Author Archives: slowchatpe

One Word: Support

Sometimes I don’t want to do things simply because everyone else is doing them. To this day I still haven’t fully embraced the Dave Matthews Band simply due to the fact that everyone around me couldn’t stop talking about how great they are. That’s how I feel about this one-word goal setting blog mania that sweeps the edusphere every New Years. I want to hate on it but I can’t. When I read the blogs every year I get inspired. The kind of inspired you feel when the Patriots lose in the Super Bowl. That is what keeps me taking the #oneword challenge.

Before I get started I will recap my last two one word challenges. In 2016 the subject was fear. It was based on the fear that Donald Trump was going to win the election and what that was going to mean for every student who was not white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and Christian. What followed was exactly what was feared.

” The report found that 7,175 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in 2017, up from 6,121 reported incidents in 2016. While the number has increased, the number of agencies reporting also increased by about 1,000.

Of the 7,106 single-bias hate crimes reported, 59.6% of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 15.8% were targeted because of sexual-orientation bias; 1.6% were targeted because of gender identity bias; and 0.6% were targeted because of gender bias. Sixty-nine multiple-bias hate crime incidents were also reported.”

In 2017 my #oneword was disallow. I stated, “The number one reason I am choosing that word is that someone needs to stand up when they see things that go against what they stand for.” I believe that I did start to change how I approached things. I no longer allowed the people I cam in contact with to get away with saying things that were either dog whistles or just plain hateful. This is embarrassing because I came so late to the party. I lived over 30 years either being a white supremacist or allowing white supremacy to continue without ever addressing it. No cookies will be eaten over here.

In 2018 I took a break and took the 100 word challenge from my man Dene Gainey blog. Here is what I wrote:

“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.”

Now that I have reflected here is why my 2019 one word is Support. It is time that I consciously make sure I am using my platform to support what others are doing. Specifically I would like to support those who are not white, cisgender, heterosexual males like myself. The reason for this is not because I don’t feel like we don’t have anything to say or that we can’t add value to the world. The reason is because we don’t need the support. It is there simply because of who we are. Here are the three movements that I support through my time, my money, and my standing in the #physed community.

The first person/movement I would like to publicly support is #ClearTheAir created by Valeria Brown. ClearTheAir has allowed me to learn more about race and power than anywhere else. The books, Twitter chats, Zooms, and Voxer groups that Val recommends and creates pushes my thinking and make me extremely uncomfortable. That is probably why I have grown so much in my worldview in the past year. In order to support her I will be donating money so she can start to build the ClearTheAir community further and donate books to those that can’t afford them so they can be involved in the movement. I will also be using my time to show up on Twitter chats, Zoom gatherings, and whatever else she has in mind.

The next movement that I would like to support is the MAPSO Freedom School. The idea behind their organization is:

“Freedom Schools were temporary, alternative free schools for African-Americans mostly in the South. They were originally part of the Civil Rights Movement to organize African Americans to achieve social, political and economic equality in the United States. Our (Maplewood South Orange) MapSO Freedom School events will capture that historical spirit as we struggle together and move forward.
Our classroom sessions, professional development, and community events seek to develop understanding of racial justice in students, teachers, and parents while empowering those same groups to take action in an effort to make social change.”

I first learned of this organization through Okaikor Aryee-Price. She will rightfully say that there are a lot of people involved and doing the work; however, she puts in a lot of work and is the face of it to me. Okaikor is exactly the type of person we need if we are going to make a systemic change in education. She is brilliant, passionate, and willing to give of herself and her time in order to shed light on anti-blackness in America our schools.

I have supported the MAPSO Freedom School by donating money. Secondly, I will be showing up to at least 3 Zooms in preparation for BLM Week of Action at schools and the Teaching Tolerance Workshops. Lastly, I will be attending the Teaching Tolerance workshop in March. If you are interested in supporting them contact Okaikor. Also, follow @mapsofreedom.

The final people I will be actively supporting are Kennedra Tucker and Stephanie Sandino. They are in the midst of creating a Social Justice podcast for Physical Education and Health Teachers. This project has taken a while to get moving but I am so excited to see it come to fruition. Both Kennedra and Stephanie are amazing educators whose passion is apparent to anyone that has ever come in contact with them. I will be definitely be amplifying their work! Follow them on Twitter or join them on the Voxer equity, diversity, and inclusion chat on Voxer.

My goal this year is to continue to de-center myself as well as raise the social consciousness of others who are doing great things in the field of education. It will be a busy and tiring year for sure. That will not deter me from continuing to better myself and those around me by supporting others who are doing the important work.


Reflection: Grace and More

The end of the year forces us to reflect. This holiday season/new year I am going to focus more in the vein of Yom Kippur than Rosh Hashanah. What that means is I am going to focus more on being forgiven for my sins than celebrating the New Year’s arrival. I believe I have grown a lot both personally and professionally.

The biggest growth I had was in confronting the harm that I had imposed on others. This blog post named the people directly who I have harmed as well as me attempting to repair the harm. It was time that I openly admitted to my errors to these people and the world. This also forced me to constantly remind myself that I make mistakes all the time also prompts me to realize that others are doing the same thing. We are all making mistakes of one kind or another.

Reflecting further I know that I have not reflected the grace that I hoped would be shown to me when I attempted to repair the harm. This does not mean that I need to forgive and forget. It means that if someone did something and truly felt remorse for it I need to make sure I am being as magnanimous as I expect others to be. Honestly that does not always occur.

One of the areas that I am attempting to learn more about is power. I don’t always understand power dynamics. I have come to realize this is because I have usually had the power or possessed the ability to ignore the power in my interactions. My goal is to make sure I listen when people call my attention to this.

This year I brought the idea of identity and intersectionality into my Health and PhysEd classrooms. This was a direct result of me seeing a world that treats people inequitably simply because of their race, sexuality, gender association, religion, and socioeconomic status. I felt it was time that I started showing my students how there are different systems in place that have (and still do) created obstacles for certain groups of people to live their best life in the United States.

Last I am grateful for all the people that are actively working to help ignorant individuals like myself grow. Arthur Chiaravalli wrote a fantastic blog post and follow up thread that names a lot of the people I would like to thank.

To conclude this reflection I would like to recommend some chats and resources you should follow if you want to make changes in your pedagogy and social awareness.

#ClearTheAir Val Brown creates a bridge where people with an open heart can learn without being fearful of being attacked. You will be challenged for sure. It will be uncomfortable no doubt. And you will grow as a human being.

#EduColor- “was founded by people of color, with people of color, for people of color. We are an inclusive collective, and have co-workers in the work for true equity. Our members come from many parts of the education sector, including educational technology and higher education.” – “The aim of PEPRN (which originally stood for the Physical Education Practitioner Research Network but now, like the BBC or NBC, is now better known for its acronym) is to bring together physical education teachers, coaches, physical activity leaders, volunteers and university practitioners from around the world to talk about practice, young peoples’ experiences of physical activity, and research.”  – Dr. Dye runs this podcast that, “Empowerment Starts Here is a podcast that explores power, social change and disrupting the margins.” Dr. Dye allows me to help uncover my blind areas when it come to power. I have soooo much work to do.

Tonight we ordered a couple of pizzas for dinner and told the in-laws to come over for dinner. I hopped in the ole gray Jeep Patriot to go pick them up. After I procured them I had a strange and interesting thought pop in my head. I thought the pizza box hasn’t changed much in the last 15-20 years. So I went home and did what every curious human does and asked the Google what is the history of the Pizza Box. I stumbled upon the website Serious Eats  and learned myself a little something about the pizza box. 

What we would consider the Mitochondrial Eve of the pizza box spawned in the 17th century and seemed somewhat sophisticated and environmentally friendy of a system for transporting hot dough like food.

“In the early 1800’s, bakers were using copper containers to transport small breads and pizzas on the street. They often employed their sons to cart these stufas (literally stoves) around the neighborhood in hope of selling the scraps for some extra change. It was kind of like Newsies, but with much less singing and dancing. Unlike today’s model of made-to-order pizza delivered hot and fresh to your door, stufa boys were hawking pre-made pies. Stufas kept the pizzas warm, as copper has high heat dissipation capabilities. They also had pointed lids with covered vents to help manage steam exhaust. Brilliant!”

Nearly 100 years later a pizzeria in America started doing a really poor job of packaging their food to go.

“Jump ahead 100 years and pizza starts to catch on in New York and other industrialized American cities. Legend has it that pizzas were being sold “to-go” rolled into a cone, wrapped in paper, and loosely tied with twine at Lombardi’s (America’s first licensed pizzeria).”

So now we have moved to the idea that we slide a pizza into a brown paper bag after we put in on a piece of cardboard. Fun fact. I have gone to Federici’s a number of times over the years and their pizza is delicious.

“The post-WWII years exposed millions of American GI’s to pizza in Italy, so interest dramatically increased upon their return home. In the 1940’s, lots of pizza purveyors offered take-out pies. The pizza would sit on a stiff corrugated base, which could slide snugly into a large paper bag. The bag’s thin structure would allow steam to escape but only at the price of heat loss. Still, it’s not a bad means of conveyance. You can still find this method in use at Federici’s in Freehold, NJ, which has been bagging pies since 1946.”

Ok we are almost to the end!!! The boxes appear. And no more greasy bags.

“The 1950’s brought pizza into the dining rooms of a booming nation and as orders piled up, so did the pizzas. Bags don’t stack very well and we didn’t even have that funky-little-white-plastic-dollhouse-table-pizza-box-support yet (more on that in a future post) so mankind was forced to adapt. Thin paperboard bakery boxes provided a bit more support, and so were born the earliest dedicated pizza boxes.”

Finally, Domino’s to the rescue! I have to be honest. If you eat Domino’s I may be judging you right now. Just a little bit. It also happens that I hail from an area that has the best pizza in the country. I have five pizza places withing 15 minutes that are amazing. Moving on. Check out below how Domino’s changed the game.

“One of the greatest leaps in the evolution of the pizza box can be attributed to Tom Monaghan, founder of Dominos. Since Dominos focused its business solely on delivery, it should be no surprise that they were the driving force behind pizza delivery technology. In order to deliver hot pizzas in a timely fashion, Monaghan searched for a company to develop a corrugated cardboard box in the mid 1960’s. According to Monaghan’s autobiography Pizza Tiger it was more difficult than anticipated to make a container that was scored properly for folding yet strong enough to hold its form. After a long development process with Triad Containers, a Detroit-based corrugated box company, they finally achieved success. The resulting pizza box has become a standard for the pizza industry right down to the way the box base doubles over itself to lock into the base, known appropriately as “Michigan style”. Regardless of how you many feel about the quality of their edible products, it’s hard to ignore the impact Dominos has made on the history of the pizza box.”

So what does all this mean? This means for 50 years pizza boxes have been doing their thing. Sure add a little plastic table for Shopkins but the pizza box has done it’s job well. As always my mind drifts back to my teaching.  What is something that I have done in my career at a really high level that hasn’t changed much? What is my pizza box? The answer to that I really listen to what my students are saying. I intentionally focus on what they are saying and figure out how I can change my class for the better. This is my strength. Talking with the students and allowing them to have a voice in my class.

What is your pizza box?

Pretty Nails

This weekend my wife and her sister took a trip to the Poconos to see her aunt. This meant three days and two nights alone. I was mentally prepared to be Mr. Dad and rock the weekend until IT started. By IT I mean the wailing that was coming out of my daughter’s mouth when my wife went to leave. The faucets were wide open and the tears flowed like the taps at an Irish Pub on St. Patty’s Day. My wife hadn’t even got out of the door and things were going off the rails.

Working at a summer camp allows me to have an insight on kids crying when their parents leave that few other mortals have. I knew the longer the scene dragged out the worse it was going to be. Ripping the band-aid off became priority one.  I quickly helped the ladies out of the house and closed the door behind them. My daughter had just started to calm down when the door opened and my wife came back in with some stuff from the car she didn’t want to travel with. NOOOOO!

The scene reverted back to the pub. I grabbed a mop and a towel and was ready to clean up the lake that was forming under her. My heart was breaking. My brain was hurting from trying to figure out the quickest way to get a unicorn or a pony to appear in the kitchen. I then started down the road of inquiry that I knew would make everything better. “Do you want to paint my nails?” The tears stopped and together we walked over to the table.

My daughter is the quickest nail painter on the East Coast. Five minutes later each nail was a different color with some nails being partitioned and painted two colors. My daughter was calm and soon bedtime was upon us. The house quickly fell asleep and soon the morning rooster crowed.

We woke up and I went to coach my kids basketball teams. All was going well until one of the 40 kids in the first session asked me why my fingers were painted. I had totally forgotten about them! I explained my daughter had painted them and the kids started giggling. The same question was asked by a child in the second session. I explained again how Abbie had wanted to paint them and I was cool with that.

One of the fathers at the practice who I was friends with asked me about them as well. I told the story and the empathy immediately flowed from him. He has a daughter and understood without any need of explanation. He then proceeded to take a picture and send it to our friends.

After basketball I took the kids to a play with my parents. My parents are somewhat conservative and both of my parents made it a point to bring up my nails. It was not negative but the mere fact that it was brought up said something about how this wasn’t quite a social norm.

I have kept my nails painted all weekend because honestly, I am too lazy to find the nail polish remover and take the color off. I was also somewhat curious about what the reaction would be from the people I interacted with. I don’t know what judgments people are making about me when they see my fingers. Do they question my sexuality? What assumptions are they making? I know personally, I must feel some way because I forget that they are painted and when I see them it jars me for a second. That has to say something. Let’s face it. Most cis-gender heterosexual men don’t usually paint their nails.

I probably won’t clear my nails off for work tomorrow either. What will the elementary students I teach think? It will be a topic of interest I am sure. I purposefully wear a pink sweatshirt to show my students that gender doesn’t dictate color preference. This will be no different. My nails have nothing to do with my gender nor sexuality. This goes hand in hand (pun intended) with my gender lesson that I do with kindergarten students. We identify the difference between boys and girls. This year I will include intersex into the conversation as well. One of the answers the kids give is that boys don’t paint their nails. I counter with the question of whether it is legal or not. We discuss how most boys don’t paint their nails but that is a choice nothing more or less. This will give them a concrete example of someone choosing to have their nails painted.

I appreciate your time for reading the blog. Hopefully, this will push your thinking a little and see how you can show your students where their bias is. Drawing attention to it is the first step.

This week was filled with multiple conversations about intersectionality on Twitter, Voxer, and at dining room tables. For those of you who are tired of reading my writings about this subject, your perusing journey is over. Click the X on the top right of the browser because guess what I am going to talk about again? Yep. Race. 

Before I go on I would like to address why I keep writing and talking about how race. Everywhere I look I see race impacting our country. The elections in Georgia and Florida showcased just how important race is in our electoral process. The number of People of Color who had their votes suppressed in the last election was ridiculous and without a doubt swayed the elections in favor of the party who did partook in the suppression.

In the past two weeks, two different black men were shot by police when they were not the shooters the police were called in to respond to. This is a trend we see again and again. This is the exact reason why #BlackLivesMatter was started and why Kaepernick doesn’t have a job! Race impacts every aspect of our lives in America and not learning about it and naming white supremacy when we see it can not continue to happen.

Speaking of Kaepernick, this was one of the conversations I had during the Thanksgiving festivities. “I can’t support Nike because they support Kaepernick and in some countries, he would get shot” is how the conversation started.  After informing the person that Nike is playing both sides as evidenced in this article,  I explained how Kaepernick is fighting because black people are getting killed here for no reason other than their skin. The exact problem that they alluded to in other countries!

Another conversation that occurred was about good ole Paula Deen. This was a much more nuanced conversation about how long ago did she say her comments and had she acknowledged the harm she had caused and tried to repair it. The conversation started because of butter (her favorite) and one of the guests wondered aloud how her restaurants were doing.  Before I could censor myself I blurted out, “She’s probably raking in the dough! did you see what happened during the election in Georgia?” The conversation went well with the points being brought up that what we have said and thought 20 and 30 years ago has drastically changed. The key is to own up to our harm and continuously work to better ourselves as people.

A conversation I had on Twitter revolved around my blanket statement that if you celebrated Thanksgiving you were also celebrating the annihilation of the Indigenous People of America. After much debate and reading the writings of Indigenous People that celebrate Thanksgiving I have moved my position to a much more knowledgable stance. Celebrating Thanksgiving is fantastic in my opinion as long as we explicitly talk about how the Pilgrims murdered and stole the land of Indigenous People as well as support them today.  Here is a great article that explains how we can support Indigenous People.  This line of thinking is the same when we talk about playing Thanksgiving games in #PhysEd. It’s great to play the games just make sure that we are explaining what happened after the feast. If not then we become part of the whitewashing of history and continue to be the problem.

I am sure that many of you had similar conversations. Some people may have spoken up while others remain silent. At this point in my life, I am no longer able to stay silent. The key to me is speaking from a place of knowledge. We can not have conversations about race and politics if we do not know the history behind the subjects. 

Finally, I would like to talk about room for giving grace. When we speak about ways to teach children, different units to incorporate into our schools, or the way to bring student voice and choice to the forefront I am all about grace and open-mindedness.  When the conversation turns to ignoring intersectionality (which includes race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and gender plus more) I have no room for grace. This is because to disregard these subjects is to continue the system of white supremacy that runs our schools. This does not mean that I will not engage in conversations about it I just have no room for debate because we are talking about students who are being harmed. This leaves us no room to “debate” these topics. We are either anti-white supremacy or we perpetuate it. There is no in between.  I will tell you my thoughts as respectfully as I can. You can either choose to listen or ignore it. Do not expect me to change my mind though because again we are talking about students being put in harm’s way. 

My learning journey has taken me to this place. This is a result of reading a boatload of books, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, and listening to People of Color whose jobs are to write and teach about Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. My thoughts today will not be the same as my thoughts next year or in ten years. I will probably look back in ten years and shake my head at my ignorance at 35 just like I am looking back and shaking my head at my ignorance when I was 25. The more I learn the more I will change my views.

If you made it this far in the blog I thank you for your time after all this is the most important resource we have. I am growing and hopefully, you are as well. Please respond if you feel the want or need. Comments are always welcome!

EdCampNJ 2018

On Saturday I went to EdCampNj in New Brunswick. This was the first time in a long time that I went solely as a participant. I didn’t facilitate nor do anything to assist the conference. I went just to learn and hang out with my people. What a glorious feeling it was! There were no pressures and I didn’t have to get there at 7 in the morning!

When I rolled up I saw Jen Duda. It is always a pleasure to catch up with her and find out how Mercer County Special Services is operating. I milled around for a bit saying hello to Stacey Lindes who is always a delight to speak with. Her bright smile and enthusiasm always has me walking away feeling better about life. For me seeing my #PLF (Personal Learning Family thanks to Sarah Thomas for coining that) is what keeps me coming back for more.

The first session I attended was called Restorative Practices and Justice. It was masterfully facilitated by Josue Failaise. Josue works as a provider of PD & executive level training through the combined efforts of Rutgers University, PreK-12 districts, and their professional partners. The session rocked for two main reasons. The first idea Josue made clear was the difference between equity and equality. I left understanding with a better understanding that equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.

The second part that Josue made clear was the difference between Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices. As I understand it Restorative Justice is an alternative to using punishment to manage misbehavior and is embedded in the policies of the district. The Restorative Practices are how we go about implementing Restorative Justice in the classroom. It is about building community, addressing and repairing the harm, and giving kids the opportunities to share their authentic selves. Check out the session notes here!

The next session I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius and titled Most PD is Meaningless – Lets Change That. Mike is a Unionist, Designer of PD, Organizer of Action, Host of Conversations, Rouser of Rabble, and Co-Founder of the Edcamp Foundation & Movement. Yes, he co-founded the original EDCAMP! #legend Mike’s session is all about identifying the various ways to deliver and participate in professional development. I won’t summarize his session because it is too complex to talk about quickly in a blog. I would highly recommend you follow him on Twitter and take a look at the session notes here.

The third session I did the classic EdCamp split. The idea behind the rule of two feet is that sometimes there are various sessions you want to see. The solution is simple. Go to both! The first session was Student Led Conferences & Digital Portfolios hosted by Lisa Capote @capote_lisa, and Crystal Favours I loved learning about how the students ran the conferences and the Google sites were a showcase where the students could show evidence of their authentic learning. Check out how to set up the Google sites and more in their session notes here.

The other session I went into late was Wellness Edu: Making Teachers Comfortable facilitated by James Overton (@coach_overton). The session focused on various ways that teachers can keep their candle burning bright throughout the year. The one gold nugget I took away from the session is that you can do a step contest limiting the time to only during the school day! This forces the teachers to move during the day. What a brilliant idea. Check out more from their session here.

The final session was the greatest session of the day. It was a continuation of an earlier session called Courageous Conversations part 2. It was facilitated by three brilliant ladies Dr. E. Mamman: @noyiMic, Nadine Sanchez @nay_sanch, and Aquaus Kelly @aquaus. The room was packed! The talking points revolved around the idea of the four agreements. I first heard about the Four Agreements from Andy Milne (@carmelhealth). 

The Four Agreements are:

1. Stay engaged​: Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally,
intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue”.

2. Experience discomfort​: This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable,
especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to
bring issues into the open. It is not talking about these issues that create
divisiveness. The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools. It
is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.

3. Speak your truth​: This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not
just saying what you think others want to hear.

4. Expect and accept non­closure​: This agreement asks participants to “hang out
in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial
understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue.

The discussions were rich. The people in the room spoke their truth. One white participant honestly stated that she censors herself sometimes when she knows someone is related to a police officer. (she knew that was wrong) That started an interesting conversation.

It is hard for me as a white male to figure out my space in these conversations. I am doing the work so I feel confident in my ability to have the conversations but I don’t want to overstep my bounds. Honestly, we hear enough from white males everywhere else and I don’t want to be the one who takes over the room.

I heard a couple of ideas that I wanted to push back on but couldn’t. One was the idea that white people can’t lead this conversation. White people have to be leading this while simultaneously paying People of Color for their work, specifically Black women, for their work. This is why I buy books written by Black women and give money when links are posted online to Patreons or Paypal accounts.

Another idea that made me want to push back was when a white woman talked about how she struggled and we don’t know what people are going through in their personal lives. While this is true centering your life as a white woman in a conversation about race seemed to derail and missed the point.

I do not quite know how to navigate these situations just yet. Where is my place in this conversation? Do I push back? Do I let the facilitators take care of what I see as an issue? Are they issues at all? So many questions and so little answers.

Regardless of the minor issues I saw, the conversation was fantastic. I left the room believing that change is happening. The ripples are spreading.

I will leave you with my final glows and grows from the conference:

Glow: New Brunswick High School is an amazing facility.

Grow: The internet blocked most sites that people attempted to get on. Open the networks up so we can access any site.

Glow: Seeing Fade’  and Shivan. These two gentlemen are great people. I love seeing them and learning from them. They are two people who make me leave my house and attend conferences.

Grow: We have never had to pay for food before at EdCampNJ. Can the food be sponsored by NJEA or New Brunswick PTA?

Glow: So many People of Color.

Glow: New Jersey Educators are fantastic. They show up in droves and make events like these so successful.


NJEA 2018

This week I went to the NJEA convention in Atlantic City. The entire state is given two days off to go to this free convention for members. (I know that means it’s not free) I love how the entire state is given the opportunity to attend. Professional development is the only way that we can improve in this profession.

The first session I presented was entitled Move to Learn. Chris Baccarella has presented with me for the past two years. This year we decided to create content for the classroom teachers. One of the really cool lesson ideas I created using EdPuzzle was a lesson on waves. If you are interested, check out this video here.

What always jazzes me up about teaching with and through movement is the excitement of the teachers as the dots start to connect. They see how easily it is to take the concept that we are showing them and put their content into it. There is nothing better than feeling that you are positively impacting students even if you don’t have direct contact with them.

The second session I presented on was on Social Justice in the Classroom. The session didn’t go as planned. I started the session asking what is the purpose of education. I was hoping the participants would come up with something similar to creating better citizens. This would be the opening to highlight how social justice is a must in schools if the goal is to create better citizens. One gentleman said it was to teach traditional family values. This was the beginning of the session and I wasn’t really settled, to begin with. After I put my eyes back into my head I asked the gentleman to explain further. His answer was something vague about how things were in the 80’s. I asked him to name them but he wasn’t able to come up with specifics.

The conversation with this gentlemen quickly turned to what if we had a difference of opinion. I told the man that if his opinion wasn’t harming others I would be open to his point of view. Brian Costello told me a while ago that I make lines in the sand. This is so true! I have definite opinions about almost everything; however, if you give me new evidence or facts that I was unaware of I will most definitely change my mind. The conversation was overall pleasant but I worried that it was only going to get worse once I started delving into the real stuff I would hear some more dog whistles from this man throughout the session.

I did not hear another peep from the man until he asked me if race was subjective. I replied yes and explained how the actual meaning of being white has changed over the years. This led to a fantastic discussion about colorism. A gentlemen of Columbian descent explained how the lighter your skin the better you were treated in various racial groups. It was really cool for me to sit back and listen to people who have lived and traveled all over the world explain just how colorism works in other countries and communities.

The session finished really well and I feel like that the people in the room left with a couple of ways to incorporate social justice into their class.

I leave the conference with a renewed hope that teachers are always improving.