11.10.22

National Coming Out Day is October 11th: Here's is How One Teacher in Queens Talks About Coming Out as Both a Personal Journey and in Their Role as a Teacher

For National Coming Out Day, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, the LGBT Network sent me a box of pride rainbow and trans ribbons to distribute to students in my school to support "coming out" against violence, discrimination, and abuse against members of our community. Here's more tea: 
Wearing Blue Greig Relaxes Somewhere in South Louisiana Circa 2010

The LGBT Network distributed ribbons to schools to celebrate National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, October 11, 2022.
Coming out as a Teacher
I came out as a teacher in 2017. I remember the moment — it was on a school trip to Nantucket. On a whim, a group of kids, a few other teachers, and I went to an author talk: the novelist Benjamin Alire Sáenz, who wrote Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, was speaking at the Nantucket theater. Mr. Sáenz spoke about writing young adult fiction, a term, he said, didn't apply to him, but apparently, young adults find his novels appealing. I asked a question about coming out, and I said, "As a gay kid growing up, we did not have representation of gay, lesbian, or trans youth, and I told him how grateful I was for this generation that is changing.

Since then, I have been out as a teacher. I have helped start a GSA club at my school, and I included Sáenz's book in the English Langauge Arts curriculum for our teachers. I even created an elective course, "History Comes Out," where we explored biographies of queer figures in history and pop culture. 

Not that I was in the closet, necessarily, before that time, in Nantucket, but I feel like I kept my sexuality to myself and did not talk about it in the classroom, sticking mainly to the role of "single, guy, teacher vibes." I was out to my close circle of co-workers and family, but I bifurcated who I was from my role as a teacher.

Now, the fact that I am a gay male in New York City is not a huge deal. We are legion. But, the number one reason I am vocal about my sexual orientation and gender expression is that I want to normalize the experience for kids who might need or want a different kind of adult. I feel like, sometimes, I have to conform to some heteronormative script that I have concocted in my head. And it has taken a while; I am still learning that I can just be myself.

Growing Up Gay
I grew up as a gay boy in South Louisiana in the 1990s. It was like going to a crawfish boil and telling everyone you don’t eat seafood. They’d look at you like you just grew two heads. 

Now — as an adult — I’m out and proud. So shut your face if you don’t like it. Just kidding! Kinda.

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. Thank you, @lgbtnetwork and @nycschools, for supporting my school @gardenschoolnyc and @gardenstudents with LGBTQ+ ribbons. The kids who participated love love loved it. 

Here are details from the day: 
A twelve-year-old girl came to me with a drawing she had made on her art 🖼️ app of me as a woman. She was so proud to show me. It made me appreciate my feminine side. A boy talked to me about transphobia and discussed strategies to combat it. And @bats4k gave a heartfelt speech at our school's weekly morning meeting. At dismissal, one of my students was sure to say, “I wore my ribbon all day!”

I am one proud teacher, gay man, gender-affirming, inclusivity-loving individual. Sprinkles!


#gaypride #gayteachersofinstagram #gay #schools #nationalcomingoutday #queer #trans #kids #lgbtqia

5.9.22

How Kahoot! Can Engage Students In The Classroom (Written by a Kahoot! Certified Educator with Examples)

In this post, I write about how teachers, specifically high school English and Humanities teachers, can use the Kahoot! platform to enhance their lessons and engage students.

I use Kahoot! in the high school classroom as a formative assessment. It's a fun way to start a lesson, end a lesson, review for a test, or drum up a bit of healthy competition. Find my Kahoot! profile here! 

What is Kahoot!?
Engaging students in the classroom can be challenging in a world where educational content is increasingly delivered online. Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform that makes it easy to create, play, and share learning games.

Kahoot! is a gamified quiz platform  it can be used for any purpose where there is a question and an answer, making it perfect for teachers and trivia masters at your local pub or family trivia nights.

Who Started Kahoot!
Kahoot! was created by Johan Brand, Jamie Brooker, and Morten Versvik in Oslo, Norway. The quiz is based on research by Professor Alf Inge Wang and his colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). 

What makes Kahoot! so enticing is that it's fun to use — and people can join Kahoot! with any device connected to the Internet. The platform takes the power of the question and couples it with competition, points, sound effects — and more.

How Van Kahoot! Be Used in the Classroom?
Sample of a Kahoot game in action.
Kahoot! is a great way to engage students 
in the classroom, especially in the humanities. Games can be played on any topic, and there is a vast library of existing games to choose from. You can also create your own games.

Kahoot! is not just for high school students – it can be used in any classroom or course. It is also a great way to study for exams or to review for a test.

If you are a teacher, you can use Kahoot! to create engaging educational content for your students. If you are a student, you can use Kahoot! to study for your courses or review exams. Either way, Kahoot! is a great way to learn.

The Benefits of Using Kahoot! in the Classroom
I am teaching my Eighth grade English Language Arts students a unit on Plato's Allegory of the Cave. It's a popular lesson I sell on Teachers Pay Teachers and on Amazon Ignite! I even have a free version. In the lesson, we wonder about Plato's view of reality; the essential question is, what is real? 

What teachers have said about my digital educational resources:
Love this product! Very thought-provoking. I used this distance learning with students in zoom class.
— Aron H. 
Creating a Kahoot! Course for Plato's Allegory of the Cave
Kahoot! Courses are a fantastic way to organize
gamified activities around a singular topic
 here is one I made on Plato's Cave. Check it out. 

I aligned sixteen different Kahoots to our learning objectives. The lesson plan came first — the intellectual work was the most challenging- putting it together. So with Kahoot! I was able to make a course based on all of my hard work. And voilà. It has made the unit so much more engaging for my students! 

How to get started with Kahoot! in the classroom
Kahoot! is free to start  and if you like it and want to create and access more sophisticated content, Kahoot! has several different-priced tiered plans.

Full disclosure 
 I am a verified creator on the Kahoot! Marketplace.


20.8.22

Sprinkles! We Did That!: Amira and Greig's First High School English Teacher Duo Podcast (Now on Soundcloud)

In this post, Greig, and Amira, both high school English teachers, share, talk, and laugh in their first-ever inaugural podcast, "Sprinkles! We Did That!"

I repost the first (and probably last) podcast of Amira and Greig's show Sprinkles! We Did That! We talk about teaching, funny moments in the classroom, starting a Gay-Straight Alliance at our school, our favorite words to describe each other, how we became friends, Dolly Parton, improbable events, and gayness!


Please listen and give a shout-out! Share, too.

19.8.22

Photos Taken Near the Bronx River and Two Stories About New York City from Louisianians

In this post, I ask two family members from Louisiana to give their impressions of New York City. These are their responses.

Stylized photograph of the author
In this photograph, I am
waiting for the Q44 bus in the Bronx,
right next to the Bronx River.

A New York City subway train traverses the Bronx River.
A New York City subway train
traverses the Bronx River.
When I asked my school-aged nephew what he thought about New York, he replied: “I think that it's like very crowded and a lot of people like foods there and the best place is probably the pizza. And it's probably the best food. Thank you for your time, everybody.”


And then, I asked him to imagine what the city smelled like and felt like (using sensory details): “New York is fun and stinky and interesting, like a hot dog.”

When I asked my seventy-something-year-old aunt what people in Louisiana think about New York, she told me a story: “Greig, I would say they think it's too dangerous, but when I went to New York with Uncle Raymond in 1993, that's the only place that I was able to go out at night shopping. Even in New Orleans, even when we lived in Chalmette, I couldn't go out at night shopping. Oh my God. I forgot how many years ago. That was probably twenty-odd years ago. But in New York, I could go shopping. We had a hotel near Times Square, So I was able to go up and down that street without any restrictions in the middle of the night. Do you know? And, um, you know, I never go at night, and Uncle Raymond never let me go anyplace at night.”

Three kids walk past a bus stop In the Bronx.A sign advises against littering, but someone left an informative note.
Photos (L) Three kids walk past a bus stop In the Bronx. (R) A sign advises against littering, but someone left an informative note.

18.8.22

Book Review: A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake

In this post, I write a review of the novel A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake. Warning: spoilers are included in this review. 
Cover of the novel Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan Lake
I Had Read Octavia E. Butler Recently
I had recently read Octavia E. Butler's novel Kindred. It's also a story that goes back and forth between past and present, and it's also about piecing together clues about family relations, enslavement, and how Black protagonists resisted their White enslavers. Butler's novel is about a Black novelist in 1970s Los Angeles who goes to the past in 19th century Maryland. This novel is about a White graduate student from Boston who travels to her mother's hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. I mention this because it shows my reading trajectory and how I picked up this book. Also, the novel, as the author states in an interview, took her twenty years to write, and through the course of its development takes on many twists and turns. As you will see. 

Kate Drayton — Graduate Student from Boston
In A Tangled Mercy, Kate Drayton is the protagonist. But I found myself decreasingly interested in her. She's found herself in her deceased mother's hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. The novel is long, though. About four hundred pages, and it spends at least three hundred pages slowly revealing how Kate and her family's lives are interwoven with the events of an enslaved blacksmith named Tom Russell from 1822. And it ends — spoiler alert — with an explosive current event. All of the events, how they all fit together into one story, is a bit confusing, and I had to read certain parts twice, stop reading the book, put it down, and do some online background reading just to puzzle out what was happening. 

The novel plays into the historical events of a slave revolt that occurred in 1822, called the Denmark Vesey Rebellion. The novel juxtaposes Kate's narrative with the third-person story of Tom Russell. In my mind, the Kate chapters had a female voice and the Tom chapters had a male voice. We find out that Tom Russell was hung and shot for being part of the revolt. As I said, I did get confused at this point, because this sticking point, Russell's death, is put forth as possibly not ever happening — and that Tom might have survived. Spoiler alert: he didn't survive. But I will leave it to you, the reader, to figure out his legacy. 

Historical Events are Interconnected — But What Does it All Mean?
So there is a lot of historical backdrop here, the AME church in Charleston where the riot originated, the story of how Charleston became the port of entry for half of the new world's enslaved population, and lots of other details the author obviously had done tons of research to mine for a novel. But I found myself losing interest in Kate's ambiguity; her, mission. And more interested in the novel's minor characters. I liked the character of Gabe, a young boy she befriends. He is funny, quirky, and often has the right answers to what's going on around him. 

I did like literary references in the book — and I laughed out loud when Kate and Scudder Lambeth are stuck in his pick-up truck discussing William Faulkner and Southern Literature. The character of Scudder, Gabe's uncle, is so much more eloquent than Kate. And the story offers a would-be love story that made me tear my hair out. Just go there! I thought. But perhaps it was not meant to be. Although Kate quotes Faulkner, I don't think she got the idea that the past seeps into the present. By the way — I do want a spin-off novel about either Gabe as a woke kid in South Carolina or about the subtle poetic genius of Scudder Lambeth.

And I liked how the city of Charleston is portrayed as a Southern town of secrets, gossip, and the like. My gripes were minor — like if you're going to dive into the ramifications of racial tension in America, go all the way. When Kate talks with Gabe and his father, both Black characters, she seems so tentative that it's like, OMG — get over your white fragility. But then I realized that's probably a realistic depiction. 

Because A Tangled Mercy is not about the experience of being Black in America, however, it doesn't purport to be (although it does include Black history, as seen through Kate's eyes, and the third-person narrative about Tom Russell). It's a story about a woman who doesn't trust others, is fragile, and is trying to become woke. It's a story about familial disappointment, failure, and other adult worries and anxieties. As, that, the story is fairly decent. Kate Drayton reminds me of very articulate, educated people who are so caught up in their search for truth that when they discover something special, it's hard for them to see it. Even when it's right in front of their face. 

Hints at Racial Tension Simmer Beneath the Novel's Historical Charm
I am not sure if certain plot points were included in later drafts — for example how Gabe is portrayed. I get that maybe including the bit where Gabe is thought to have a firearm in his pocket — and a policeman overacts — it's based on the lived experience of being Black in America — I thought the story could have explored this issue more deeply. Those elements seem forced and it felt misplaced, here. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds does a much better job at exploring this topic — and it also includes different point-of-view chapters. And while Lake, in her novel, alludes to Trayvon Martin, a boy who was gunned down when the skittles in his pocket was mistaken for a gun, it is an actual current event, its allusion in this novel confused me about the themes the novel wishes to convey. Why does the novel include these references? But why does it not go further?

I'd like to have seen Gabe's experience more, his point-of-view, rather than just being that intelligent, gifted kid who helps Kate gain clarity. Also — the novel alludes to an incident in 2009 when the Black historian Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested for trying to gain access to his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Someone called the cops because they thought he was a burglar. The novel mentions the incident, but Gates's name is not used. I appreciated the reference to current events, but it seemed a tangential mention and made me wonder what the book was trying to say. 

The Novel Includes the 2015 Charleston Shooting
Now, I do want to say that when I read the novel, I did not realize that it includes events from the 2015 Charleston shooting, when a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, walked into the basement of the church and gunned down nine church members who were participating in a bible study: The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, The Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson

I had to stop reading the novel, at this point and read about how Joy Jordan Lake had decided to include the event. It seems that Lake had written her novel before the shooting; but, if you did not know that, you would have been surprised to see that Lake mentions the AME church, from the beginning, because it is the same church where the Vesey revolt was planned, and it is the site where the shooting took place. And the pastor has the same last name, Pinckney, that Lake uses in the novel. Lake was alarmed by this and almost didn't publish her novel, on that June day in 2015. Also, the murderer, Dylann Roof, knew of the importance of the church, which is why he chose it. 

Lake says that her original manuscript was not the final product. The novel went through a lot of changes after the shooting. She almost abandoned the project altogether. But she decided to include it on the advice of her publisher. I mention this because if you did not know this backstory, like me, it'd catch you by surprise. And then, it made sense why Lake had included those references earlier, to Trayvon Martin, and Louis Gates, Jr — in relation to Gabe.

Also, Lake chooses to have Gabe witness the events of the church shooting; in reality, there is no evidence of a boy named Gabe at the church that day. So it made me wonder how much of Gabe was in the first draft of the novel, and how much the character changed after the Lake changed it because of the events of 2015. Gabe is a witness to the shooting in the novel, so we the reader, have a enactment of events, down to Roof's description, and details of the massacre.

Anyway — there is a lot to unpack here. I started a novel thinking one thing, and by the end, it became something else. Entirely.

I give the book three out of five stars. It aims for eloquence, but ultimately fizzles at putting a finger on the pulse of real events.

30.7.22

Musings and Photos: On First Meetings and How I Sort-Of Allude to Peekaboo in a Serious, Philosophy-Minded Kind of Way

In this post, I free associate about first meetings, love, and God knows what else!

Sometimes you have to lie back down on the concrete to see what's up there.

There’s something potentially powerful in a first meeting, So, which is why, if you watch like, um, Pre-K students or Kindergarten students, there's a struggle, a challenge in adapting to others because it's strange. It's not mother’s face; it's not home. It's not the womb. It's not the place where you grew up. It's not, it's not that, you know, and that's why like child psychologists or developmental psychologists will talk about like, um, the experiences of the young child, right before they go to school, where they, where they, um, experienced this back and forth between I'm scared; I'm safe; I'm welcomed. I'm, uh, I'm terrified; I'm. . . I'm taken in; I'm comforted, right? So this, like, gets encapsulated in the childhood game of like peekaboo. I'm here. I'm not there. So presence and absence. Um, and for me, you know, I can tap into some deep psychic shit, you know, like something, this, I can feel, like a child, when that love object is absent. I mean, it's such a strong visceral feeling, which is why I think first love for a teenager or a young adult can be so powerful and rip you apart. I mean, I can remember just longing for somebody who I was in love with, you know, wanting to be with them. And when I wasn't with them, it just was this physical feeling of absence. Um, so that's real. I mean, that's like kick to the gut emotion. Um, and perhaps you get out into the world — for me, moving from small town Louisiana to Europa to a Benedictine monastery (yes, that happened), to New York and the world again, I'm not sure what happens, but you get used to the pain — of that — of this — world. Offers or you take, or you look for; or, you pine. Are you able, you're able to sort of like sublimate, whatever you lost, what will you able to like, not replace, but you're able to sort of like transmute, whatever you lost into something new. Right? That's what art is. That's what creativity is and all that kind of stuff. Um, but going back to this original idea of like, when the, the potential power in a first meeting, right, the potential power there is, and just meeting someone for the first time, you know, um, uh, it can be such a satisfactory experience, right?

Photos (Read From Left and Clockwise):
Women in Red Dresses in Flushing;
Getting off the LIRR in Port Washington;
Two Dead Fish;
A Fishmonger and His Assistant

28.7.22

Teaching Peter and the Wolf: 2006 Oscar Winning Suzie Templeton Short Film

In this post, I talk about teaching the short film "Peter and the Wolf" in my Eighth Grade English Language Arts class in Queens.
Mr. Roselli's students attend his 8th Grade English Language Arts class in Queens
A typical day of learning in Mr. Roselli's English Language Arts classroom.

I Needed to Teach Something Quickly; I Chose "Peter and the Wolf"
It's interesting how I come across content to teach. Usually, deciding what to teach is not a problem because I spend a good chunk of the weeks leading up to the new school year mapping out my courses. However, this past year, teaching my Eighth graders, there was a day that I needed to fill with an engaging lesson. We had just completed a forty-day mythology unit. I say "forty days" as if we were in the desert or something, but it was forty discrete lessons, each about forty-five minutes in length. So I had a "free day" before we started our new unit. So, hence, Peter and the Wolf!

Suzie Templeton Short Film "Peter and the Wolf"
Suzie Templeton is a gifted director, and her animated short film, "Peter and the Wolf," is based on Sergei Prokofiev's famous score. The movie is only about twenty-five minutes, perfect for my lesson. Also, because of its fairy tale elements, it fits nicely with a unit on mythology.

Do Now: Setting a Work of Literature to Music
I like to get my kids' gears turning, so as they entered the class during the passing period, I asked them if they were to set a story or play or myth that they had read to music what would it be. I was hoping for something like Orpheus and Eurydice set to "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water," but I got Daphne and Apollo set to A$AP Ferg. I'll take what I can get. Also, I was keen to set my lesson to a reading standard that states students should analyze a representation of a subject or a pivotal scene in two different artistic mediums (Reading Literature Standard RL.9-10.7).

Watching the Movie and Answering Questions
We watched the movie in class -- and I was surprised by how quickly they got into the story. I think what works is that the animation is so unique. It's not the standard, glossy Pixar style my kids are familiar with. It's a quirky, stop-motion animation-style feature. And the kids noticed the exciting way the animators brought the story alive, zooming in on the setting, a small town nestled in a somewhat cold rural landscape. The character of Peter is sufficiently adolescent, and the Grandfather and the boy's big fat cat serve as comic relief. There also isn't a lot of dialogue, so you have to pay attention to the visuals to follow the story's narrative pacing.

While watching the movie, students had to complete a worksheet, which included sixteen "right-there" viewing comprehension questions. It's just a way to keep them focused, and later, they turn it in as part of their grade for the lesson. As a teacher, I learned long ago that doing activities where students have to write and show their thinking is valuable. Not only is it an excellent way to show what you are doing in your classroom, but it also serves as a snapshot of students' overall thinking. I also like to use the Adobe Scan app to capture their work. So I have an archive of sorts.

Discussing Foreshadowing, Visual Imagery, Identity, and Other Themes
After watching the film, we talked about the movie. The first big English Language Arts point I wanted to convey was foreshadowing. And the kids definitely picked up on that one. There are images and references to wolves from the beginning, opening shot, and end. And another interesting discussion we had was why Peter let the wolf go in the end. I received several answers, but I remember one of the boys in my class commenting on how Peter understood the wolf. And I agreed, which led to a discussion about identity. If I say so myself, very much in keeping with my students' socio-psycho development.

Writing Activity: What Message Does the Movie Convey? 
And finally, at the end of class, I told the students to pull out their notebooks, and they wrote independently about what they thought the film's message was, and I made them include details from the movie to support their answers. Having completed the viewing questions helped to jog their memories. As they left the classroom, they had to turn in all of their written work, and I had them each tell me orally the gist of their writing exercise.
Finally . . .
Do you teach short films in your classroom? How does it work for you? I'd love to hear your comments.