Author Archives: slowchatpe

Proper English in #PhysEd

Language is the most important form of privilege that I have. I know this because during a Tolerance.org workshop we had a list of the top ten things that made us who we are.ย  Item by item I crossed off every other part of me by importance until I was left with only language. I think and speak in Proper English. Lies. I use standard English. There is nothing proper about some of the language that comes out of my mouth! I say standard English because according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “A standard language is a variety of language that is used by governments, in the media, in schools, and for international communication”. I came across a fantastic blog and podcast by the Grammar Girl. It goes into the history of English and how we ended up with the idea that those who don’t speak the dominant version are less intelligent than those who do.

There are other dialects of English that are spoken. I say dialect because a dialect is, “A form of the language that is spoken in a particular part of the country or by a particular group of people.” (link) One dialect is African American Vernacular English (AAVE) also known as Black English Vernacular and sometimes ebonics. AAVE is a structured version of English. It is, “…the result of regular rules and restrictions; they are not random ‘error’. (link) This means that people who speak AAVE are speaking a language that has structure. This is not an unintelligent language.ย 

Another dialect is Appalachian English also called Mountain Language. Here is a video if you have never heard this dialect spoken before. “Appalachian English has long been criticized both within and outside of the speaking area as an inferior dialect, which is often mistakenly attributed to supposed laziness, lack of education, or the region’s relative isolation.” (link) We see the idea again that those who don’t speak standard English are lazy or dumb.

I gave you that quick background on language to get to this. What kind of language do we expect to be spoken in our classes? I work in a school and the language I speak and the language school demands are identical. This allows me to think and speak in a relatively free and quick manner. I also attended schools where standard English was the dominant language. I was born and raised in the dominant language. It is a blanket of invisibility that follows me everywhere I go. It is very easy for me to settle into the role of oppressor and demand that my students speak in standard English.

School demands that the students speak standard English. The tests are written that way. Most teachers speak that way. I understand why students need to learn standard English. In the book Exceptional Learners the author states, “Failure to teach children the skills they need to communicate effectively according to the rules of the dominant culture will deny them many opportunities.” Our students will need to speak the dominant language in order to enter into the various areas of white supremacy in the future. That is what the gatekeepers demand.

I am not a gatekeeper.ย  My class is not an arena where standard English is necessary. We do need to communicate and understand each other. This means that both myself and the student need to learn the meaning behind what the other is saying. If we are speaking different dialects we both need to learn how to communicate with the other. I do not teach English. I don’t feel the need to correct the dialect of my students. The dialect my students use does not impact my goal of them creating a positive association with the movement. I want them to think and question. Using standard English may actually get in the way of this. Some students may have to process my question, rephrase it in their dialect, think in their dialect, then rephrase it back to standard English. That is a lot of work to do on top of figuring out what I am asking them to think about.

The bottom line is that demanding my students speak like me and the system of school is a form of oppression. This has to be balanced with the idea that when they enter the workforce they will probably be forced to use standard English. When we center our students in this conversation it only makes sense that they have the freedom to be their authentic selves. Ask yourself what is your purpose of teaching. Is it necessary for the students to speak in the way school demands? Why do we demand our students speak a certain way?

A lot of teachers feel the need to prepare the students for the future. They will need this. They will need that. Truthfully they will need to love themselves presently before they do anything in the future. Forcing the assimilation of standard English is not helping students love themselves and their culture.

Some English teachers may have an issue with this blog. I don’t teach English and would not presume to tell you how to do your job. I would like to offer the idea that there are ideas that are written, sang, or spoken that are not in the dominant dialect. These still have value to our students. Do not throw out the baby with the bath water.

The final piece of this is the idea that if you speak AAVE or Appalachian English you may be perceived as being less intelligent. We do this with accents as well. Think about all the caricatures of people who speak with a Southern accent. This bias has to be addressed. Language and intelligence do not go hand in hand. The value of a human is not tied to their ability to speak standard English. Do not assume that because our students speak in a way that is not common in society that they are any less capable of learning than the student who speaks what we consider acceptable.

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Classroom Management/Building Community

This week I gave a webinar on Classroom Management. Here is the link to the presentation. One of the things I did to prepare for the webinar was to ask the internet what their definition of classroom management was. I received a lot of fantastic answers back! Click on the date of the tweet and see the amazing responses that were given.

My favorite response came from Rosa Derricott.

I love when people make me think. I understand the idea that the word management makes it seem that teachers are controlling their students. It also puts the teacher in the power position of being the lone person in the room with the power. A lot of educators have been switching from the idea of Classroom Management to Building Community. This idea was exemplified by Andy Milne’s (@carmelhealth) winning definition. He defined it as, “Working with students to create an environment in which each individual has the opportunity to achieve”. Together we can create a space where everyone wants to be.

At the elementary school level, it is imperative that we have rules and routines. If I do not have them set up in my #physed class there is a real physical danger for my students. The beauty of sharing the power in my class is that I don’t need to set up the rules and routines. We can talk as a class and come to a decision about what works best for our class. I can not create an environment where each individual has an opportunity to achieve by myself. It has to be a group effort.

Discipline. I am reading the book TroubleMakers now for #cleartheair chat that is starting on August 1. The more I read the book the more I found myself at odds with how the two teachers were disciplining the students. They frequently threatened to take away recess and removed children from the group. Both forms of punishment did not change the student’s behavior and further harmed the student; yet they still used a failing discipline system.

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Our discipline system has to enable the students to identify the harm they caused, allow them to state why they caused that harm, and permit them to repair the harm. The person or people who were harmed should also have a chance to communicate how it felt when they were harmed. These are some of the basics of restorative justice. We have to teach interpersonal communication skills. Conflict will always occur when multiple people are present. We all have different wants and needs. Sometimes they overlap on others wants and needs creating conflict. The key to community building is communicating those needs and harms between members. Some of our students need that to be explicitly shown where their actions hurt others. They also need alternative solutions presented to them. This way if they are in a similiar situation they have a wealth of knowledge to draw on to make better decisions. This is more important than any content we could possibly teach our students.

Like everything else in education classroom management/building community is grey. A lot is based on the teacher’s personality and experience. The only common thing we can all agree on is like and love our students. When we like our students they will feel it. They will feel the love and patience we have. They will understand when we get frustrated it is with their actions and not them as humans. When we like our kids we want them to be happy. We want them to show up every day. We are willing to share with people we like. That is human nature.

Take a look at the presentation. If you have any questions hit me up. As always I appreciate your time.

 

Ode to Chocolate Milk

Andy Milne @carmelhealth told me my blogs have been rather deep lately. I have accepted his challenge and produced a classic blog that the people were clamoring for. I call it, Ode to Chocolate Milk.

My love affair with chocolate milk started as a child. There is a local creamery called Halo Farm that sells the best chocolate whole milk. Let’s unpack that. First Halo Farm has the freshest milk you can get. Secondly, if you are going to go chocolate milk go 100 and get the whole milk. Why drink chocolate milk light? I want it I want it as thick and dark as possible. If you do have some ailment where nonfat, skim, 1%, or 2% chocolate milk is necessary I agree it’s better than nothing. I would imagine that chocolate almond milk is better than nothing although I won’t co-sign on that til I try it.

In my research, for this blog, I came across4 this article from another local lover of Halo Farm Chocolate.ย  In the article, Yamilka Eastburn of Levittown is spot on when she claims โ€œItโ€™s like liquid ice cream,โ€. Can you think anything better than liquid ice cream? I love chocolate milk so much that I went out and bought my new favorite t-shirt.

Chocolate milk has health benefits. The partisan website BuiltWithChocolateMilk.com states that: (also I crossed out low-fat not them)

“…lowfat chocolate milk post workout because it helps restore muscles quickly to their peak potential and replenish what the body loses during strenuous exercise โ€” including fluids, important nutrients and electrolytes (calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium) lost in sweat. lowfat chocolate milk post workout because it helps restore muscles quickly to their peak potential and replenish what the body loses during strenuous exercise โ€” including fluids, important nutrients and electrolytes (calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium) lost in sweat.”

The Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas did a study using chocolate milk as a recovery drink vs a leading sports drink. This study showed that those who drank chocolate milk as a recovery drink gained a 6.7% increase in their bench and 8% increase in their squats when compared to the sports drink group. (link) Milk has whey and casein which are proteins that will help build and repair muscle. It only makes sense it would be a great recovery drink. What inspires great confidence in this study was that there a 100 participants that were high school age and it was done by college students.

I don’t care about the health benefits of chocolate milk. I care about the soul benefits of chocolate milk. When you have a tall glass of Halo Farm (Trickling Springs can be substituted) chocolate milk the world slows down. Your problems calm down just a little bit. You savor each small sip not wanting to waste any of the taste. Only a rookie wouldn’t recognize that gulping this down is a waste of love. Chocolate milk is mindfulness. I close my eyes and allow the flavor to overwhelm my palate. I acknowledge the depth of chocolate flavor. I respect the viscosity and embrace the creaminess. I relish the fact that I am alive and give gratitude to the lord above. These are the moments that make life worth living.

And that folks is an Ode to Chocolate Milk.

P.S. If you come visit me in NJ I will provide you a pork roll egg and cheese and a glass of this to show you the best of what NJ has to offer.

 

The People We See

Who do I want my children to learn from and with at school? This was the question I was having discussing recently with a group of Super Friends. As a parent I want my child to be set up for present and future success. An education is a supremely important part of that. The school my children attend has a white student population of 89.2%, and the median family income is $126,849. The (perceived) benefits of being in this district are numerous. They have the tests scores, well-managed grounds, and reasonable class sizes. However, this presents a problem because they will be raised in an environment of whiteness. I want my kids to be raised aware of the actual makeup of the world and their school system is not representative of the world.

My children will be surrounded almost entirely by kids and adults who look and act like them. They will be educated during their most formidable years in a way that normalizes whiteness. Makes it the default. This will cause them irreparable harm. Yes, being raised in an all-white environment harms white people. We shut ourselves off from the humanity of others because we are not in the position of connecting with people who donโ€™t look and act like us. This harms our souls.

In addition to race, I have been learning more about intersectionality, and how education and money come into power together. My kids will be surrounded by financial privilege. How will this impact them? Their environmental normal that they see will be vacations and new cars. We will not have those luxuries. My kids will not be wearing name brand clothes. Will they recognize this and how will that impact their future career choices? Will they sell their soul in pursuit of the $$$?

As a parent, knowing how race and class play a role in our society, I have to combat these negative consequences. The first thing I have to do is teach my children about race. I must point it out and be explicit about how race is not based on anything other than perception; however, this perception causes immense amounts of harm to people not considered white. We have created race categories where only the label Homo Sapien should exist. Only when my kids know the history behind race can they understand it.

I must also find ways for my children to be surrounded by kids who don’t look like them. I accomplish this by varying the parks my children attend. Simply changing what direction I drive in will change the demographics of the park. The County Park is the best for this because you will find people from all over the world there. Kids of various skin tones play alongside each other. Playing games has always been a conduit for crossing racial, cultural, and gender boundaries.

Secondly, the summer camp I take them has an equal distribution of AAPI, white and black kids. I love that they are surrounded by other children who look and act very differently. Some of the campers speak various languages and eat different food. All the kids eat lunch together so they get to see how the diet of their friends is similar to their diet. Whiteness is no longer the norm. It is important for my kids to learn this in an authentic environment.

Some of my family members are Latinx so that helps cut down the number of white relatives we are surrounded by. However, passably white is still the norm. I do not have many friends of color that have come to my house. This is an issue. I don’t want to make friends specifically because someone is a person of color, however, I do want to be intentional about who I am building friendships with and who is coming to my home. How else are people of color going to come over unless I invite them? How will my intentional decisions about my friendships impact how my children choose their friends?

There is no book of parenting or the right way to do it. Personally, I know I want my children to understand that they are connected to everyone in the world. In order to accomplish this, I have to show them what the world is truly like. I donโ€™t always know the best way to accomplish this goal. It may simply mean moving to a place that is made up of a variety of races and cultures. That is a conversation that has been had, as well. Right now all I can do is be aware of the people that I keep company with.

This blog was written with the intent that those who read it will reflect on how segregated the lives of their children and families are. Hopefully, that will be the impact it has as well. This is not a how-to manual nor am I looking for pats on the back. I simply am reflecting on how I am trying to combat Nazi rallies and the newly public acceptance of hatred by resisting in my own life and that of my children. Humanism starts by teaching my own kids how to be anti-racist. Thank you for reading thatโ€™s my time.

 

Hannah Gadsby; Nanette

The other night I get a message from Shrehan Lynch telling me about this funny as hell comedy she was watching. I saw her tweets and the quotes looked funny so I had myself a look. For some quick background, I am a standup comedy junkie. I have studied comedy a bit and believe that laughter unites us in a way that only music and food can.

Hannah Gadsby is a gender non-conforming lesbian comedian from Australia. I wouldn’t normally feel the need to describe her looks and sexuality but in this case, it will majorly come into play. Her delivery is fantastic. A quick smile combines with a dry wit makes her style fantastic. She is a master. I know this because in her routine she breaks down comedy. She points out how she creates tension and then quickly dissipates it with a well-timed joke. For much of her show she does just this. It truly is amazing when you see a master at their craft control the audience’s emotions with such power and timing.

About halfway throughout the special things start to change. She speaks about getting out of comedy. One reason she states is, “Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who is already in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak.” This is a powerful statement. Think about our students in class who obviously do not conform with what society believes is the norm. Do they have to put themselves down in order to be heard? How does the power dynamics play out? This was a powerful statement.

Another part of her special she speaks to the idea that straight white men are “suddenly a subcategory of a human”. The more I learn about intersectionality, social justice, and sexual abuse the more I see a lot of straight white men are a problem. We were the norm, the baseline, the standard while everyone else was labeled as some other category. Yet we are a major part of the problem. We have had the power for so long and look what has become of it. There is #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #takeaknee, and countless other hashtags that are mainly in response to the harm caused by white men. Before you get your undies in a bunch I understand that white men are not solely responsible for these issues. I also realize that not every person who is sexually abused was done at the hands of a white male, or not every police officer who harms a person a Person of Color is white so please don’t #AllLivesMatter me. The statistics show who has the power in this country and who is doing the most harm. It is clearly white men. If you need more proof look at the race and gender of mass shootings in this country.

Part of Gadsby’s power of her special is how she revisits some of her early jokes and adds an ending to them. Earlier in the show, she tells a story about how she forgot to come out to her grandmother. This gets some easy laughs. When she revisits the story she talks about how she was too ashamed to come out to grandmother. There were no laughs. It was just honest raw truth that makes the viewer slightly uncomfortable because there is no punch line. No laughs. It’s just raw honesty pummeling straight to your heart.

The most difficult part of the show to watch for me was when she revisited a story about hitting on a girl at a bus stop. The girl’s boyfriend comes out and pushes her until he realizes she’s a woman. In that part, he calls her Madam and apologizes. She jokingly talks about how as a kid she was in trouble when her mom called her that. Again a quick laugh. When she revisits that story she becomes visibly angry and emotional. She tells us how she didn’t let us know the whole story. Once the guy realizes she is a non-conforming lesbian he kicks the shit out of her. No laughs. It’s just raw honesty pummeling straight to your heart.

The final ten minutes of the show is riveting. The tension is high. You want a joke to come. To let you off the hook. It never happens. There is no final callback where everything is tied neatly into a bow. She talks about being raped by two men when she was 20. Talks about how she may have to quit comedy because she can no longer chop her stories into a beginning and middle leaving out the brutal end.

When the show was over I sat. In silence. I was emotionally raw. This was not the comedy I was expecting yet it was what I needed to hear. If you are a white male I strongly recommend you watch this. It will attack you. You will become defensive. This isn’t about you though. It’s about Hannah. It’s about every other person from a marginalized group. It’s about understanding that we have choices to make. We can no longer sit on the side while people are fighting for their lives. We are either allies or we are oppressors. I choose ally.

Paradox of Centering Whiteness to Deconstruct it

The title of this blog was created unknowingly by Christie Nold.ย  This was her summary of Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s thoughts on how in order to deconstruct whiteness we must analyze and understand it first; which further centers it, creating this paradox where we have make it the central focus in order to move away from it in the future.

Using this same paradoxical thinking I am going to center myself in order to illustrate how I deconstructing whiteness works for me and how I try not to always center myself. Hopefully at some point this will make sense to you soon.

The idea for this blog came when Julia Torres asked me why I don’t display white fragility and why I am the hype man for people who don’t have my cis-gender white male privilege. Here goes nothing.

I started on social media ready to learn with and from everyone. I read blogs and listened to podcasts but was unaware of my white cisgendered male privilege and had no clue about power dynamics. I got called out for my actions being problematic. I didn’t care until I was told my actions were white supremacist. Online. On Twitter. Where the whole world could see! All I was doing was reading people’s work and commenting. I was trying to learn. Couldn’t people see that? I wanted to grow to help my students and in the process the term “white supremacy” was being thrown out there with my name attached to it.

Here are the two major takeaways from that catastrophe. The first part is what happened after I got called a white supremacist. Guess what happened. Nothing. Not a damn thing. The police didn’t arrest me. My school didn’t bring me in for a chat. The people of color in my life didn’t shun me. Absolutely nothing happened. This fear I had was false. It wasn’t real. Having my actions labeled “white supremacist” wasn’t the end of the world for me.

Secondly after this happened Val Brown reached out to me. She showed me kindness when others did not. I don’t blame them. They go through this every day with white people not understanding race and power. What Val did was to simply see my humanity. She is someone who builds bridges. She helped me understand what was happening. More importantly, since then she has helped me and thousands of others learn about the three levels of oppression (individual, institutional, and structural) and how they have impacted people in America.

During my process of becoming racial consciousess on social media which is such a public form to explore such private issues, I have angered numerous people because of my mistakes and brash style. I have been blocked on social media and people have written me nasty emails.What I have come to realize, unfortunately, during the growth process, some People of Color are going to get hurt and question your motives. This is the natural consequence of so much hurt being caused by so many white people. Why would people see me as any different than those white people that had come before me? I understand their anger.

Through this trial by fire, I have gone through multiple stages in my awaresness of the interconnectedness of race and power. Jal Mehta wrote an article for EdWeek stating that there are five stages to racial awareness and People of Color’s reaction to them:

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I believe that I am in between Stage 4 and 5 currently. I have lead multiple professional development sessions for colleagues on racial consciousness. I am comfortable saying I love my white skin and also saying I love your brown skin or black skin. I have learned the language of oppression and also the language of liberation. I can speak about race and oppression without offending people. Learning to do that has has been the hardest part of this process. We have to learn the language and history before we can be credible when speaking about race and power.

MOST IMPORTANTLY I HAVE LISTENED! I have listened to black women, gay men, white women, Asian women, and every other group of people that exists outside of white men. I understand that I don’t know everything about everything. I listen to podcasts like CodeSwitch, The Stoop, Pushing the Edge and Empowerment Starts Here. I make sure that I interviewing People of Color for my own podcast called the Voxcast. On Twitter I retweet and amplify fantastic content. I look for nonwhite males and read their blogs. I comment and RT them. I actively look to amplify people who don’t look and act like me. I specifically say amplify because they already have a voice. My job is to make sure that the white people I interact with hear these voices.

Here is where things get confusing. Just because I understand the need for others to shine doesn’t mean that you or I shouldn’t shine as well. I work hard as hell to be a better person. I go to conferences, read books, listen to podcasts, interview people run book clubs and do a million more things to better myself and my profession. I don’t need to dim my light in order for others to shine. The content I create can help people grow and help me push myself to grow. There is room for everyone at the table. The point is I’m not more important than anyone else. There a tons of people doing what I am plus more. The key is to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to have their voice heard. This means that it is imperative we look at race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class.

For me, everything boils down to love. I love people. We are all connected.It is imperative to me that folks understand that if one group of people are hurting we are all hurting. My job is to make my life have meaning. I teach because I feel I can help students grow in a positive environment. I am on social media so I can learn from people and help others who want to grow. Right now white people have the most followers, are writing the most books, and are asked to keynote the most conferences. We must start to realize that there are people who are not white that are doing extraordinary things as well. The only reason we are not seeing them and hearing them is that we (white people) do not see how our race and power are playing out.

Look at your feed. Who are you following? Look at your last 10 retweets what is the gender and race of the content creator? Who’s blogs are you reading? Who’s books are you listening to? If the answers keep coming up as white people and specifically white people that is problematic.

Here is my charge to you. Actively look for black women and men, Asian men and women, Indigenous men and women, non hetero and cis gender people, and every other group I am missing that is viewed as being historically and presently marginalized and disenfranchised. Then LISTEN to what they have to say. Interact with what they create. Learn from and with them. Pay them if you can. Then amplify their voice and their work. In addition, when you get feedback from them that what you are doing is an issue LISTEN! Change your behavior. Figure out what is problematic and why. Ask questions. It will suck. It never gets easier. What does happen is you become a better human.

So now we have arrived at the paradox. You are reading a blog from a white cisgendered male. He is telling you to learn and speak about race and power as well as to amplify nonwhite people. That is the irony of this blog. In order to help decenter me here is a list of some people that you should follow. they are linked so it is as easy clicking on their name and then hit follow. Not one of them is a cis-gender white male. I write this with hope that the future can be better than our past and present.

Val Brownย 

Julia Torres

Marian Dingle

Christie Nold

Julie Jee

Tricia Ebarvia

Dr. Rosa Perez-Isiah Xian Barrett Ben Doxtadorย ย  Sheri Spelic

Nate Bowlingย  Dr. Debbie Reeseย  Dene Gainey

Ebony Elizabeth Minjung Paiย ย  Paul Suk-Hyun Yoon

Vivett Dukesย ย  Gyasi Ross Christina Torres Phoenix Calida

 

 

The Negative Might Be A Positive

This video shared with me By Tony Alexander

This will be a quick one.

Think about a negative situation you had. Maybe it was with a co-worker where you butted heads. It could have possibly been with a long time friend speaking about politics or religion. Perhaps you had a situation on social media that went south. Whatever the negative situation it doesn’t matter. Just try to remember the situation in as many details as you possibly can.

Think about the emotion of the situation. I had a circumstance that was eating at me for years. I had feelings of anger and powerlessness. I couldn’t get my point across and felt attacked and belittled. Every time I thought of it all these negative feelings came up.

Then a friend told me to reframe my view. What good came out of the situation? How did you grow? What changed because of it? These simple questions blew my mind! There was a ton of good that came from it when I reflected back. It forced me to become a better version of myself.

Suddenly the anger was gone. The negative feelings that were only hurting me were gone. The other parties had moved on and probably not thought about it or me since. I was the one that was hurting myself. The weight lifted.

Hopefully, this will help you. It is not a new philosophy or something I didn’t know. I just needed someone to remind me about reframing the experience. Perhaps I can be that someone to you.

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