We might not be doing it right but we are doing it better.

Have I talked about Bryan before? I can’t remember.  We did our credentials together than I went away for four years and he worked for the High Tech Schools.  He is a deeper thinker than anyone I know and can ask 100 questions while only answering one. (A skill that occasionally drives me nuts)  Weirdly enough when I moved home to work for my new school Bryan started a job as a Math Coach in the same district. So we work together, which is rad.

Now I get to be one of the schools implementing Bryan and Abi‘s teacher partner program.  My school is a special case in a lot of ways and we might not do it completely as written in Bryan’s post. But we are doing some of the things he talked about and I am just going to write up what our first department meeting looked like in terms of this program.

First, some information about my school.  I teach at a Health Sciences Magnet school in a public district.  We are 3 years old with 240ish a grade (currently we only have 1/2 a class of seniors).  Our scholars are 60% Hispanic, 30% White, and 10% everything else. 60% of our scholars receive free and reduced lunch.  Our scholars travel in 30-40 student cohorts that are mixed ability through all their classes which means two things: 1) we do not track and 2) they spend all day with the same kids. Our students have 75-85 minutes of math everyday all year.  (This is not true for all the schools in the district)

And now back to the program. We have two people in the role of teacher partner this year.  Since this was our first department meeting about this they explained what they would be doing in this role.  Essentially, it sounded like they would be helping us focus our thinking through data collection, classroom visits, covering for us to make classroom visits, and leading conversations to help us grow as a department.  Overall real good stuff. They each get one release period to help make this happen.

Then we jumped in on the topic of the day: Structured Math Talks (side note: if you use Kagan structures this is very very similar).  First we partner talked on the purpose/ importance of SMTs.  Then we all shared out and made a list of why they are important.FullSizeRender-1

Next we watched a video of three of us setting up SMTs.  (I might post my little part later.)  As we watched the directions were to watch the setup of the STM then state any noticings or wonderings we had.  I thought about Max and the Math Forum all day.


We did all of this in about 45 minutes.  SMT is going to be our department’s focus for the next month or so. We are going to try to do more of them, watch each other, and talk about it.  We are going to look for opportunities in our lessons as a grade level team for places to implement them.

At the end of the meeting Brent (one of my colleagues) made this comment, “Last year I thought implement one a week would be overwhelming.  Now I try to do this everyday.”   #totes

I’m gonna talk more about how and when I do STMs  in a later post because this one is more about the structure of our teaching partner program.

Two finals things: 1. I am going to try to be uber reflective this year 2. I only wrote this cause Bryan asked me and he’s my boss.  Just Kidding.  He’s now real upset I wrote that he is my boss. He is definitely not. Though I did write this because he asked me to after writing it I know, as always, that this post is most useful and meaningful to me.

p.s. gosh I love talking about teaching and how to make it better.


Whenever I talk to my dad about the neighborhood I work in he talks about how it’s, “getting better.”  He means  it a kind way but I really struggle with that language.  I struggle with the cost of gentrification.  If you have some time this week you should listen to WNYC’s Death Sex and Money.  This week Anna Sale went to New Orleans and talked to people about the 10 year anniversary of Katrina.  I have only listened to the first one but here are the couple of quotes from Terri Coleman, an adjunct prof at Dillard, that hit home

But progress and change comes at a cost and I think in the narratives of progress that are told by outsiders there’s not a appreciation for what we’ve lost in order to make this progress.

I’m not sure if fancy kale and bike lanes are worth that. Even though I love kale and I love bike lanes. I’m not sure if they’re worth that.

Find some time this week and give a listen.

“Sometimes I lie to you”

“This isn’t one of those times but you should prepare yourselves.”

Things I say to the children.  Remember when I lied and said I was going to blog everyday? And then my phone broke and I slept all the hours and worked the other hours and then slept more.  Yep, that.

But let’s recap:

Wednesday: Had a fun conversation about textbooks that involved me receiving some intense mansplaining about the technology.  Let’s all be clear, I didn’t ask.  Then I worked with the new teachers til 6:00 getting them ready for day one of teaching.   Oh then I tired to get a new phone which also was not functional.  Cool cool.

Thursday: Advisory olympics.  Every advisory is a college (UAlbany Represent!).  We lost hard.  But it was fun. First day of teaching!!!!  I did Which One Doesn’t Belong with all my classes using structured talk, private reasoning time, and questioning strategies to get them used to my classroom. Kids stood at the board and explained their thinking!!!! I also talked about all the habits of mind and habits of interactions we used.

Friday: First full day of classes.  Dudes, I love teaching.  I got there at 6am to watch the sunrise with the seniors then we watched Ferris Buller’s Day Off in the teacher.  Then I taught my classes. Then I thought I might die of exhaustion. So I spent most of the weekend sleeping.

Today: I got to teach again!!! And my students are only getting better.  They are the raddest of dudes.  I am starting to gage my freshman better.  I can see their attention waning and I like their humor.  My seniors are learning my preferences for behaviors and most of them are getting it.  They are super great but not the most effective when it comes to getting right to it.  I am working on it.

One a side note on every one of those days I had conversations with my colleagues about teaching.  Not just what problems to do but how we were going to teach them, what was important, and potential mistakes. Dudes, this is a magical place.

See you tomorrow (maybe, probably, hopefully?)


BTitC: Little things.

This is a small thing.  The kids really like it when you know more than just their names.  But damn it, learn their names and fast because they love you better when you know their names. One thing I do is a lot of team building and talking about themselves the first couple days. So I have them share in small groups, in partners, and in the whole group.  Once they have done this a bit and I feel like I know all their names I ask if any kid can say one fact about everyone in the class. Sometimes I let two kids work together. This helps me learn more about them and makes everyone feel included.

If this is too much for you another suggestion would be to have them write 5 things about themselves on a index (with their name small on the bottom) and then a couple times a period read them out to the class one fact at a time and let the kids guess.  This gets you lots of information on the kids AND builds relationships.  Yay.

I’m too tired to write more.  Love you, bye.


What if I posted everyday?  What if that will never ever ever happen? What if I post today and see how it goes?  Okay, I guess I can do that.

Today was the first day of school.  We spend the first four days talking about our community and team-building.  Today was spent with my advisory.  I loves them.  I had all returners and then a new set of about 7 freshman.  One of them makes wookie noises and raptor noises.  He is a champ.

My advisees are just so lovely. My seniors are so great with the lower class people and my juniors are so strong. Like they just really have it together.

We introduce/remind kids of two of our school pillars today: Welcome and Do No Harm.  We sit in a circle and discuss what they mean.  They talk about making new students feel safe and inviting them to sit at lunch or in the halls.  They talk about knowing people’s names and making them feel important.  They discuss how we do no harm to others, our school, or our selves.

We also played games and debriefed them and pretty much loved each other.

Anyway, one day down, 179 to go.

BTitC: Trans Student Part 2: Some Nuance and Resources

If you’ve been reading this blog for any reasonable amount of time you know that I am by no means perfect.  That I make no claims to that. That I start most posts with disclaimers and that I still mess up all the time.  Well to continue that trend I’d like to start this post by addressing some nuance that I left out of the last.

First, I am a ciswoman.  This means that I was assigned female at birth and I identify as such. In case you are wondering my preferred pronouns are she/her.  The first piece I wrote in this series was intended for an audience of cispeople which as far as I know is the majority of my audience.  It was mostly intended as a starting point for cisgender teachers who have little to no experience with trans students. I was not as nuanced as it could have been.*

After I wrote it I spoke to Geo an art school student (here is their junior thesis go watch it. all the talent).  While Geo made a lot of good point the one that stuck with me was this,

“It’s not just about perspective, its about authority. Who gets to decide what goes in the guide for how to educate trans students[?]”

Damn, well, not me.  Which is why I am including a whole bunch of resources here.  Resources I read before I wrote this piece and resources that will provide you with more nuance and better information.  The short, sweet, and less good version is my first post.  These places can help you learn more and do better. Which is always the goal in teaching (and like being a human), yeah?

Trans* Ally Workbook: Getting Pronouns Right & What It Teaches Us About Gender  This cost $4.  I paid for it.  I think it is that important.  They offer it for free if your organization needs it but come on people spend the $4 it is absolutely worth it.  It is a really good starting point.

Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender in K-12 Schoolsis a first-of-its-kind publication for school administrations, teachers, and parents about how to provide safe and supportive environments for all transgender students, kindergarten through twelfth grade.   This is free! It’s written by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.  It’s super great.  It provides a way way more in depth version of my post.  And better, obvi.

GLSEN – The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network has a whole page of resources for you and for your students. Harsh Realities- The Experiences of Transgender Youth in our Nation’s School is particularly good.

The ACLU put out this brochure so that teens know their rights called Know Your Rights. It could be useful to give to a student. It includes important stuff like the laws involved, who to contact, and how to document problems.

Dan Savage got a letter about this from a school teacher looking to support a student and sent it over to Chris Hampton, youth and program strategist for the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project.  Chris then provided a ton of resources here.

My big advice is to take this slow.  Read the ones that jump out at you first.  If you struggle with pronouns spend the four dollars on the first one.  If are looking for resources for a student check out the ACLU. 

The third piece of this series will come out next week and will be a lot more personal.

*I am working in the western world’s constructs of gender here which does not cross all cultural lines, more nuance.