Culture Check

I fell into Tik Tok at the beginning of quarantine as a way to find quick laughs that didn’t tax my rapidly deteriorating attention span. Around the second week, I started seeing posts with the caption “So I heard we were sharing our cultures” accompanied by the song “Laxed (Siren Beat)” by @Jawsh 685. The videos start with people dancing in casual Western/American attire and then switch to traditional dress of their country or culture.

There’s so much joy in the variations. Some of my favorites are from @monicajoelleo, @notoriouscree, @ abenaakuaba, and @that_brown_couple. Like many other Tik Toks since COVID-19, the videos are increasingly intergenerational. I am so here for this. Celebration, instead of shame. The format allows for a user to showcase more than one heritage or outfit without making it disruptive. There are additional variations, like @asaptuppy offering a Māori interpretation and inviting others to duet with their own traditional dance.  I especially appreciate how the posts don’t center Whiteness; while comments make clear that learning is happening, education and explanation aren’t the point.

Contrast this normalization to Asian Pacific Heritage Month, or Native American Heritage Month, or Black History Month, or whatever other limited time period you want to grant BIPOC and compare it to the rest of the school year.

When it’s not International-Ethnic-World-We’re-Not-Racist-Colonizers Party Day, how welcome are our traditional stories, food, dance, language, and dress in the classroom? How supportive are you of staff and students who suppress themselves so they don’t get mocked for being weird or harassed for not being American enough? Do you teach all staff and students the difference between appropriation and appreciation? Do you shut down the sexualization of  the “exotic”? Are you only an ally in the comfort of your classroom or have you moved for changes in official school policy to support us if it doesn’t already? Do you protect us or pressure us to assimilate?

If a student wears a barong tagalog to your class’s formal meal and another student asks why they are wearing a trash bag, what do you do?

Of course, I have to turn the lens on myself as well. I couldn’t do a Tik Tok culture challenge if I wanted to. I don’t own a Maria Clara or pañuelo. I haven’t worn anything like that in fifteen years. And why not? That stuff is cute! I have always loved how light plays on piña, but I remember how I felt as hearing comments made when I wore Filipino clothing casually out in public.

I don’t need your permission to celebrate my culture, but I don’t need your mess either. Our students definitely don’t need it, what they need is the safety to be themselves. Social media allows people to understand that even if isolated, they are not alone. Would I have those items in my closet already if I’d had Tik Tok as a teenager? I can’t say, but what I can do now is help create a world where we can all be ourselves, authentically and completely.

The last time I wore a kimona: 2005.
My mom and I (right) in 2005, the last time I wore a kimona.

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE  to read yesterday’s blog post by Min Pai (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle).



Hashtag Hot Mess

A hashtag is a peculiar thing in that it is defined by the ways it’s used. No one person can claim it because anyone on social media can assign a hashtag to a post. Yet people can be denied full access to a hashtag. For example, (1) when users using web-readers encounter hashtags wherein words are mispronounced due to lack of capitalization or (2) when a user is blocked by a 2nd user, the 2nd user’s tweets will not populate in the hashtag search for the 1st user. I’d further venture to say the meaning of a hashtag can change depending on the platform in play (Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Instagram).

So #OklaEd is mutable (It’s a pun, guys! Too soon?) by nature. Three years ago, I blogged about what #OklaEd meant to me (link) but last night’s edchat compels me to revisit the question.

But, first, a caveat: This post is my hot take. I don’t speak for anyone else or any organization.

#OklaEd, the Twitter hashtag: As stated above, the hashtag can’t be controlled. Even if @OklaEd, “the official Twitter account” describes it as “the hashtag that brings OK educators together. #OklaEd is not political & promotes constructive dialogue”, there’s no way to enforce the mandate. It can be the mission of the edchat, but not the hashtag. The hashtag is simply the collection of posts using the signifier with no reference to relevance (hello, spam). As a user, it’s a tool that I can use with varying degrees of skill (such as refining filters or to reach a wider audience) for various purposes, but I don’t get to tell someone else how they can use it.

#OklaEd, the edchat: every Sunday at 8 pm Central, except Christmas. Every fifth Sunday is the legislative update, moderated by @shawnhime, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. The chat is organized by @mrsbeck25 and @coach57. To the best of my knowledge, organization means they manage the calendar for the other Sundays. Until this school year, anyone could ask to moderate a Sunday chat with the topic of their choosing. Now, after community feedback, only educators or someone partnered with an educator is able to moderate.

So what’s a moderator do? You come up with enough questions for the hour, usually 7-10. Sometimes you make the pretty graphics but hopefully you type out the questions, too, because ACCESSIBILITY. Most importantly, you keep the conversation going by adapting questions with the flow, retweeting other participants to amplify or ask for clarity.

Yesterday an issue arose where many Oklahoma educators had previously been blocked by one of the moderators @angmlittle. This was a problem because (1) the blocked users wouldn’t be able to fully participate in the chat and (2) the moderator can’t fulfill their role if they can’t see all the responses. I thought the simplest way to patch the problem would be to re-type the questions and post them again to the hashtag so they’d be visible (a retweet would not be visible) as well as screenshot or re-type the responses of the blocked users. After the chat, I thought we’d be able discuss the issue of blocking with input from the chat. I was clearly wrong.

One topic the chat discussed was the effectiveness of working within the system versus working outside of it. I pointed out “Working within the system isn’t a possibility for everyone, especially if the system was designed to keep you out” (link). How ironic that the system of this particular chat was designed to keep particular people out. (Point: the moderator did eventually unblock everyone. Update: @The_Whistle says this is incorrect and not everyone was unblocked.)

My personal thoughts are that while you can’t take away someone’s right to block (and I use that right), it’s a reasonable expectation (from now on) for someone who is voluntarily moderating the #OklaEd chat to unblock everyone for the duration of that particular chat.

But guess what? I’m not in charge so that may or may not happen. Maybe others will agree, maybe not. I can only control myself. My reasons to stay are my own and, yes, they do include that I am one of the few participants of color. If I decide not to participate in the #OklaEd chat, that’s fine. World keep on spinning, hashtag keep on hashing.

Has the chat changed in the years I’ve participated? Yes. That’s what happens in any organization over time (I’m reminded of #MTBoS), never mind the sea change of last year’s walkout.

I think one of the main problems in #OklaEd is the sense that you can’t believe in the worthiness or positive potential of an idea/organization/cause/thing and criticize it at the same time. Surprise! You can. I’ve talked about how #OklaEd has been a positive force in my life, and yet I’ve had to peace out for a spell or two.

Sometimes I think the chats are too shallow, too repetitive, too unwilling to address anti-racism and LGBTQA. I think the people who complain that chats are “too political” or that “being kind” is a panacea…you get the picture. Anyway, please don’t suffer from the illusion that I have glorified #OklaEd. There’s definitely some work to do, but that’s not something I can stuff down people’s throats. What I can and have done is found other spaces, other edchats and communities to join. I may circle back around later because Oklahoma is my home, but it’s also okay if I never participate in #OklaEd chat again; I’ll still be part of #OklaEd.

Another issue of contention was who is the #OklaEd chat for and who gets to participate? Who gets to dictate this? My response is “Who’s going to enforce it?” No one because that’s not how Twitter works. If you’re after a closed discussion, Twitter is simply not the venue for it. Take it to DMs, a private Facebook group, or some other backchannel if that’s what you’re after. There’s no reason to discuss the earlier questions; the point is moot.

Now let’s say you aren’t interested in a particular #OklaEd edchat topic? Scroll on by like the grown person you are. If you’re not interested in any of the topics, the move is to moderate the chat you want want to see (The @s are posted above) or scroll on by.

I will say, however, that public education is a public issue. Why would you try to limit the discussion to educators? How can you reason the exclusion of students and parents? Nihil de nobis, sine nobis; nothing about us without us. I’ve seen lots of discussion on why elected officials have been invited into the edchat, but how are you gonna exclude your neighbors? Who decided we can include educators from other countries and continents in the chat, but not the people who live here? I get the narrative where educators don’t want policy made by people who don’t understand education, but this isn’t lawmaking, it’s an open forum. If you, an individual, don’t want to listen to another individual, that’s okay, but First Amendment says you can’t stop them from talking.

Now First Amendment doesn’t do anything to stop a person from showing their a** on Twitter either…Who’s job is it to police that during an edchat? I’d say the moderator in the chat. I digress.

I support anyone’s decision to leave the #OklaEd edchat or stop using the hashtag (not like you need permission). It’s not like they stop existing with that decision. #OklaEd is many things and it’s not like it will disappear because of any one person.

#OklaEd, the community: is made up of people, the community extends beyond a hashtag (on any platform). The hashtag helps find resources and people, but without the people it’s useless as a 404 error. The hashtag is a tool; the people are who matter. I think there’s a danger in nostalgia, in romanticizing the early days of #OklaEd, the golden time when we all loved each other and only talked about “teaching”. That never happened. We’ve always had tension, differences, and conflicting agendas because the #OklaEd community is made up of people. We were never a monolith, we’ve always been dynamic. We always will be. There are people who just discovered #OklaEd through the rise of advocacy last year and there are people who are part of #OklaEd and don’t know it. It doesn’t make them worth less. I believe in #OklaEd, I believe that Oklahoma educators want our students to become thriving (beautifully complicated) adults.

And yet…

“We all have to unite” sets off my defenses. The tone policing masquerading as righteousness* turned me away as much as the clout chasing. I have no interest in participating in a system where you can’t speak truth to power. This is a crap dismount to a long and winding blog post, but that’s all I’ve got. I’ve got no wisdom, no resolution, no answers. Next week’s chat is “What’s Next for #OklaEd?” and I can’t even predict how that’ll go or if I’ll be there. As Brene Brown would say, my armor is on. I’m not sure how effective I can be with it between us.



*Please consider the NPR’s podcast “Code Switch” episode on “Respect Yourself: What does ‘civility’ look like and who gets to define it? What about ‘respectable’ behavior? This week, we’re looking at how behavior gets policed in public.”


🙌🏾✊🏾 (Hands raised in celebration, resistance)

I wouldn’t wear yellow from the ages of 8 to 35 because my skin was too dark.

If you asked me if I hated my body or appearance, I would have shrugged it off. I’ve never wished for more height, less curves, or sharper cheekbones. My body has always done what it needed to do. I didn’t realize how much I hated the color of my skin until I caught myself mid-text, finger hovering over the brightly colored thumps up emoji.

Well, I’m not Simpsons-yellow. Few people are outside of a comic book or cartoon. It’s probably an effort to be race-neutral, and I’m supposed to be relieved emojis are not white by default. I should be appreciative that in 2015, we were blessed with six shades to choose from. Four years later, the Post-Fenty world deserves better.

Anyway, there I was agonizing over what I will call Brown #2 and Brown #3. I picked the first, lighter color. I deleted the emoji and hesitated. Then I pressed my whole hand up against the phone screen. The darker tone was clearly, plainly, painfully closer to my skin color, but I did not want it.

I’d already overthought using brown emojis with my colleagues. It wasn’t enough that I could practically feel the hypothetical eyerolls directed dead at me for “making race a thing” again, now my own colorism jumped out.

My mom trained me to daily use Eskinol, a ubiquitous Filipino beauty product that “whitens in as early as 1 week.”

Aunties warned me, “Don’t go outside, you’ll get darker.”

As a teenager, our Pinay friends would look from me to my lighter-skinned sister and ask, “Why are you so dark?”

To be dark was to be ugly, unwanted, and unattractive. I was too dark, yet also accused of “acting too white” for reading books and speaking English too well. Caught between the complicity of code-switching and colorism, I buried it all. I stopped hearing it. I refused to wear hats or cover up in the sun, but I also avoided wearing yellow and orange. While I liked the colors, I didn’t like the way they made my skin pop and emphasized the tone.

Intellectually, I understood the preference towards lighter skin was rooted in colonization. Proximity to whiteness signifies power, protection, and privilege; a bias that compounds the Anti-Blackness in the Asian community. Intellectually, I understood it was wrong.

Yet there I was, 35 and struggling over this stupid emoji.

Such a little thing.

Yet these daily “little things” matter and we don’t talk about it enough. My mom still pinches her nose to proudly describe the narrower nose on the Spanish side of her family. I walk down the beauty section at the Filipino store and the models are still all light skin and long straight hair.

My significant other is white. My sister’s children are also white and Korean. Colorism is so insidious, I question how it influenced our romantic choices. Unconscious bias is still bias.

Colonization tells us lies that we believe and tell ourselves; we tell our children. It teaches us how to hate others; it teaches us how to hate ourselves.

Here’s the truth: my skin was never too dark. I believe it. It’s no longer the shallow false peace of suppression. I believe it and not only will I wear whatever color I want, I am going to talk about colorism and the harm we do to our communities when we perpetuate it. WE are going to talk about it it.

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Chad Everett.

Love Letter to EdCamp

*Record scratch*
*Freeze frame*

Yup, that’s me!  My first EdCamp, back when I didn’t know how to hashtag. If you’re wondering how I got into that situation:

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air
learned to stop worrying and love the bomb
addicted to EdCamp.

Four years ago, I was a computer teacher at Tomlinson Middle School in Lawton and thirsty for professional development. I found Wes Fryer‘s website Moving at the Speed of Creativity through a web search and didn’t even realize he was in Oklahoma (then Yukon, now of Casady) until I noticed the EdCampOKC banner.

I’m gonna mention a lot of people in this post. It’s not to name drop, it’s to illustrate the connections I’ve made through EdCamp and how they have shaped me professionally.

Anyway, back to my story. At the time, one of my main partners in crime was Jen Lamb, a fellow TMS teacher who went on to be Director of Elementary of Math for OSDE and is now an Instructional Coach at Santa Fe South. Jen and I traveled almost two hours to attend our first EdCampOKC. We had no idea what we were doing but were totally cool with that. I remember finding our way to a cafeteria, picking up some swag (I still have my Bloom’s DoK wheel in my office.), and waiting for the yellow-shirted people to start the show. People in matching outfits always know what’s going on, right?

Someone gave an inspirational opener, maybe stood on a table. We were introduced to the two tenets of EdCamp:

  1. Participants build the schedule there.
  2. Let your feet do the talking. If you find yourself in a session, you don’t like, get up, and find one that is better for you.

Then they pointed out a huge butcher block sheet of paper with a grid and told us to have at it. Jen took the pic below. When I saw it pop up on my Facebook memories a few days ago, I was stunned to realize it was a picture of Beth Richert, who I would later work with at Clinton Public Schools.


I don’t remember if I wrote anything on the board. It didn’t really matter, though, because I still got what I needed.

Beth facilitated my first session on Google Apps for Education. At first, I was super distracted because of the room. I had never seen trapezoid desks before and I wanted them. I probably took twenty pictures of those desks and all the different arrangements before I realized what Beth was saying: People could type on the same file at the same time!  I was, as the kids say, shook. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it changed my life. My brain immediately went crazy with the classroom collaboration possibilities. I am told I walked into my librarian’s office (That’s Kris Burd. I like to think we mutually enable each other.) the next Monday with some kind of crazy fire in my eyes and said, “We’re doing this.” We did it and four years later, Tomlinson has taken G Suite for Education (new name, same awesomeness)  and run away with it. My EdCamp experience touched thousands of students from just one session.

(There’s this whole other story where I became a Google Certified Trainer and got networked with an international group of fellow nerds, but it’s boring. The important part takeaway is EdCamp -> International Personalized Learning Network.)

I remember learning how to make a QR code and how to attach it to an audio file (RIP Audioboo). I think that was also where I was introduced to Claudia Swisher and Jason Stephenson in “Reading for Pleasure” and used TodaysMeet, the backchannel tool, for the first time. I remember an intense discussion on how to retain our veteran teachers. Most importantly, I remember leaving  with a To-Do List and the determination to cross off every single thing on it. I was energized and refreshed in that way teachers need or they burn out.

It was MAGICAL, I tell you. Was every session a hit for me? No, but as I became comfortable enough to walk out of the misses, it didn’t matter. I got what I needed. Did every session have someone that influenced me so much we became besties? No, but there were people that now I feel comfortable reaching out to for advice and feedback when I need it. (Poor Jun Kim , Director of Technology for Moore Public Schools, was the recipient of several of desperate cries for help.) Eventually, when I learned about #oklaed after the second EdcampOKC (I was not in the room where it happened), my PLN did become part of my daily life. Not to be too sentimental, but I met educators who would become some of my favorite people, real friends I could call, text, or hold whole conversations with in Bitmoji. They not only provide insight because they know how schools work, but do so from a distance that keeps our discussions from degenerating into mere whine fests. (Although, sometimes, there is wine.)

I joined the organizer team for EdcampOKC 2015 and my PLN has only gotten better. The organizer team is a diverse group of educators from all over the state even though the event is in Oklahoma City. Seriously, I was in Lawton. Erin Barnes is in Sapulpa, Kevin Hime and Anne Beck represented Clinton, and Tammy Parks lives in Howe. I would probably not know them without EdCamp. Now, some of us only see each other at the actual camp but others, I see more times outside of the state of Oklahoma. Even when some of us move across the state, it doesn’t matter because we’re still connected.


As an Oklahoma teacher, I deeply feel we need to be connected to other educators. We especially need to be around people who know the mission, who realize the kids are the mission, and do the work despite all the crap we are fighting (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma legislators). Whether it’s new ideas, a kick to the butt, or a morale boost, EdCamp gives me what I need. This is why I love EdCamp: it isn’t about the prizes, it’s about the connections and conversations* EdCamp makes possible.

I hope to see you there.




*riffing off Anne Beck here who said, “[Edcamp] is not about products, it’s about conversations.”

Shadowing Brandon Wilmarth & “What Great Principals Do Differently”

We’ve been doing a book study for Clinton Public Schools Leadership on Todd Whitaker’s “What Great Principals Do Differently” (amazon link). As an extension, my superintendent Kevin Hime (@coach57) told us to all find 2 excellent people who have our same job title and shadow them. For my role as “Tech Integration Specialist,” I asked Brandon Wilmarth.

Brandon (@mr_wilmarth) is a Tech Integration Specialist for Moore Public Schools. (I know him from teh Twitters. Seriously, if you are not using your #oklaed connections, you are crazy.) He is one of three Tech Integration Specialists for the district, serving 35 schools versus Clinton Public Schools’ 4 specialists serving 5 sites. (Once again, feeling spoiled but appreciative about our situation.)

I probably could have followed Brandon all day -or played with all his tech toys. I openly envy his monitor and audio recording setup. Although my Sketchnotes focus on programs, that was only part of the takeaway. Like Whitaker says, “it’s not the programs, it’s the people.” Brandon is definitely one of those people you want on your team solving problems. Throughout the day, I was impressed by his easy manner. Professional always, but personable and open. A tech integration specialist’s job is to help teachers. I’ve never met a tech coach who wasn’t super eager to sit down with teachers and talk shop, the trick is to keep the talk relevant and reachable so the teacher’s eyes don’t glaze over. He makes a conscientious effort to leave the office (quicksand!), show his face, and make himself available.


What Does #OklaEd Mean to Me?

OklaEd.pngAbout a million years after Scott Haselwood (@TeachFromHere) put out the call for people to reflect upon the impact of #OklaEd, I’m finally posting my response…which kind of came out like a love letter…

Mirror: I read back through my tweets, not out of conceit, but to check myself. Am I posting what’s real and true, good and bad? Am I living all those clever memes and well-intentioned quotes? Is what I say in the quick heat of a Sunday #OklaEd chat authentic to what I actually do? There’s no time in an edchat to prevaricate and sometimes those questions are hard, man. I’m pretty sure I’m looked through a storify and questioned, “Really? That’s your initial response?,” reflected (pun), and then thought, “Yeah, that is definitely what I think.”

Platform: #OklaEd is a platform to share what’s going on in my classroom and district. We all have our passions and this the place to let your flag fly. I remember a recent conversation @ChrisParadise and @JMaxey1  about essential Makerspace supplies – a conversation that I actually felt comfortable butting in on because of the reputations they’ve built sharing their own classrooms on #OklaEd.

Resource: I’ve never been one to linger in confusion so I ask a lot of questions. Even with a Master of Education, as an alt cert teacher, I have a lot of gaps. Through #OklaEd, I am able to take advantage of knowledgeable people like @DrTerriOU, @KelliAnglley, and @CalypsoGilstrap.

Recharge: We all get down. At several points in my teaching career I have just felt worn smooth out. Being part of #OklaEd can take me beyond my site (because sometimes the whole building is just worn down and out, you know?) to experience the positive energy going on in other parts of the state. This last fall, @MrsDSings has been like my spirit animal either lifting me up with her ebullience or lifting me out of my brood by eloquently expressing my rage!despair!frustration in a timely blog post.

Inspiration: If you know me, you know my brain goes a gabillion miles an hour and I like to connect with other people who make their ideas happen. Through #OklaEd, I’ve been inspired by rock & rollers across the state including @MrP_tchr, @MrsBeck25, and @elynnhlll. It’s also helped me keep up the Mutual Admiration Society with @ladywolf2014

Battle Cry: I’m gonna be honest here and say that I’ve blacked out my social media a lot this legislative season because it was like Crisis! on top of CRISIS! If it wasn’t for the fervent (and persistent) calls to action from  @ClaudiaSwisher,  @BlueCerealEducation, @Grendelrick, @Edgeblogger, @angmlittle, @coach57@mrsthornbrough, @mrsveldhuizen, and @bridgestyler I’d’ve checked out even more. Beyond being passionate (and, ya know, right) it’s the diversity of their personalities that really appeals to me. I see their words and then I am moved to make my own even though I feel like my representative and senator should know by now exactly how I feel.

Opportunity: I love being a part of something bigger than myself. Twitter allows me to share what I love and do it by being my own weird self. Participating in #OklaEd’s afforded me a lot of chances to make a difference. I’m even pretty sure I wouldn’t have my current job if I hadn’t jumped headfirst into #OklaEd – not too shabby for a hashtag.

PS- I tagged a ton of people in this. If I left someone out, you’re still awesome.

#TCEA16 or Bust

I have just survived my first day at TCEA’s (Texas Computer Education Association) annual conference and I’m feeling pretty good. There’s a nice balance of inspired ideas and excitement without being overwhelmed.

It’s probably because this is the first conference where I’m not presenting in a couple of years.

I attended the STEM Academy today, featuring 2 keynotes and breakout sessions; I have shared my sketchnotes below.

STEM Academy Opening Keynote by Cindy Moss (@stemboss)


Session 1: 3-D Printing in Education by Mark Simmons (@t3chl0gic)


Session 2: Keeping It Real by Stephanie Villegas (@Ms_Cerda)


Session 3: Algebra and iPads, It’s Not Just Math Anymore by Dr. Sherri Brogdon (drbrogdon03)


Session 4: Makerspace in K-12 Education by Jason Harron (@jrharron)


Introduction to 3-D Printing by Brian Bass