Monthly Archives: November 2019

Duke

There is a #DecadeChallenge going around the interwebs that asks you to reflect on the last ten years and give a quick recap of what you have accomplished. The responses on the thread are amazing. People have gotten doctorates, created their own companies, and done things that make me feel like I am on the Average Joe’s dodgeball team.

Today I finally understood what my #DecadeChallenge was.

Today was the fifth time I cried this decade. Today I put my second dog down in the last three months. We got my first dog when we got married. Sasha was her name and she came from a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was a protector and smart as a whip. Both my wife and I work so I felt bad leaving Sasha by herself. The only sensible answer was to get another dog right?

Duke came from a breeder in Missouri. He was a long-haired German Shepherd and Belgian Tervueren. We picked him up at the airport and immediately fell in love. He was a prince of a dog. We brought him home and he immediately became part of our family. He was a gentle soul. My kids would climb on him, use him as a pillow, put sunglasses on him, and he would bask in their attention. I never worried about him. He was the greatest friend a man, a dad, or a kid could ask for.

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Duke has been getting sicker and sicker over the past few months. Today he couldn’t get up. It was time. I never thought about this day when I got my dogs. I was naive and young. I know better now. This day sucks.

Driving to the animal hospital I was filled with regrets. I didn’t play with him enough, walk him enough, show him enough love. There was no music in the car. Just the heavy silence of melancholy and the infinite sadness.

Walking into the clinic I was filled with dread. We filled out the paperwork and get called to enter the final room Duke would take a breath in. The walk down the corridor seemed endless. We finally arrive and the nurses and doctors come in and out asking questions and preparing us for the final moment of Duke’s life.

The time comes and the medicine flows through his veins. I put my head on his. Tell him I love him. Willing his last visions to be of my face. The last smells of my skin. The last touches of my hands on his face.

He is gone. The tears flow down my face. My heart breaks, reforms, and breaks again.

He was a dog. Yet he was a part of the family. A friend. A child’s playmate. An owner’s emotional support. The type of animal that made you feel that you were loved and appreciated. The unconditional love that only a dog can give you.

Life continues. The feelings of melancholy will slowly dissipate. Until then we just cry and remember. I love you Duke.

 

 

I’m an Ally Not a Co-Conspirator

We all want to be “good” people. We want to be down with the cause. Yet most of us do nothing more than puff our chest out online and make minor changes to our lives. This blog was on my mind all day and then I read Pran Patel‘s blog so I knew it was time to race to my computer and clickety-clack away until some sort of written thought tornado was transferred from my brain to the screen in front of me. If you are reading this then you definitely should go check out his work. His blogs are about Leadership, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Decolonisation of the Curriculum.

In Pran’s blog, he uses the term “allyship”.  According to his definition:

The whole point of allyship is to redress the balance, to use that proverbial unearned money to:

  1. To amplify the voices of the silenced (oppressed).
  2. To use my systemic privilege to support those without privilege.
  3. To give up the systemic privileges which we did not earn and use them to do the above.

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I feel like I do this well. I amplify the voices of the silenced, use my privilege to support those with less, and attempt to share my systemic privileges which I did not earn (white male). To be honest this isn’t that hard. Once you realize the overrepresentation of white males in all education areas you know something has to change. Recognizing that being an ally is needed is the hard part. Allyship is the easy part.

The problem is being an ally is relatively easy and does not take a lot of energy nor exposure to harm in order to achieve. While it is a great first step it is the bare minimum that we (non-oppressed people) can and should be doing. It simply means we redirect focus elsewhere, take up less space, and amplify others. Is that enough though?

In the article titled Ally or co-conspirator?: What it means to act #InSolidarity posted on the Move to End Violence website we find out just what the problem is. They state, “… many activists now bristle at the word “ally” and how people have used it to claim that they are supportive of a cause or community without having to actually engage in meaningful action or build meaningful relationships.” This idea that all we have to do is retweet Black women or like a post about a social justice conference isn’t actually doing anything. It is simply a keystroke that does amplify but requires little to nothing from me.

Ernest Owens penned an article in Philly Mag that explicitly lays out why being an ally is not good enough.

1. Allyship arises from and perpetuates a self-deluding savior mentality.

2. Allyship sees conditions to supporting the marginalized where there are none.

3. Allyship validates the ally and not the marginalized.

4) Allyship treats advocacy as a transaction rather than a moral obligation.

5) Allyship and being in solidarity are two separate things — and it’s the latter you should strive for.

The idea of being a “coconspirator” goes beyond simply being an ally. In the Move to End Violence article, we can see clearly why being a coconspirator is so important.

“Co-conspiracy is about what we do in action, not just in language,” says Garza, “It is about moving through guilt and shame and recognizing that we did not create none of this stuff. And so what we are taking responsibility for is the power that we hold to transform our conditions.”

Coconspirators are doing something. Something that oppressed people tell them that is needed. They listen to those they are trying to serve and decenter themselves in the process. They put themselves in harm’s way. They give up something while gaining only the knowledge that they are working toward the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

At the end of the day, I go home to my suburban house, in my white neighborhood to my family. I easily slide back into my power and privilege without even noticing that I have. I am working towards self-actualization which looks very much like being a  coconspirator. Right now I am simply an ally.

 

Eat Your Vegetables Children

Last week we started a new unit that I had never tried before. I am sure that somewhere someone has been doing this and I have stolen it from them. To that person, I apologize.

I introduced this game on the basketball court. The court was divided into thirds. On each third, there were four students. On the first third the blue team was on offense and the shirts were on defense. In the middle third, both teams were receiving the ball and progressing it to their offensive players. On the final third the shirts were offense and the blue team was the defense. There were two basketballs in play at one time. If the ball went out of bounds or a basket was made the defense in that third retrieved the ball and used the rules of basketball to progress it to the middle zone.

The defense could steal a pass or a dribble but couldn’t take the ball out of the opposing team’s hands. The rest of the rules of basketball were loosely adhered to.

This blog is not about the game though. (Although you def should play it!) The students didn’t want to play the game at first. I heard the classic, “why we can’t we just play basketball?” In which my response always is that they should sign up for a league and play there. It is a beautiful reminder that this is not a sports class. (nor is it a fitness class)

Some students hated basketball and experienced trepidation going into the game. The beauty of this particular game is that I split the groups up so that the person guarding them was close to their ability level. They had as fair of a matchup as I could possibly make it. The small-sided approach guaranteed they would get the ball and that they would have numerous chances to shoot the ball unaccosted.

I love basketball because it is a game where there is a lot of success. The ball goes in the hoop a lot. This makes the students feel good. That reward and the hit of dopamine released when the ball goes in does wonders for students who don’t always experience sports success.

The kids looooved the game! Once everything was rolling on both courts I was able to give tons of feedback as I vacillated between groups.

I am always pushing for student-centered games with student voice and choice that I sometimes forget that I am still the most experienced person in my class. I have taught thousands of students and can almost forecast the successes and failures that will occur. I am not discounting what the students think and want to do; however, sometimes they just have to do things that they may not want to because at the end of the day we as educators have a duty to guide them. This means we have to make some decisions they won’t like. Like I tell my own kids when they don’t want to eat their vegetables. “You don’t have to like it you just have to do it.”

I am not advocating for a dictatorship where it’s my way or the high way. The opposite of this is true as well though. The students don’t always know what is best either. While I place little stock in degrees and certfications I do place a high value on experience. Too often we as teachers don’t give ourselves enough credit for the knowledge that we have amassed over the years.

The education trends come and go. People with two years of experience are keynoting education conferences and have written manuals on how to teach. It’s time we started trusting ourselves again. As Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stated, “The more you are blessed with experience, the fuller and the more enriched you are in your craft.”