In a survey for a teacher’s program I did the following.
“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?)
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.
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.
(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:
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.*
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:
- 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.
- Include in your opening survey, “What do you like to be called?” “Is there anything else I should know?”
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
 Gender and Sexual Orientation Terminology, http://thinkagaintraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TermsDefinitions2014.pdf
*edited to change to def of transgender instead on trans after conversation.
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)
- Inside circle you have 10 seconds to tell your partner what you ate in the last 24 hours
- You will each have 20 seconds to tell your partner what the best part of last period was. Outside circle will start.
- Tell your partner your favorite color.
- What are you watching on tv/netflix right now?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What is your favorite class?
- Tell your partner everything you did this weekend starting sunday night and ending friday afterschool
- You must talk for 60 tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
- Tell your partner the last thing that made you laugh (appropriate)
- Tell your partner the last thing that made you sad
- Tell your partner something you wish you were better at
- Tell your partner something you like about them
This is a picture of ideas we came up with in session.
In 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! :)
For me TMC is two very distinct things: a great place to engage in new ideas with dedicated people and a chance to be myself with my friends and people who really get me. This post isn’t going to do a good job recapping my talk. It is not going to tell you the one thousand things I learned (posts soon on both those fronts, I hope) instead it’s going to talk about me because let’s be clear, I am the most important.
I am having a bad summer. I know that people hate it when teachers complain at all during the summer but, sorry not sorry, this summer has been rough. A combination of lack of routines and structure, living in an old new place, and brain chemistry has led to a fair amount of the sad.
I almost didn’t come to TMC. I told myself several times, “This is not mandatory, you do not have to go.” I told Michelle I didn’t think I could give a talk. The idea of four days of being social made me feel slightly (very very) ill. I’m not going to tell you it was magically okay when I showed up, that I felt amazing and happy the whole time. That there weren’t I few times I left places I was supposed to be to hide or that I introduced myself to all the new people the way I know I should of. I didn’t do a great job showing my mom around and I wore my name tag low and sat in corners. I found TMC hard.
The flipside to that is that it was, of course, exactly what I needed. From the first moment of seeing Lisa and Hedge to saying goodbye to Michelle I do not regret I went. I needed to see Fawn speak and to remember that she is not that far away. I needed to talk to Lani about Nashville and Vanderbilt and remember how fascinating I find graduate work. I needed to sit at dinner with Christopher Danielson (who is a two-name person I just realized) and hear him say “well you solved a different problem” to someone doing origami. I needed to see Max’s wedding pictures, Dave’s baby slide show, and find out that Maaatttttt named his tiny person Linus. I needed some of Eli’s, Matt’s, and Micheal’s unending energy and positivity. I needed to hear stories of life from Tina, Michelle, Rachel, Brian, Jasmine, James, Lisa, and Hedge. I absolutely needed Heather’s amazing story about her inability to switch lunchroom seats ever. I needed to be reminded that everyone loves my mom. I needed Dan to mock me for being offended at the piano bar but to still leave with me. I needed to meet new people like Eric and Andrew and Daryl and Laurie. Or people I talked to all the time but never met like Megan and Elisa. I needed to remember that I could give a presentation because actually I know stuff and am good at it. I could probably fill a thousand words with this stuff.
Mostly, I needed to be reminded that I do not teach in a bubble. Mostly, I needed to be reminded that I do not live in a bubble. I am part of something. I am so lucky to have found this community and to be a member of it. Even when everything else is less than stellar the MTBoS and it’s terrible sounding acronym is still there and they don’t care if you hide in a corner or stand in the front. They just want you to show up.
Because as Lisa would say, “It’s about community, stupid.”
About two years back Sasha and Court wrote this. Now they are super old and super wise and they bring you advice from the other side. I love them so much it hurts. :)
Sasha and I had talked a little bit about writing a second guest post, but it spent a lot of time just being an idea. A few weekends ago, I ran my second, and last, high school Ragnar, while Sasha qualified for her final high school crew nationals, and by Sunday night, we asked if we could, in fact, write the second guest post. It feels sentimental as I’m typing this, but it’s more like a check in for us. There are all of these ways to compartmentalize time in our lives- high school, summer, college, first jobs, races we’ve attended- but how we’ve grown up has little to do with the time, and so much more to do with the pieces of ourselves that cannot be contained in categories. Here is what we learned in high school that is less to do with high school and more to do with the rest of our lives.
1) The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.
I just went out for Chinese food with my family for mother’s day, and my fortune was “avoid unnecessary risks.” I am not sure whether the fortune cookie company meant social risks, financial risks, or jumping-off-a-cliff risks, but I feel like risks are good. If you want to text a person and don’t think you should because you are embarrassed, TEXT THE PERSON. You can always apologize later, and most of the time you typed that shit for a reason.
4) College Admissions teams don’t really give the “mistakes are okay” aura, but they don’t know what transcripts don’t tell them.
You’re only allowed to wear footy pajamas in public for so long before it gets weird. If I were to do it over again I would:
a) Own footy pajamas
b) Wear them all day every day with frequent washing
c) Don’t do something because everyone else is doing it. Go at your own pace. *
6) It will end.
Sasha will be going to college in Pennsylvania, rowing and studying we’re not sure what. Courtney will finally be on the coast in Boston, running and changing the world, and hopefully herself. These are just plans, categories, pieces of our lives. Emma was that, too. We love you all for reading, listening, teaching Courtney how to use Desmos, and being a place for Anne, and thus, a place for us. See you on the flip side.
Because I had to leave Emma last year, I won’t be there tomorrow to see you graduate.
Instead I will be curled up in my bed at 6:45am waiting for the live stream to start.
Because I chose a new place, I won’t line up for wailing wall or wear my hood (which this time I earned).
Instead I will tear up at home thinking about the girls who started at Emma with me.
I am so ridiculously proud of the people you are and excited to see what comes next.
Trudy will talk about you briefly (and hopefully say your name right) tomorrow but I wanted my piece.
Ying, I never did talk you in to taking an art class but maybe you didn’t need it? I missed you all the time this year. Every email and snapchat was amazing.
Sonya, you are brave and powerful and give amazing speeches. Thank you for being a genius with me.
Sash, every email you send me makes my life better. I hope that college brings more late night adventures and a lot of time on the water. Maybe riding a moose?
Lily, I am sometimes jealous of your amazing sense of self but, don’t be afraid to not know what’s next or to lose yourself a little. Also, always tell me stories from lute camp, please and thank you.
Caelin, you did it and kid, it was touch and go for a minute there. From 1,000 broken laptops to late nights showing up at my house I feel real lucky that I get to have you in my life.
And Court, my office only ever felt a small part mine as you definitely owned real estate there. You have given me some of my favorite gifts ever and truly have a knack for making other people feel important. I expect 1,000,000 emails.
To Sam, Kiki, Claire, Gabby, Muna, Kirstin. To Ruby, Luna, Susan, Emily, Elsie, Jhanara. To Lorraine, Joie, Emma, Lauren, Justine, Dana.
I wish I was there to tell you in person and most of you will never read this but you made a huge impact on my life and I know you will continue to make impacts where ever you are headed.
Ms. Schwartz. (I guess you can call me Anne now.)