August 2012 archive


By Kristina

Copies of parent letter? Check.
Copies of syllabus? Check.
Back-to-school outfit? Check.
Fresh boxes of markers? Check.
Neatly arranged groups of desks? Check.
Enough coffee to set a baby elephant aloft into the clouds? Check.

Want to see the true zombie apocalypse? Switch teachers’ coffee to decaf and watch havoc ensue in their classrooms. Every morning at my school, there’s a parade of Dunkin Donuts iced with cream and sugar, Starbucks peppermint mochas, homemade black coffee in travel mugs, and even the rare 7-11 coffee cup filled at the espresso machine. Sometimes a teacher who has been lovingly nicknamed the “Coffee Fairy” brings a huge carafe of coffee into the lounge for all to share. I used to proudly strut in this parade with a large iced black from Magnificent Muffin, guzzling 900 mL (I checked…it’s that big) by 8:00 a.m., and sometimes supplement with the Coffee Fairy’s offerings.

This summer, I embarked on a mission to quit my dependence on coffee. Two weeks of daily two-hour naps right at the beginning of summer did the trick, and I switched to cold brewing my own iced Rishi Tropical Crimson tea. This is a comparable alternative to  Starbucks iced passion tea–just put one quart tea bag into a ~1/2 gallon pitcher overnight and serve over ice the next morning.

In spite of my newfound love for the cold-brewed Tropical Crimson, I still craved green tea. One fateful day, I made the impulse decision to try the Starbucks iced green tea latte instead of the iced unsweetened passion tea, and a new Green Monster was born.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s budgeting time!

A grande iced unsweetened Starbucks green tea latte costs $3.91.

I bought a half gallon of almond milk ($3.99) and 3 4.4-oz packs of Rishi Sweet Matcha powder ($23.44).

My at-home version of the GrTL: 1 tablespoon of sweet matcha stirred into 8 oz almond milk, served over ice. Tasty!

The pictured GrTL is more than 8 oz, but bear with me for the sake of the problem.

Math Problem of the Day: How long will it take me unti I break even with the Amazon + Whole Foods purchase? Assume I just keep buying almond milk when it runs out.

Non-Math Question of the Day: What are your favorite coffee or tea beverages (made at home or bought)?

Om and Quitting the Gym

By Kristina

Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t…snap at their students.

Little Miss Runshine’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge is going to be on like donkey kong. I checked out these six dvds from the Boston Public Library today to get ready for the September 1st start.

I hope that doing yoga DVDs and classes regularly for a month will:

a) keep me calm in and out of the classroom

b) undo some of my running-related inflexibility

c) serve as a good alternative to the gym, because calm and saving $ > calm

Jess (Little Miss Runshine) and I joined Boston Sports Clubs about a year ago. Initially, I thought I’d go to group exercise classes as well as avail myself of the various cardio machines and weights. I like the great selection of gym locations near my home and work, but I’m not using the gym’s facilities and classes to the best of their potential. I have been to a grand total of two group exercise classes (one spinning and one vinyasa yoga) during the past year, have ventured into the weights section only a few times, and have probably spent most of my gym time either foam rolling or on a treadmill. Thus, the cost per visit is probably $$$$ rather than my initial vision of $. The math teacher in me cringes at this.

It’s time to put that $$$$ toward a more financially sound way of workin’ on my fitness! I now own a way better foam roller than those at the gym. Running outside is free, and I can embrace my inner New Englander by running in winter weather. Yes, I am saying this as the heat of summer gives way to leaf-peeping season and idyllic fall running weather. I promise not to clamor for the comforts of a Precor treadmill + tv once the first snowflake falls.

Additionally, differentiation suits fitness just as well as it does instruction. If a snow day or a want-something-different-from-running day happens, there are still the options of:

  • soul.train personal training, yoga, zumba, BPM, Crazy 8’s, or indoor boot camp
  • Zuzana Light ZWODs and ZWOWs
  • Workout DVDs (Jillian Michaels, Jackie Warner, Exhale Core Fusion yoga, pilates)
  • Swimming at JFK pool
  • Pinterest workouts

What yoga DVDs, classes, or non-gym workouts do you recommend?

Lost that Summer Feeling?

By Kristina

You lost…that summer feeling…whoa-oh that summer feeling
You lost…that summer feeling…now it’s gone, gone, gone

Even though summer is now officially on its last legs, I am going to try to keep the relaxed feeling of it as long as I can! Though I won’t be able to take hour-long lunches with friends or wander freely through Boston during daylight hours, I’m preparing a list of small things that keep life fun (inspired by Math Teacher Mambo).

1) Cook dinner at least twice a week. I’ve tried to do the “cook it all on Sunday” routine, but cooking relaxes me, so I prefer to spread it out throughout the week. Bonus: if I put on an episode of Chopped while I cook, I feel like a fancy chef even if I’m not trying to concoct an appetizer from peanut butter cookies, bacon, and purple potatoes.

2) Make plans with a friend at least once a week. During my first few years of teaching, it became oh-so-easy to say no to plans out with friends during weekdays. After all, wasn’t I supposed to spend all my waking hours lesson planning, freaking out, or chugging coffee? I will schedule in movie dates (chick flick Mondays at the Boston Common theater or Somerville Theatre), yoga classes, and running with my friends.

3) Read e-books on the T. I now have an iPad, and it’s revolutionized my reading. With the Overdrive app and my Boston Public Library card, I can now have up to 10 e-books on my iPad at once…for free! My students think I’m cuckoo for not always driving to school, but I enjoy the T rides. In the car, I can’t lose myself in the mystical world of A Discovery of Witches or learn how habits can be changed in The Power of Habit. I also love to walk through Beacon Hill and the Public Garden on the way to school…it’s much more relaxing than driving through traffic on I-93.

4) Make nice breakfasts at home. Last year, I made a habit of grabbing the same Starbucks breakfast sandwich and grande Guatemala Santa Catalina Clover coffee every day. This put me in a carb coma and made me hungry again at 10:00 a.m., put a strain on my wallet, and made me cranky because I felt rushed every day. Well that’s because I was–timing my T ride and walk to appear at the Charles St Starbucks exactly at 7:20 a.m. made the morning rushed and stressful. Taking the time to pack my bag, set out my outfit, and prep materials for breakfast in the evenings allows me to enjoy a homemade iced green tea latte and a variety of breakfasts (e.g., steel-cut oats, egg scrambles, roasted sweet potatoes, or smoothies).

5) Take a deep breath and say a mantra. It’s amazing how much a deep breath can help when one feels stressed. Maybe we just forget to breathe. My mantra is “everything’s going to be okay.” I like Math Teacher Mambo’s “It’s going to be great. It’s going to work out fine” as well. One of my old mentors used to imagine herself as the queen of her classroom and repeat “I am tough. I am strong. I own this” every morning…I may take that one too!

6) Prettify. I can live without the trendiest clothes or schmanciest haircuts, but sometimes I recharge by getting a mani-pedi or my eyebrows done. I feel a lot more put together that way!

What small things make you happy?

Work Relationship Tips

By Kristina

Found this on I Hope This Old Train Breaks Down and love it!
  • “If an issue is contentious, always talk it over in person rather than discussing it over emails. Emails escalate situations unnecessarily quickly.
  • Within 60 seconds of talking to someone, find something that you can (genuinely) praise them for; this will help them to open up to what you have to say.
  • If you do some casual “pre-talking” to people about their opinions before group meetings, you can help them to trim their thoughts down to key points, and therefore save time during the actual meeting / prevent drawn-out discussions. Most of the time people just want their detailed thoughts to be heard, but it does not have to be by the whole group.
  • In the middle of mediating a conflict, giving someone recognition for something that they do well will help to immediately cool the situation.
  • Ultimately, if you have to make a decision that is unpopular, you should explain the reasoning behind it and model your conviction in action.
  • Early planning and specific, timely communication will both help to avoid avoidable conflicts.
  • My personal relationship with IT, admin, facilities, etc. will have a bearing on my department’s relationship with them!!”

Syllabus, Tweeting, and Conjunctive SBG

By Kristina

Getting Ready for School

I’ve been puttering on my syllabus and classroom routines for a while, and yesterday I finished the first draft. I posted my syllabus and posted it on Twitter to all the folks who influenced it (@bowmanimal, @kellyoshea, @misscalcul8, and @samjshah). I woke up this morning to a good Twitter-conversation (with @MagisterWarren added) about implementing standards-based grading (SBG) among different constraints (department heads, final exams, etc).

It led to lots of #foodforthought, that’s for sure! I hope that by refining my SBG implementation and creating a stronger classroom culture, my class will get to the point where students assess like monsters too.

First thought to chomp on: grading policy

I’ve been peeping around math and science teachers’ blog posts on SBG, trying to find:

1) A good way to set up my grading policy in ActiveGrade

2) A good way to set up my skills list

Last year, I converted my skills grades into a grade out of 100 points, which I then weighted 30% in my EdLine grade book. I used a skills list without any core or advanced standards (another grading policy suggested on ActiveGrade).

A+ = 100, minimum grade of 3 on all standards, average of 3.7

A = 95 (not sure why I didn’t make it 93…should have!), minimum grade of 3 on all standards, average of 3.5

A- = 90, minimum grade of 3 on all standards, average of 3.3

B+ = 87, minimum grade of 2 on all standards, average of 3.3

B = 83, minimum grade of 2 on all standards, average of 3

B- = 80, minimum grade of 2 on all standards, average of 2.7

C+= 77, minimum grade of 2 on all standards, average of 3.3

C = 73, average grade of 2.7 across all standards

C- = 70, average grade of 2.5 across all standards

D+ = 67, average grade of 2 across all standards

D = 63, average grade of 1.5 across all standards

D- = 60, average grade lower than 1.5 across all standards

Second thought to chomp on: conjunctive SBG and grouped topics

I would love to improve my skills list by grouping it by topic and setting up the 4, 3, 2, and 1 like Jason Buell, but similarly to him, find that most math teachers have straight skills lists. I also like Kelly O’Shea’s method for conjunctive SBG, but have no idea how to create such a method for math.

Any thoughts on improving my conversion grading policy or setting up conjunctive SBG for math?

Challenges…Old and New

By Kristina

I’m back!

Though I didn’t post about them after mid-January, I did make many more recipes and hosted a few more gatherings in 2012. “Appetite” fell by the wayside because I had gotten caught up in perfectionist mode (didn’t want to post recipes without lots of commentary and pictures) and because I put so much into “Instruction.” In spite of the lack of documentation, I found myself getting better at cooking on the fly rather than following recipes. Similarly, my lesson planning began to mirror my cooking. I got much more comfortable with adjusting the lessons to the students rather than trying to follow a plan to the T.

My goal of 12 dinner parties and 52 recipes will now happen over a year…but this time it will be a school year! As summer draws to a close, I’m starting to gear up for the start of school–drafting syllabi, planning classroom routines, and creating unit plans–and want to balance the relaxed feeling of summer with the revved-up feeling of back-to-school. My friend Jess is doing a 30 day yoga challenge, so I am joining in! I think this will be a great way to stay calm through September.

My plan: