we came for the sports

By Kristina

The latest edition of the TJHSST alumni newsletter says “The students still come for the sports! 42% of the TJ football team senior class were named 2015 National Merit semi-finalists.”

I still have this bumper sticker on my car. I remember starting homework after long track or cross-country practices. I remember poring over Cliffs Notes, slogging through math problems, and drawing diagrams of mitosis and meiosis late into the night. I remember trying not to fall asleep in class the next day. I also remember that my grades were the highest they ever were at during those sports seasons.

The stat about the TJ football players makes it seem like students should “have it all”–“all” meaning mastery of a varsity sport and AP classes. I worry how JQUS staff, students, and alumni interpret this kind of “ideal” student. At our staff retreat this summer, several alumni came to speak to us about their experiences post-JQUS and what we could do as teachers to make it better for current students. Most of the panel stated that we should give more work (based on their experiences dealing with a heavier college workload).

I wish they’d said “help students learn how to manage their time so that they learn how to deal with more work.” I could add 50 problems to each homework set I assign and then start grading homework again, but I’d bet that I wouldn’t see much, if any, improvement in student learning. Though I am glad that many of my students participated in football, cross-country, volleyball, and soccer during the fall, I worry for those who don’t have the traits of self-management and perseverance. I don’t advocate that all students should quit sports in favor of math, or that they should join as many after-school programs as possibility to market themselves more desirably in the eyes of college admissions officers. Some of my best students were on the volleyball team that made it to the state tournament, but some students who needed the most help in math were also on sports teams.

The culture of “go to tutoring to improve your grades” is getting better in our school. Several of our students are attending a local tutoring program run by the Boston Scholar Athletes program, and the program wants to offer its services to non-athletes as well. We also have tutors from local colleges coming every day after school to help students if needed. We can mandate that they attend these sessions now, but how will they fare in college, when these external supports aren’t in place? How will they fare post-college, when you have to find your own supports to learn new skills that aren’t mandated by school?

happy first birthday flywheel!

By Kristina

PicFrame (1)

Flywheel’s Prudential Center location has just turned 1! I’ve gone a few times via ClassPass, Pact, a blogger class and the first-time-is-free class. From October 8 to October 12, there were lots of theme rides and goodies such as salads, tote bags, and cold-pressed juices to celebrate. I attended Melinda‘s Thursday J. Lo-themed class and ended up on the bike next to Elissa from Style-Wire.

I’ve been a fan of Melinda ever since I started taking her Core Fusion Barre and Sport classes at Exhale. Both her barre and spin classes will make you *work*, but since they are peppered with hilarious stories, they go by fast! The barre ones fill up notoriously fast, so I was glad to snag a spin class spot. Melinda went around to greet everyone in the studio, and she mentioned that she’d changed her playlist to include Elissa’s request for “First Love”–that was really nice of her! The playlist covered all eras of J. Lo, from On the 6 to A.K.A, and the ride included a good mix of hills, tapbacks, and sprints. True to Melinda-style, the ride was tough, but her motivational tactics helped keep our minds off how much the 35-torq hills or the 6-pound arm song hurt.

After trying other spin studios, I grew to appreciate Flywheel’s torq- and RPM-based instruction much more. It makes it much easier to push oneself vs. just guessing what “super heavy” or “flat road” mean. I also like being able to see my progression through the stats that are available on the website (miles pedaled, power, etc). I still sometimes have to modify the torq level in order to keep up with the recommended RPM levels though–one day I hope to be able to keep up!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary class I was not paid to do this post. All opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post.

health & fitness: the teacher perspective

By Kristina

It only took seven years, but I think I’ve finally escaped the dreaded “back to school” downward spiral into missed workouts, eating takeout for dinner, and guzzling down Starbucks every morning. Getting back into the classroom is like going into an HIIT workout for your brain (if only that translated to an HIIT workout for your body too). With 5:30 a.m. wakeup time, onslaught of lesson planning, and piles of papers to grade, working out and cooking time are often the first two things to move to the bottom of a teacher’s priority list.

I’d resigned myself to this downward spiral and found myself trying in vain to cook more and to exercise more. However, cooking complicated meals wasn’t sustainable. Neither was going to late yoga or early barre classes in Boston. I just got exhausted trying to drag a yoga mat and backpack home on the T at 9:00 p.m. or more prone to buying breakfasts at Flour or Starbucks after a 6:00 a.m. class. Following typical health & fitness tips doesn’t necessarily spell success under teacher constraints. “Work out in the morning before the rest of your day happens!” is harder to do when your work starts at 7:30 a.m. rather than 9:00 a.m. (and if your workplace doesn’t have a shower). Even when I belonged to Boston Sports Club and aimed to arrive close to 5:30 a.m., I felt rushed trying to fit in the workout + shower + breakfast before trying to beat the early-morning rush to the copier at school. “Eat six small meals a day” works better if you have a bit more flexibility than a typical teaching schedule (in which lunch is only 20 minutes and classes sometimes come three in a row).

This year, I’m simplifying my cooking and workouts so that they don’t take as much effort. No more excuses like “well, I *could* be healthy if I worked a 9-5 job or as a freelancer.”

1) Cook Simply.
Cooking can get very gourmet and foodie real fast, but a school night can’t be the time to start cooking Momofuku recipes. I’m adding to my repertoire of non-complicated meals that will reheat easily and last through the week. I save recipes from my favorite food blogs to my Evernote Recipes notebook and tag them so I can search for them later. I plan out meals on Saturday, shop on Sunday, and prep on Sundays while listening to podcasts or reruns of my favorite shows in the background.

Some of my faves lately are Nom Nom Paleo’s sweet potato hash and spicy tuna cakes, chili, zoodles with meatballs and sauce, Pioneer Woman’s smashed potatoes, steel cut oats with apples sauteed in butter and cinnamon, and lettuce wraps with turkey, sweet onion, and red pesto. Pictured below: 1) fried egg, smashed potatoes, avocado, and tomatoes from our plant 2) chili and smashed potatoes 3) results of a Sunday cooking spree 4) scallops with zoodles, corn, and cauliflower rice 5) sweet potato hash with sausage avocado sauce.

PicMonkey Collage

2) Move More + Efficiently. 

I still run and go to lots of boutique studios (spin, barre, Pilates, etc.) but make sure that lesson plans are done first or that I allocate enough time to finish lessons in the evening if I do an afternoon workout. Exhale Spa has 3:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. barre classes that are way less packed than their early-morning or after-work classes. Going to these early-bird classes makes it easier to get home early to cook a healthy dinner and still be in bed at “teacher bedtime.” I also live near soul.train, so going to a 6:00 p.m. class works for my schedule because I’m home at 7:02 p.m. (not 7:45 p.m.)

pactlogo2014-09-13 17.11.21

Using Pact keeps me accountable to doing five workouts a week. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to five 90-minute yoga classes or running 10 miles every day. I also try to fit in more walks when I can. Sometimes I take the T a bit earlier and get off at Charles MGH so I can walk a little over a mile to school. I enjoy the peace and quiet of Beacon Hill and the Public Garden in the mornings, and people-watch if I do the same walk on my evening commute. I sometimes fulfill my gym Pact by walking to Kendall Square using RunKeeper (a 30 minute walk counts too!). My husband and I sometimes go for evening walks so that we can have some “us” time, fresh air, and just talk (rather than just collapsing in front of the tv).

Hoping that these simple routines get so ingrained that I won’t lose sight of them by the time the Term 1 grading rush hits me!

lavender cranberry lemonade

By Kristina

A few weeks ago at the Copley Farmers Market, I tried lavender cranberry lemonade from The Herb Lyceum. One of the lovely ladies working the stand gave me the recipe. I substituted Stevia for the sugar and increased the amount of lavender.


2 tbsp Herb Lyceum edible lavender
4 cups of water
1/2 cup 100% cranberry juice
Juice of 8 lemons
1 tbsp Stevia

1) Boil the water and steep the edible lavender in it for about five minutes to make tea. Strain and let cool in the fridge.

2) Juice the lemons.

3) Mix the cranberry juice with the lemon juice and lavender tea. Add water to dilute to desired consistency and serve over ice.

estimation and surface area – painting the cannon

By Kristina

KristinaEthan-053 Photo Credit: Channing Johnson (from our engagement shoot)

Painting the cannon is the Tufts equivalent of painting Beta Bridge at UVA. Both structures may be painted only at night. Beta Bridge painting must include the message “THX BETA” (formerly “THX DU”), while the cannon must be guarded until sunrise to prevent others from painting over it.

Here’s a math problem: how much paint and how many brushes to buy? how many undergrads or grad students from my fiance’s lab should we convince to paint and guard the cannon?

Visual hint: I’m 5’2″ and he is 6’0″.

the work you do as a grownup

By Kristina

From Real Simple’s 5 Things Every Intern Needs to Know:

Q: Do I really need a college degree to do this?
A: In fact, you do not need a college degree to do much of the work you will do as a “grownup.” However, you do need “life wisdom,” “E.Q.” and, depending on your job, the ability to sit still for extended periods of time—all skills you tend to hone while you are also going to college.

How I wish we could better develop “life wisdom”, “E.Q.”, and the ability to sit still in our students. I’ve realized now what a lovely gift it is to have students who are willing to challenge the status quo and speak up. However, that quality often gets perceived as rudeness if the students don’t have the ability to, for lack of a better term, code-switch for different social situations. Last week I helped chaperone a field trip to a local museum. The bulk of the trip consisted of a presentation before a short tour of the museum. During the presentation, the museum educator seemed visibly perturbed when many students in our school group weren’t attentive and engaged. A few stepped up to answer questions, but there were a lot of awkward silences. I hope that the educator didn’t take away only that the lecture fell flat, but took the opportunity to refine the presentation.

The ability to sit still and put on an “I’m interested” face when bored would have served them well there. That would have made them seem like “good” kids in the museum’s eyes. I wish they could have code-switched there, but not just to appear “good.” Simply sitting there and answering the “right” way to closed-ended questions doesn’t develop the ability to channel that urge to challenge into analytical discourse. Their execution of that urge is still quite unrefined, much like that of novice debaters who are mostly argumentative before they figure out how to win with evidence.

On a related note, the other school groups had scavenger hunt worksheets to fill out while circulating through the exhibits. The humanities teacher in charge of our trip commented that he didn’t want to stoop to that, which to him reduced the material to fill-in-the-blanks that must be found to get a grade rather than letting the students experience the museum and use the exhibits as evidence to answer the question “what makes a good president?” and to examine how that evidence was presented. I’m curious about what combination of factors will get our kids to that mindset of being ready to experience a field trip and ask good questions rather than revert to the “this is boring” mode.

EDIT (6/23/14):
From my friend Jess, who found some commonalities between children not speaking up and workers not speaking up in a LEAN article. I find it interesting for examining how to get fellow teachers to feel more comfortable speaking up in meetings.

“The authors propose there are two prevalent explanations for why people don’t speak up. People are afraid or they are resigned. Fear might be well-grounded. People have been punished for speaking something unpopular or they have seen others punished for speaking up. Or, the fear might be brought to the organizational setting. In a prior organizational setting someone was punished. Or maybe there was no punishment. There was only not listening to what was spoken or no action taken as the result of the issues raised. In any case, a choice is made by a potential speaker not to speak. Eventually, that choice is replaced by a resignation that speaking up doesn’t make a difference. And speaking can only risk negative consequences.

Children are culturally conditioned to not speak. Many of us heard lessons like the following from a parent or grandparent:
If you can’t say good things of others, keep your mouth shut.
Silence is prudence.
Nobody ever repented holding his tongue.
Be silent or speak something worth listening.

Often times people don’t speak for fear of being judged for not speaking well, not looking good, being characterized a whiner…(add you own reason here). And people will characterize us that way. However, people who speak with good purpose — with a care for the well-being of a greater purpose — are rarely judged that way. Skillful speaking comes with frequency of speaking.”

road trip essentials

By Kristina

Today’s post is inspired by the Relay Rides Road Trip Essentials Campaign. My road trips are usually short and sweet (just like me)–for navigation, hydration, feeding sugar cravings, entertainment, and comfort!


1. Rand McNally road atlas (for when you don’t get cell service)
2. bkr water bottle
3. Trader Joe’s Gummy Penguins with Soft Tummies
4. Haribo Gummi Bears
5. Spotify playlists
6. Scunci hair ties
7. Sunski sunglasses

blog chain letter

By Kristina


Today is a throwback to the ’80’s and ’90s…with a blog chain letter! Don’t worry, this isn’t something like an underwear exchange…just a view into the writing process.

My friend Jess at Little Miss Runshine invited me to be part of the “My Writing Process” blog tour, where you share about your other writing process and other bloggers. I’m coining the term “Jess-of-all-trades” to describe her, because she excels at so many things (running, yoga, barre, spinning, Tough Mudders, cooking, and blogging). We met in Cambridge Running Club, and she has inspired me to get into blogging and to try all sort of new fitness pursuits!

1) What am I working on?
Right now, I’m on a bit of a hiatus because of being in the middle of IB exams, prom, and graduation at the high school where I teach (and IB coordinate). I’m also getting married in about a month, so I’ll be writing about more of my favorite things this summer: creative lesson ideas, forays into cooking, and reflections on education.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
When I started blogging, I thought I would follow in the footsteps of other food or healthy living bloggers, but that wasn’t really me. I started sharing more about my lesson ideas or thoughts on education after being inspired by other teacher-bloggers and realizing that I didn’t need to be SuperTeacher in order to feel justified in sharing my thoughts and ideas.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I write to reflect and to share my thoughts, and so I can become a better teacher and cook. I like getting feedback on my lesson ideas and would love to be able to start interesting discussions about curriculum or pedagogy.

4) How does your writing process work?
My writing process is usually “write when the mood strikes me.” Sometimes I like writing a few posts on weekend days and scheduling them throughout the week. Ideally, I’d like to write one or two detailed posts per week. I’ve tried a couple of 30-day blog challenges (NaBloPoMo and MtBos30), but didn’t feel completely successful with either of those. With the NaBloPoMo, I was grateful that I had to tackle questions and topics I wouldn’t have normally chose. With the MtBos30, I was grateful for developing a little consistency (made it through 21 of the 30 days before finally succumbing to the “just go to sleep when getting home” urge).

Um…because my writing style is often procrastinatory, I’m tagging three lovely bloggers and hoping that they will respond!

1) Sophia at Skimming Deep, whom I met through the Massachusetts Asian American Educators Association in 2008. She’s amazing at working with youth, a foodie, and a world traveler.

2) Joslynn at Adventuring the Unventured, whom I also met through Cambridge Running Club. She’s a newly minted PhD, ultrarunner, and now a Minnesotan.

3) Victoria at Take Time Away, whose blog I found through Blog and Tweet Boston. She’s an awesome cook, photographer, and arbiter of the Boston food scene.

costco seafood experimentation

By Kristina


Found langostino tails at Costco today. Bought chives and garlic to go with Kerrygold butter for the sauce, and added corn from the freezer. Put it all over Seeds of Change quinoa & brown rice and leftover potatoes from yesterday. That’s my kind of relaxed Sunday cooking.


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