The 2016-2017 school year is finally over (as of June 28), and I’m now in the Brandeis teacher leadership program summer component for most of July. This year has been incredibly rewarding in terms of growth as a teacher and as a leader, but I haven’t quite figured out how to reflect on that growth or figure out how to just sit down and write!
Changing habits is an interesting beast. The “run at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays” habit finally gelled for me this year, when I tricked myself into running before work so that I could hang out with my husband and son after work. That habit wasn’t as difficult to start as some others because I’ve been running since 1995, so I had some subconscious muscle memory going there. This year I finally wrote my first DonorsChoose project proposals after years of thinking “no one will fund that” or “I don’t have time to write that.” Turns out that encouraging words from a few colleagues and promising one that I’d pay him $5 if I didn’t post by the end of the day finally got me to do it. So, it’s time to trick myself into blogging and tweeting regularly (likely by telling friends “I’ll give you $5 if I don’t write this blog post”). I often store ideas in Evernote and say “I’ll blog about that” but then abandon it in favor of lesson planning or teacher leadership work, so here goes!
On September 7, 2016 (the first day of school), my dad wrote to me:
“We are confident that you are a good teacher like your late grandfather Romulo. I remember him walking miles to reach his assigned elementary schools and people always addressed him “Maestro”. Teaching is a noble profession and it is rewarding to see the learning eyes of the young. There used to be a poem titled the “ Clay of Youth” which enunciates how the youth is molded. It is a beautiful poem, see attached.”
I took a piece of plastic clay, And idly fashioned it one day, And as my
fingers pressed it, still it bent and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were past, The bit of clay was hard at last, Its
early impress still it bore, But I could change the form no more.
I took a piece of Living clay, And gently formed it day by day, And molded
with my power and art, A boy’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when years were gone, It was a man I looked upon, My early
impress still he bore, And I could change him nevermore.
Two days later, this daycare newsletter picture of my son “teaching” his younger infant friends about the sun, clouds, and a heart made me smile. My dad commented “It is so nice to see Parker acting as a teacher! It is in his blood.”
That made me wonder more about our family history of teaching. Per my dad, both my grandparents were “educated by American teachers known as “Thomasites” sent by the United States in 1901. The Thomasites taught, English, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis and others). This was the curriculum in 1902 – 1935.” My grandfather completed secondary education and became a teacher. My grandmother completed elementary school and then went on to raise seven children. I’d assumed she had been a teacher too because of her reputation as the town matriarch, but it turns out that she was the OG “mom-preneur” back in the day. She sent my dad’s two oldest sisters to Catholic school in a neighboring gown by managing my grandfather’s salary and earning extra income. According to my dad, “on occasion, she had to mortgage our rice lands if she was short of cash for school fees. She was very good in raising supplemental income by raising live stocks, like pigs, chickens, turkey, ducks, goats, cows and grow exotic orchids and beautiful potted roses for a good price to the wealthy folks in our town. She was able to own and operate a small convenient store which provided additional income to her family. Because we were barely making a good threshold of standard of living, our birthday celebration was to plant a fruit tree to commemorate the occasion. If we are not around, she will plant the fruit tree for us. The land is filled with fruit bearing trees which provide income from the sale of fruits.”
We don’t have any pictures of my grandfather Romulo teaching, but my dad sent this 1982 picture of my aunt Betty (one of his six siblings) who became a teacher.
Parker’s been to my 106-year-old school (as an infant during my 2015 maternity leave), so he’s used to visiting historical school buildings. I hope that one day he could also see the schools in which his great-aunt and great-grandfather taught (if they still exist), and to see the fruit trees from long ago.
One of my Brandeis classmates told me “we can’t turn our kids into what we want. They already have personalities and temperaments. We can get to know *who* they are.” Parker is still in the “moldable” clay stage and I look forward to learning what kind of learner he will be. As I head into the second week of my teacher leadership program, I hope to retain some of that moldable quality and keep an open mind for my tenth year of teaching.
Got inspired by the MTBoS when I saw a tweet from Tina:
It made me think of an activity that I did for data analysis this year, focusing on the statement of inquiry: “How quantities are represented can establish underlying trends or relationships in a population.” We had learned measures of central tendency, stem-and-leaf plots, box plots, bar graphs, and histograms, so I was curious how they would apply these types of data analysis when given this statement of inquiry.
I asked the students what they thought the three most popular apps were for teens and the amount of time they estimated teens spent on those apps. They gave estimates like “Snapchat – 60 hours, Instagram – 70 hours, Facebook – 80 hours.” I then taught them how to find the time spent on iPhone apps, like this:
We collected data for all the iPhone users in 9th grade and then from staff members who were willing to share their usage data. I turned them loose with just these directions: “1) Analyze the data set for trends, using the math we have learned so far for data analysis. 2) Analyze the predictions people made. How close were the predictions?” For them, the hardest part was learning how to focus their analysis around subgroups of people (e.g., teens vs adults, females vs males) or around apps of their choices (e.g., one girl grouped all music apps as one category).
Today a friend emailed this math problem to me.
What *is* the “right” way for math anyway? Is technology inherently less “right” than algebra? Solving it graphically by Desmos (or by TI-84) still solves the problem, but maybe that doesn’t feel as elegant or satisfying. I did want to share the joy of Desmos (since my non-math teacher peers aged mid- to late-thirties did not grow up with it), so I sent the following screenshot (before I eventually solved it algebraically).
“Ha ha, neat toy.
Since I forgot all the tricks to resolve mixes of square roots and variables, I looked at it as, it must be an integer since what awful brain teaser would have 4.87645372 as an answer, and it had to be a number with an integer square root, and that square root had to be less than half of 15, and the square of that number is 15 less than the square of (15 – that number). So I tried 7 first, 7 + 8 = 15, square of 7 is 49 which is 15 less than square of 8 (64) so that was it. 7 squared, 49. Had that not worked I would have tried 6, 5, 4 etc.
In the meantime, I’ve filled the backs of two envelopes with desperate attempts to solve it algebraically, going nowhere.”
Poor friend! Sent this to him:
I then sent it to my math colleagues (and my boss, who is a former math teacher).
Boss’ response, which I will ask to see in its original form, since email apparently translated it into gibberish.
Alternate Hint: Try putting the square roots on different sides of the equation and canceling 🙂
I took a pic of my work but don’t want to spoil it… email me if you want a look-y-loo. Thanks for the Thursday PM pick-me-up!
I emailed her to trade answers and she solved it this way. It made us both happy to solve it algebraically, but differently!
So there you have it:
1) logical way
2) graphical way
3) algebraic way #1
4) algebraic way #2
…how many more ways?
As much as I dislike Facebook, I do find value in the “On this Day” feature. From April 21, 2011, I wrote this note. Six years later, 3) through 6) are still so important for teaching (and now parenting). Six years later, we have Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Workplace, ClassDojo, Khan Academy and countless other technologies that increase our ability to access content or transmit content to our colleagues or students. Six years later, we have Amazon PrimeNow to get whatever baby product we need within two hours. We have similar access to “wisdom” via countless online mommy/baby forums, sleep consultants, and ScaryMommy/Pregnant Chicken-esque blogs. We can also transmit our content in those forums, in mommy Facebook groups, or on group iMessage threads during late-night feeding sessions.
Increasing access to or ability to transmit content doesn’t make teaching or parenting any easier if the emotional aspects aren’t addressed.
“From my roommate, who attended a talk about happiness by an HBS negotiation professor tonight. The HBS students voted for the three professors who they wanted to hear from, and these are the main points of the first talk.”
1) Quit early and often. Save up enough to make it monetarily possible for you to do so, and make your own choices.
2) Create value and worry about monetizing it later. The opposite is thievery (going where the money is and trying to create value).
3) Cultivate empathy. See the world through gentler eyes, because you will be better for it.
4) Learn humility. Either humility or arrogance is not enough; you must have a combination to succeed.
5) Learn from unlikely sources and don’t judge your teachers. Everyone around you can teach you something. Even if it’s harsh, if you are willing to take it, you can’t go wrong.
6) Make time for reflection. Ask questions about who you’ve become and who you were. Build in this time to keep reevaluating. You don’t need to aim for being stagnant and stable. Inevitably, things will change about you.
Via a fellow Mom of Camberville 2.0. #solidarity
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to better balance work and life so that teaching is sustainable for the long haul. Balancing the demands of parenting a toddler with the demands of teaching and IB coordinating has made year 9 of teaching much more challenging than the first few years. I have often told my senior students to make the most of college because “you will have the most free time you have ever experienced in your life, and that will be a blessing and a curse.” I wish I’d learned that lesson about teaching, because until my “free” time got cut by about 80%, I didn’t realize how important it is to find efficiencies versus just throwing more time at lesson planning. I take a lot less work home now, but I’d love to reclaim more night and weekend time (especially during end-of-term grading or around major IB events).
Here goes today:
4:40 a.m. Alarm goes off. Snooze when contemplating starting Day one of the Blogilates PIIT28 challenge.
4:49 a.m. Alarm goes off again. Get dressed, put contacts in, and wander out to the living room. Look up “how to work out in the morning” and find a Parenting magazine 10 minute workout.
5:00 a.m. Warm up with some dynamic stretches. Start kettle for French press. Do the workout.
5:20 a.m. Pour coffee. Shower and get dressed. Cook breakfast (egg scramble for me and husband, milk, sliced banana, and peanut butter toast for toddler).
5:49 a.m. Toddler wakes up. Sing good morning song and change his diaper. Consider logging the wrestling holds used during the diaper change as part of my morning workout. Eat breakfast with toddler and husband. Clean up and pack daycare bag.
6:37 a.m. Leave for the T (husband is taking car into shop to repair a broken headlight). Sometimes the T is more enjoyable than driving–it’s fun to read and to walk vs. sitting in the car listening to Spotify or a podcast.
6:46 a.m. Barely miss a Braintree train, so spend some time writing down notes for this post.
6:56 a.m. Catch Ashmont train. Run into teacher friend on his way to his school and chat until Central Square. It’s good to chat about peer feedback and commiserate over the challenges of teaching before break.
7:11 a.m. Walk from Charles MGH to school via the Public Garden. Fun sights on this walk: gingerbread houses in the Hungry I restaurant and knitted hats and scarves on the Make Way for Ducklings statue.
7:31 a.m. Arrive at school. Make copies of reassessments, peer grading rubrics, and progress reports. Reserve Chromebooks. Start looking for teacher with backup key because the teacher who normally has the cart is out. Put up plans on the board.
7:50 – 8:37 a.m. 9th grade system of equations coffee project work day. Hand out progress reports and feedback to students. Think about how to revise this project for next year with Hacking Assessment and Strength in Numbers.
Revision ideas, from Hacking Assessment: Meet with groups to hear ideas. Help them ensure they stay on target and complete the systems of equations tasks on Google Slides and Desmos. Use feedback to troubleshoot, not provide answers. Help them discover knowledge on their own. When they work, discuss progress and observe group dynamics to see that all students are contributing. Try individual feedback (check out Grading and Group Work). When students are done, do a gallery walk on Chromebooks. As groups, to take notes, make questions and comments (on paper? on the docs themselves?) Provide feedback based on the IB Rubrics using a Google form. Have all students submit a reflection and self-evaluation about what he or she learned as compared against the standards so we can discuss growth. Students should reflect on what they had hoped to get out of the project and share what they learned.
8:40 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Answer emails and make slight revisions to lessons.
9:00 a.m. – 10:17 a.m. Meet with other IB coordinator and leadership consultant to plan out our school leadership team meetings for January as well as some longer-term Diploma Programme and Middle Years Programme initiatives for Terms 3 and 4. It feels good to “backwards plan” our leadership work like we do to unit plans.
10:20 a.m. – 11:07 a.m. 12th Math Studies class. Students are to finish trig fairy tale work, but it turns out that four of the eight students are out for dance rehearsal. Turns out fine because of having to attend a parent meeting from 10:26 – 10:40 (with sub coverage from our office assistant).
11:10 a.m. – 11:57 a.m. 9th Math Enrichment. Groups finish up gingerbread house building and photography. They start reflections. Half the class came in late after dance even though rehearsal was only supposed to be from 8:40 – 10:17.
12:00 p.m. – 12:20 p.m. One group stays through lunch to finish their house.
12:23 p.m. – 1:10 p.m. Work on more school leadership team planning. Write emails. Make project adjustments for both 9th & 12th grade.Set up sub for two PD days in February. Add Sierpinski Christmas tree and Kirigami snowflakes to Math Enrichment plans for the week.
1:13 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Repeat the 9th A-block plan from 7:50 a.m., but in a more energetic atmosphere. Afternoon and morning classes are so different in terms of motivation challenges.
2:03 p.m. – 2:50 p.m. Tidy up Chromebook cart and charge it. Check with headmasters if it is ok to build a Sierpinski tree. Change it to non-denominational tree. Obtain pink card stock from secretary and scrounge up some ecru card stock in my cabinet (at least it won’t look like a typical Christmas tree). Research Mandelbulb ornaments and log this idea for a potential 3-D printing project next year. Update coffee project progress in Jupiter Ed. Make copies of the snowflake patterns and Sierpinski nets.
3:19 p.m. Sign out. Walk to Charles MGH.
3:39 p.m. Catch train, respond to emails, and read Glamour.
4:06 p.m. Arrive at home. Check mail, put away laundry and dishes, and prep French press while listening to Dinner Party Download podcast.
4:45 p.m. Walk to daycare. Toddler’s face lights up when he sees me at the window. He runs over to his cubby to get his jacket. Talk to the teachers about his day while trying to get him into his vest and jacket. Get toddler into stroller and walk home.
5:19 p.m. Get home. Feed toddler mac and cheese, one small avocado, an applesauce pouch, and water. Play with toys, read books, and chase him around the house.
6:20 p.m. Start bedtime routine.
6:42 p.m. Toddler is asleep. Make pizza. Watch three episodes of Happy Endings. Do dishes. Prep toddler lunch and put quinoa out to cook in the morning for part of our lunches.
8:17 p.m. Write this post.
9:00 p.m. Read a little and go to sleep.
Last Sunday, I ran the Cambridge Fall Classic 5K with the Fit Flock team of chefs and bloggers.The Fit Flock is a joint effort between the American Lamb Board and BostonChefs.com to celebrate lamb as a nutritional and flavorful protein option. Fit Flock provided us with race bibs, shirts, a team tent, and an after-party at the Smoke Shop.
The Cambridge Fall Classic is part of a seasonal 5K series along with the Winter Classic, Spring Classic, and Summer Classic. It follows the same course as the An Ras Mor 5K and is easy to get to by T (Red Line to Central Square) or by car (because Cambridge parking permits aren’t needed on Sundays). The course is also easy for spectators to navigate. My husband and toddler cheered for me on Mass Ave at the start of the race and again near the end of the race.
Bib and shirt pickup went smoothly. I appreciated that the race staff allowed separate day-of pickup with teams. We spotted a Fit Flock member dressed in a full lamb suit on Main Street as we were looking for parking, and he was right next to the pickup table. Parker was a bit befuddled by the lamb though!
I headed over to the start, where I spotted Nicco, Ellie, and Lexi from Commonwealth sporting their Fit Flock shirts. It was Nicco and Ellie’s first ever race! We chatted for a bit, and then we were off!
The weather was surprisingly humid for mid-September, so the gradual uphill for the first 1.5 miles felt difficult. Seeing Ethan and Parker gave me a much-needed energy boost there!
Finishing felt great! I ran this race over a minute faster than I did the An Ras Mor 5K, so I was happy to see that improvement.
Post-race, we headed back home so Parker could eat and nap. Parker loves the lamb tagine from the Baby Led Weaning cookbook (pictured below from meals earlier this month), and we look forward to making more lamb dishes for him (starting with the LEON Naturally Fast Food lamb and apricot balls!).
Thank ewe, Fit Flock!
In the past 13 months of motherhood, nights out have become a scarce commodity. When Leah invited me to a Parents’ Night Out at Trade, I jumped at the chance to enjoy delicious food and drinks with Dave, Debbie, Leah (and her daughter), Kim, Kimberly, Nancy, Phyllis, and Sharon. Bonus: no one threw their food on the floor, shrieked at the top of their lungs, or played peekaboo–though a toy fish did appear in one of the beverages!
Being out so late (7:30) on a school night made me feel like I did in the days before teaching and motherhood! So did the lively conversation, which was as full of sassiness as it was full of useful parent advice. My biggest takeaway: blogs, Twitter, and Instagram aren’t awesome just because of the information and pictures–they’re awesome because they help enable interpersonal connections to people with common interests (when you finally get to meet them!).
We toasted to our night out with the Beets by Trade, then sampled the following from the dinner menu:
Raw Bar and Small Plates
Salmon Poke with serrano, red onion, avocado and plantain chips
Buttermilk Fried Quail with harissa aioli and pickled root vegetables
Falafel Pancakes with tzatziki, serrano and scallion
Chicken Meatballs with tomato vinaigrette, garlic cream and pine nuts
Fried Sweet Potatoes with salsa verde and orange
Tasso Ham and Smoked Gouda Flatbread with roasted corn, pickled pepper and onion
Mushroom and Fig Flatbread with gorgonzola, sage pesto and walnuts
Lamb Sausage Flatbread with eggplant, Manchego, peppers and garlic yogurt
Seared Salmon with shredded kale salad, lemon-tahini vinaigrette and pistachio
Oven Roasted Half Chicken with fried potatoes, lemon aioli and charred romaine
Painted Hills Bavette Steak with arugula, french fries and 540 steak sauce
Baked Rigatoni with spicy lamb ragu and provolone
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, out came a Not a Cloud in the Sky cocktail and dessert:
Milk and Cookies: chocolate shortbread, buttercream and crema spressa
Ginger Ice Cream and TRADE Brownie with chili-chocolate sauce, candied ginger, and dukkah
Thank you, Trade for the amazing parents’ night out! Looking forward to visiting again on a girls’ night out or a date night!
540 Atlantic Ave, Boston MA 02110
T: South Station
Parking: Atlantic Wharf Garage at 280 Congress Street or valet
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A- Age: 35
B- Biggest fear: Heights/falling or ghosts
C- Current time: 2:46 p.m.
D- Drink you last had: decaf soy latte from Nine Bar Espresso
E- Every day starts with: the song “What Is Love” blaring from my iPhone alarm
F- Favorite song: whatever parody we are making up for snoop’s lullabies
G- Ghosts, are they real? yes
H- Hometown: Arlington, Virginia
I- In love with: husband and baby (aka snoop)
J- Jealous of: teachers who have figured out how to leave the job at work and keep the worry out of home
K- killed someone?: no, but why would I admit that in one of these surveys?
L- Last time you cried?: a few weeks ago
M- Middle name: Quimson
N- Number of siblings: 2
O- One wish: win ridiculous PowerBall jackpot for the purposes for paying off (and procuring new) family real estate as well as buying whatever I wanted for my school
P- Person you last called: mom and dad (on FaceTime with snoop)
Q- Question you’re always asked: why are we doing this?
R- Reason to smile: husband and snoop
S- Song last sang: the “good morning song”
T- Time you woke up: 7:02
U- Underwear color: striped
V- Vacation destination: next one is cabin with husband and snoop
W- Worst habit: procrastinating and impulse shopping
Y- Your favorite food: today, chicken pho
X- X-Rays you’ve had: teeth
Z- Zodiac sign: Scorpio
While my students were working independently in math enrichment recently, I overheard some non-math-sounding talk.
Student 1: “I’m going to the mall later.”
Student 2: “Oh what are you getting? I want to get her candy and earrings.”
Student 3: “I can’t get Granny anything this year.”
Student 1: “You just spent all your money on food!”
Realizing that they were talking about Mother’s Day gifts, I thought about what I’d want now that I’m a new mom. Since you can’t box up “8 hours of continuous sleep a night + a magic genie that cleans the house while crafting impeccable lesson plans,” this is what I’d want:
1) Things that are Pretty and Relaxing
Pampering-related stuff like this True Moringa Mother’s Day Gift Box would be awesome because it’s pretty, relaxing, and socially conscious. I received a sample of the all purpose body oil to try. It’s great for moisturizing especially since the weather’s stayed cold and gloomy this year. Theo dark chocolate is one of my faves to snag at Whole Foods while passing through the chocolate section. Prosperity candles are soy-blend, hand-poured by women refugees, and come in a variety of scents and styles.
I bought the bridesmaid versions as wedding favor gifts almost two years ago, and I think this Kate Spade Mom Idiom Bangle would be pretty sweet to wear now.
Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts gift cards might seem impersonal, but they still help SO much in terms of caffeination and saving time. In spite of being an avid French press and cold brew coffee maker and knowing how much making coffee at home saves, sometimes I’d rather spend a little more time chilling with my son now than cleaning up all the coffee grounds and equipment.
3) Cute Things Made By My Child
I can’t wait for the cards with backwards R’s and the macaroni necklaces spray-painted gold (if kids even still make those)…look for me sporting those in a few years!