November 2015 archive

on making

By Kristina

This Atlantic article examines tech culture’s celebration of creation (often at the expense of teaching and caretaking). It delves into how society values the traditionally male domain of “making” and devalues the traditionally female domain of caregiving (e.g., teaching, healthcare). Before I finished reading the first sentence, I immediately thought of What Teachers Make, a poem by Taylor Mali.

What Teachers Make
by Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is
What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
was to become a teacher?
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true
what they say about teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?

And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-­‐kicking:
if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A-­‐ feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?
I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math
and hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you’ve got this,
then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?

I often feel that teachers have to defend or justify the rigor and validity of what we make and do. What we make can’t be sold, but it’s pretty awesome.Good teachers do follow the design process when creating and refining their curriculum. Creating complex math tasks or guiding students into mathematical discourse do not get featured on the cover of Wired magazine. Just because these educational things weren’t born out of Mountain Dew-fueled coding rampages and didn’t have an IPO of $1 billion doesn’t make them any less “made.”

Similarly, arts and crafts don’t get the same level of respect as robots or other technological “made” things. Case in point: back in engineering school, fellow engineering majors would scoff at those in the College of Arts and Sciences, calling it the College of Arts and Crafts. But don’t arts include design, iteration, and planning of resources? My mother-in-law probably wouldn’t consider herself a maker, but she makes some amazing Halloween costumes. Her process of research, design, locating materials, and creating is pretty spot-on.


So what will it take for us to “recognize the work of the educators, those that analyze and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things, all the other people who do valuable work with and for others—above all, the caregivers—whose work isn’t about something you can put in a box and sell”?

interoperability and baby social media

By Kristina

In my old life as a consultant, I supported operational and technical solutions for a Department of Justice High-Risk Metropolitan Areas Interoperability Assistance Project, which provided federal, state, and local public safety agencies with emergency intersystems communications in 25 areas at risk for terrorist attacks. I haven’t had the word “interoperability” pop into my head for a while (except for regarding school data and gradebook systems) until my recent ponderings about baby social media.

I’ve been pondering how to share pictures and video of Parker via different systems to various stakeholders (grandparents, immediate family, friends, acquaintances) and with different technologies (iPhone apps, Android apps, websites, printed paper books or calendars). Major considerations have been privacy, ease of use, and accessibility. I’ve been sharing via iCloud photostream to immediate family as well as via Facebook and Instagram for friends. However, none of these offer an optimal solution. Not all family members use iPhones. Some friends use Facebook and Instagram, so double posting there would be an overload for them. Some use only Facebook or only Instagram.

I love that iCloud photostream allows for multiple contributors and for immediate notifications. It saves the effort of creating a separate album somewhere and emailing it, and consolidates photos automatically (which wouldn’t occur if you texted photos individually). Two of my immediate family members are on Android, so they don’t get the updates unless they load the photostream via its weblink. And if that weblink got forwarded erroneously, all privacy would immediately go out the window.

I’ve been on Facebook since 2004, so I’ve added a lot of friends from various contexts in my life. Not all of them are close enough to warrant baby photo sharing, and many are likely not interested in seeing photos of Parker (hopefully not to the point of something like Other mom friends have mentioned that they too love sharing but worry they are going overboard. Though Facebook seems to already creepily prioritize posts in the newsfeed, it can’t yet read our minds and execute the command “just show this to people I care about and who would actually want to see my baby photos.”

I know there are options for creating tiers of friends like one would in real life, but I’m not interested in trying to coerce Parker into sitting still long enough for me to curate various lists with privacy permissions for seeing my statuses or photos. I’m also not interested in putting in the effort to create, invite people to, and maintain a private Facebook group for sharing his photos. A friend pointed out that several of his friends even made up different names for their kids on Facebook in addition to locking down the privacy settings. I suppose I could always go back to calling Parker his pregnancy nickname of “Henry.”

Instagram would theoretically work if I hadn’t already had a public Instagram. There are options for making photo albums or prints from Instagram photos, which would be cool. However, simply making my account private wouldn’t solve the matter of having Parker’s photos viewable by current followers whom I don’t mind seeing my posts about food, fitness, or teaching but would mind seeing Parker. Keeping the account public makes me wary of issues such as baby catfishing. I ended up deleting all photos of Parker except for his birth announcement and one where he’s in a stroller around my students. I have reserved the Instagram account with his full name, but there’s no easy way to just transfer those past posts to it.

Friends have suggested other apps that were specifically designed for the baby photo sharing use case: Smugmug23 Snaps, and Lifecake. Side note: I think this is the death knell of my being on the cutting edge of new technology, because I hadn’t heard of them yet. They seem great with privacy, organization, and ability to create printed photo albums. I do worry about the extra effort required for technology adoption, though apps being consolidated on one’s phone does make this much easier these days. I also worry about having to sort through and upload all of the photos from the past 3.5 months of Parker’s life…the longer I wait to switch, the more onerous that will be.

blogger flywheel class

By Kristina

PicFrame (1)

Today was another big post-baby fitness milestone: the first spin class! I took a blogger class via Blog and Tweet Boston, opting for the spin one with Catie Macken. I’d taken Azure Campbell‘s Flybarre class with Jen and my sister the week before, and that kicked my butt just as much as it did when I tried it for the first time earlier this year (with pregnancy modifications).

It was great to see familiar faces like Danielle, Jessie, and Elissa when heading into the studio. I chose a bike in the back–was really glad that they let us choose our bikes this time. Spin felt a lot better than I expected it to. It really is so much easier without an enormous baby bump, heartburn, and decreased cardio ability. I couldn’t hit some of the higher RPMs but could handle the recommended torq (and, with my newfound mommy upper body strength, felt a lot better in the arm song than I expected). I like that all past performance data is saved for you so you can make accurate comparisons and track progress.Since the last class I took in June, I improved my total power by 52, average mph by 2, and average torq by 2. I was really surprised to find that I’d gotten my highest total power ever in spite of not being in shape.

I found Catie very motivational, with easy to follow cues and a good variety of speeds and resistance. It’s hard to have spin workouts that feel like all hills or all sprints. Her playlist was fun too–a little Justin Bieber, a little Taylor Swift, and a little rock. She offered helpful tips such as “think of it as a forward-backward motion, not up and down” and direction on how to position our upper bodies. She also offered us earplugs at the beginning of class. I didn’t take her up on it, but some other bloggers mentioned that they’d had trouble understanding her and wished they’d taken them. We only saw the Torqboard at the beginning of class and during the final races during the last song. I’m glad she did that because I didn’t feel demotivated by it (which I may have done if it had been shown a lot).

Some promos that are happening this month (from the Flywheel newsletter):

We’re thankful for two years of flying with you, Boston! To celebrate, we’re offering you an unlimited wheel membership for only $220 per month, or you can become a FlyPlus+ member (unlimited Flywheel & FlyBarre) for only $270 per month – that’s $50 off our regular rates! Sign up now – this amazing offer expires on November 30.

December’s cold. Warm up with a free class, on us! For every 4 times you ride in November, you’ll get one FREE wheel credit to use in December (if you pulse 4 times, you’ll get a free barre credit). See the front desk to get started!

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.

shaped houses

By Kristina

“Want to live next door to the famous “round house?” ;-)”

A lot of condo listings and sublets often pop up on the Somerville Moms email list that’s so popular around these parts. This one intrigued me, so I hit the Google. Turns out the round house has some interesting history.

roundhouseThere is also a hexagonal house in Jamaica Plain and Octagon House in D.C.

I’ve had students design their dream houses before–might add on a historical research or current real estate / house design aspect!

technology to try

By Kristina

Day 2
Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

I first heard about Plickers at EdCamp Boston and put them on my “to-try” list for 2015-2016. This year, two awesome math bloggers posted about them on one good thing (misscalcul8 and Sam Shah). I’ve found it hard to incorporate edtech that needed constant access to the computer lab, Chromebook cart, and school Internet. I’m hoping to cut down on the transition time usually inherent with such integration. I’m also hoping to improve my formative assessment.

goals for the (second half of the) school year

By Kristina

When poking around my blogroll for blogs to comment on today, I found this challenge linked from Everybody is a Genius. I know it was meant for September, and I’m not in the classroom right now, but I want to think (and write) about teaching.

Day 1
Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!

This is for when I come back from maternity leave on February 1.

1) Figure out how to get my lesson planning and grading done efficiently so that when Parker is home from daycare, I can have quality time with him and my husband and get as much sleep as I can. The sleep deprivation has gotten better over the past 3.5 months, and I keep hearing how much better I’ll feel once I’m back to work, but I know I can’t sustain my old habits when I go back. I’ve resisted the idea of “good enough” because I used to think it meant “mediocre.” I have to reframe my mindset to have “good enough” actually mean “good” to me. I recently realized that I spent a ton of time researching daycares only to sign up for one of the first two we had looked into. Similarly, we booked the second wedding venue we’d looked at (after I’d gone nuts researching venues all over the state). I have to remember not to spend hours and hours on lessons based on the idea that “more effort = better.” If I like the lesson, I like it. And it’s okay to just move on.

2) Pass the NBCT Component 1 test for Mathematics – Adolescence and Young Adulthood (ages 14-18+).

3) Get back to my exploratory self instead of getting bogged down by IB. Try formative assessment student meetings, Plickers, Google Classroom, Kahoot, and math standards practice portfolios.


By Kristina

This post is a shoutout to my father-in-law, who recently had kids (aged 4-12) make catapults out of Dollar Store materials at a school open house. He made one working model as an example in case students really needed help starting, but otherwise aimed to not tell students how to make them and encouraged them to put together what they wanted. The art teacher also had a center set up for the kids to decorate their catapults. I love the incorporation of both art and the design process.

I’ve used catapults for quadratic modeling before, and would love to modify that activity with some of the aspects from this one:

  1. Using the bigger plastic cups. I had paper ones before that weren’t very sturdy.
  2. Throwing a non-edible item such as frogs. This would cut down on the mess–M&M’s got all over the classroom floor, which made for more difficult cleanup.
  3. Design process. I might price out the materials and have students try to design catapults at the lowest cost.
  4. Art. When I did this before, all the catapults looked the same.

Math ideas:

  1. From husband: look at the distribution of distances over a large group and see what patterns evolve
  2. Quadratic modeling to have them try to hit certain targets in the room (vs. hitting the same target from a different starting height)
  3. Quadratic modeling using Desmos
  4. Accuracy and precision with many trials of the same catapult


By Kristina


Babywearing is amazing for being able to get things done around the house while holding a (sleeping or awake) baby, for commuting on the bus or T, or for taking the baby on outings where a stroller would just be too bulky. I registered for the Ergo360 and infant insert, thinking that it would cover all my babywearing needs. I had to wait to use the Ergo until Parker weighed over 7 pounds, and was a bit nervous about using it at first, so I ended up trying a few wrap carriers around the house and then on short outings before trying soft structured carriers. I would tell expectant or new moms to just wait until their babies are born and then try out carriers with a group such as Babywearing International or from friends who already own them before making purchases.

Baby K’Tan
We originally got this from Babies R Us after hearing how much easier it was to use than the Moby. It comes in sizes to fit the wearer (not the baby) and can be arranged in different holds (e.g., the kangaroo hold for newborns) on the front and hip. However, I sent my husband out on a shopping trip to go get it in size S, thinking that S was the smallest size. I tried it on with Parker and it felt like he was sinking too low. I checked the website and realized that women 5’2″ or under should size down and that a size XS exists. Unfortunately, Babies R Us didn’t have any XS K’Tans in stock when I tried to exchange it, and specified further that they wouldn’t be carrying them.

I ended up exchanging the K’Tan for a Boba wrap (which was in stock and was one size fits all). One of my coworkers highly recommended it as well. I found the Boba really great for the newborn stage (with legs froggied in) and a little after (with legs froggied out). It kept Parker snuggled really close, much like a swaddle. This was great for calming him down–sometimes he would pass right out after being put in it when he was fussy. It was more complicated to learn than the Baby K’Tan at first, but the steps got much easier with practice. The fabric is really long, so I only put it on at home or in my mom & baby classroom (didn’t want it dragging on the ground). You can put it on at the beginning of the day or before a car ride, then just put the baby in it. However, it’s not that useful for long walks outside. I liked it best for around the house or in other indoor situations such as eating at a restaurant. I’ve heard that these are only useful for up to 15 pounds, but I stopped using it around 11 or 12 pounds because Parker didn’t seem to get calmed down by it anymore.

I tried the Ergo around the house before venturing out to the library, restaurants, hiking in the Fells, and the Head of the Charles Regatta. Initially, I found that my back hurt after wearing the Ergo, but I learned (ironically when trying on a different carrier) that I’d had the waist belt on too low. It was much more comfortable after I moved up the waist belt so the bottom edge barely hit the top of my hip bone. I found it well suited for outdoors events and commuting. It’s thicker and padded, which felt good in cooler weather–I think it would have been unbearably hot in the summer. We got gray, which goes with everything. My husband was okay with wearing the Ergo, whereas he didn’t even want to try the Boba because it seemed more cumbersome. Parker never seemed very comfortable with the infant insert. Though he needed the height boost and head support, it seemed too narrow for him. I also tried to just put him on top of a rolled up receiving blanket, but a few of those times he peed on me. Having to add the infant insert or the blanket before putting him in from the car seat felt inconvenient. Another inconvenience was having to carry a small purse for my phone and keys.

Lillebaby Complete All Seasons
Because the Ergo wasn’t exactly suiting my babywearing MO, I researched other soft structured carriers (such as Tula, Beco, and Lillebaby). I settled on the Lillebaby carrier in the Guncles print. So far I’m really happy with it. The Guncles print is very cheery and distinctive. It was hard to settle on just one pattern (and it turns out that many people purchase multiple carriers because they love collecting pretty patterns). I’m cool with just keeping the Ergo as a backup in case Parker vomits, pees, or poops on it and we need a carrier while the Lillebaby is washed and dried. The Lillebaby is reasonably easy to put on, even with a fussy baby. I sometimes misalign the buckle for the back strap when attempting to fasten it, but it doesn’t take too long to correct that. It doesn’t require an infant insert–to carry babies under 6 months, you can put the carrier into a narrow seat formation and use a mesh head support. Figuring out how to convert the seat from wide to narrow is a little weird at first though. The lumbar support makes it really comfortable, and will be even more essential as Parker gets bigger. Poor form isn’t that bad when carrying a tiny baby, but would make babywearing awful for a big one. I prefer the buckle on the waistband to the Ergo 360’s velcro. It takes less time to put on, isn’t loud, and can remain set for my waist size. I also prefer the mesh head support to the Ergo360’s infant insert or the flap. It’s easier to attach with the buckles than to add the insert or unbutton/rebutton the flap on the Ergo. I love that it has a pocket (though the pocket’s a little small). Parker is nowhere near this size, but the max weight is 45 pounds (compared to 35 pounds for the Ergo).

on math, date nights, and yummy food

By Kristina

My husband’s boss gave us the following sage advice for new parenthood: go on a date night once a week.

I didn’t realize how important and effective that advice was until last night’s date night (our first since September 1st). We’d gotten into more of a parenting routine over the past three months, including getting out and about with the baby to events such as a Halloween party or to a sushi restaurant for my birthday. However, we were always “on.” Watching one kid used to seem theoretically easier to me than watching 29 at a time in the classroom. Now, teaching a packed classroom would feel like relief from the days of constantly monitoring the baby and never knowing when a potential break would come. Yesterday we went to Sabur, an awesome Mediterranean restaurant in our neighborhood. A couple of hours of non-baby conversation in a chill atmosphere with delicious food felt just as refreshing as eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

PicFrame Chef’s mezze (hummus, pita, red onions, feta, polenta squares, olives, stuffed grape leaves)
Burek (pie made of ground beef, hand stretched phyllo, spinach, and cheese)
Warm goat cheese with roasted red pepper, garlic confit, and roasted eggplant served with crostini
Cevapcici (grilled Balkan sausages with onion, pita bread, and tzatziki)

Our non-baby conversations often revolve around education (K-12 and college) and STEM. We like sharing lesson plan ideas, talking about new technology, and even solving math problems together. This goes all the way back to our very first date in March 2009, when I gave my husband a few problems from an IB Math Studies training I’d recently attended (such as this one, which he couldn’t solve).


But, getting the right answer isn’t necessarily as important as the journey, and our prob-versations continued through dating and now regularly happen in our marriage. We had a great time solving this problem at home on the couch one night before I debuted it as a challenge to my 12th graders. challenge We’ve talked about how to use the Law of Cosines when writing code for LEGO robots and ultrasonic sensors in one of his class projects. We talk about how to design rubrics for projects like “create a robot that blows bubbles.” We even share problems like this with his dad, who enjoys solving them too: “The two hands of a clock are 4” and 5”, at some time between 1:45 and 2:00, the distance between the tips of the hands is 8”. What time is it to the nearest second?”

So when I saw this clock puzzle on Sam Shah’s blog, I thought it’d be a great date night problem. As soon as I finished saying it, my husband replied “oh, the answer’s [censored here to avoid spoiler alert], right?” Turns out he’d gotten it wrong at a high school math meet because of forgetting that the hour hand moves. We reminisced about solving the other clock puzzle (and how one of my students had solved it a completely different way but may have just gotten lucky with his solution) and about how a small group of my students had latched on to that complicated triangle pictured above.

working I did snap a picture at the time with the intention of blogging…but better late than never.

They never solved it, but their perseverance and collaboration was pretty awesome. Two of the kids in that group were the first students from our school to earn IB diplomas. Coincidence? I think not. I hope that my son will exhibit similar behavior in the future, whether he’s doing a jigsaw puzzle with us, learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube from his uncle Anthony, tackling trig problems, or writing robotics code. I hope he enjoys the journey and knows that even though both his parents are teachers, we’ll always value the journey more than just the right answers.

mom-meals: pulled chicken tacos

By Kristina


The first few weeks of parenthood filled our trash can with almost as many takeout containers as dirty diapers. Now that we are getting back into cooking, I’m trying to make more meals that require as little active time (chopping, stirring, assembling) as possible. It’s been a gradual improvement from eating random things out of the fridge with one hand while holding Parker with the other arm to cooking pasta with him in the baby carrier, but I missed my old Sunday meal prep routine and the time it saved during the week. People have recommended Blue Apron as a way to make cooking easier. I think I’d feel more stressed/constrained by their ingredients lists, the 30+ minute prep time for meals, and the amount of packaging that the meals are shipped in. I prefer going to the store or farmer’s market and getting inspired by a few ingredients.

A fellow new mom recommended this pulled chicken recipe to me. She and her husband made it on a Sunday for enchiladas and had plenty for lunches throughout the week. After being limited to dinner-making via “hand baby to husband as soon as he gets home and then scramble to cook”, I was happy to bring out the crockpot, make the pulled chicken, and ponder a non-enchilada meal that didn’t require a knife and fork (since I’m aiming to cook meals that can be eaten while holding a baby in the other arm, if needed). Bonus mom activity: going for a walk to Stop and Shop with Parker.

1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (used a 2 pound package from Stop and Shop)
1/2 cup salsa, homemade or store-bought (used mild Whole Foods salsa)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (used Penzeys Roasted Garlic and added a few cloves of minced garlic)
1/2 onion, finely chopped (used a whole onion)
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (used chipotle powder, salt, and black pepper)

I did the chopping after Parker had gone to sleep, then put the ingredients into the crockpot on low for 8 hours. The crockpot switched to the “keep warm” setting for a couple of hours by the time we had finished Parker’s morning feeding. I pulled the chicken apart with two forks and then stored it in Tupperware until dinner that evening.

We didn’t actually use it in enchiladas, but in tacos (pictured above) and in salads (with the same filling, just with corn and more lettuce). At the store, I got inspired to make tacos after spotting mango salsa in the pre-chopped vegetables section. For the tacos, I used yellow corn tortillas, chopped avocado, mango salsa, cheddar cheese, green Tabasco sauce, and lettuce.

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