75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor

I became politically aware in 1968…my 7th year of existence. The world seemed on fire. The young Jimmy Sturtevant was busy being a kid, but events kept invading my innocence. In April of that year, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Just weeks later, Robert Kennedy suffered the same fate. The insanity of the Democratic convention in Chicago monopolized TV coverage, but what really captivated the young me was the Mexico City Olympic Games. I watched in wonder as one African-American athlete after another shattered world records in the high altitude of Central Mexico. One black American gold medal winner climbed the podium, donned a black glove, raised his fist in the air, and then bowed his head during the National Anthem. 

This moment came back to me this past week when the NFL/National Anthem controversy descended. I knew that I had to do an episode on this topic. My objective is not to promote my views, but rather to help brother and sister educators navigate the rhetorical minefield that is this issue. I also knew that I needed help. I decided to share my mic with someone who doesn’t look like me…someone who has had a different life experience. And that my dear listener…is where my good buddy Marlena Gross Taylor makes a dramatic entrance. 

Marlena Gross-Taylor @EduGladiators

Marlena Gross-Taylor is the founder of #EduGladiators as well as a district leader in Tennessee. She has a proven track record of improving educational and operational performance through vision, strategic planning, leadership, and team building. A Nashville transplant originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena’s educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts including Atlanta, Georgia and Hickory, North Carolina. She has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

As a proud Louisiana State University alumni, she is committed to excellence and believes all students can achieve. Follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites www.marlenagrosstaylor.com and www.edugladiators.com.

In this episode, Marlena and I will break down this issue and build you up in the process. We’ll give you courage to tackle your fears and take on this controversy confidently.

Ideas for Activities:

  • Practice discussing contentious subjects
  • Encourage students to objectively study all sides of controversial topics
  • Have kids assume roles in simulations that may differ than their personal views
  • Challenge students to back up their statements and convictions with objective sources
  • Teach about code switching (see resources)


Inviting controversial topics like the National Anthem controversy into your curriculum takes courage. Be an EduGladiator and sponsor societal evolution in your class! 

Listen to “75-The National Anthem, Code Switching, and an EPIC Teachable Moment…Starring Marlena Gross-Taylor” on Spreaker.