Monthly Archives: February 2020


It’s been a while since I have written a conference reflection piece. It’s time for #njahperd20 day one to be reflected upon.

Glow: The keynote to the conference was Michelle Carter and Yasmeen Taji-Farouki. Together they shared their stories growing up Puerto Rican and Muslim in America. Their stories made you want to cry. They were vulnerable and authentic. The crowd was introduced to privilege in a way that wasn’t attacking or dismissive. They talked about privilege being, “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” We all have various privileges and most have identities of marginalization. The idea is how do we use the privilege that we have to help our students and how do we shine the light on the marginalization that our students are having imposed on them.

Glow: Health Moves Minds. This is the future of SHAPE America and NJ AHPERD. Not only does it teach SEL it will also be lifeblood to sustainability. Check it out and get signed up.

Glow: Dr. Irene Cucina’s session on consent. Consent is more than tea. It is more than physical touch. One newer idea that was presented was about enthusiastic consent. This is where all parties are willing participants in whatever endeavor they choose. One ironic part of the session is that most students don’t willingly consent to be in our classes. How do we address that while still giving the students the autonomy to have some control over their lives?

Glow: Beyond the Binary: Understanding Gender Identity. Dan Rice took us through a basic vocabulary of sexual and gender identity. The gender unicorn was a really cool resource.

Grow: Communication Skills for Middle/High School students. The session was decent but I need more activities. Show me multiple ideas about what we can do.

Grow: NJ standards are changing. They are being paired down from 6 to 3. Naturally, that means a lot of what is being taught under the standards will disappear. Listen I have to be honest. The newly provided standards need a lot of work. Identity has been completely stripped out of the standards. We have moved away from an abstinence-plus program to a program where drugs and alcohol will give you STI’s. Pregnancy is talked about only once and there is no mention of abortion of other pregnancy prevention methods. The new NJ standards are HOT GARBAGE! Linda P. Eno, assistant commissioner, said to me that the state is not looking to roll back the sexed standards and this was an oversight that will be fixed. I have to be honest. If you do not speak up and email our state will have one of the least progressive curriculums in the union. You need to look at these standards and speak up!! You can find the new standards here. Again our most vulnerable students will be ignored and our sex education will be almost nonexistent. Speak up, people!!! This is an attack on our children!

Glow: The backyard bbq was amazing! The band and the food rocked.

Glow: Literally the bonfire glowed! What a fun time to hang out and connect with our peers.

Day one in the books.


The Art of Connecting

I have come to the conclusion that the content I teach has less value than the manner in which I teach it. 

We hear how important relationships are yet we rarely hear how to create and improve relationships. Sure, we have all seen the video of the teacher doing the high fives handshakes and hugs at the door. If that was all it took every teacher would be a master in relationships.

The first thing I do is I specifically go out of my way, say hello, smile, and check-in with my Black and Brown students. I do this because I know I have bias (white guy) and I want to establish multiple positive interactions before there are any negative interactions. This also forces me to create positive associations with the students in my own head. I am basically making sure that I am not allowing my internalized racism to go unchecked.

Another tool I have in the old belt I use is to circle the class up and ask the students to share with me. This opening allows both them and me to talk about our lives and to see each other outside the student and teacher power dynamic.

Learn the students’ names and use them when I pass them in the hall. Smile at them as well.

Give the students room to be kids. Kids are going to talk. They are going to laugh and fool around. People want to talk and fool around. Check out your faculty meetings and see how many are sitting there talking when they should be listening. There is a fine line between high expectations for behavior and unrealistic ones.

Check-in with students when you feel there has been a negative interaction between you and them in class. This can be done after the class or before the next class. Either way, ask some questions. My newest one is, “I feel like there was some resistance when we spoke about…..” This gives them the opportunity to give you their point of view about what happened.

Talk about the tough topics. People, (kids are people too) will respect you more when you aren’t scared to talk real to them. When a subject comes up spontaneously go with it. If you don’t know anything about it tell them you are ignorant about it.

Here is the toughest one. Find something to like about the student who challenges you the most. Everyone will tell you to not take things personally. That’s impossible to do in my opinion. What is possible is to force yourself to find positives about the student. The next class keep repeating that positive to yourself. Another trick is to thank them for coming to your class.

Play music. All types of music. Sing badly.

Make bad dad jokes.

Final Advice: Liking the kids you teach is a good start. Being reactive to their wants and needs is necessary as well.

Minimize the harm you do. Maximize the joy you bring to the class. Celebrate the identities of those that are in the room with you.