January 2013 archive

segways & accomplishments

By Kristina

Yesterday I went to my first class at Pure Barre. Having gone to Exhale and Bar Method, I was curious about the differences at Pure Barre.  The class structure was extremely similar, but I found some different teaching inspiration.

1) Accounting for Transitions and Organizing Materials Saves Time – At Exhale, the weights and straps are stored in the back corner of the studio in bins on the floor. If all students arrive in a staggered way, then collecting these items before the start of class is pretty easy. Pure Barre has the weights organized on shelves right outside of the studio with the numbers facing out, so that you can grab them from the various shelves on your way in. Similarly, the tubes are hanging on racks so they’re not tangled, and they’re easy to grab. Pure Barre adds one extra piece of equipment (playground balls), and several baskets of these are staggered inside the studio and out. During class, Exhale has students return their weights to the bins immediately after the arm section (causing a big line). Pure Barre does not. I preferred this because we got a little more time to stretch our arms and transition to the next set of exercises.

My takeaway for the classroom: reassess my organization to think about how materials are used in context (versus whether I have enough space for them). I’d like to figure out the tasks I keep repeating (or that students keep repeating) and make them more efficient. I would also like to find the spots of downtime and cut them down to increase on-task time and cut off the starting points for boredom. I appreciate that both Exhale and Pure Barre classes go straight through the hour without awkward breaks.

2) Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable – I read a post by Nicole is Better that has a compelling lesson: “When you cross the border between comfort and discomfort, you have no choice but to step up your game. When you want to change, when you want to be better, you have to push yourself into discomfort.” My experience at Pure Barre yesterday was exactly that. Exhale was my first experience with barre classes, so I have a mental association with only being able to achieve the first levels of exercises (often shying away from doing the challenge modifications). I noticed at Pure Barre that the instructor didn’t explicitly offer many modifications to make the exercises easier or more challenging (though she did come around to correct our form). She proceeded through class as if everyone could achieve the same level of fitness, and lo and behold, I didn’t automatically downgrade myself (e.g., by doing side plank with a knee on the ground). Exhale offers options to push regular attendees, which I appreciate as well–so now I’m inspired to take those options the next time I go!

My takeaway for the classroom: Treat activities as if they are achievable by all students, emphasizing a “you can do it!” attitude instead of coming in thinking “they are going to have the worst time with this, it will be so hard,” and encouraging students to go for the challenge rather than to take the comfortable road.


standing desk

By Kristina

My coworker sent me this article about the benefits of standing over sitting. The New York Times has also recently examined the newfound popularity of standing desks. I’m intrigued…I feel like I’m two inches shorter and starting to have extremely bad posture and low energy. Two years ago I tried to bring in a Swiss ball to replace my desk chair, but that routine didn’t stick. I somehow figured out a way to sit on the ball while slouching.

Our school’s desk are huge steel behemoths that will last until the 2050’s, so I doubt we will be getting rid of them any time soon. In fact, the $22 LifeHacker desk might be a viable solution.


My coworker invented the $0 solution…use our existing laptop carts as desks until we need to project (I keep my projector locked in a cabinet), and use our desks to store papers.

Initial Impressions
Not even halfway through my first planning period standing with the desk, I noticed that my legs and feet got sore. Looks like I will have to work up to using it. I do wish I had a monitor because looking down at the laptop hurt my neck.



One day I’ll have this treadmill desk


the most guts

By Kristina

Today Tufts Medical school students (Melody and Dave) held auditions for the JQUS a cappella group. The group used my classroom for the auditions, so I sat in the corner observing while I typed up an awards ceremony program. One of my favorite students (let’s call her Little Sally) came in to audition because her friends kept bugging her to join. She was extremely nervous and claimed to be a bad singer, so she had a hard time starting. Melody and Dave did a fake audition for her, and we offered to turn away (and I offered to stick my fingers in my ears). She agreed to sing after Dave turned away and Melody and I were “backup” dancers (dancing in front of her so we wouldn’t make eye contact). I began my usual repertoire of ridiculous dance moves, and was so amazed to hear Little Sally burst into a passionate rendition of Maroon 5’s “Payphone.” It took the most guts for her to do that, and it was such an inspiration.

One other takeaway: Melody and Dave’s positivity was absolutely infectious. They were so kind to all the students and welcomed everyone regardless of singing ability. I loved seeing them interact with the kids…we are so lucky to have them.

The Great Apartment Remodel of ’13 – Flooring

By Kristina

Here’s my first foray into the Great Apartment Remodel of ’13 – inspired by Everybody is a Genius.

You’ve been thinking about redoing your apartment’s floors. Your cat threw up in all the carpeted rooms, your friend Sally spilled nail polish all over the bathroom, your friend Jean spilled hair dye in the other bathroom, and your science project burned a hole in the kitchen floor.

However, it’s your lucky day. You won a raffle for a ₤500 Homebase.co.uk gift card and your Grandma Sally has given you $100 for your birthday. 

What rooms will you choose to remodel? Why? Show your calculations for required flooring needed and how much it will cost. Assume 7% tax and ₤30 for shipping. Beware the unit conversion!

I also gave students the sample floor plan shown above as well as a printout of laminate flooring options from http://www.homebase.co.uk. I wanted to have actual samples like Sarah’s project, but also wanted to include the currency conversion for practicing financial math and meters to feet conversions, so I went with a British company. When students heard that we were going to be designing dream houses as a culminating assessment, a few clamored to build theirs, so we might do that!

After introducing the assignment to students, I asked them to work independently and figured out if there were any clarification questions they wanted to ask me. Sure enough, there were:

How many euros are in a dollar?
I clarified that the symbol was for a British pound and told them how to google “pounds to dollars” and gave them the conversion “1 British pound = $1.60.”

How many centimeters are in an inch?
I picked up one of the class set of rulers and asked a student to read off the centimeters and inches, giving them “15 cm = 6 inches.”

Which rooms are carpeted?
Having lived in a house that had a carpeted bathroom, I gave the students the option to explain their own assumptions for carpeting.

How many cm^2 in one m^2?
We touched on this last year in unit conversions and SI units. I drew a square to represent 1 cm^2 on the board, labeling each side, then guided them to create a similar square that was one meter per side. Too many students think that 1 cm^2 = 100 m^2…but when they see it drawn out, they fix that error.

Many students also asked about the 2.13 sq. m pieces that were on sale on the website, and whether they could buy just one sq. m. They have to buy 2.13 sq. m units and cut them to specification (i.e., they can’t just buy part of a unit).

Non-sequitur reaction: “I don’t want a cat. Can I change it to a dog?”

The Teacher Cell Phone Dilemma

By Kristina

We don’t have landlines for each classroom in my school, so most teachers make calls from their personal cell phones. I usually wear dresses to school, so I often keep mine locked in a cabinet to prevent theft. However, sometimes I miss calls such as requests to cover a class. I saw this sports bra with a built in iPhone pocket and thought…maybe this is the solution for my phone toting woes.

How do you store your cell phone if you are a fellow dress-wearer?


The Shaded Region

By Kristina


I found this problem online while looking for IB example problems for the Perimeter, Area, and Volume unit. Some students solved it, getting the answer of 6.4 cm. I reminded them to convert cm to mm, so they got 64 mm. I looked at their work and saw that they had used A = pi * r^2 rather than 1/2 * pi * r^2 for the semicircle. They did it again, this time getting the answer of 91 mm. I thought, “how can this circle be wider than the rectangle?” and checked their work one more time. It still came out to 91 mm.

54 cm^2 – 21.8 cm^2 = 32.2 cm^2

32.2 cm^2 = 1/2 * pi * r^2

64.4 cm^2 = pi * r^2

64.4/pi cm^2 = r^2

r = sqrt (64.4/pi) cm = 4.53 cm

d = 2r = 9.06 cm = 90.6 mm = 91 mm

I brought the problem to our math teacher meeting and asked other teachers to solve it too. We all kept getting 91 mm. Finally we decided that the problem must have a typo because the semicircle took up more area than the shaded region.

Are we missing something?

the fork in the road

By Kristina

I’m midway through my fifth year teaching, and I’ve been considering what paths to take as my teaching career progresses. My headmasters recommended getting my principal certification via the Principal Residency Network, and I’ve also been interested in applying for National Board Certification. Whatever I choose would likely happen in 2014-2015. This is my first year taking on administrative duties (11th/12th team leader, IB coordinator, CAS coordinator), and I would like to get more experience and improve at each of these. This is also my first year coaching debate, which I am enjoying, so I’d like to improve at that too.

For those of you who’ve decided to pursue either of these two options, what made you choose it and why? What advice do you have for someone in my position?

1) Principal Residency Network

2) National Board Certification

Photo Credit: Designing a Champion Blog

LearnLaunch Conference 2013

By Kristina

Come to the LearnLaunch Conference from February 1-2 in Cambridge! LearnLaunch grew out of EdTechup, and it’s very cool to see how it’s supporting the growth of educational technology. I have a soft spot for EdTechup because attending the 2011 conference exposed me to the educational technology space and inspiring me to start blogging in early 2012. I did initially start Appetite for Instruction as a food blog, but the “instruction” took over after I started attending EdTechup meetups, tweeting with other math teachers, and exploring the math teacher blogosphere. A colleague asked me recently how I get involved in so many cool opportunities, and I replied, “I just keep my eyes open for them.” It would have been really easy to sleep in during the day of the 2011 conference…making the effort to go was worth the few extra cups of Earl Grey tea consumed that morning!

Plus, yours truly is speaking on a panel 🙂

Screen shot 2013-01-12 at 9.23.23 PM


classroom management at the barre

By Kristina


 Photo Credit: Pure Barre


Over the past few years, I’ve been going to the barre after work for fun and stress relief. No, readers, not the *bar*…but it still is a happy hour! Exhale Spa is near my school, so I always snap up deals from Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La, and Bloomspot when they are available. I’ve also gone to Bar Method, go to Lava Barre when in Virginia visiting family, and am excited to go to Pure Barre later this month.

Today I went to Denise Griffin Crowe’s Core Fusion Barre class at Exhale. Notorious for her tough classes, she has quite the following. Her 6:15 a.m. Wednesday class is booked solid until the next Mayan apocalypse. After experiencing her class today, I thought about the classroom management strategies that help teachers keep students focused on math group work when they’re tired…and pushing through a set of plies when they’re tired.

1) Get to know your students. Introduce yourself at the start of class to each student and find out if they have any injuries or need modifications. Not all students come to class with the same strengths, so the lesson can’t be one-size-fits-all.

2) Learn the students’ names. Though this is a relationship builder, it deserves its own spot. The Bar Method teachers are crazy good at doing this. Even if it’s your first class, they will somehow memorize your name and then use it when calling you out to fix your form or to praise you. When you come back for subsequent classes, they will greet you by name at check in. I appreciate that!

3) Interact with every student at least once in the class. It’s easy for a teacher to focus only on her regulars, but that can make newbies feel left out. Before I came to these barre studios, I’d only been to gym yoga or BodyPump classes where the instructor stays at the front of the class and demonstrates rather than going around to give feedback to students. Relating to number 1) above…don’t push your students too hard if they’re not ready. I had to stop and rest a few times during some of the leg work at the barre today, and I was glad that Denise didn’t scold me for doing so. I also noticed that she differentiated for advanced students rather than trying to keep the entire class at the same level.

4) Give a variety of feedback. Non-verbal feedback saves so much time and keeps the class running smoothly. For example, the instructor could yell “Little Sally, put your shoulders over your hips and do your plies lower” from across the room or she could come over to Little Sally, gently put her hands on Little Sally’s shoulders to align her and push her to the appropriate height level. Verbal feedback for correction should be done close to the student so that she doesn’t feel singled out or embarrassed. I never used to think about this when teaching math, but after experiencing well-done verbal corrections in barre class, I am trying to bring more of that to my teaching. Verbal feedback for praise can often help students push through uncomfortable situations and stay motivated. When I hear “great job, Kristina!” I work a little harder.

5) Structure the class well. Provide counts to let students know where they are and how much longer to expect to work. Every teacher I’ve seen has planned her class structure so well that transitions went smoothly and we ended exactly on time. The teachers also anticipate where students will have trouble, then help them make adjustments. The one time I noticed a blip in structure was when the teacher was implementing a new class format. She explained the changes in front of the class (they didn’t seem awkward there). However, I overheard her after class speaking about how she’d accidentally made one part too short.

I look forward to getting physically and mentally stronger from barre classes. It’s fun to find teaching strategies in unexpected places!

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