Gardening and Teaching

To change a community, you have to change the composition of the soil…
We are the soil.

Ron Finley, The Gangsta Gardener

With nothing more than a hand trowel — and hours of stabbing and digging at the hard earth — my mother turned her front yard into a garden. She planted vegetables and flowers, herbs and climbers. Her neighbor, a tall burly man, liked to tell me, “Your mother, she’s something else. If you gave me a shovel, I still couldn’t do what she does with her own hands.” She’s gangsta alright. Mom negotiated just the right ratio of determination and desperation for mint and squash.

When a form asks what my hobbies are, I write down “cooking, gardening, and traveling.” Cooking requires other people though, I need someone else to enjoy the food with me. By myself, dinner means a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine. Traveling is a lie — I lack the necessary funds, and I lack even more patience for airports and long flights. But I can garden all day every day. Working the soil with my bare hands is quite luxurious, like kneading dough, only better because you get snow peas and Walla Walla onions. Gardening is so much more than a hobby though. It’s the most generous act — for oneself, others, the planet.

Teaching is not quite a hobby, unless you get to train a dragon, but I believe it’s also the most generous act — for oneself, others, the planet.

We’re all teachers, by the way, because my definition of teaching simply means to share something. There’s value placed on what we share and how we share. I see young children as the most wonderful teachers. They are more direct, more creative, more willing to give you another chance. What’s wondrous about children is while they may not be able to do something, they can tell you how it should be done. A child will squarely critique your cooking of a cheese omelet or your attempt at tying shoelaces, “No, not like that. Like this!” When I’m confronted with such harsh criticism, children are the only species that can transform my thinking, Do it yourself then you little shit, into my saying, I’m so sorry, let me try again. You’re soooo cute! 

Reading to someone is teaching. While the content might belong to another author, but how you read — your intonation, inflection, breath — conveys the nuanced ways that content can be delivered. Playing a game with someone is teaching. It’s a symbiotic dance of what next-moves to make and not to make.


I got this far on the post, then the next day, watching the video of George Floyd’s horrific suffering that resulted in his senseless death leaves me limp. This “Gardening and Teaching” post becomes stupid, my blog pointless. Zoom is unbearable, even with mic and camera off. A bowl of oatmeal in the morning is all I can manage to make and swallow until I repeat 24 hours later. I was afraid I couldn’t hold it together with the students yesterday because I’ve been weeping steadily like a garden hose left on slow trickle.

If I may wrap up this post to say that to garden is to cultivate: to nurture and to tend. How we sow and cultivate a plant matters in the kind of fruits it bears. How we teach children matters, and it really should be the only thing on this planet that matters.

Teach well. Teach like you’re so very afraid of what will bear if you didn’t.

Posted in Teaching | 1 Response

One-Word Writing Prompts

Years ago at George Middle School (Portland, Oregon), the teachers were allowed to teach something we were passionate about. The class would be twice a week, right after lunch, for just 20 minutes. I was a science teacher at the school and asked if I may teach “writing for writing.” My principal reacted with slightly more enthusiasm than my [male] colleague’s “The Simpsons.”

I had a simple plan:

  1. Given a prompt, we write for 5 minutes. It’s imperative that I write along with my students.
  2. We share aloud what we’d written, only if we choose to.
  3. We also share what we’d like to do next with our 5-minute piece:
    • scrap it
    • add it to an existing piece of writing
    • save it for whatever whenever
    • get feedback on it

Typically, writing prompts come in the form of questions. Here are the first three of “34 Quick Writing Prompts for Middle School Students” from Journal Buddies:

  1. What does the city sound like at night?
  2. What is the coolest thing that can be found in nature?
  3. How can you tell whether or not someone will be a good friend?

These are fine, of course. But personally, I either don’t have a lot to say about the prompt or I don’t care. And it’s hard to think of a question that everyone cares about or have copious thoughts on. Let me try the above prompts right now, as if I were a middle schooler.

What does the city sound like at night?

The city is quiet at night. Though I’m not sure why I’m in the city at night when I should really be in bed at home. I’m a kid. Sure, there are times when I can’t fall asleep or I wake up in the middle of the night. But it’s still pretty quiet at night. Sometimes I can hear my Dad snore. (Or is that my Mom?) If only it would rain each night because that’s the best sound to fall asleep to. But then I think about the homeless people. It sucks to be homeless, so for them, night rain is probably the worst…

What is the coolest thing that can be found in nature?

The coolest thing that can be found in nature is… I don’t really know. I’m not sure if it’s the “coolest” thing or even just “cool,” but I like flowers and plants. I pay attention to them whenever I’m walking around outside. My favorite house is always the one with lots of flowers, especially when they are overflowing in window boxes. They don’t require a lot to grow, not like what my two cats and dog require. I like flowers that smell good.

How can you tell whether or not someone will be a good friend?

I can tell that someone will be a good friend because they are not bad. But I’ve been wrong lots of times before. They start out all nice and friendly, they say the right words and do the right things, then they just turn. Sometimes they turn so quickly that I have no clue what happened. It’s like they have an “R” gear for “reverse” and they just shifted into that gear and ran you over. I guess there are no guarantees whether or not a person will be a good friend. Look at all the divorces and breakups! It’s best to just take one day at a time.

Weary that a question prompt might not elicit interest or intrigue and having to hear them whine pitch perfect, “But I don’t know anything about that,” I give only one-word prompts.

  • tiny
  • red
  • outside
  • wax
  • intelligence
  • breakfast
  • sand
  • scream
  • pale
  • rain

My goal was writing for writing. I wanted the pen or pencil to move across the page for five minutes. I wanted the shitty first drafts. Any more than that one-word prompt might inadvertently restrict, if not constrict, their thoughts. I wanted them to feel free to write freely about the color “ecru,” the noun “home,” the verb “shrink,” the adjective, “dull.” They wrote wildly, ferociously, thoughtfully. So did I.

Mainly, I didn’t want any student of mine to feel the way this perennial prompt made me feel through all the school years, “What did you do last summer?”

Eventually, I got tired of lying about the trips that my family couldn’t afford to take and left my paper blank.

Posted in Misc, Teaching | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fried Rice

I suspect that half of this story is made up because I don’t remember everything. And why would I want to remember growing up. It’s best not to go there, pretend it never happened, like tearing up a bad photo of yourself.

Someone wakes me up each morning, or I wake up by myself. Thank God, I didn’t wet my bed last night! I don’t know how I’m supposed to prevent something that seems to happen naturally and frequently. I walk into the stall, pull down my pants, squat, and begin to pee. Instantly I feel the warm urine and wake up. I don’t remember being reprimanded as I just clean myself up and change. I have to wipe down the straw mat that I sleep on. I  wonder if this particular pee stain will already be visible from downstairs. Other kids play spot-the-clouds-formation: I see an elephant, a castle, a dog’s face. I play [by myself] spot-the-pee-stains-formation on our ceiling: I see a hammer, a unicorn, a boat.

We always have fried rice for breakfast. It’s what you do with the leftover rice from last night’s dinner. I should be grateful that there’s food to eat, but with every bite of the fried rice, I swallow down our poorness. I remember lying more than once to my friends that I had xoi for breakfast. There are many stalls at the market that sell all sorts of the sweet sticky rice. My favorite is probably xoi gac. But I never have any money.

We line up with our class in the school yard. It’s our neighborhood Catholic school. The principal, a priest,  announces at the podium that there will be a random check of our school uniform this morning. Our school name and logo are not embroidered onto the uniform. Instead, they’re printed on a small rectangular piece of corded fabric that we’re supposed to have sewn onto the left breast of our shirt. Mine is held in place with a safety-pin, and that’s a no-no. The nun who checks my uniform gives me two whips on the palm of my hand with a bamboo cane. I normally give them my left hand so I can still write with my right hand. 

I’m a good student, but far from being the best student in the class. My teachers who have already taught my two older sisters take measured pity on me. I know this from their heavy sigh and head shaking when my written work or oral response is sub par. They are especially disheartened when they learn who my father is. I already know I will never be good enough. I figure it’s a good enough day for me if I can wake up without wetting myself and leave school without getting hit by the stick. 

Dad hit me just this one time. I’m sitting with my younger sister at the table, and our Dad is standing nearby. At the center of the table is a beautiful calligraphy pen that our father treasures, and we know we are not allowed to even touch it. I whisper to my sister, “Grab the pen.” She doesn’t move. I lean in and whisper again but slower this time, “Grab the pen. Just take it. Now.” My eyes dart between her eyeballs and the pen. The instant that her little hand makes contact with the prized pen, I yell out, “Dad!! She took your pen!!” Dad nonchalantly responds, “Because you told her to.” I don’t remember anything else he may have said. He gives me one solid strike on my palm with a ruler. The only pain I feel is the shame that I have disappointed my favorite person in the entire world.

I have never ordered fried rice for myself at a restaurant. Don’t think I ever will.

Posted in Shallow Thoughts | 1 Response

Common Denominator

I already wrote about dividing fractions here and here.

I use the explanation of “dividing by one” to explain why 5/6 divided by 2/3 is the same as 5/6 times 3/2.

But when I was asked recently about how the “common denominator” strategy worked, my muted response was, “Because it does.” I didn’t mean to be a jerk, rather I just hoped she’d go along with me.

I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote 5 ÷ 3 = 5/3. She was already bored with me. Then I added 1s under the numbers to show 5/1 ÷ 3/1 = 5/3. Right, right? I then changed the problem to 10/2 ÷ 6/2 = 10/6… = 5/3. Still okay, right?

Before I could give another example, she took the paper and rubbed it on my head. Rude.


The real common denominator is we’re all in this together to #flattenthecurve. This tweet is like rainbow.

Posted in Course 1 (6th Grade Math) | Tagged , | 1 Response

Math Worksheets

I often create worksheets for my students, even though every district-adopted math curriculum we’ve had has worksheets for students. I do this for two reasons:

  1. I teach differently — sometimes slightly, sometimes quite a bit — than what the curriculum writing team was thinking.
  2. There’s a particular structure/scaffold that reflects how I see the content can unfold for learners.

Here’s a sequence of practice questions for my 8th graders on rigid transformations.

Everything about this is intentional.

  • Item #1 is a completed sample of what’s to come. This is a practice worksheet, not a problem-solving task, so I will be clear about what is expected.
  • I remove certain parts in item #2, while keeping it similar to item #1.
  • Item #3 comes before item #4 because I think it’s easier to follow the stated transformations than to say what they are.
  • Item #6 asks for more flexibility but with an ending constraint.
  • Item #7 opens up the problem and allows for peer exchange.

It’s esthetically easier for me to create the questions on Google Slides. I then do screenshots to toss them onto a Google Doc.

Here’s a screenshot of questions for 7th graders on percent change.

Here’s a screenshot of questions for 6th graders on ratios and rates.

If you’d like copies of these:

Yes, each of these takes one unit of shit-ton of time, especially when I have to look up real products with real numbers. But it’s an OCD thing too, as in If-I-can-make-it-better-I-will.

Stay safe, everyone.

Posted in Course 1 (6th Grade Math), Course 2 (7th Grade Math), Geometry, Math 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Response

Meet Me Here

I snapped this photo on my walk — the beautiful trail is just behind where I live. K.D. Lang was singing Hallelujah in my ears. My worries softened, my anger slipped. Then I thought about my thirty minutes or so with him and smiled. I needed to focus on the small blessings, and there are so many.


He jiggles the locked door handle, eager to come in. I stand and extend my hand to shake his and introduce myself. His teacher had warned me of his puppy eyes and that he liked to talk. After some chitchat, I ask him as I write on a piece of paper, “You go to the store and there’s a sign that says three apples for two dollars. Say you want to get six apples, how much would that cost?” I slide the pen and paper toward him.

Me: What’s your favorite kind of apple?

Him: The green kind.

Me: Like Granny Smith? That’s a bit tart for me. I like Fuji apples.

He looks at the paper, his mind is thinking, his head bounces a little, his fingers count. He’s taking his time. I say, “Let me know when you’re ready to share. You can think out loud too.” I repeat the problem, but immediately I wish I would just shut up.

Him: Nine

Me: Is that how much it would cost… to buy six apples?

Him: Yeah. Nine.

Me: Show me how you got that. How you got nine dollars.

Him: I added six and three.

Me: Okay. Why did you choose addition?

Him: Because it’s the easiest. Easier than division.

Me: Oh, division is harder for me too… Is nine dollars a reasonable answer? Does that sound about right? Three apples for two dollars…

He nods his head reluctantly.

Me: I notice that you did not use all the information in the problem.

He does not know what I mean. I refer to the paper and explain that the problem has three pieces of information, “You told me that you added the three and six. Is there something else in the problem that you did not use?” He admits that he did not use the $2.00.

Him: Eleven.

Me: How did you get eleven?

Him: Nine plus two is eleven.

Me: I see. Ha! You do like to add! So, if the store sells three apples for two dollars, then for six apples, it would cost eleven dollars? Does that sound about right?

He shakes his head more convincingly, “No… That’s not right.”

I scan the teacher’s small office. On her desk is a cup of thin colored markers. I grab her yellow pad of post-it notes too and tear each one into fourths. I mark $1 on six of these and slide them over to him. I also stick a post-it note on the cup that says 3 apples for $2.00.

Me: Sorry I don’t have real apples. Let’s pretend these markers are apples, and I’m the store owner. How much money do you have there?

Him: Six dollars.

Me: Cool. Okay, buy some apples from me.

He chooses three markers carefully, picking his favorite colors apparently. I ask him for payment, and he hands me two $1 notes. Pointing to the paper still in front of him, I say, “Remember the original problem. Tell me about the problem again.” He looks at the paper and the markers and money notes in front of him, “I need three more apples.”

He again carefully selects three more markers from the cup. Without prompting, he gives me two more $1 notes.

He bounces more visibly in his seat, “Four dollars. Six apples cost four dollars!”

I ask for a fist bump, “You’re awesome. I’d love to see you again.” He smiles wider and nods.


Before meeting him, his teacher had shared that last year when he was in sixth grade, he’d met his goal of “multiplying multi-digit numbers.” I didn’t really know what this meant. I had no context and did not have the student in front of me. So I asked if I could meet him.

I thanked her for inviting me in and said the only thing that came to mind, “Please meet him where he’s at.”

Posted in Teaching | 1 Response

What’s in a name?

I’m one of four daughters, and we have such ordinary names: Loan, Nga, Phuong, Chau. By ordinary, I liken them to Bob, Alan, Laura, Ann. I asked my mother about this — knowing that my father didn’t have a say — begging for an explanation of why in sweet Jesus’s name that she’d neglected to give us prettier names. She said it would be vain to do so, and God would punish such vanity by giving you an ugly daughter. She cited several girls in our neighborhood who had pretty names but had faces that were “bored to death” to look at.

Phương vs. Phượng

Phuong means “direction.” At least Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their daughter North to specify a particular direction. And Phuong without the dot under the name is more of a boy’s name. If I just got that extra dot, my name would mean phoenix, a pretty big deal bird. So, I grew up wishing I had a real girl’s name. I wanted one of my girlfriends’ names which were of exotic flowers and birds and of cardinal virtues.

Then I arrived in America, and it got a lot worse.

I had to tell people how to say my name. Most folks put emphasis on the “o” sound, and upon hearing me say it, they would overcorrect and emphasize the “u” sound. I was always flattered that they even bothered to try. (I also had my last name Nguyen to contend with: Newan, Negyan, Wen, Noogen, Noowen, Um-no.)

Phuong was usually misspelled as Phoung. I get it, most English words have –ou instead of –uo, like pound, ground, loud. And mousse — not the chocolate kind that you eat, but the copious amounts that went into my perpetual perms.

Whenever I ordered food at a counter and was asked for a name so they could call me when my order was ready, I would give some random name, like Julie or Amy. That only worked if I remembered what random name I’d used. One time I forgot what name I’d used — because it was a long wait, okay? — so when no one came up to the counter to get the brown to-go bag when the server beckoned, Julie, your order is ready, I walked up and asked, “What exactly did… Julie… order?” This charade went on for longer than necessary.

Then, freshman year at Centennial High School in Gresham, Oregon, my classmate Tim — tall, brilliant, handsome — scribbled something next to my name on a piece of paper. I had to look at it closely. He added –us at the end of Phuong. Tim smiled as if he’d invented recess, “Fungus!” Phuong-us. Of course.

That marked the end of Phuong for me. I don’t remember exactly how I came up with Fawn. I knew I wanted to replace the Ph– with F– because why use two letters when one suffices. I wanted to drop the “u” because I never wanted to be referred to as a yeast or mold again, and it was probably wise that the letters f and u shouldn’t be together in a name.

I made the official name change when I became a U.S. citizen. I didn’t have the campaign My Name, My Identity to dissuade me some thirty years ago. My mother is one of the few people who still call me Phuong. It is a pretty name now that I hear it.

Posted in Shallow Thoughts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Six Ways to See Visual Pattern #324


What about you? How do you see the pattern in the tweet above growing? Please take a look before I completely ruin it for you. (So much for my rule of “never tell an answer.”)









I loved that Hunter saw overlapping squares in pattern #307 from Caden Glover. I saw the pattern like this instead — with the constant four-circle square, and groups of three circles wrapping the upper right corner, and the number of groups is one less than the step number.

Some 30 hours later, I was at my desk creating another pattern, and I started out with a diagonal of increasing cubes (highlighted in yellow), and above and below this diagonal are more cubes (marked in purple). Therefore, for any step n, I see the middle as (n + 1) and the purple ones are two equal groups of n.

It was not until I finished creating step 3 that I realized I’d made the same pattern as the one from Caden. I didn’t want to scrap it because I didn’t mean to copy his pattern and really had built it from “scratch,” and now it is pattern #324 on

It might be my favorite one thus far because I can see it in different ways. Here are the overlapping squares that Hunter saw:

What’s fun is sometimes I don’t see the pattern in its “simplified” form until I’ve simplified the equation. (I have to do this for the answer key). The number of cubes C is related to the step number n, such that C = 3n + 1.

And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t always try to see a rectangle in any pattern. (The green rectangles have dimensions of 0 by 3, 1 by 3, and 2 by 3 for steps 1, 2, and 3, respectively.)

Many of my students will try to see if the entire step can be enclosed in one rectangle, then minus the negative space. The negative space (missing cubes) of this pattern is fun to discover too!

Do you see another way?

Six years ago when I created the site I had hoped to have 180 patterns to match the number of school days. We are now at 324! I’m so grateful for all the pattern submissions and for all the ways that the site gets shared.

Posted in Course 1 (6th Grade Math), Course 2 (7th Grade Math), Math 8, Problem Solving | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

Serenity Prayer (and Teaching)

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Some things teachers cannot change or have little say in:

  • The adults who work at our school
  • The students who show up for class
  • Their parents and home life
  • The curriculum (we may have input, but unless we get to make the final decision, we go with what comes in the box)
  • The physical space we call “classroom”
  • That impossible faucet

Things we can change:

  • How we react and respond to the adults in our building.

I don’t think I said two words about anything during my first 900 days as a teacher, and I was a science teacher at a middle school. I did what I was supposed to do: show up, teach, return the classroom key to the office before I go home, rinse, repeat. I was the quiet type anyway, so quiet that when I announced my decision to become a teacher, this person laughed, “How can you be a teacher? Ha!! You can’t be a teacher, you’re so quiet!” I was offended and said, “Shut up, bitch!” Actually, no, I didn’t say anything, I just smiled, a quiet smile that betrayed my suspicion that she might be right.

I found my voice on Day 901, on staff dress-up day, maybe it was Halloween. I walked down the hallway in scrubs borrowed from my husband at the time. A male teacher who also donned scrubs said pleasantly, “You can be my nurse.” Equally pleasant, I said, “I’m dressed as a doctor today.”

Maybe that was a trivial story, but the likes of it happened a lot. I was a young Asian (am still Asian) female (still this too) — and somehow this permitted certain people to say whatever to me.

  • How we treat our students.

I failed and failed at this. The same way I’d failed at times as a parent to my own three children. I yelled, sent the kid out, made sure I got the last word because I needed everyone to know I was in charge. The side effects of my behavior always included shame, regret, guilt. Mostly shame. To give myself some grace, most of these incidents involved my believing the child had lied or demeaned another person.

Then I got better. I learned to hit the pause button and quiet my indignation. I learned to listen — like listen to their eyes and hand fidgets, their breaths and moments of silence. I learned to get the full story, at least find more truths than the half-truths I was getting. I learned to see the child in front of me as if I were his mother. Mostly, I listened to the better version of both of us.

I read what a student had written about another teacher, fresh from a recent incident. He didn’t want to give me the paper, and I only asked for it because he was supposed to be writing an assignment on that paper. As I was reading, he said, “I didn’t mean to… I was mad…” I finished reading and looked up, “Do you feel better now that you’d written this?” Tears brimmed his big brown eyes, he nodded, “Yes.” I crumbled up the paper and tossed it into the garbage can, “I’m glad. No one else needs to see that note. I love you. [The teacher whom he’d written about] loves you too. We care about you.” He straightened up, wiped his eyes, and thanked me, and off he went to lunch. Not until he was out the door that I thought, Ah, shit, he still owes me the assignment. But then I thought that no one else needed to know that he wrote on a different topic instead. Full credit.

Most days it was about giving my students the best math tasks and challenging them. But on all days, it was about kindness and making the most of our time together. I did always laugh with my students though. Sometimes we laughed so hard we were in tears.

  • Know that parents are sending us their best.

That’s it. End of story. Just like the customer is always right, the parent is always right. They may have funny ways of showing it — like being belligerent and crazy — but they do care about their babies. Also, no matter what color skin the parent has, he/she cares about his/her child as much I do about mine.

  • Make the curriculum come alive.

There are a lot of good resources and people out there to help us with this. Teach in a way that no software or Khan can replace or replicate what we do. To make math come alive, we need to come alive. Students are the best bullshit detectors, so let’s not even try. Make up for our shortcomings with all that we are passionate about, and hopefully topping that list is building a relationship with our kids. Even if math is not their favorite subject or dividing fractions is a big zit, they still enjoy coming to your class and think you’re badass for coming to their games and wearing that stupid costume, for the third year in a row.

  • Attend to your physical space.

Bring in real plants, they make everything better and don’t demand much more than some water and light. And they don’t talk back. Hang shit up. Anything. Some teachers have perfected this, I’m the least of them. Maybe this is the only reason to get on Pinterest. Please don’t post Classroom Rules though. I mean, do you post Home Rules in your home? Mr. Vaudrey says music is good for your class too.

  • That faucet.

Quit your job. Change building. Investigate this most important feature the next time you interview for a job.

And wisdom to know the difference.

This wisdom should help us talk more about thriving in teaching rather than mere surviving in teaching.

Posted in Teaching | Tagged , , | 4 Responses

An Update

The young nurse asks how my day is going as she wraps the blood pressure cuff around my arm. I pretend to be relaxing on a yacht to yield low numbers, and the machine beeps 124/74. Dammit, I’ve never been above 120 — the yacht is sinking and death is near. She tells me that the procedure I’m about to undergo is quick. Math practice number six beckons and I ask, “What is quick?… Like five-seconds-kinda-quick or…?” She smiles, “About fifteen minutes.”

I want to choke her. I hate pain, any kind of pain, especially the needle-poking kind of pain. You know the 0-10 pain scale they post in the exam room? Getting a flu shot registers at least a 7 for me.

The doctor, who also looks very young, explains the procedure that she’ll be performing. Her voice is remarkably well-modulated and soothing, but not enough to drown out words like a long needle, grade two, some pain, numbing, cauterize, burn, death. Maybe I imagined that last one. I want to ask her where she’d obtained her training and how many times she’d performed this exact procedure. But I’m afraid that sounds like profiling which will trigger her dulcet voice to morph into a shriek, You are the worst patient! I should just let you bleed to death!

I want to hold someone’s hand. I need to hold someone’s hand. I’m so tempted to ask the nurse if I may hold hers, but she’s busy getting all sorts of scalpels, chisels, and cleavers for the doctor. I should have brought me a fake hand to hold. I settle on holding my own, my right holding my left. I want to pass out. Instead, a few minutes in, I can’t hold back the tears. I’m quietly sobbing. I ask for some tissue paper. The doctor’s soft voice, “Are you okay? We got you, here you go, you can have the whole box.”

She asks about my pain level. I tell her, honestly, that I’m okay, pain wise. “I’m just stressed.” My brother Vinh passed away two weeks ago. My cat Charlie has been missing since the evening before. Now, this.

I drive straight to work afterward. A few hours later, my son Gabriel texts me a picture of Charlie safe and sound. (Charlie is at the forefront, the other monster is Tugboat.)


My math coaching job is great. It’s new yet familiar, structured yet flexible. No one has to remind me how tough teaching is. But I did forget. I forgot about stuff that became second nature to me, like classroom management, building a rapport with students, speaking up for them, and planning a lesson.

I now have the privilege of observing different classrooms, modeling a number talk or task, designing a lesson and co-teaching, working with younger students, facilitating PD, creating slide decks and docs that might be helpful. There are three of us TOSAs in the district: English, ELD, and Math. I don’t get to see much of these two smart, strong, caring women outside of meetings, but they make me laugh and have my full admiration. There’s something special here with personnel. I liken it to the DNA that Oregon Ducks’ head coach Cristobal often speaks about, the DNA of each player that collectively makes up the team’s DNA. The culture is good here. My bosses are passionate and grounded, their roots are strong within the community because they are part of the community; their history is their present. It’s a cool place to be, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of an incredibly hard-working and caring network.

On the pain scale, work has not exceeded level 1, so I’m grateful. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow our pain level could be visible to others and our charge as humans is to lower each other’s numbers? And the more people’s numbers we can lower, the lower our own number gets. I think kindness is a potent pain reducer and can be self-administered too.

Posted in Coaching, Teaching | 2 Responses