The better of us.

“Three years ago my brother was shot and killed out side our gate.”

This was how a student at my school started her morning reports speech on Monday.  She went on to talk about the things she now valued and how she showed her values and it was a moving and deeply felt speech.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about my brother.  Then when it came to writing today I decided I should tell you about him.  Also, cause I think he’s the best person I know.

My brother is a special ed teacher at a full inclusion school.  The children and adults on campus are ridiculously impressed with him.  It’s pretty unsurprising to me because I know just how smart and hard-working he is.

There are a lot of things I like (comic books, movies, and others) just because my brother liked them as a child and I wanted to be like him.  Probably cause he’s so cool.

He is patient in a way that baffles me (with everyone except me) and that translates to his job being exactly right for him and him being exactly right for the kids.

I’m really lucky in a lot of ways.  My family is really functional and my brother is one of my best friends (whether he wants to be or not).  Other people talk about fighting with their siblings and in general we don’t.  I mean, there was that one time he punched me but I’m pretty sure I started it.

Anyway, I don’t know what the eff sibling’s day is but today is my-brother-is-the-best day.

2010, in front of not the actual Alcatraz but a picture of it.
2010, in front of not the actual Alcatraz but a picture of it.

I have not the words.

It’s Sunday April 13th. Tomorrow I will be giving a speech to my whole school.  A school full of girls. Two hundred and two girls sleep in their dorms about 1000 meters from my house. Tomorrow they will write essays.  Tomorrow they will prepare for spanish tests and physics tests.  They will brave the general difficulty that comes with being a teenager.

Their parents are at home in California, Massachusetts, Hong Kong, and Nigeria.  They are asleep.  They have chosen that their daughters be educated at this place. That their daughters be given the opportunities granted only by living in these gray walls.

My girls have brothers and sisters who they talk to as often as possible.  They have boyfriends and girlfriends and all types of friends. They are very very lucky. I am thinking about all of this as I write my speech.

Then in the middle of the night armed men enter the building and light it on fire. It is a well known fact that our school is built like an oven, stone on the outside wood on the inside.  The girls, being smart and well trained, evacuate.  There they are kidnapped. In whatever they are wearing, with whatever they have, they are removed from our care. They are taken in the night by these men with guns.

Before the government responds they are taken across international borders.  They do not call their parents or talk to their friends.  They are gone.

They have been missing now for two weeks. About twenty managed to escape but the rest seem to have vanished. Their parents are on TV begging for their daughters to be returned as news ticker divulges the details the last celebrity engagement.

There are stories about them being sold and married off and killed but they don’t eclipse the truly important opening of the new superhero movie.  Because this is America and we know what’s important.

It has been eighteen days and we have not gotten them back.

The thing is it would never happen here because my girls are wealthy, my girls live in America, and most of my girls are white. The problem with that is the girls taken in Nigeria are mine, too. They are all of ours.  So why aren’t we acting like it?



Writing. Thesis Writing.

Today I am working on my thesis.  This basically means that all of my thinking is there and I am struggling to type anything that isn’t that.

If you’re interested my thesis is called, “Adolescent girls’ perceived value of social networking sites.” It’s interesting because most of the research I looked at talked about a positive affect on their friendships and their self-worth but my girls reported no affect at all.  I think this is one of two things: 1) they lied a little to feel cooler or 2) they just don’t know what it’s like to not have facebook so while their friendships may have different layers then mine did it is all they know.

All right, back to my paper which is due Tuesday, which is my last class before graduating!


MTBoS30 posts worth reading.

Here are some awesome posts that have happened in the past few days of MTBoS30.  If you are not a participant in this 30 day challenge I would love if for you to go and comment on two of these and give people some motivation to keep on blogging.

<3, Schwartz


James’  Being Out in the Classroom takes a great How I Met Your Mother/ Dan Meyer lesson and adds one of my favorite things: gender ambiguity.

Ashli takes things to a whole new level with an excellently executed video around why she decided not to grade stuff.

Mr. Kunkel talked about how he wished teaching math was more activity/problem solving-y like computer programing.

Bree’s reflection/butterfly painting connection is lovely.  I actually use that connection for even functions.

I really like Andrew’s assertion that you don’t actually “get none of it.”

The language we use tells us lots of things.  The language others use causes us to judge.  Grace talks about the way we speak in her piece on ethnic enclaves.

How many cars does your family own?  This post on the choices we make and Kathryn’s one car family provides a small look into her life and I, for one, want more.

Megan talks satanic sheep and kids who are weird. I could say more but the picture is worth the click.

Some of my favorite posts of all time tell me things about the author I didn’t know before.  Jessica loves antiques and refinishing. Clearly, she and I are meant to be friends for life.

Posts about people being laid off always hit close to home for me.  Brian’s tough day feels very very real to me.

And last Tina and Brian could have a separate foster care thread of #MTBoS30 and here Tina answers some questions for you but if you have more go ahead and comment.


I hope you will take a minute and click through and comment on these.  Also, I know there are others participating and I hope to do another round up closer to the end.

Happy Blogging, Dudes!

Explaining Radicals

Setting: Algebra 1 Class.  Unit: Operations on Radicals. At this point we have done adding, subtracting, multiplying, and distributing radicals.

Today I get a who student writes:


Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 2.58.58 PM

Then another student says, “You can add those?”  I have been pushing really really hard order of operations so I go through the process:

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 3.03.10 PM

The answer to almost every question in my Algebra 1 class is either order of operations or commutative property.

We teach students about “like terms” do we often show them why we can perform operations on like terms?



A Letter to my Students.

To my students: past, current and future,

I hope you have a lot of challenging days.  Days that end in tears, days that don’t seem right, and days full of unfairness.

I wish great struggles for you. That decisions don’t come easy and that there is hard work behind each and everyone of your choices.

I want to give the gift of constant uncertainty.  So that you never feel as though anything thing you do is exactly right.

I give you these hopes in earnest, knowing that you will be scared, cold, and angry some days. And still I want this for you.

I want this because you are the best people I know.  You are going to always be the best people I know and the best people struggle.

You will be shaped by the challenges.  You will learn to stand up in the uncertainty and your choices will be all the more yours when you have to work for them.

So, I leave you with cold, scared, and angry and I hope you will allow yourself to feel them.