#metoo

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My first reaction to all the Harvey Weinstein hubbub was “well that sucks, and I’m lucky to not have had to deal with that in my career.”

But then I remembered I had. It was put so far away that I had forgotten that in my first year as a teacher, it was required to hug (be hugged by, endure squishy cheek kisses, walk down the hall arm in arm or hand on butt) a particular employee every day in order to have things like an elevator key, or a cart, or students who didn’t threaten you because you were “cool” with him.

Why didn’t I speak up?   I was lowest on the totem pole, and it was my first job. I just wanted to fit in at work. No one else ever said anything, and I didn’t want to make more waves beyond my bad classroom management.  Besides, who knows what would happen to me if I wasn’t cool with him? Sometimes you had the more boorish boys in your class on your side if you were “cool” with him. I was 22.  Cool was still important.

Why haven’t I spoken about it since?  I didn’t know it then, but I had been programmed to think that this was normal and this was not harassment and this was just a “rite of passage” at any new job. Also, I haven’t had anyone to tell it to – anyone who knows him is still there in that insular community, and I have lost touch. And frankly, I forgot. Because there are a lot of things about 22 that are better off forgotten.

Why would I bring it up now? My trauma does not define me, and yes, I have misgivings about this #metoo movement that requires us to bring up things that I would rather keep buried in order to be seen as human and worthy. This is not the only example of harassment I have experienced, just the most prominent one at work that was not in some part my own damn fault.

But I brought this incident up to my husband, over breakfast, and he was so uncomfortable even hearing it. Wouldn’t make eye contact, non-committal single word responses, changing the subject. And it brought me back to that shameful place where I just wanted to bury it deep and never admit I was that stupid again.

I don’t blame him – he doesn’t talk about feelings regularly, and I have accepted that about my reality.  But it really makes me think that there is an issue when the people closest to me can’t accept that this happened to me.  There are also people closest to me who will be surprised if they read this.  If you’re one of those surprised people, I hate to tell you that this is really not the worst thing that’s happened to me.  And it happens to us all.  That’s the power of #metoo, and I guess I’m telling my story.

IT IS NOT OK to have to give up bodily autonomy to do your job.  IT IS NOT OK to have to chip away at your definition of professionalism to do your profession.  IT IS NOT OK to have your humanity subjugated just to be human.

But it is normal.  And it is normalized.  And that is not OK either.

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2015: Staying true to myself

It’s been a while, WPeeps.  My life has been too busy for me to make time for me, as I’d feared it would become.  As arbitrary as the gateway of New Year’s is, it’s always a good time for reflection.  I want to say so many things about 2014, but I’d really like to talk about what’s ahead in 2015.  So let’s get on with the recap and pre-cap:

Looking back at 2014: How’d I do?

My non-resolutions for 2014.  I didn't include "happy".  Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given.  Hm.

Look at that optimism, 1 year ago!

Here are some of the things that have happened in 2014.

  • I’m back in the classroom, teaching 6th grade math full-time.  I’m using my classroom time to learn more about how students learn, and to get reconnected to schools.  I go to work daily knowing what needs to be achieved in a day, and I try my best to do it.  I’m really enjoying being part of a lovely and supportive staff that treats each other like family — the good and bad of family — and I accept dynamics for what they are.  I work (mostly) efficiently and constantly from about 7am to 6pm, but I try to leave work at work, and spend minimal time outside of work on work things.  CHECK: Professional, stable, sustainable, prosperous, productive, appreciative, confident, educational.  NOT QUITE:  less angry…or clean.
  • I’m going to be part of a founding team at a new high-tech school next year, and serving as the head of instructional technology.  I am excited to flex all my experiences building culture and systems for students and staff, and grow and learn in this new professional opportunity.  CHECK:  Professional, proactive, productive, fearless, confident, and exciting!  NOT QUITE:  fearless.  Not quite fearless.  There is some fear that is not quite latent.  It could be disguised as excitement.  Or gas.
  • I had a huge closet edit in June – my friend Kattie came over and brutally edited out two-thirds of my closet, and made me throw away things that I loved dearly, like a lot of my hand-knits that really didn’t fit well (and were mostly boleros because I got lazy about finishing objects…and decided they were long enough).  In addition to the closet edit, I did a large makeup edit as well and have had more fun learning how to use my makeup and wearing makeup.  There’s more editing to be done, but the purge was a good start.  CHECK:  Fashionable, appreciative, confident, reflective.  NOT QUITE:  Well, fashionable is always a work in progress.  Maybe I should stick to confident.  I feel better about my clothes and makeup.

    So much delicate work.  No, it doesn't fit, and it never did.  Why didn't I just make it longer??

    Yes, I made this.  So much delicate work. No, it doesn’t fit, and it never did. Why didn’t I just make it longer??

  • There’s a baby on the way in 2015.  Any day now in the next 5 weeks of 2015, actually.  This has forced me to manage my diabetes in a rather rapid and drastic fashion.  I now do multiple finger-sticks a day.  I take insulin regularly (at least 4 more needles a day).  I’ve even managed to lower my A1C to a normal level (from a high of 13+ to last recorded 5.4). I’m not even sure what that means for my diabetes post-pregnancy.  One hopes for “cure” or reversal, but I have come to terms with what lifetime management of the disease might look like.  I have managed to only gain about 12 pounds throughout this pregnancy by keeping mildly active (I guess my gym apathy earlier in the spring was due to regular exhaustion) and watching what I eat somewhat carefully.  I use a Fitbit with some regularity to help monitor my insulin needs as well as try to maintain some baseline activity.  CHECK:  healthy, proactive, physically “active”, and definitely (re)productive.  NOT QUITE:  fearless and exciting.  More on that as we move to 2015.
Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

2015:  O. M. G.  What have we done?!

Yeah.  A baby.  I could tell all the stories of what it’s been like so far, but after doing my share of surfing around on the internets, it’s really nothing earth-shattering that’s happened in this duration of gestation.  I’ve been REALLY tired.  I’ve seen MANY doctors.  Everything looks NORMAL.  Worst symptom:  rhinitis and exhaustion.  Best symptom: getting my ass in gear about my diabetes.

So I guess I’ll just tackle the hopes and fears for 2015.

I fear:

  • That I won’t be able to be myself anymore.  All the things that I have just come to terms with about myself over the last (nearly 4) decades — that’s all about to be “something else” that I don’t even know.  I worry that my foodie love life is over.  I worry that I will never travel again.  I worry that my crafting days are over.  I worry that my hard-working days are over, and I’ll have to be more flexible about my “get it done” compulsion.  I haven’t finished a craft since June or so.  I’m missing a 2nd snowboard season in a row.  Life is over as I know it.  Everyone keeps telling me this, and I get it.  I even get the fact that I don’t even “get it” yet.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June - a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa.  The cats want to eat them.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June – a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa. The cats want to eat them.

  • That my house will never be clean again.  That the construction here will never be finished due to time, money, and priorities.  That our “home” is on indefinite hold.  I have a few posts in draft mode brewing about this “lifestyle” that is our home, but I haven’t fleshed them out yet.  In short, we bought a fixer-upper, and we’ve been working on it for upwards of 2 years.  We’re not done.  We’ll never be done.  And now, we’re racing time to get ourselves to a state where we can live here with a baby.  I’m confident we’ll make do if we don’t make it in time, but it’s definitely a fear that weighs on my mind constantly.  We haven’t had many guests over since March because it’s been that much of a disaster.
  • I won’t know how to be a mother.  I’m not excited yet — it’s mostly been panic and fear.  Every melting down child around me that I’ve seen in the past few months paralyzes me with fear.  My kid is going to be that guy in the grocery store melting down because they can’t have something NOW.  My kid is going to be the one that makes themselves so anxious that they force themselves to vomit.  My kid is going to be THAT GUY, whatever that guy is.  So. Afraid.  And I’d like to say that I have high parenting standards, but I know that 1) I have no idea what my standards are at this point, and 2) every single kid is different.  So regardless of genetics or my upbringing, I have NO IDEA.  Terrifying.  And this is not the extent of my fears about my child, but it’s a starting point for me to articulate some of this fear.

I hope:

  • I can still have my own goals for 2015.  I started a list on my Notes of things I wanted to accomplish in 2015.

    2015 so far

    Notice how “baby” is one word of one line in 2015? I’m sure it’s not going to be like that in real life.

  • I can still grow at work now that work-life balance is about to take on an entirely different meaning.  I have so many things that I want out of work for next year, for myself, for my community, and for the students that we are going to serve in the school.  It is exciting, and I hope that I have the capacity to accomplish what I want or accept my limitations and still do my best.
  • I will have time to write and reflect and save memories for the future.  I have taken very few “maternity” pictures or recorded few moments in the latter half or 2014…but I need to work on preserving memories for people beyond myself now.
  • I will learn more about our growing family and what it means to be a family beyond cats (and dogs).

We’ve already had a lot of challenges getting ready, and I KNOW we’ll never be ready, but oh well, time’s up and here we go…I hope we’re prepared for 2015.  Because it’s January 1, and 2015 is here, and it’s time to buckle up for the crazy ride.

Happy New Year, happy 2015 to all!

A math facts pack

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese.  Ching-chong, people.

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese. Ching-chong, people.

When I was teaching, I often found myself struggling with the question of parity for my students.  If I do something for one student, would it only be fair if I did it for all my students?  It left me in the position of providing fewer “extras” and reserving rewards for situations with equal opportunities, because I was often concerned with being fair.

But, some students just need a little extra, and some students will make the most out of these added opportunities.  I can never resist a child who asks for more help in a specific, constructive way.

I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the classroom at the end of this year, working with students with individual needs in math.  One of my students in particular is amazing with visualizing geometry, good at solving procedural problems, and really really really terrible with her basic math facts. So when she looks at me, stops saying “this is hard” and “I’m bad at math” and instead says, “you know, this is the only thing holding me back from doing much better in math class,” I am unable to ignore that plea.

After confirming that she is good with using the resources given to her, and talking with her about using tools to brush up her math facts this summer, she and I picked out the following:

She is self-aware enough to know that regular flash cards have not helped her to learn her times tables, and she doesn’t memorize things visually in that way.  Since she is good at recognizing relationships, we are hoping that the three-corner cards and the math-wheel cards will be different ways to look at the times tables and develop a better sense of numbers that go together.

In addition to the flash cards, I made a book of 150 Mad Minute practice sheets and a tracker for her to track her progress with the times tables.  These will go into the binder she picked out, and she will use the timer to administer her own mad minutes.

Of course, once I get going with these things, I can’t stop myself.  I had to make a cute little backpack to store her math practice toolkit.  It only took about 15 minutes and I had all the materials handy in the house.  (It’s taken me far longer to format this post than to make the backpack.) I also found a few stamps and a few stamp pads that I threw into the pencil case.

The Math Facts Pack goodies - stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

The Math Facts Pack goodies – stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute.  Then again, I'm not a 7th grader, so who knows.

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute. Then again, I’m not a 7th grader, so who knows.

I have high hopes that she becomes a math facts wizard by the end of the summer, and can come back in the fall and be a mentor to 5th graders in the school who may be struggling with their own math facts.

I’m not really doing this for her appreciation, but it’s so little in the scheme of my day, and can be so big in the scheme of her life.  I couldn’t NOT do this when it asks so little of me.  I know this kind of attention isn’t scalable, but not every student needs this.  Other students will need other things, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer them when the opportunities arise.

Standards-Based Grading: Beyond the Common Core

There’s more of a post here someday about how teaching is project management and how all these teaching skills are transferable and overlooked, but for now, here’s a little about what I USED to do, via Gradeable.

Higher Order Teaching

sbg beyond the core

For most of the month, we’ve been talking about standards-based grading in terms of the Common Core’s set of standards. But the Common Core State Standards are only one set of standards to be graded to. To illustrate another take on standards-based grading, I talked to our customer success manager Sheri. Sheri taught science at a Boston-area charter school and used both Massachusetts standards and school-specific standards.

Below is what Sheri calls a curriculum alignment template (CAT). This is a chart she developed as a roadmap in August before the school year started. Since Sheri’s school used both Massachusetts and school-specific standards, her plan used state standards to orient the lesson and school-specific standards to fine tune her approach. So if the Massachusetts standard was “grocery shopping,” Sheri’s standards would be like buying “milk, eggs, bread” that define grocery shopping.

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If you turn your attention to the CAT, you can…

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