, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, and listening to People of Color whose jobs are to write and teach about Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. My thoughts today will not be the same as my thoughts next year or in ten years. I will probably look back in ten years and shake my head at my ignorance at 35 just like I am looking back and shaking my head at my ignorance when I was 25. The more I learn the more I will change my views.

If you made it this far in the blog I thank you for your time after all this is the most important resource we have. I am growing and hopefully, you are as well. Please respond if you feel the want or need. Comments are always welcome!



Advertisements

EdCampNJ 2018

 
On Saturday I went to EdCampNj in New Brunswick. This was the first time in a long time that I went solely as a participant. I didn’t facilitate nor do anything to assist the conference. I went just to learn and hang out with my people. What a glorious feeling it was! There were no pressures and I didn’t have to get there at 7 in the morning!

When I rolled up I saw Jen Duda. It is always a pleasure to catch up with her and find out how Mercer County Special Services is operating. I milled around for a bit saying hello to Stacey Lindes who is always a delight to speak with. Her bright smile and enthusiasm always has me walking away feeling better about life. For me seeing my #PLF (Personal Learning Family thanks to Sarah Thomas for coining that) is what keeps me coming back for more.

The first session I attended was called Restorative Practices and Justice. It was masterfully facilitated by Josue Failaise. Josue works as a provider of PD & executive level training through the combined efforts of Rutgers University, PreK-12 districts, and their professional partners. The session rocked for two main reasons. The first idea Josue made clear was the difference between equity and equality. I left understanding with a better understanding that equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.

The second part that Josue made clear was the difference between Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices. As I understand it Restorative Justice is an alternative to using punishment to manage misbehavior and is embedded in the policies of the district. The Restorative Practices are how we go about implementing Restorative Justice in the classroom. It is about building community, addressing and repairing the harm, and giving kids the opportunities to share their authentic selves. Check out the session notes here!

The next session I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius and titled Most PD is Meaningless – Lets Change That. Mike is a Unionist, Designer of PD, Organizer of Action, Host of Conversations, Rouser of Rabble, and Co-Founder of the Edcamp Foundation & Movement. Yes, he co-founded the original EDCAMP! #legend Mike’s session is all about identifying the various ways to deliver and participate in professional development. I won’t summarize his session because it is too complex to talk about quickly in a blog. I would highly recommend you follow him on Twitter and take a look at the session notes here.

The third session I did the classic EdCamp split. The idea behind the rule of two feet is that sometimes there are various sessions you want to see. The solution is simple. Go to both! The first session was Student Led Conferences & Digital Portfolios hosted by Lisa Capote @capote_lisa, and Crystal Favours crystal_favours@nbpsnj.net. I loved learning about how the students ran the conferences and the Google sites were a showcase where the students could show evidence of their authentic learning. Check out how to set up the Google sites and more in their session notes here.

The other session I went into late was Wellness Edu: Making Teachers Comfortable facilitated by James Overton (@coach_overton). The session focused on various ways that teachers can keep their candle burning bright throughout the year. The one gold nugget I took away from the session is that you can do a step contest limiting the time to only during the school day! This forces the teachers to move during the day. What a brilliant idea. Check out more from their session here.

The final session was the greatest session of the day. It was a continuation of an earlier session called Courageous Conversations part 2. It was facilitated by three brilliant ladies Dr. E. Mamman: @noyiMic, Nadine Sanchez @nay_sanch, and Aquaus Kelly @aquaus. The room was packed! The talking points revolved around the idea of the four agreements. I first heard about the Four Agreements from Andy Milne (@carmelhealth). 

The Four Agreements are:

1. Stay engaged​: Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally,
intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue”.

2. Experience discomfort​: This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable,
especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to
bring issues into the open. It is not talking about these issues that create
divisiveness. The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools. It
is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.

3. Speak your truth​: This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not
just saying what you think others want to hear.

4. Expect and accept non­closure​: This agreement asks participants to “hang out
in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial
understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue.

The discussions were rich. The people in the room spoke their truth. One white participant honestly stated that she censors herself sometimes when she knows someone is related to a police officer. (she knew that was wrong) That started an interesting conversation.

It is hard for me as a white male to figure out my space in these conversations. I am doing the work so I feel confident in my ability to have the conversations but I don’t want to overstep my bounds. Honestly, we hear enough from white males everywhere else and I don’t want to be the one who takes over the room.

I heard a couple of ideas that I wanted to push back on but couldn’t. One was the idea that white people can’t lead this conversation. White people have to be leading this while simultaneously paying People of Color for their work, specifically Black women, for their work. This is why I buy books written by Black women and give money when links are posted online to Patreons or Paypal accounts.

Another idea that made me want to push back was when a white woman talked about how she struggled and we don’t know what people are going through in their personal lives. While this is true centering your life as a white woman in a conversation about race seemed to derail and missed the point.

I do not quite know how to navigate these situations just yet. Where is my place in this conversation? Do I push back? Do I let the facilitators take care of what I see as an issue? Are they issues at all? So many questions and so little answers.

Regardless of the minor issues I saw, the conversation was fantastic. I left the room believing that change is happening. The ripples are spreading.

I will leave you with my final glows and grows from the conference:

Glow: New Brunswick High School is an amazing facility.

Grow: The internet blocked most sites that people attempted to get on. Open the networks up so we can access any site.

Glow: Seeing Fade’  and Shivan. These two gentlemen are great people. I love seeing them and learning from them. They are two people who make me leave my house and attend conferences.

Grow: We have never had to pay for food before at EdCampNJ. Can the food be sponsored by NJEA or New Brunswick PTA?

Glow: So many People of Color.

Glow: New Jersey Educators are fantastic. They show up in droves and make events like these so successful.

 

NJEA 2018

This week I went to the NJEA convention in Atlantic City. The entire state is given two days off to go to this free convention for members. (I know that means it’s not free) I love how the entire state is given the opportunity to attend. Professional development is the only way that we can improve in this profession.

The first session I presented was entitled Move to Learn. Chris Baccarella has presented with me for the past two years. This year we decided to create content for the classroom teachers. One of the really cool lesson ideas I created using EdPuzzle was a lesson on waves. If you are interested, check out this video here.

What always jazzes me up about teaching with and through movement is the excitement of the teachers as the dots start to connect. They see how easily it is to take the concept that we are showing them and put their content into it. There is nothing better than feeling that you are positively impacting students even if you don’t have direct contact with them.

The second session I presented on was on Social Justice in the Classroom. The session didn’t go as planned. I started the session asking what is the purpose of education. I was hoping the participants would come up with something similar to creating better citizens. This would be the opening to highlight how social justice is a must in schools if the goal is to create better citizens. One gentleman said it was to teach traditional family values. This was the beginning of the session and I wasn’t really settled, to begin with. After I put my eyes back into my head I asked the gentleman to explain further. His answer was something vague about how things were in the 80’s. I asked him to name them but he wasn’t able to come up with specifics.

The conversation with this gentlemen quickly turned to what if we had a difference of opinion. I told the man that if his opinion wasn’t harming others I would be open to his point of view. Brian Costello told me a while ago that I make lines in the sand. This is so true! I have definite opinions about almost everything; however, if you give me new evidence or facts that I was unaware of I will most definitely change my mind. The conversation was overall pleasant but I worried that it was only going to get worse once I started delving into the real stuff I would hear some more dog whistles from this man throughout the session.

I did not hear another peep from the man until he asked me if race was subjective. I replied yes and explained how the actual meaning of being white has changed over the years. This led to a fantastic discussion about colorism. A gentlemen of Columbian descent explained how the lighter your skin the better you were treated in various racial groups. It was really cool for me to sit back and listen to people who have lived and traveled all over the world explain just how colorism works in other countries and communities.

The session finished really well and I feel like that the people in the room left with a couple of ways to incorporate social justice into their class.

I leave the conference with a renewed hope that teachers are always improving.

 

The Holiday Spirit is LOVE

This weekend marked another funeral attendance of a relative that I needed to mark down in my journey through life book. I am fully an adult now and I don’t really like it. Funerals seem more often than weddings and births. Death is always lingering near us and funerals force the curtain that separates us to turn translucent. We can not hide behind food, exercise, alcohol, movies or any other distraction of choice at a funeral. Especially not a funeral where the body is absent of spirit and is displayed openly in a bed of cloth and wood. Death is literally staring us in the face.

I look around the room and remember for the billionth time just how fleeting life is. Cousins who were young now look old and the people who I thought were old as a young man now look ancient. This reaffirms to me again how I need to concentrate on the moment. I attempt to find joy and growth in whatever situation I am afforded.

During the sermon, the pastor spoke about a theme that keeps popping up across every spectrum of learning I am engaged in. In his eulogy, he spoke about how the basics of Christianity can be boiled down to one simple theme. Love. If you boil it all down to one simple idea it comes down to love. Now Uncle Tom, who was the deceased family member I spoke of above, was the epitome of love. You couldn’t be in his midst for more than two minutes before you felt the love emanating from his being. He made you feel welcome and was the kind of man that you wanted to be around. There are not many people in the world who radiate love.

It is with his death fresh in my mind that I write about two different acts of love that I would like bring to your awareness. The first act of love is the kind of selfless act that we do because we want to make life better for other people. This involves buying a gift for children that attend a school that can’t provide what they need. These students are not mine and the teacher is anonymously dispersing them out in their school district. A lot of teachers that read my blog are Physical Education and Health teachers. You will see listed balls and puzzles. We know that kids need to play and be physically active. Whatever your occupation these children need us to help provide them the opportunity to interact and love each other. Please help these children by clicking on this link and spreading your good fortune with others. When you click on the shipping address choose the gift registry address that is listed. It is a small gesture for us with a huge impact for them.

Once again Andy Milne (@carmelhealth) has created the #SlowChatGiftX. This is an international gift exchange with educators from all over the world! All you have to do is sign up here. Fill out the Google Form and you will be a part of the largest secret holiday gift exchange in the world! Love shows itself when we connect with other people. The very idea that we acknowledge each other’s existence when we enter the same time and space is a form of love. This idea that we can connect over a gift with someone from halfway across the United States or the world is fantastic. The coolest part of this besides giving someone something that can positively impact their world is that you have no idea where your gift is coming from. Go check out the hashtag from last year it is so cool to read through and see what thoughtful gifts people gave.

As election day approaches and we choose who to vote for remember the idea of love. Use your choice and voice to vote for the candidate that will work to create a more just society for everyone, even those that don’t look and act like us. Vote with love.