Half Century Plus One

I remember reading Shireen’s wonderful post last year when she turned 50 and thought, We’re the same age, and I want to celebrate turning 50 too! Well, I missed my chance to write something last year, but it’s never too late, so I’m stealing Shireen’s prompt “50 things I’ve learned about teaching” and broadening it to “51 thing I’ve learned about teaching and growing” because I turned 51 last month.

  1. De-clutter. When Megan and her hubs visited me in my 2-bedroom apartment in February, she looked around and asked, “Where’s all your stuff?”
  2. Smile and say hello to strangers.
  3. Tell students how awesome you are.
  4. Buy fresh flowers for yourself. I get whatever is on sale at the market, like right now I have two bunches of gladioli for $1.99 each. IMG_4113
  5. When a kid is rude or mean, stop everything and point that out. Then you can add, “I care about you and everyone in this room, and I need you to be kind.”
  6. You don’t have to continue with a bad lesson.
  7. Share with your students your hobbies and maybe your adulthood fear.
  8. Commit to listening to someone without interrupting and judging.
  9. Call a parent to tell him how much you appreciate having his child in your class.
  10. Add butter to your cooking. To sauté anything, I heat up equal amounts of olive oil and butter, add a ton of garlic (and/or shallots) and cook until fragrant, then add your food and toss everything up. Season with just salt and fresh ground pepper.
  11. Plant some fresh herbs and eat them! I’m always growing rosemary, basil, and mint. IMG_4114
  12. Tell people you love that you love them. Say it all the time, even when you’re slightly mad at them.
  13. Catch students being good. Go overboard with praising them.
  14. Ask students to pick up any trash around them, and model this.
  15. Tell students how much you respect and appreciate a colleague.
  16. Splurge on something for yourself. I have a set of high thread-count sheets.
  17. Always leave a place neater and cleaner than how you’d found it.
  18. Get to know all the dogs in the neighborhood.
  19. Avoid all mean people. Because mean people suck.
  20. There’s probably a reason why certain people are mean.
  21. Be the first to say sorry, especially to your family and students.
  22. Let the person you love have the last word.
  23. Find humor in self-deprecation.
  24. Find strength in self-love.
  25. Remember that fibbing is lying.
  26. Show gratitude daily. Remind yourself of all the things you do have.
  27. Tackle a challenging math problem. Make this a regular thing.
  28. Tell that one person to fuck off because he/she had hurt you for the umpteenth time. Then walk away and stay away.
  29. Laugh out loud with your students. Be funny. Have fun.
  30. Create a classroom environment that your younger student self would want to be in.
  31. Reach out to your colleagues for guidance. Reciprocate generously.
  32. Try to keep your classroom tidy and clean. Sanitize all surfaces!
  33. Always put children first. Feed them first. Take care of their needs first. (Your students are these children.)
  34. Sing loudly in your car when driving alone.
  35. Most of the time, it’s not about you. Be okay with that.
  36. When people need to vent about their family member, they really don’t want you to agree with them.
  37. Always be on time. Update your ETA if you’re running behind.
  38. Don’t underestimate students’ abilities. Don’t overestimate their sensitivities.
  39. It’s likely that whatever topic you’re teaching is not the student’s top priority right now. It’s only school. It’s not for everyone. It’s not you.
  40. Have more last-minute picnics.
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  41. Only your opinion matters when it comes to how that outfit looks on you.
  42. Go hiking more. Rachel does it best.
  43. Make time for your friends. Sam does it best.
  44. Deliver a plate of homemade food to your next-door neighbor. Make it pretty and include the recipe or list of ingredients. (Not cool should they die eating your food.)
  45. Eat a new food. Thai? Moroccan? Persian? I think it’s the only way to truly know its people.
  46. Give less homework or give none at all. (I’m working on this.) Encourage children, big or small, to play outside.
  47. “Feelings are boring. Kisses are awesome.” David has this t-shirt.
  48. Ask for help. And be willing to help because it was probably not easy for the person to ask for your help.
  49. “Forgive but never forget.” Like the tattoo on my daughter’s arm. 2016-05-27_18-59-20
  50. Be the teacher you’d want your own child to have. Teach hard. Teach true.
  51. Consider stabbing yourself with a sharp pencil before committing to writing a list of 51 anything.
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Making a Difference

Why it’s so hard for me to leave the classroom. I’m making a difference here and now.

Aidan

Kate2

Kate

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Dividing Fractions

My 6th graders have been working with dividing fractions for the last two weeks. We explore these four ways, in this order:

  1. Number line
  2. Rectangles — I wrote about this here.
  3. Dividing by one
  4. Common denominator

It’s completely intentional that we work with the number line and rectangles first. I want my kids to see the answer and that it should match their intuition and understanding.

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They Save Me

Like all mornings, the alarm on my cell phone pays no attention to my slumber and goes off anyway. I’ve changed the default ringtone of Radar to Ripples — it’s still annoying and elicits the same expletive from me.

Another Monday. Just three more Mondays.

Like going to the gym, the hardest part is getting there. Once I arrive at school, my mood is buoyant from the exchanges of greetings and smiles with the students.

I’m finishing up my 26th year in the classroom. Yet no two moments have been the same. Each kid unique, each class different, each interaction idiosyncratic. The kids are all lovely. They are all crazy. They ask great questions. They ask dumb questions. They know a lot more than we think. They know nothing. They are very kind. They are rude. They say funny things. They tell the worst jokes.

The briefest exchanges let me know that I’m in a good place.

Sometime during 2nd period:

At the start of 5th period:

Me: Please draw a rectangle, any size is fine.

Joey: You want us to do that now?

Me: No. Two hours from now.

Kayla: Hehe. I love  your sarcasm, Ms. Win.

It’s been a rough year in my personal life. But I get to escape from it through these light moments with my students. They make me laugh. They make me fart. They save me from myself.

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Warm-Ups in Google Classroom

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One does not say no to Elissa. And because I adore her!

We do warm-ups every day, and kids know it’s always the top assignment in their Google Classroom Stream.

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I put 4 days worth of warm-ups on one Google Doc, like this week’s.

The warm-ups that make up the 4 days on the Google Doc are normally from any of these sources:

The 5th day is always a visual pattern — and this is on Google Draw so kids can mark it up.

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How much time I allot for each warm-up depends on the question, from 3 to 5 minutes. Going over their answers as a whole class takes another 3 to 5 minutes. Every so often a warm-up takes 20 minutes, and that’s perfectly okay. When kids have a lot to share/discuss, I’d be a fool to stop them.

The warm-up below, for example, could be a full-blown PoW, so I gave students about 10 minutes of quiet individual time. This student finished up her thoughts for homework because she wanted to — and because math, and because my kids are better than yours.

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Baklava and Euler

Some 20 years ago. Two colleagues were talking in the hallway outside my classroom when I approached. Guess they were talking about food. He turned to me and said, “I bet Fawn doesn’t know what a baklava is.” I said, “I do know,” and walked away.

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know what a baklava was? You could have just asked me if I knew.

Some 5 years ago. A math professor was visiting our math project because he was one of the regional directors (or in some similar capacity) overseeing the project. At the end of the workshop, he decided to tell me about dead mathematicians, scribbled their names on the whiteboard, and then he pointed to Euler’s name and said, “His name is not pronounced like what you might think.” I said, “I say oiler, how do you say it?”

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know how to say Euler’s name? You could have just asked me if I knew.

I shared two instances, sadly I have many more.

I hadn’t heard of “mansplaining” until just a few years ago.

These various encounters were always unfortunate, and I’d walked away from each one without saying what I really wanted to say. I was probably thinking, I don’t have time for the likes of you. And my anger dissolved into boredom, almost as if I’d accepted it as part of life — an element in the period table, in the inert column.

But that might be a lie because I’m reactive to it — even for the briefest moment — by being made to feel small and vulnerable, intellectually inferior and naive, dismissed and categorized.

I shall speak up next time.

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[Added 5/23/16. HT @HKhodai]

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A to Z

I’m just following Annie’s lead.

Here goes — just whatever word comes to my mind starting with that letter and how I might use it in a sentence.

A — Attorney. I should have been an attorney so I may charge my unfortunate client in increments of 1/20 hour.

B — Buttercloud. At Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe, you can order french toast made from buttermilk biscuits, like they do in heaven.

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C — Cow. I have a memory of a cow.

D — Dick. Stop acting like a dick. Don’t be a dick. You’re a dick. (Why does dick get all the bum rap.)

E — Everett. Dear Everett, You left this world too soon, but I will forever see your big smile.

F — Family. I can’t stand services that claim “We treat you like family here.” No you don’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t charge us.

G — God. Are you there God? It’s me, Fawn, not Margaret. Screw her, I need You to work on me.

H — Happy. Be happy, anything less hinges on self-hate.

I — Ice cream. My kid ate all the ice cream, like all 12 bars and 8 pints, I shit you not.

J — Japan. This same kid is going to Japan for who-knows-how-long. I’ll wait until he leaves to restock the freezer.

K — Kaplinsky. I love Robert Kaplinsky more than I love kale, and I really like kale.

L — Lemons. Yes, freshly squeezed lemons, not limes, and lots of freshly squeezed oranges (or juice from a carton that’s NOT from concentrate), together with a shot of tequila = yum.

M — Matt. Matt Vaudrey just sent me a few texts today that brought a big smile to my face and his words felt like a warm hug. Thank you, Matt.

N — Nevaeh. I have a student named Nevaeh, and it’s only recently that I learned it’s “heaven” spelled backwards.

O — Open House! Yes, tonight is Open House, but I have no student work on display at all. Nada. That’s because we do almost everything in Google Classroom and on whiteboards, and whiteboards get wiped! I had my students write various PS [problem-solving] problems on large white boards for parents/guests to work on. Then on the big TV, I have slides on loop showing the kids’ work on Desmos, visual patterns, and other fun stuff.

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P — Pride. Sometimes pride may be mistaken for arrogance. Your pride should elevate others around you, whereas your arrogance aims to diminish them.

Q — CUE. I had a great time presenting at the first ever CUE Rock Star MATH camp last weekend in Los Gatos. (What? Qantas??)

R — Rosemary. After you grill a steak, finish it off in a hot pan with butter and sprigs of rosemary.

S — Sorry. I have a student who says sorry all the time; she opens every sentence with the word sorry. First it was annoying, but now it’s just sad, or the other way around.

T — Teachers. Teachers are my heroes, the same way that kids are my heroes.

U — Uterus. My, what a lovely uterus you have.

V — Vagina. Victory. Vegan. Megan sent me vegan jerky, and it tasted like shit.

W — Weed. Weed is that green crumbly leafy stuff that you can snort. Or am I thinking of dandelion.

X — Xtra. If you allow students to turn in Xtra credit, then I don’t think we can be friends.

Y –You. Annie would say, You do you.

Z — Zits. I shouldn’t be getting zits at age 51.

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One-Tweet Post

Because I can.

And because I really love the kid who wrote this on her test. I’ll call her G. She tells me more than once, “Ms. Win, I’m not good in math. I struggle a lot, but this is my favorite class because you’re my favorite teacher!”

G has a tough time paying attention in class. She is always digging around in her backpack looking for something — the way an adult looks for misplaced keys or wallet. I love her mom too who has big sections of her hair dyed pink plus some other neon colors. Mom chills out in my room after school on Mondays because that’s when I offer extra help to students, and G is made to attend. I like watching G and her mom put their heads together and work on the problems. Mom acts like a kid when she’s doing math, and I say that in the most heartwarming way.

Sometimes I think about what my students will do when they grow up. I think G will just be fabulous because she really doesn’t give a shit about what others think of her. It is true because it is true.

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Mental Math of 45 x 25

Wow. I suck at this #MTBoS30 thing.

Couple days ago I tweeted this out because my kids were working on the same one.

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Thousands of folks — okay, maybe 7 or so people — responded, and I thought it’d be fun to see what some common and not-so-common strategies were.

Most common (22 people):

(40 x 25) + (5 x 25)

or

(4 x 25 x 10) + (5 x 25)

Second most common (11 people):

(45/4) x 100

or

(45/2)/2 x 100

Tied with 6 people for each strategy:

(45 x 100)/4

(45 x 2 x 10) + (45 x 5) = 900 + 225

Equally popular with 4 nods each:

(50 x 25) – (5 x 25)

(40 x $0.25) + (5 x $0.25) = $11.25 –> Change to 1125

4 quarters = $1 –> so 44 quarters $11 –> plus extra quarter = $11.25 –> so, 1125

Still others:

35² – 10²

(100 x 25)/2 – (5 x 25)

40 quarters + 5 quarters = 1,000 cents + 125 cents

(9 x 5) x (5 x 5) = 9 x 5³ = 9 x 125 = (10 x 125) – 125 = 1250 – 125

45² – (45 x 20) = 2025 – 900

25² + (20 x 25) = 625 + 500

doubling and halving: (45/2) x (25 x 2) = 22.5 x 50 = 11.25 x 100

And an area model from Mylene:

Yay to math tallks! Also, I think it’s really important that we are intentional about what numbers we give students for mental math. Jason Zimba once said, “Think of mental calculation as being the best approach only in cases where a readily apparent mental strategy is probably both faster and more reliable than the standard vertical written algorithm.”

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

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Jean-Dominique Bauby was 43 when he suffered a massive stroke that resulted in “locked-in syndrome.” He was only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. This is his book.

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And in truth I would have been pleased to trade my yellow nylon hospital gown for a plaid shirt, old pants, and a shapeless sweater — except that it was a nightmare to put them on. Or rather to watch the clothes manipulated, after endless contortions, over these uncooperative deadweight limbs, which serve me only as a source of pain.

Like the bath, my old clothes could easily bring back poignant, painful memories. But I see the clothing a symbol of continuing life. And proof that I still want to be myself. If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere.

And then one afternoon…, an unknown face interposed itself between us. Reflected in the glass I saw the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde. His mouth was twisted, his nose damaged, his hair tousled, his gaze full of fear. One eye was sown shut, the other goggled like the doomed eye of Cain. For a moment I stared at that dilated pupil, before I realized it was only mine.

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