Category Archives: Uncategorized


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.

BTiTC: Trans Students Part 1: The Basics.

(full discloser: I might mess this up. feel free to correct me in the comments.)

I am starting a series called Building Trust in the Classroom. It is about intentional things I do to create community.  If you have things you do and want to guest post or post at your blog, let me know and I’ll link to it.

Our classrooms are diverse places.  From learning styles to home lives to race to gender no two students are the same and yet we still often split the room by things we consider binary like gender (or sex). This problem exists in my text book:

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.03.55 PM

It’s a fine problem.  It leads in to some great exploration of matrices.  Except in order to do it you have to take a visual poll where girls and boys raise their hands.  What if you don’t feel like you fit in to one of those categories? What does it mean to be male?  Are talking sex or gender?  I don’t know.  Are you talking shoe gender? Because all my kids wear Vans which are UNISEX. Or they are men’s shoes that women wear? I don’t know.  I got real grumpy when I taught this.

I could go into a bunch of other examples of explicit gender roles showing up in math class but I think this post is already going to real long so I’ll hold off.  There are a million places in a day where students are asked to classify themselves.  I am hoping we can work to make math class a safe place. In order to do that I’m going to start with a bunch of the basics and straight forward information.

First off, in the next few years you will almost definitely have a trans student in your classroom.  This is just what it is.  Especially if you teach in a magnet, charter, or private.  Parents are looking for safe spaces for their children.  Let’s try to be that, okay?

Okay, basics. Definitions:

Biological Sex and Sex Assigned at Birth: “Sex” refers to one’s body – the physiological and anatomical characteristics of maleness and femaleness with which a person is born or that develop with physical maturity. Biological sex markers include internal and external reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormone levels, and secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair and breasts. Sex assigned at birth is the sex category (almost always male or female) assigned to each of us on ID documents, beginning with the birth certificate.

Gender expression: refers to appearance and behaviors that convey something about one’s gender identity, or that others interpret as conveying something about one’s gender identity, including clothing, mannerisms, communication patterns, etc.

Gender identity: refers to people’s own understandings of themselves in terms of gendered categories like man and woman, boy and girl, transgender, genderqueer, and many others. Gender identity cannot be observed; the only way you can know someone’s gender identity is if they tell you. Some people’s gender identity is consistent for their whole lives; other people experiences shifts in their gender identity over time.

Transgender (adj.): Can be used as broadly as trans*, but more often refers specifically to trans* people who have an experience of transitioning (socially, legally and/or medically) from living as one gender to living as another gender. Tip: Transgender should almost always be used as an adjective. As a noun (e.g. “she’s a transgender”) it sounds disrespectful to many people, and as a past-tense verb (“transgendered”) it does not make any sense.[1]*

There are a bunch more definitions in this resource.  You should read them.

So, the reality is in the next few years you will have a student in your class whose gender expression does NOT match their biological sex or whose gender expression doesn’t fit in any box. And how are you going to handle it?  The answer is not perfectly. I know I didn’t.

Now that we know some language if you’re decided you don’t want to read this whole series of posts here are the major things you can do in your classrooms to make sure you aren’t massively fucking up:

  1. Call students by the name and gender pronouns they prefer.  Every time Jenny has to correct you that they goes by JJ you lose capital. Every time you call Josh a she you break his heart and he does not want to learn for the rest of the day.
  2. Include in your opening survey, “What do you like to be called?” “Is there anything else I should know?”
  3. Avoid call outs like Ladies or Gentlemen.  Stick to gender neutral call outs as much as possible.  I like y’all and dudes (I live in SoCal).  Maybe you can add some you like in the comments?
  4. Don’t play games that separate the class by gender. This seem obvious but the number of girls v. boys stuff that I see in classrooms is staggering.
  5. Be a safe space to the best you can.  If this is uncomfortable for you I’m sorry, but remember it’s way way harder on the kid.  You don’t have to be the person this students talks to about everything but you do have make sure they are safe enough to learn.
  6. Remember you are a teacher because you love kids. Everything else makes sense when you put it in the lens of loving kids.

I try to keep my posts at less than 1000 words so I’m going to stop here.  The next two posts (I hope) will include some personal experiences and resources for where you can get more information or training if that’s what your school is looking for.

[1] Gender and Sexual Orientation Terminology,

*edited to change to def of transgender instead on trans after conversation.

My Session. All the Circles. TMC #2

My session started out as one thing in January and became a totally different thing when I presented.  I would say my session was in two parts: 1. Building trust in the classroom using circles and 2. restorative justice as we use it at my school.

(I’m nearing 1000 words so I’m gonna just write about #1 now and come back for #2 laterz)

We started with a circle activity that I run in my class all the time, like probably every other week or more.  You have the students stand in two concentric circles facing a partner.   They always start by introducing themselves to their partners and shaking hands, I even make them do this in May.  (This next thing is the rotating part that you can do however you want but I’ll explain my method) Then I have the outside circle turn one way and the inside turn the other and hold their hand up to high five their parter.  This looks a little like square dancing.  I call a number and they high five as they rotate and count out loud. So high five your partner “ONE” next person “TWO” and so forth til they have a new partner.  Then they introduce themselves again.

I use this formation for questions and various other things.  Here are some examples of things you might have the kids do with their partners. (I make them rotate between each question)

  1.  Inside circle you have 10 seconds to tell your partner what you ate in the last 24 hours
  2. You will each have 20 seconds to tell your partner what the best part of last period was. Outside circle will start.
  3. Tell your partner your favorite color.
  4. What are you watching on tv/netflix right now?
  5. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  6. What is your favorite class?
  7. Tell your partner everything you did this weekend starting sunday night and ending friday afterschool
  8. You must talk for 60 tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  9. Tell your partner the last thing that made you laugh (appropriate)
  10. Tell your partner the last thing that made you sad
  11. Tell your partner something you wish you were better at
  12. Tell your partner something you like about them

This is a picture of ideas we came up with in session.

FullSizeRender-1In my list I would says 1-6 are very low trust questions. Things you would be willing to tell anyone.  I use those at the beginning of the year or the start of the activity.  7-12 are higher trust you need to read the relationships in the room.  I like to intersperse the questions with little games like best two of three in rock-paper-scissors or multiplying fingers whatever you make up is fine just use those to lighten the mood. You can have them make up a 3-move hand shake in 60 seconds or whatever.

Pieces of advice for this

  • If you don’t do things like this hold the list of questions in your hand so you are ready every time
  • the more you do this the faster the kids are at doing it (that includes moving desks and chairs)
  • on that note unless your desks are nailed to the floor they are NOT nailed to floor MOVE THEM
  • the clearer the directions the better this will go
  • time limits on questions are the most important
  • the more you do things like this the better they are at talking to each other so the payoff in collaborative work is HUGE
  • if there is something you want to know about a particular child stand near them and eavesdrop. I leveraged the fact one of my girls wants to be a chef all year.
  • if you don’t have my memory for things sit down after class and jot down somethings you learned about the kids
  • If you want to know what one kid said have their partner share out, “Jason what does Dan want to be when he grows up?” also, ask like 4 other kids to not be too obvious


I also use circles as a means for all class discussions. So I make everyone sit in a circle and we either go around or raise hands. I try to do as many positive circles as possible. The circle has a talking piece (we call it the squishy) and only the person holding it can talk. Also, I start by saying the norms of the circle every time. “This is our circle, it is a safe place to speak, you should be looking at the person talking and not be having side conversations.  You should have nothing in your hand and no head phones.”

Some circle questions:

  • one word to describe your weekend (go around)
  • one good thing about the presentations you just gave in english (popcorn)
  • if you had 30 minutes of school time and could make the whole student body participate what would you do? (go around)
  • What’s something someone in this class has done recently that impressed you (popcorn)
  • How is 10th grade different than 9th
  • What are you excited about for 11th grade

At my school we also use circles to address all school issues.  Like if there is a graffiti problem or something our counselor will come up with questions and we will all do them either at the end of the day or during advisory.  The rule of thumb is that your circles should be at least 80% good circles.  If they aren’t then students will literally groan if they walk in and chairs are in a circle.

Okay, that’s it for the first 1/2 of my session.  Let me know if you have questions! :)