Privilege Chains


Social Justice teaching is something I have always tried to apply in my role as an RA. Much like any teacher, my goal is to inspire my residents to ask questions about the world around them. Rather than blindly accept the world around them, it is my hope to continually have my residents challenge what they feel to be de facto aspects of their worlds. This past Tuesday, I believe I made a step in the right direction with me Privilege Chains programming.

The phrase “white privilege” is gaining increasing popularity around academic circles and the US at large. Essentially, the idea behind white privilege is that Caucasian-Americans, as a result of skin tone and historical developments in the United States, possess an inherent advantage in the world involving things such as confrontations with the police, treatment in establishments, the potential for job applications, etc. Many studies have validated this concept, but yet I have always felt that we should focus on the concept of privilege as a whole.

Privilege is not something inherent only to whites. Rather, there exist degrees of privilege that affect multiple individuals in multiple ways. There’s male privilege: women not only make less money on the dollar compared to men, but a recent study asked both men and women their greatest fears when dealing with the opposite sex. Men mentioned their fear of being emasculated by women in sporting or academic events, while women mentioned their fear of men murdering them.

Women are most afraid of being murdered, while men mostly fear emasculation. 

Murder vs. Emasculation

Let that settle in.

Other forms of privilege exist as well: American privilege, straight privilege, Christian privilege, ableist privilege, socioeconomic privilege, etc. The list goes on and on. Privilege is not something to demonize another person for, however. Rather, we as a society should seek to regularly “check our privilege” to better advocate for others. Privilege essentially blinds us to the feelings or experiences of others. It “chains” us (sorry, couldn’t help that pun) to preconceived notions of other groups and individuals. And the purpose of this program was to have my residents acknowledge their own privilege and formulate how to go about bettering society with said privilege.

The actual program was pretty straightforward: I read aloud several statements pertaining to different identities my residents might hold. Some required them to add a link to their chain, such as the statement, “Add a link if you can receive a scholarship without others assuming it was based on the color of your skin”. Others require an individual to remove a link, like the statement, “Remove a link if your religious headwear may violate certain workplace headgear laws”.

While hesitant at first, several of my residents began asking very poignant, direct questions that challenged the unspoken taboo about talking about topics such as race or sexual orientation. Now while the program only lasted for about an hour, I really do believe some began to reevaluate their perspectives on the world around them. The discussions continued when I broke them up into smaller groups asking them to evaluate the lengths of their chains and the emotions they were feeling.

Privilege, much like conversations about racism, is something difficult to talk about. Many individuals are raised not to address such topics. Yet we ourselves must be willing to break such barriers, for our future is still being written. To promote a better world, a kinder world, a more accepting world, the road starts here, with us.

Break your chains.


New Horizons

Hey all,

I recognize it has literally been MONTHS since my last post. I wish I could claim to say that my summer was so amazing and time-consuming that I was unable to maintain this blog.

But that would be a lie.

My summer was by no means busy, nor was it pleasant. Rather, I felt as though I spent 40 years wandering through the desert to get to my promised land. (Sorry, but I can’t help but include the occasional biblical reference…casualty of my early religious education, I suppose) However, senior year has arrived and with it comes a slew of new opportunities. My residents have arrived, and my first floor meeting is upon us. My actual graduate school obligations are about to get underway, so rather than have this post be some type of analysis regarding teaching, just consider it more of heads up about future posts.

So, here’s to the new horizons of my senior year!

Take the Reins

Sey, quite simply, is remarkable. If you’re looking for a more passionate, dedicated, and loving individual, you’ve found your girl right here.

A Journey

It’s been a while since I last posted and for that I apologize. Through witnessing and experiencing a lot has been on my mind to share, and as summer approaches these thoughts will all be released.

I am a college student and the semester is ending. I used to believe I had no more room left for any growth just about a year ago, however between summer and this entire school year –> I’ve been taught that I grow everyday.

This post will be more personal. My goal for this post it to be a reflection of where I have come from and hopefully causes you all to think about your personal growth as well. I would like to thank every individual who (whether they know it or not) helped me learn these lessons. I believe individuals come and go, but every individual crosses your pathway in life for a reason.

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Sneak Peak from “Kings, Hands, and City-States: Analyzing a World of Ice and Fire”

Although it does not particularly pertain to education, I find this analysis of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire to be exactly what I seek for my students to accomplish: effective analysis and cohesive arguments regarding text. It might be fictional, but George R. R. Martin’s “magnum opus” has many real-world implications worthy of examining!

Race for the Iron Throne


If you follow Race for the Iron Throne, you know that I’m in the process of getting ready for publication of a book of my Tower of the Hand essays, which will come with some pretty awesome book-only extras. We’re getting pretty close to being able to announce the launch date and other amazing stuff, but I wanted to share an excerpt from one of my new, never-seen-before essays:

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Fresh Starts Don’t Happen Alone

The above link is something I normally wouldn’t advertise, but there’s something about it that makes a great point. I admit that I am reluctant to self-promote, but since this blog is completely dedicated to that very notion, I suppose I can swallow it and make a statement out of it.

Tom Krieglstein is an amazing individual, and I highly recommend you check out his site, Swift Kick. He’s passionate about student engagement and facilitating student growth and development. At the 2015 Rutgers Mark Conference, Tom was one of the speakers who really spoke to me. Yet what was even more reMARKable (I’m sorry, but I had to throw that pun in there) was that a few days after the conference he reached out to me. Tom told he had been interested and inspired by my talk and wanted to get my information out on Swift Kick.

I was hesitant at first, but Tom walked me through his questions and told me he truly was dedicated to sharing my story with those who most needed it.

At the end of the day, my story is my own. If you’ve been looking at my blog (which I admit very few people do) then you are fully aware of my story and my struggles. Dealing with my diagnosis is something that has inspired me to help others. No one deserves to feel alone or unloved, and teachers have a particular role in facilitating that sense of belonging.

Fresh starts may not happen alone, but sometimes that one lonely individual CAN bring about incredible change. So, what’s your mark going to be?

I Wish My Teacher Knew

An unusual thing happened to me today as I checked out Twitter feed. I’m normally critical of trending hashtags, especially considering the fact that they usually pertain to celebrities and banal topics. But my eyes ended up passing over #IWishMyTeacherKnew.

And when I viewed those tweets, my heart broke.

Kids confessing their family problems. Kids admitting to learning disabilities they had been ashamed of. Kids opening up to financial difficulties that hindered their ability to do homework.

It takes a great deal of courage to own up to one’s struggles and difficulties, even more difficult to confess them to another human being. It reveals a great deal of trust in one’s teacher to confess such issues.

In the end, I would like to imagine a world in which every teacher is able to craft such a personal relationship with their students. THAT type of environment, one in which shame is replaced with a support system that is uplifting to students. Teaching does not just involve course materials and abstract concepts. Teaching is a fully immersive experience, something that brings the experiences and struggles of students into the classroom to build upon or combat.

Truth be told, I wish my teacher knew how much of a role model and influence she has been in my life. I wish my teacher knew that she is the reason I came to Rutgers, that I became an RA and Orientation Leader, that I applied and was accepted to grad school to replicate her methods for generations of students.

I wish my teacher knew just how much she has meant to me.

In the end, I really do believe she knew. And that’s the best we can hope for, right?

Student Development

In most of my classes, the idea of student development is intricately linked to one’s effectiveness as an instructor. Students are expected to grow and learn over time, but this is not just limited to one’s intellectual progress. Personal growth is important as well. As an RA, I have seen this take place with my residents over the past seven months, but the biggest observation I can make is involved with my own development.

Open House


It’s been two years exactly since this photo was taken. At the time, I was 18 and had only recently accepted my role as an Orientation Leader with Rutgers. I had thought it would just be a way to make some money, get some experience, etc. All about adding to that resume, you know? But I had no idea what a wild ride I was about to be on. Becoming an Orientation Leader was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The friends I made and the lessons I’ve learned will stick with me for the rest of my life.

You want to talk about development? I finally had a degree of self-confidence, a sense that I had something to offer others. I felt supported by a network of student leaders who cared and wanted to inspire just like I did. I was able to come out of my shell and advocate not only for myself, but for others as well.

Yes, I still doubted myself. Yes, at times I still felt alone. But becoming an Orientation Leader at last offered me a chance to emerge from the shell I created for myself years ago. It forced me to be challenged in ways I never could have imagined, culminating in me reevaluating how I perceive my surroundings and those around me. It’s the reason I am the man that I am today.

For students, growth comes through struggle and conflict. It is hard, and they have to bear the bulk of it on their own backs. But the greatest teachers don’t necessarily carry that burden for them, but rather inspire them with the belief that it IS possible to bear it. I’ve had bosses, supervisors, and teachers in my life who have done just that for me.

Here’s hoping I can do the same for my future students.



April 4th: This Day in History

I’ve decided to begin periodically doing a segment titled, “This Day in History”. While it is by no means original, hopefully all you at home will find it extremely beneficial to recognize the importance each day has had across generations.

So today, April 4th:

  • 1865: Abraham Lincoln records a dream he has about being assassinated
  • 1928: Maya Angelou, poet and literary genius, is born
  • 1949: The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Pact is signed in response to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact
  • 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated at the age of 39


So the very essence of this blog is to promote my desire to be an educator. I have my philosophy, my proposals, my arguments. And yet there seems to be a disconnect. I find it difficult to better express myself. So rather than focus on expressing myself through written word, why not hear it from me personally?

What Teachers Make

Continuing on this theme of being a teacher as increasingly “real” in my life, I thought back to this video I saw last year by Taylor Mali the slam poet. The essence of the poem, is well, self-explanatory, but it really motivates me and keeps that passion and that “spark” alive. Hope you all enjoy!