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.

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Dear White People

Dear White People,

Hello, my name is Justin Schleider. I am a white male. I am writing this specifically for the white people who are participating in the #ClearTheAir book chat for White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. We are entering a journey together that will change us. I have read the book, and was ready for the book. Some of us may be ready, while others may not be ready. Regardless, this book will change you.

Our students of color are being harmed by us. This occurs because of our actions as well as our inactions. Please keep this central during our journey. I will operate under the assumption that the rest of you, much like myself, did not get into education to hurt people. That is called intent. Our intentions were good.

However, WE ARE HARMING ALL OF OUR STUDENTS when we do not understand the roles history, discrimination and race play out in our classes. That is called impact. Impact matters more than intention. To put it in a common phrase, “Hell was paved with good intentions.” To put it bluntly. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t intentionally hurting our students, it simply matters that we are harming them.

I used to think that I was not a white supremacist. I do not use the n-word nor do I wear a white robe with a hood to meetings. It is easy to understand those actions are hateful. We can proudly say, “that isn’t us.”

We are the ones who have biases hidden so deep that we aren’t always aware that we have them. This quote from Robin DiAngelo allows us to understand how this happens. “While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture”. (link)

WE ARE ENTERING THIS JOURNEY AS WHITE SUPREMACISTS. Get comfortable with that uncomfortable idea. This will help you not feel judged as a person because all white people are already white supremacists. All we are doing is finding out where it lies in us and then addressing it.

Here is my final quote from Robin DiAngelo, “Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).” (link) This journey will be tough on us. I have already watched as white people I like have had their thoughts scrutinized and pushed back on in a way that has to be uncomfortable. It feels like being attacked. I have been there. I have felt attacked.

Instead of feeling attacked we should do what Tyler states in this tweet:

This feedback that makes us defensive is actually a gift that will allow us to help be better teachers and educators for ALL of our students.

My charge to all of my fellow white people out there is to remember first and foremost that by participating in this chat, we are trying to better ourselves. This means putting our egos second to our super-egos. We need to allow our social consciousness to be penetrated to the point that we will see what others have seen for years. We have come here to be pushed in our thinking. Allow that to happen! Listen when people are spending their resources on you. Don’t be mad, be glad!

Secondly, let us white people hold each other accountable for our words and actions. Why should the PoC (People of Color) do all the heavy lifting? We need to start stepping up and saying why the words and actions of our white peers are align with white supremacy. This public action will continue to create a wave of change that is necessary throughout all of education.

Watch this video where Jay Smooth explains how to properly do this.

Lastly, let’s not become another example of white fragility. I have included myself in this letter because I have been fragile and I may become fragile again. It will be as hard for me to do this on our journey as it will be for you. Together we can make some real progress in our awareness of how we are harming people in this world. Let’s not waste it.

Sincerely,

Justin Schleider

 

The Binary of Good vs. Evil

Growing up things were always taught to me in binaries. Things were good or bad. Safe or unsafe. Happy or sad. There was little talk of things being gray. This may be because of how our brains work. One of my favorite rules in the Brain Rules book by Dr. John Medina is that:

“We pay attention to things like emotions, threats and sex. Regardless of who you are, the brain pays a great deal of attention to these questions: Can I eat it? Will it eat me? Can I mate with it? Will it mate with me? Have I seen it before?”

We had to rapidly judge things in the past because our survival depended on us being able to put things in the good or bad categories.

This brings us to Senator John McCain dying yesterday on August 25th, 2018. In his death I saw the binary being put forward. He was a war hero and prisoner of war! Obviously a good man.

Senator McCain was also the most vocal proponent for the Iraq War which was a huge mistake. McCain himself understood and accepted that he was a main architect of the war and had a huge burden to bear in that travesty. How can you call a man who advocated for an unjust war good? He was obviously a bad man.

The truth as always is the gray in between. There may be a spectrum of more good vs less good. I have read enough history to understand that there are no true heroes that were perfect. Everyone is fallible. The degree of our sins may vary as well as the perspective we view their actions through. I can’t imagine a citizen of Iraq believes Senator McCain can be judged as being more good than bad. Those of us in America who didn’t see the horror of the war caused or felt any ramifications of it may want to view him differently.

As always this leads me to the idea of racism. If someone does or says something I identify them as racist and put them in the bad category. When I do this it perpetuates that only bad people are racist. After reading White Fragility and understanding that it is impossible to be raised in America without drinking the white supremacy water this binary changes. We are all racist to some degree. The more we work on it the closer we get toward the side of good. The truth is we will never fully be there. The best we can hope for is that we get as far away from the bad spectrum as possible.

 

 

SHAPE America: Diversity Inclusion Equity

Preface: I support SHAPE America. I am a part of SHAPE America. This should be read with a critical lens not a negative one. Our organization is making strides in the right direction. This brings me hope and joy.

SHAPE America is THE national organization for Health and Physical Education Teachers.

“We provide programs, resources, and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.”

The organization is very interested in diversity, inclusion, and equity. I approach this initiative with some hesitation. The reason for this is that people have been fighting this fight for at least 20 years! There was mostly silence from them. I was at the national convention in Boston where they placed a social justice 6-hour panel on the far side of the hotel. There was not a representative there to even greet the presenters. It was apparent that no thought or effort went into supporting the speakers.

SHAPE America did not seem to want to challenge the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal culture in the past. This may be changing. The CEO is a woman (first woman CEO of SHAPE I believe) and the President is an openly gay woman. It still puzzles me that we (I am a member of SHAPE) have not embraced the LGBTQIA community when we have so many members from it. I know sexuality is still taboo in some areas. This makes it even more important for the organization to be explicit in its support of the community.

Look at the vision and mission of our organization:

Our Vision

A nation where all children are prepared to lead healthy, physically active lives.

Our Mission

To advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport.

You will not find a broader less defined vision and mission out there. Dillon Landi pointed out that there is nothing about diversity, equity, or inclusion in either the vision or mission. Where does it address diversity, inclusion, and equity? This push cannot be something that is a checkbox or a one year mission. This must be an ongoing journey that never ends. That means major changes must be made. SHAPE has been notoriously slow-moving on everything in its history. School is funneling students into prison and SHAPE has to figure out if the comma should go before or after the phrase. The red tape of an organization is hard to cut through. Most of the time it is necessary in order to ensure quality products and resources are created. Other times it just allows the system to bury anything that challenges the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal, wealthy culture. It will drag its feet waiting years to act on anything. By that time either someone has created that resource or they have successfully buried that idea into the ground.

SHAPE has created a diversity, inclusion, equity Voxer group and already has special interest groups you can join when you become a member. I joined the special interest groups but have no idea what they are or what they do. I don’t receive emails nor have I saw any evidence that they have produced anything. I may be wrong and if people do show me that I will update this with the appropriate evidence showing that. I personally know that I have never been contacted about these groups and I have checked them off in my profile.

Some people want to majorly disrupt the sytem. They see there are problems from the vision to every resource that does not authentically talk about power, gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and ableism. I agree that there is a problem when the most powerful organization does not consider intersectionality when it produces their standards and resources. I do not believe that a major disruption to the system is feasible nor do I think the organization is ready to be a phoenix and rise from the ashes stronger and with more purpose than their past.

Dillon Landi lays out this vox where he talks about 5 major points that he feels SHAPE America can take actionable steps in order to meet their goal of diversity inclsion and equity. Here are the 5 main subjects he addresses.

  1. Keynotes
  2. documents
  3. citation of PETE
  4. research council
  5. grants

I would listen to this. There is a lot of widsdom right there.

Here are some actionable steps I would like to see happen:

  1. Everyone from the CEO to the board of directors to the social media specialists is required to take basic courses on the history and impact of intersectionality. This will not solve the problems that SHAPE is having but it will give everyone a solid base to see how individuals and systems conspire against anyone considered outside the norm. You can not address any part of intersectionality if you don’t understand the big picture.
  2. Kennedra Tucker is given the resources to create a podcast on social justice. She is willing and there is a need. There is no need to create obstacles. Find the right people willing to work and get out of their way. Also, pay her.
  3. Keynotes should look like the students that are being taught by Physical education and Health teachers. This means black and brown speakers, speakers that are not Olympians or athletic champions. The speakers should also be explicit about their message that furthers SHAPE’s goal of #die. Dr. Martha James Hassan would be someone who understands that message and can package it in a way that resonates with people. She works at an HBCU! (historically black college/university) That alone is all the proof you need.
  4. The vision and mission need to include diversity, inclusion, and equity.
  5. SHAPE should reach out to GLSEN and Tolerance.org to create resources for teachers. The resources could link to those organizations or others. The bottom line is that SHAPE doesn’t need to reinvent or invent the wheel. Organizations are already doing great things in regards to intersectionality. USE THEM!
  6. Create ways to get BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) involved in the organization. This may mean creating grants to get to the national convention or free memberships for Title 1 schools.
  7. It’s not enough to get marginalized people to the party. We have to create a culture where every marginalized group has piece of the organization. How can we create the safe space for peopel to voice their opinion and than change actually occur. It can’t be solely on the people being harmed to lead us to become a better organization. We need to understand and support #blacklivesmatter #metoo and the various other social justice movements created to protect marginalized people. Teaching is not neutral. We are either anti-racist, anti-bigot, anti-hate or we allow the system to keep oppressing marginalized people.
  8. Produce resources that Physical Education and Health teachers can use tomorrow. Get the people doing fantastic things out there and bring them in.
  9. If you are affiliated with SHAPE America Read the books Social Justice in Physical Education and White Fragility. #ClearTheAir will be discussing White Fragility in the fall on Twitter. Come join us!! These will give you a nice base to address intersectionality in Physical Education and Health. You are the leader in your own growth. Read and learn.
  10. My final actionable step for SHAPE America is …. DO SOMETHING!!!! DO ANYTHING!!!! Don’t let this become another check box!

My final thoughts are for the SHAPE America affiliates that will read this. I am here to provide what I believe is necessary critical feedback for us to grow. I am doing or have done everything I am asking of you. Please learn about intersectionality and change the organization for the better. Our teachers and students need you to. If not, you as an organization, will continue to harm the 50 million (students) strong you are trying to reach by continuing to be complicit in the system of oppression you have participated in for the last 133 years. Stephanie and Judy I place this burden squarely on your shoulders. The buck starts with you. Where will SHAPE be in one year? What steps will they have taken. You have started to talk the talk. Now when the rubber meets the road let’s see if you will walk the walk.

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.  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. 

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.  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.

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.

1

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.  In the article, Yamilka Eastburn of Levittown is spot on when she claims “It’s like liquid ice cream,”. 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 — 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 — 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.