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.