Author Archives: slowchatpe

10 Questions to Critically Reflect On




andy vasily

This image was created by Andy Vasily.  It will help guide my 2017 reflection.

  1.  I have deepened many personal and professional relationships this year. I strengthened many of my professional relationships at the SHAPE National Convention this year. Sleeping Rooming with Andy Milne was a highlight for sure! Coming in a close second was hanging with my Paddle Zlam crew! Meeting Mel Hamada and Shrehan Lynch in person cannot be overlooked as well. I could spend pages just reflecting on that experience alone. I have also combined some of my professional relationships into much more personal relationships. Getting to know people on a deeper level was definitely a goal for me this year.
  2. I am always interested in people’s stories for sure. I firmly believe that everyone has a story and I can learn from everyone. We have interviewed many people on the Voxcast which allows people to have a platform to center and amplify their voices.
  3. This year I was very grateful for my personal blessings. My family is overall very healthy and I acknowledge and appreciate this. Professionally I haven’t counted my blessings. I sometimes feel stuck in a rut and don’t know what to do about it. Hopefully, 2018 will help me with this feeling.
  4. This past year I have written a book chapter and numerous blogs, created some cool Voxcasts, presented locally, regionally, and nationally. In the classroom, I have really continued to work on having a more student-centered approach. I am happy with my progress and have some really cool ideas for a future Voxer book club podcast and helping Kennedra Tucker with a social justice podcast.
  5. Physically this year was a let down for me. I played basketball twice a week but I have slacked on my muscular endurance and strength training. I need to get back on track.
  6. My inner critic voice kept me back from applying for some jobs. I have also apologized more this year for the words that have left my mouth than in years past.
  7. I have spent more time trying to recognize others value and goodness in my life. This occurred in many fashions. Some people received gifts from me, others a card, and still others I made time for.
  8. I surround myself with great people who push themselves so hard that I can only marvel at what they do. This helps drive me to continue to be a creator and producer in a world of consumption.
  9. I don’t know how much I empowered others. I do know that if anyone asks me for help I did anything and everything in my power to assist and empower them.
  10. In 2018 I  will work on being more physically active. The value of this can’t be overstated.

Take the @andyvasily reflection challenge. What did your year look like?




How Actions are Perceived

Every trimester I give out a feedback form to my students. I truly want to learn what how they feel about my class. More importantly, I want to find out what their perception of me is. One of the questions I ask them is, “How much do you feel Mr. S. likes you?” I was surprised by one student who marked down that I dislike them. First off this student is a very good student who makes minor behavioral decisions that I disagree with. I honestly like this child. They are not reprimanded very often nor have they ever received a poor mark in my class.

If all that is true above, why does that child believe I dislike them? I honestly don’t know but I will be finding out soon. What is interesting here is the idea that my actions toward him may not be showing him how I truly feel about him. How often does this happen with my other students? What about other adults? This conversation was brought up in the restorative justice group on Voxer. How often are our words and actions being interpreted in a different manner than what we were intending?

I look forward to finding out the feedback the rest of my students give me. The important part of this whole process is that I have to use this information to change my teaching. If you hold power over a person or group of people it is your duty to find out what they think of you and your job. How many administrators poll their teachers? How many teachers poll their students? If we care about our students shouldn’t we find out how they truly feel about us and our class? How else will we get better?

trimester questions



100 Word Challenge

Today I read Dene Gainey’s  (@dene_gainey) blog titled What Are My 100 Words? The premise behind the blog was that you had to write 100 words on why you love teaching. The idea came about when Jesse Boyce (@Jessxbo) was given the assignment as part of her Teacher of the Year candidacy. She wrote:

“I get to show students the beauty in struggle and the power of making mistakes.  Math is a topic that makes most people cringe and I feel fortunate to get to make it something that is less scary.  I love to show my students that something that seems impossible does not have to be that way, but can be fun! I love showing them that the struggles that occur in math are paralleled to life; that there is always a way.  I teach compassion, how to be good people, how to love, how to see a different point of view.” (link)

This is a powerful statement! I try not to compare myself to others by telling myself that my writing is more about the thought than the execution; however, this was both well thought out and executed. Here is Dene’s 100 words:

“I love teaching because it is a perpetual process of learning & I am just as much of a student when I teach as the students themselves are. I love teaching because of the immense ability to “reach” and not just teach & to see lives transformed through that reach! I love teaching because little by little, the world can be changed for the better. I love teaching because of spontaneous discovery and the ability to empower students to C.L.I.M.B.E. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing students actualize themselves and take ownership and independence when learning.” (link)

Dene’s idea that the world can be changed by us is spot on. He fit so much into so little of a space. This is going to be difficult. Ok, I just wrote it and it took me 45 minutes. Here is the result:

Teaching is sharing time with people. Every day I get the opportunity to provide a safe environment for kids to explore and have fun. We form connections and memories that will leave a lasting impression on all parties. Together we enjoy creating new neural connections constantly challenging ourselves to grow. I get to feel that I am impacting the world battling hate and fear. Future generations will be changed for the better if I continuously grow and make a positive impact on my students. I am leaving the world a better place than before I got there.

Go ahead. Take the challenge that Jessie Boyce laid down. Write your 100 Words on Why You Love Teaching than tag @jessxbo, @dene_gainey, and @schleiderjustin. I can’t wait to read why you love to teach!

Parent Teacher Conferences and Seesaw

Disclosure: I am a Seesaw ambassador. That means I get more classes to use for free.

The past couple of years I have had more parent conferences than ever before. They are mostly with my younger students. Their parents want to know how their child is doing in my class which is completely reasonable and should be lauded. I always tell the parents that if there was an issue with their child they would have heard from me well before the middle or end of November but I digress.

What I did notice with the meetings was that I felt a comfort level during those meetings that I hadn’t felt when I was first teaching. Some of that could be explained by my increasing knowledge of my subject area and the fact that my community knows me very well after 7 years. That is only part of the answer though.

The biggest factor in my opinion is my use of Seesaw. Every single meeting the parent commented how much they  enjoyed the videos. This gave them a knowledge of what my class is about as well as a comfort level with me. That cannot be valued enough! The conversations were pleasant and productive.

One parent told me they sit with their child and watch the videos together. They than ask them questions about what is going on in the video, did they have fun, and what were they learning. This made my year to hear that. There is nothing more powerful than enabling a family to have a window into my class that starts a conversation about learning and joy.

If you aren’t using Seesaw you are missing out.



EdCampNJ 2017

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. That means that another EdCampNJ was held on Saturday at New Brunswick High School. One of the reasons I was so excited about it was to see if our mission of reaching out to New Jersey and New York educators of color was going to make a difference. To paraphrase the great Maha Bali educators of color need to not only be invited to the table, they need to make the table and set the table. It was clear that our organizing team reflected the mission of EdCampNJ. Would the crowd be the same?

The answer was an overwhelming yes! With the help of Newark Public School, EdCamp Brooklyn, EdCamp Urban, and word of mouth the crowd was filled with a beautiful mix of people. We accurately reflected the rainbow of teachers that teach the students in the great state of New Jersey.

I personally spent the day in lovely room G 108. The NJ AHPERD was kind enough to lend us the Revo Labs UC 1500Revo Labs UC 1500. This allowed us to mic the room up so we had people from Texas, Las Vegas, Qatar, and Arizona join us via audio and video.

The first session held in the room was Social Justice. The conversations were amazing. We were able to honestly speak about race in an environment that was supportive and encouraging. I personally enjoyed the discussion when someone says they don’t see race. The gold nugget from this session was when Cory Radisch stated that some teachers are punishing their students for their disabilities. I was a tad upset that we did not utilize an LGBTQIA expert in the room or address intersectionality. I would highly encourage everyone to watch or listen to the session here. The session notes are also attached at the bottom of the video.

The second session was all about Tech Tools. This was a cool session because it was more like a demo slam. Everyone in the room was able to talk about any tech tools they wanted. There were definitely some experts in the room who chimed in a lot but that was needed because others in the room were there to hear about some of the newest tools available. I would highly recommend you check out the session notes or watch the video by clicking here.

The third session titled Social Emotional Learning was facilitated by @Bond007Laura (Laura Bond). We talked all about the whole child and also how we sometimes forget the teacher needs to take care of themselves as well. Lavonna Roth’s new Ignite Your Shine lessons were being lauded to the room. I would recommend checking out the notes and either watching or listening to the session by clicking here

The final session was run by Josue Falaise. The session was all about PLC’s. What I found interesting is how well Josue was able to handle the room. There were a ton of people there but not many knew or wanted to talk about PLC’s he had to do most of the heavy lifting during the conversation. He was able to answer questions and give everyone an idea of what PLC’s should look like. My gold nuggets from this session were the idea that PLC’s should revolve around solving a problem and that there need to be norms created and followed. Brian Costello told a hilarious story about how everyone has yarn balls and if the meeting starts to go sideways they have a quick indoor snowball fight than they get back on track. Check out his session here.

As always I have a list of grows and glows for the (un)conference.

Glow: Bibiana Prada @bookgirl614 ran a great EdCamp 101 three times before session 1.

Glow: New Brunswick High School. The internet was awesome and so was the facility and parking.

Glow and Groan: The prizes were numerous. There was a line at the end to receive them that held a lot of people up.

Grow: There was no real ending to the day.

Glow: Dan Borghoff and Meredith Martin doing their maker thing.

Glow: The diversity of the crowd.

Overall the day was a huge success for the participants. I only heard great things about the day and really felt like educators were able to learn about a variety of subjects. If you attended I would love to hear your thoughts!!


Sherri Spelic recently wrote this blog post about whiteboards. I agree with her that projectors and whiteboards are fantastic tools that are essential in the gym

stock-photo-empty-whiteboard-magnetic-board-isolated-on-white-208699177or the classroom. I use mine and find it an awesome teaching tool.

I would like to talk about the other whiteboards though. The ones that look like the image on the left. These whiteboards are quickly becoming one of my favorite forms of assessments.

My parents are always complaining that I use too much technology in my class. I poll my students often for feedback and they universally agreed this was true. The turning point for me was that the students said they would rather use paper and pencil for their reflections than using their Chromebooks. Using their feedback to change my teaching practice forced me to figure out new ways to have them reflect without technology. Hence the personal whiteboards.

My students will be given multiple tasks to do in class. One of them is to grab the whiteboard and answer some sort of reflection question. They write their name on the bottom and put the whiteboards on the side of the gym. I then take a picture of each whiteboard and upload it to their Seesaw account. This allows me to have evidence of their learning as well as continuing to inform their guardians about what we are learning in class. This has cut down on the amount of time that students are on technology during my class.

A fourth-grade teacher commented on how he liked this idea and gave me some information about evidence and elaboration stems. I created these two posters and display them using my projector.

Evidence Stems Elaboration Stems.jpg









As with everything else in my teaching. I will continue to tweak this and use the feedback from my students to improve their experience in my class. If you do anything similar please share with me on Facebook or Twitter!