Author Archives: slowchatpe

Administration POV: How To Bring Social Justice into Your Curriculum

Doing something outside the “safe zone” is always difficult. I am lucky enough to work for an administrator named Craig Vaughn who not only believes in social justice he supports it with his authority and power. I am able to teach about intersectionality in large part because of his support. A lot of teachers are starting their own journey into how they can #DisruptTexts, #TakeaKnee in math, or #ClearTheAir of their school’s culture and climate. Mr. Vaughn was gracious enough to write how from an administrator’s view you should go about bringing social justice into your school and class.
If you’re trying to bring a new program to your school, regardless of the needs it may serve (educational, physical, social-emotional), be prepared to back up your idea with evidence or projections on how it will benefit the students.  Ultimately, you’ll want to tie this to student performance because, like it or not, that’s how administrators are judged.
For social justice, it’s an easy connection to school safety for which there is myriad research suggesting students perform better when they feel safe.  Beyond the connection to safety, you’ll obviously need to ensure any social justice program is aligned with standards as this will be your administrator’s safety net when parents or guardians feel that you (the teacher) are pushing personal beliefs on their children (even though we both know you’re not, and so do the kids).
Armed with information on how your social justice initiative will be a positive impact on the learning environment and help improve student academic performance, along with a clear connection to the standards of your state, you’ll be prepared to make a final and crucially important step towards getting your program in place: appealing to your administrator’s ego.  For this, you’ll need to understand just what type of ego your administrator works with; is he or she the type that likes to remind everyone who is in charge or is your administrator comfortable sharing or even side-stepping the spotlight (with the former’s ego being much easier to stroke than the latter).  This will be important to know from the outset, as you may need to be comfortable doing the work while an administrator takes an unfair share of the credit (but you’ll do it anyway because if you’re looking to implement social justice, having your own ego massaged is the least of your concerns).  I don’t say this to be critical of school leaders, but rather to help you understand that every building principal has to report to a superintendent who has to report to a Board of Education who have to report to their community constituents….and they all want to look good.
The biggest challenge to implementation will be to ensure they understand how social justice will benefit all students, cause minimal disruption (sad but true), and promote the excellence of your school and/or district.  Take a look at your school’s mission statement and you’ll most likely find verbiage that closely resembles the spirit of social justice.  Mission statements are usually top-down, with the Board playing a significant role in their development.  If you can make that connection, your path to implementation will be much easier.  You want to bring social justice to your school because you see the world these students will inherit and you know equality, unless change is made, will not exist for many.  You want to bring social justice to your school because you see the imbalance of power and you want to make the scales just.  Hopefully, these tips will help as you set about to do this good work for your students.
A huge shout out to Mr. Vaughn for taking the time to lend an administrators perspective to a very important goal of bringing social justice into the classroom!


Today was the first of hopefully many #Rewire conferences held at Tabernacle Middle School in NJ. This felt like an EdCamp on steroids. I saw a boatload of local educators who I truly respect and feed off of their energy and love. That idea can’t be accentuated enough. Local educational leaders who are passionate and innovative breaking bread benefits all of New Jersey. This conference felt like South Jersey had sent out an educator beacon call and everyone came running. I caught up with old friends, met some new ones, and strengthened relationships throughout the day. We speak about how important relationships are with students yet we rarely speak about how important it is to keep in touch with local educators outside our school districts.

The part that amazes me is that Barry Saide and Glenn Robbins were able to team up with On Course Systems and Nutri-Serve  to fly presenters in as well as get the food covered. The genius of this can not be understated. One small detail that I would like to highlight is that every presenter came for free! They gave up their time at no cost to the taxpayers or the conference. The conference was FREE! How many more barriers could Glenn and Barry remove for us?

There were too many fantastic sessions for me to choose from. The first session I attended was lead by Eric Russo. It was titled Learning to Ride: Supporting Rigor for All Students. In the presentation, we discussed the idea of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. This is nothing new nor groundbreaking but he did have feedback that had two columns. The one column said something akin to mastered the second column said not yet.

That gentle switch of phrasing made me think of a blog that Andy Milne just published today about how a simple change of phrasing can have a huge impact. Check out this part of Andy’s Blog:

A second study was created was created in which three groups of women were created and told to set a health and wellness goal. When faced with the temptation to break their goal one group was told to  “just say no”. A second group was told to say “I can’t”, while the third group were told to say “I don’t”. The results were impressive!

  • Group 1 had a success rate of 30% (just say no)
  • Group 2 had a success rate of 10% (I can’t)
  • Group 3 had a success rate of 80% (I don’t)

The theory behind this simple linguistic change is that when our students say “I can’t drink alcohol because it breaks academic code” they are reminding themselves that their behavior is being constrained. Effectively they are suggesting to themselves that they are being forced to do something.

When our students say “I don’t drink alcohol because it might affect my grades” they are reminding themselves that they are in control over the situation presented to them.

What is the impact when we use Eric’s idea and give feedback that says not yet instead of F or no or needs improvement? That subtle change could be huge. It is something worth looking into for sure.

My favorite session was given by Ira Socol and Pam Moran. I have followed Ira for years and knew I would learn a ton. I did not know Pam but it was clear from the beginning that she was no slouch in her own right. She came into the room and interacted with the crowd right away. She was instantly likable and obviously extroverted. Together they worked really well. Ira seemed like he may have a tendency to pontificate and Pam knew what needed to get done and how to reign him back in.  She was able to redirect him as well as provide fantastic content on her own.

Their session was titled Creating a Timeless Learning Culture. I loved how Ira and Pam were able to highlight some of the history of education and tie it to the present time. The idea of timeless learning is:

“…use progressive design principles to inform pathways to disrupt traditions of education today and show you how to make innovations real that will have a timeless and meaningful impact on students, keeping alive the natural curiosity and passion for learning with which children enter school.” link

My favorite activity was when we pretended to know nothing about earth or education and we had to describe what kids in a line looked like. Most of the students’ arms were behind their backs. They pushed us further and asked when as adults we were in lines and why? What would it look like if we got rid of lines? My favorite part is that there are some very useful reasons for lines. We don’t have to swing the pendulum fully! The thought activity did help you get ready to be critical of anything and everything in school. We need to be our own best and worst critics of education if we plan on making meaningful change.

Dr. Jamil Maroun. If you see this man talk to him. Enter his network because he is fire. The day was great but his talk had my soul jumping. Jamil starts off with his family story. his parents immigrated to America with $250 they borrowed from their friends and they struggled but were able to live. he spoke about how tight he was with his family and his 95-year-old “girlfriend”. So far I am engaged and want to see where his story goes.

As he talks about his journey and his goal he drops this bombshell. “He never saw a baby born with boots on.” And goes on to explain how no one succeeds without the help of others in their lives. Bootstrap theory debunked with one statement. This was the greatest statement of the day, of the month, of the year! I never saw a baby born with boots on. Mic drop he’s out right?

Nope. He then goes on to explain how as a country we are losing our humanity. He showed pictures of kids from war-torn countries covered in blood and dirt. It was hard to watch. It pales in comparison to what reality is for those kids though. Jamil is Lebanese and he had family members harmed during what I believe was the “2006 Lebanon War, also called the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War and known in Lebanon as the July War and in Israel as the Second Lebanon War”. link

I have just been learning more about Palestine and Isreal and realizing that as a country the United States is currently doing, and has done in the past, a lot of things that have harmed people that the average citizens know nothing about. We can’t continue to ignore the world that we are supposed to be bringing into our classrooms.

His final message was one of love for this country. It was clear that he loves America enough to want it to be better. He is proof that you can come to this country and succeed. It is possible but it takes a lot of people and some luck.

A agree with Jamil. Our humanity needs to be brought back. People are reduced to numbers. We cut medicare yet increase the military. We have no money for education yet give the banks millions. We have lost sight of the fact that people are being harmed by cuts to social programs and education. We need to get back to believing that we should be helping every person in this country not just the few and the elite.

I will finish with my favorite sections called Glows and Grows:

Glows: Nutri-serve and On Course Systems coming on board to help with cost!

Glows: The presenters were fantastic.

Glows: Tabernacle middle school was a great site.

Grow: The attendance was very passably white. I know every superintendent in Burlington County received information about this but there has to be a way of getting more teachers of color represented. I don’t know the answer but if you can run a conference on no money and you want this to happen there is no way Glenn and Barry can’t find a way.

Glow: The idea of Moonshot presenters being picked that day

Glow: The Imagineering room at Tabernacle!

Grow: Glenn’s suit. SMH

Glow: The conference. What an amazing event. And there is a whole other day tomorrow.


Brett Kavanaugh

Watching this Kavanaugh hearing through the lens of a health teacher is an educational experience. Where do we start? Let’s go with this statement right here:

Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college. link

If you don’t know Brett’s family background here is a quick update:

His mother was a history teacher at Woodson and McKinley high schools in Washington in the 1960s and 1970s. She earned her law degree from Washington College of Law in 1978 and served as a Maryland state Circuit Court judge from 1995 to 2001 in Montgomery County. His father was an attorney and served as the president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association for two decades. As a teenager he attended Georgetown Preparatory School. 

Even if we could give logic the night off and honestly believe that his parent’s connections did not get him into Yale we can not ignore the immeasurable resources he had available. He attended a top private high school and had two parents who were judges. When we look at this through the lens of intersectionality Brett came from a high socio-economic background and is a heterosexual cis-gender white male. While I don’t doubt he worked his butt off, but he was given every advantage in life that was possible. What would be more incredulous would be if he failed at retaining the power and wealth that his parents had amassed for their family.

The second interesting part comes from his Yearbook quotes. 1

When asked about the Devil’s Triangle he claimed it was, ” a drinking game with “three glasses in a triangle,” similar to Quarters. link Urban dictionary who has the real definitions to everything states that it is, “A threesome with 1 woman and 2 men. It is important to remember that straight men do not make eye contact while in the act. Doing so will question their sexuality.” link First let me be clear. If you want to engage in a threesome and everyone is cool with it do your thing. I don’t judge. The problematic part is that he couldn’t just come out and say what it was. Why was it shameful to be in a threesome with another guy and a woman? Speaking of shame what is up with the guys not being able to look each other in the eye because they will question their sexuality? You would have to go out of your way not to make eye contact. Where are the joy and pleasure if you can’t even look at the people you are engaging in the sex act with? Why engage in a sex act that isn’t enjoyable? Anyway, I digress.

You may ask how do I know that there is not a drinking game called Devil’s Triangle and that Kavanaugh is lying? The reason I can state that is THE GOOGLE SAYS SO! There is no reference to a drinking game called this. If it was real someone somewhere would have posted the rules for it. Shoot there is a drinking game posted called Blind Squirrel Drinking Game. Secondly, check out this receipt:

“…it’s also worth noting that the Twitter account Congressional Edits, a Twitter bot that monitors edits to Wikipedia made from Congressional I.P. addresses, discovered that the Wikipedia term “Devil’s Triangle (disambiguation)” was edited anonymously from the US House of Representatives shortly to describe it in the same terms as Kavanaugh.” (link)

Yes, Mr. Kavanaugh and his party got caught posting the new term online. So why did he lie? Was it the two men? The fact that America is not comfortable with threesomes? This may be a good subject to speak about with your high school health classes. Why is there shame surrounding sex with multiple partners? Where do gender and sexuality play a role in what society finds acceptable in the bedroom?

The second quote I found super interesting was the use of boofing. Mr. Kavanaugh claimed it was flatulence. Like poofies I guess? Again I don’t trust him so we will go to a better source and see what Urban Dictionary says. It states that boofing is, “The act of inserting drugs into the anus for a longer trip.”

Traditionally, any medications rectally administered will be distributed quickly and more efficiently throughout the body than if administered in a different way. However, rectal administration also means the medication will have a shorter peak time and a shorter duration. For illicit drugs taken this way, the same is true. The rapid onset prompts those affected by substance abuse to use this method, despite any possible negative consequences. link

Putting drugs in your rectum seems risky. It turns out that it is a huge problem if you don’t do it in a sterile environment and with lubrication.

While prescribed medications taken rectally involve proper lubrication and a sterile syringe or applicator, those afflicted with substance abuse may not bother with these steps, causing harm to the rectal tissues and membranes. Not using sterile applicators or proper lubrication may lead to infection. Further, rectal administration may be particularly dangerous for people who have certain pre-existing conditions. link

The chemical makeup of illicit substances is harsh on the body, and may cause extensive damage to the intestines when a person repeatedly exposes the rectum to such use. link

We need to teach our students that although the future Supreme Court Justice may have engaged in taking drugs rectally this is not something that is safe to do. This is the same caveat we have to make when we address how the 45th President of the United States engaged in “locker room talk”. Yes, it may be Presidential or Supreme Courtesque but it is not appropriate for empathetic human beings.

There is a much more sordid aspect to this story. The accusations against Mr. Kavanaugh were about the manic pursuit of male approval. This article sums it up much better than anything I could ever write. It speaks about a “toxic homosociality” that males engage in. The idea is “that it involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women”. Truthfully I know all about this. Growing up I saw this occur and was a part of it. Putting women down in order to elevate men is something that occurs quite regularly especially in the teen years.

As I grow older I have become painfully aware just how much my actions have caused harm to women growing up. I always stuck with the good bad binary. I never raped or hit a woman so I was a good guy. Just like racism, we know that the binary falls way short when we review our actions.

Please read the article I cited. It will give you an insight into gender and power that you have never seen before. It will pull the curtain back and connect the dots creating an image that our students need to recognize in order to work against.

Finally, take a look at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and see it for what it is. White males with immense power arguing over who will shape the laws of our land for the next 50 years. This has so many ramifications a plethora of books will be written about it. We are watching a seismic shift in our democracy that will roll back the rights of LGBT members, union members, women, and the working class. There are lessons to be learned here. If we ignore them the present will become the past and the future will remain unchanged. White men with power and resources will continue to hoard them causing immense gaps in wealth and wellness.



Today September 22, 2018, I attended a fantastic event called #EdCampNewark organized by the charismatic Juli B. I don’t really know how Juli is the organizer of both EdCampNewark and EdCampBrooklyn. It is a ton of work and they aren’t even near each other! Regardless the gathering that Juli organized was amazing.

I will start off acknowledging my bias about Newark. I was slightly nervous about going cause I have been conditioned to be scared of cities. I do not usually visit cities. This bias has some grounding in race no doubt. I was aware of what it was and why I was thinking it. I had also just listened to a Scene on Radio podcast in the Seeing White series that talked about a guy being held up with a knife in Philly. That was there in my mind somewhere as well. The idea that most parts of cities are fine has to be acknowledged. It also has to be acknowledged that there are parts of a city that I do not belong in as well. My mind was at ease when it settled on the idea that Juli would not plan anything where I would be unsafe. Those biases were a large part created by society telling me cities are scary. Shoot how many Law and Order episodes do I watch before deciding I don’t want to go to New York City?

There is a lot going on in a city and usually, parking scares me. I never know where to park and today was no different. Was my car safe? Was I safe? Would I remember where I parked? Would I get a ticket? (a ton of people did) I don’t know if all white people think like I do. Who knows? I am a mess. A hot mess. I first parked in a spot and I couldn’t figure out how to use the meter. It had an app then I had to load $25 on the app. I got back in the car and found a lot to park in around the corner. When I came out of the EdCamp the gates were closed and I couldn’t figure out how to get in. I dropped my speaker over a six-foot wrought iron fence followed by my backpack. I scaled the fence and jumped in. As I walked to my car I saw a woman casually open a small side gate on the other side and walk in the lot. What. A. Dummy.

I rolled into the building early as I usually tend to do. This allows me time to get lost on the way there as well as gives me time to scope the joint out. Once I manspread my things on a table I asked what help was needed. I pitched in where I could and overall the check-in was smooth.

The official day started off with Principal Kafele giving a rousing speech sermon. Most EdCamps don’t have opening speakers but when Principal Kafele says he will speak you gladly accept. His sermon energized the crowd. It was a little more rah-rah than I am typically a fan of. I personally don’t need to hear about how I need passion in my teaching because that’s not the cup that I need filled. (EdCamps are on Saturday and voluntary so simply by showing up most of us have the passion already.) The room seemed quite receptive to his message and it was obvious that most people enjoyed hearing the words that were coming out of his mouth. The room was silent and people were on the edge of their seat. There was no doubt that he started the day off with electricity.

The first session I facilitated with Shivan Persad (@shivanpersadedu) was titled Tech Yo Self B4 Yo Wreck Yo Self. Mainly because it makes me laugh. During the session, we talked about the four horsemen of tech: Seesaw, Flipgrid, Plickers, EdPuzzle. These tools allow you to run a class using technology to increase learning and make assessments better. The room was cool because two Spanish teachers (teachers who teach Spanish not teachers from Spain) lead a lot of the discussions about tech. It is fantastic when specialists can show how they use tech when they teach the entire school!

There was also an interesting discussion about how we spy on our kids when they engage in tech. Some programs allow you to see what the students are doing while others will automatically scan their work and send alerts to the administration if something raises a certain flag. This is problematic on multiple levels. Having companies spy on our students is super invasive. If we are not telling our students this is being done that takes the worry to a whole other level. I am hoping schools are thinking about what they use and why they are using it to monitor and control our students.

The second session I facilitated was movement in the classroom. Whenever I do this session it feels like I am presenting more than facilitating. I made sure that I went around the room and had the participants give examples of what they did in their rooms. We laughed a lot and we were able to sneak in social justice discussions as well. The ladies and Shivan were a blast to hang with.

The third and final session I co-facilitated with Fadé Ojeikere . This was the session I was most excited about! Social Justice and Intersectionality! I was in Newark, in a room filled with black and brown people, this conversation was gonna be solid. The session was placed in the courtyard in between the buildings. (Note to Juli unlock the gate so we don’t have to walk a full block to get in next time!) The setting was worth the time and effort though. 1If you look that is the fantastic Okaikor in the hat with Black Feminist shirt on! We started the session off listening to the song Strange Fruit, on my traveling speaker, sang by Nina Simone. The lyrics and the pictures of lynchings shake your essence. I did learn that the song was written by a male Jewish teacher and poet.

Fadé played then played the song Duckworth by Kendrick Lamar. He explained to us the meaning of how Kendrick was explaining how it all could have changed for him. This lead us to the conversation about #HipHopEd and Dr. Emdin. Fadé spoke passionately about introducing content that our kids can relate to.

Earlier I mentioned that Okaikor was at the session. If you don’t know Okaikor knows more about intersectionality that the whole patio combined. She dropped knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb on us all while graciously giving others the time to speak. I could honestly just listen to her for hours speak about anti-blackness and how everything stems from there. She is heavily involved with the MAPSO Freedom School.

The discussion did not go as we had planned. We really wanted to talk about what people were doing in their classrooms and the conversations went to resources and personal stories. It was even better than I had imagined. People were engaged and speaking freely. Fadé created a list of Twitter handles and emails so we can provide support moving forward.

I will close with my glows and grows. Before I do that I would like to publicly thank Juli B for giving her time and her energy to this unpaid passion project. The day was a huuuge success!

Glow: Principal Kafele getting people psyched.

Glow: So many People of Color!

Groan: Parking

Glow: HAVING A DJ!!!! Yes. They had a DJ. Sick.

Groan: Locked gate to the courtyard.

Glow: weather

Glow: Tons of Food

Glow: This was not about prizes or swag. I see EdCamps going too far in the direction of giving out prizes at the end. It cheapens the day.

Glow: Juli B. You are awesome.


Andy Milne Guest Blog; Music in PhysEd

Prologue: This week the illustrious Andrew Milne is the #slowchatpe guest blogger. I once heard, “Life is collecting good people”. (I believe that Brian Costello first said that) If that is true then I am glad that Andy is in my life. Due to his age and wisdom, mostly his age, I consider Andy a mentor. Andy is constantly highlighting other people and their work. This blog is no different. In addition, to being a fantastic amplifier he runs the site. He sells various items and collects donations to send teachers in need to the National Health and PhysEd conference. 100% of the money he collects goes toward this fantastic charitable endeavor.  Please consider donating if you can.

I am a better person because of Andy. That is a statement that I don’t make often. I can’t thank him enough for his selflessness and passion for social justice, education, and lifting others up. Thank you, Andy, for being a part of my personal learning family. (credit Sarah Thomas with creating that phrase)

With no further adieu here is the #slowchatpe blog of the week:

As a teacher of both #HealthEd and #PhysEd my use of music varies depending upon what and where I am teaching. My love of music is no secret and one of my alter-egos (!) is DJ Milneshine. I love to collate playlists and share these with anyone who wants to listen. Before I share another playlist with you let’s consider a few ways in which I use music.

  1. State Management: Just as music can be used to motivate an athlete, it can be used to motivate students. Upbeat music makes a workout more enjoyable, and allowing students to choose the music played also energizes them to stay focused during the lesson. In his great book The Kinesthetic Classroom”, Mike Kuczala talks about a teachers need to manage a student’s learning state to stop their minds from wandering. Movement in the classroom, chewing gum and taking notes increase focus but so too can the use of music. I’ll play a mellow acoustic Pandora station in the background when students are working on extended group projects, just to take a break from the sound of my voice or (even worse) the sound of silence.
  2. Introduction of a Topic: At the start of my Identity unit I play Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as students enter the classroom. I don’t make any reference to it until the middle of the lesson where I ask what students think Lady Gaga means when she says “Rejoice & love yourself today, ’cause baby you were born this way“. This leads into a deeper discussion about gender identity. Andy Horne has a great lesson about love during which he has been known to play Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It” or Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”
  3. Shared Playlists: Shared playlists are a great way to make all of your students feel involved. I ask my students to suggest a song to add to the class playlist, that way I get to listen and pre-screen the lyrics. Then whenever we need music I’ll play the playlist on shuffle ensuring that everyone gets to hear their song eventually. Each class gets their own playlist, which in turn allows me to know my students a little better. When 15-year-olds suggest songs from the 70’s it makes for a great conversation with them!

Recently during a discussion on different types of ways in which to move, I asked my students to suggest songs with movement in the title. You can find the full Spotify playlist here, but here are 8 of my favorites from that list.

I Like to Move It – Reel 2 Real (Strictly Rhythym, 1994)

I like to move it, move it

I like to move it, move it

I like to move it, move it

You like to move it

MOVE. OK, so it won’t win any song writing awards, but here’s an example of meeting the students where they are at. This song was my jam in college but my students have no idea of the original 1994 version BUT they do know, and love this version from Madagascar. It is impossible not to move during this song, but how will you move, that is the question.

Shake It Off – Taylor Swift (Big Machine, 2014)

I’ll never miss a beat

I’m lightning on my feet

And that’s what they don’t see mmm mmm

That’s what they don’t see

SHAKE. My own sons love this track and it’s often on repeat during long car journeys(!). The song won Favorite Song at the 2015 People’s Choice Awards, and also received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards. I feel like #PhysED teacher Ben Pirillo could put a great routine together showcasing shaking movements. Oh, wait….HE DID ALREADY!

Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) – Kidz Bop (Razor & Tie, 2016)

Now watch me whip

Now watch me nae nae

Now watch me whip whip

Now watch me nae nae

WHIP/NAE. Originally by Silento I’ve posted the Kidz Bop version for two reasons. Firstly this is the version that we were playing at home for a while (the Silento video is awesome, but shows a bit more flesh in the video than you’d want to share with younger kids perhaps), but also the songs performed by the Kidz Bop Kids will alter lyrics deemed too explicit or suggestive for younger audiences altered to be more “kid-friendly”. I never really understood that concept until I became a father – now I get it. The free Kidz Bop CD in the #SHAPENashville swag bag was much appreciated!

I love the simplicity of the dance that accompanies this song AND, it introduces new gross motor skills – the whip, the nae nae, the duff, the bop etc. Don’t be afraid to embrace new language, new dances and new motor skills from your students – you might learn something.

Jump – Van Halen (5150 Studios, 1983)

I get up and nothing gets me down

You got it tough, I’ve seen the toughest around

And I know, baby, just how you feel

You got to roll withe the punches and get to what real

JUMP. Now, if we could just get SHAPE America to classify playing air guitar as moderate-to-vigorous activity, we’d be onto a winning formula here. Here’s an example of the type of random song suggested by a student – how do they know songs like this from 1983? Songs with a repetitive lyric mean that you could encourage students to JUMP every time Eddie Van Halen says JUMP – similar to the way that Alex O’Brien does burpees in this video to the word THUNDER.

Here’s an interesting fact. If I asked you to name another song with ‘jump’ in the title, you might suggest Jump Around by House of Pain. Well, did you know that Van Halen’s Jump was on their 1983 album entitled…..’House of Pain’.

Hit The Quan – iLoveMemphis (Rush Hour, 2015)

Clean pair of sneaks, with ADs on her belt

Please watch your step ’cause I’m feeling myself

Throw a flag on the play, man somebody get the ref

Go blah da da da dol, man somebody get some help

HIT. In the same vein as Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae), Hit the Quan came out of nowhere with it’s own dance that went viral. Talking of viral dances….are your students STILL flossing??? Did Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ viral dance reach you like it did my neighborhood over the summer? This comes back to my point made earlier – embrace the latest viral dance. If it makes students want to move, let them weave it into their school day.

Cha Cha Slide – Mr. C The Slide Man (Universal Records, 2000)

One hop this time, one hop this time

Right foot two stomps, left foot two stomps

Slide to the left, slide to the right

Criscross, criscross

SLIDE. There’s a great comment on the YouTube video that says “They played this at all the school dances. Even the non-dancers would join in.”. If you want to see the power of dance, play this. As #PhysEd teachers we state that we want our students to seek out movement opportunities, well the ch-cha slide is a movement phrase that they’ll need for every school dance, bar mitzvah, and wedding they’ll EVER attend. At the last two #PhysEd conferences I’ve attended I’ve witnessed a room full of teachers dancing to Wobble Baby. Now, I didn’t know how to ‘wobble’ the first time I witnessed this. Talk about NOT feeling competent or confident. Movement patterns are part of our #physicalliteracy journey. You can be sure I learned that dance in time for the second conference!

Here’s a challenge for you, wherever you are. In the style of the Cha-Cha Slide shout out…..”Everybody clap your hands” and see what happens.

Move Your Body – S.I.A (RCA, 2017)

Feel the beat in your chest

Beat your chest like an animal

Free the beast from its cage

Free the rage like an animal

MOVE. OK, I hear what you’re saying. These songs are great to dance to, my students want to dance to these songs….but I’m not great at teaching dance, how do I encourage my students to move to the music when I’m too afraid to do so myself. Well, in addition to the videos from Ben Pirillo mentioned above, you have to check out the work of Scott Williams and the #DanSirs. Scott coordinates simple videos showcasing #PhysEd teachers dancing using simple moves to popular songs – they’ve even got a video to this SIA song.  This enables kids/teachers/families to learn the dance without prior instruction and also builds confident dancers through the repetitive and simple moves. SIMPLE CAN STILL BE AWESOME! One of the many benefits of technology is that we can outsource expertise. Scott is a great dance teacher, I’m not. I can use his videos with students while I join in and facilitate the environment.

Traveling Without Moving – Jamiroquai (SONY, 1996)

Speed freak

Faster than a speedin’ bullet,

Slow down, if I don’t

If I don’t I might just lose it

WITHOUT MOVING. Ooh, now there’s a deep question for your students if ever there was one. “In what ways can we travel without moving?”.

This is MY playlist, and I get to add whatever I want, hence my addition of a Jamiroquai track. Music always transports me to a time and place in which I first heard it. This track takes me back to my early days as a teacher, seeing Jamiroquai live in concert a few times. However, in the spirit of collaboration here’s where YOU come in. My Spotify playlist is a collaborative playlist. That means YOU can add to it. Do you have a favorite ‘movement-inspired’ song, or a song with a great dance associated with it? Well, you can add that song to the list below. It would be great to see the playlist grow over time.

Shameless plug time. If you liked the movement blog, and the movement playlist, perhaps you’ll also like the movement coffee mug. The purchase of each mug goes towards helping a teacher in need.


First Days of School Routine

This blog will examine my first week of school routine. There has been a lot of growth in my professional life and I believe this routine mirrors that growth. A quick background about my job so you can put all this into context. I have been at my school for 8 years. I am the only Phys Ed teacher at the school which ranges in grades from Pre-K to grade 6. Finally, I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual male in a predominantly white institution.

The first day of school I planned on the students wearing their nicest clothes which means they some won’t be wearing sneakers. This meant that the activities I planned had to be low movement in order to have everyone participate. I didn’t want anyone sitting and I also don’t believe in coming up with a boatload of rules nor do I believe that going over the rules day 1 is a good idea. There is nothing worse than being excited for school and hearing the teacher drone on and on about rules. Can you think of anything that can suck the joy out of life quicker?

My pre-k and K are mostly new students. For these classes, the kids came in and sat in a circle. I went around to each child and asked their name. After they told me I repeated their names making sure I said it correctly. I then started at student one saying their name and continuing to the next student continuing this pattern until I arrived at the next student who had not told me their name or I had finished asking every student their name. Once this was accomplished I asked the kids to touch a wall and come back sitting in a new spot. When they came back I went around and attempted to say the name of every child without messing up. We did this 2-3 times until I learned every student’s name. This isn’t anything flashy or particularly fun for the students although they were amused watching me struggle during the process.

Every class did the same general activity called “toss 10”. You can find the resource by going to the esteemed @physednow (Jorge Rodriguez) page located here. The basic idea of the game is to toss a ball in the air and do a variety of motions before catching it. His activity was done under the cooperative games category. My children had the choice to choose a group or do the activity individually. I started every class out with a simple throw the ball in the air and catch it. I changed how many times they needed to do this consecutively in order to level up. I wanted the frustration level low and the success level high so I allowed them to pick one of the three numbers I gave them based on their ability.  For example, I gave my first graders the choice of catching the ball 5, 7, or 10 times before they would advance to the next level based on how well they thought they would do. Once they learned what the new challenge was they could pick a new number to complete the level if they chose to. Some levels are easier than others. The numbers I gave them to choose from varied by age.

Some classes finished so quickly that I had them create levels to add once they finished the levels Jorge provided in his resource. I used these levels with my others classes as well. I gave the creators credit of course. The students had a variety of projectiles to use as well. This gave them some choice and bean bags are easier for some levels where balls were easier for others.

At the end of the class, the students were in groups and discussed what they believe the purpose of Physical Education is. This was the perfect time for me to tell them my philosophy as well. The dialogue touched on the difference between physical education and fitness. I told them that my job was not to create sports players. My main goal is to provide them with various movement opportunities, alone and with others, that focused on happiness and joy. There is nothing more important than having my students develop a positive association with the movement.

Back to my not addressing rules and procedures. My first graders and up have had me as a teacher before. They know the rules. We don’t have to go over them. As far as procedures I addressed them as they happened. For example, when they asked me to go to the bathroom I referred them to the class to find out what they should say in order to go. The answer is some version of, “I am going to the bathroom.” We discuss how they are old enough to know they have to go they don’t have to ask. They just have to let me know they are in there in case there is a drill or emergency.

The second procedure that comes up naturally is getting a drink. Some students may forget or have been brainwashed that they have to ask to get a drink. The procedure is to get a drink whenever I am not talking. I keep my talking time to under 5 minutes a class period so this gives them a plethora of time to get a drink. We also discuss how they don’t need permission to get a drink. I equate this to them not asking if they can cough or sneeze. If your body needs water go get it why do I have to be involved in the process?

My rules are very simple. I stole this from someone I believe on the West Coast. Respect yourself, others, and the equipment. That covers everything. If you have more than five rules it is probably too much. #justsaying

This approach is intentional. My students came in excited and left excited. The students worked on their socialization, fine motor skills, and cognition. More importantly, my students came in excited and left excited. Can you tell just how important that is to me? Maybe this will help bolster my justification of my approach:

In the new study, the researchers noted a strong temporal relationship between the school year and the frequency of the encounters for suicidal thoughts or actions; link

If you are the reflective type, which you should be, what does your beginning of the year look like? What does your approach say? Does it say come enjoy yourself while we are together or does it say don’t do this and don’t do that? Hopefully, your approach says thanks for being here let’s have fun and learn.

As always I appreciate your time.

Scene on Radio

Here we go. ANOTHER blog post about race. Some of you are going to stop reading….. now. For the rest of you, I appreciate you staying with me as I learn more about the racial history of our country. I am on a never-ending journey. The scope of information that I am ignorant of is immense. It’s similar to working at a wine shop.  You can know a little bit about a little bit but you will never know everything there is to know about wine. The more I learn on this journey the more I realize I have so much I need to learn.

This past week I listened to the podcast recommended to me by Val Brown called Seeing White a 14 episode series created by Scene on Radio. I am on episode 8 and it is difficult to keep hearing how brutally we treated our black and Indigenous Peoples. Even as I write that I understand how fragile I sound. The truth is that this learning is heavy. It wears you down. You get empathy overload. Please don’t misunderstand me. This is something white people need to do. It is a drop in the bucket compared to what BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) deal with every day as a result of this history. What I am saying is that if you are an empathetic person this learning wears on you.

One example of this is when Doug Timm hit me up about episode 5. Episode 5 discusses:

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards. link

During the episode, they tell the story of Indigenous people being forced to leave Minnesota. During this march, a white lady ran out and grabbed the baby of an Indigenous woman and threw it to the ground killing it. How does that not shock you to the core as an empathetic human being? Doug was irate! He stated that we wouldn’t even do that to an animal. This is the type of learning that shakes my soul. I imagine the walk, the act, the mother’s screams, the heartbreak and rage of the dad. It’s brutal.

Some may say that was the past. Read it as information or knowledge. I am learning the story about human suffering. This would be like telling the congregation at a church to not feel empathy for Jesus suffering on the cross. We don’t get to pick and choose who we empathize with. I don’t even know if empathize is the right word. I don’t know what it is like to be discriminated or oppressed on that level so sympathy may be a better word except for the fact that I am attempting to put myself in the people’s shoes that I am hearing about. Either way, it deeply bothers me.

Being white allows me to take a break when I need it. I get to step back and take a day off from race if I choose so. I have rarely chosen to do so in the past couple of years. Part of this is my ability to rebound both physically and emotionally. I play basketball, have conversations with people about what I am learning, and eat somewhat healthy. I have outlets. I guess if there is a point to this rambling blog it’s that we need to make sure we don’t stop empathizing with those who have been discriminated and oppressed. They can’t just be stories. There were people. Real people. Who felt like real people do. They felt the physical pain of being whipped. They felt the emotional trauma of having their children ripped from them. They suffered due to the fact that rich white men wanted more money.

I don’t have any advice for you if you are on the journey with me. I don’t know when you need to take a break or how to remain stable when your emotions are going crazy.

What I do know is that now that we have the knowledge of our past we must connect it to the present. How did the past create the present? Most importantly, how can we impact the present to change the future?

Some you know I loooooove Dr. Reverand William Barber. He believes that we are in the midst of the third reconstruction. The first two reconstructions came after the Civil War and the Civil Right’s Movement. I hope this is true. It does seem like this country has been awakened and that we are on the cusp of major positive changes. This may seem far-fetched with what is going on right now.

If we are truly going to contribute to the third reconstruction white people must learn our history. Understand how the government systemically created the segregation we have today. We have to learn how Indigenous People were systemically annihilated and cheated out of their land. Only then can we contribute to the third reconstruction as true allies. This means that when the work gets hard, find out what you need to do in order to keep learning. Just. Don’t. Stop. Learning. We need you.