Jewish Mother


I had some friends over for dinner a few evenings ago. I made pho, but 2/3 of my guests had never had pho before, so I made another soup to make sure no one went home hungry. (We would later have pound cake and four different flavors of Ben & Jerry’s for dessert.)

As I got up from the table to get more food for my friend Rob, he said, “You’re like a Jewish mother.”

I smiled, it was not the first time I’d been paid that compliment. I love to cook only because I love to feed people. Originally this blog was meant as a food blog, my first post on was about our Thanksgiving dinner in 2011.

Cooking and eating — acts that would save me from my miserable childhood.

The shame of being poor was all too obvious. My own body betrayed me, how would you hide your bones from threadbare clothing, how would you tell your tummy to stop growling. How would you hide your hunger.

My parents worked very hard to make sure there was food on the table — make that the floor, we ate sitting cross-legged on the floor — but there was never enough food. I had feelings of resentment toward my parents for having so many damn kids that they couldn’t fully feed. Thank God my younger brother died at birth or else there’d be eight children to feed.

My childhood memories, if I were brave enough to revisit them, would revolve around being hungry and craving for this food and that food. I now wonder if my siblings have the same memories. If they don’t, then they are big fat hairy liars. Or they were the culprits of my childhood hunger as they ate all my food.

I remember the two young boys’ faces and bodies as if I just saw them yesterday. My childhood self observed their plump faces, their bodies filled out their school uniforms, their suspenders stretched taut against their bellies. They were not hungry, they were fat, they were happy, their grandma beamed with pride.

I wanted to be like them. Fat and full of food. They knew no shame because their bones were not showing, their bellies did not grumble while doing school work. Of course they went to bed full.

Then I came to America. My 6th grade classmates called me chicken legs. I ate and ate until no one called me chicken legs any more. This is my freezer right now, not because I like ice cream all that much, I have them just in case you come to visit.



Posted in Cooking, Shallow Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 11 Responses


Under the Goodies tab at Whole Brain Teaching:

A WBT classroom is a constantly rewarding, no failure environment.  Rewards without threats of failure are good for brains!

When Timmy doesn’t know the answer to a question, or answers incorrectly, quickly say, “Tell Timmy ‘it’s cool!”  Your class says, “it’s cool!”  Tim isn’t embarrassed; you quickly supply the right answer.  Perhaps best of all, when you make a mistake, your class will give you a merry, and forgiving, “it’s cool!”

No. No. Really? Seriously?

Mrs. Quiggle: Timmy, where on the number line is four-fifths?

Timmy: Ummm. Between four and five?

Entire Fucking Class: It’s cool!

T: Yeah? It’s cool? I got it right?

Mrs. Q: Oh, four-fifths is right here. Right about here. If you can just imagine this space spliced up… Yes, that’s right, it’d be sitting right here, Timmy.

T: So I did not get it right.

EFC: It’s cool that you said four-fifths is between four and five, Timmy. We wanted you to be merry.

T: Who’s Mary?

Mrs. Q: They meant merry, dear, like Merry Christmas! Oh, oops, I shouldn’t have said the word Christmas. I’m so sorry.

T: So the class wanted me to be merry-as-in-Merry-Christmas because I said the wrong answer?

EFC: We wanted to be forgiving too, Timmy.

T: Forgiving? Like I committed a goddamn sin? And what’s so cool about my giving a wrong answer? This is so goddamn embarrassing!

Mrs. Q: Oh, watch your language, dear. But you shouldn’t be embarrassed, dear! I mean you shouldn’t be because I quickly supplied you with the right answer!

EFC: Remember, Timmy, we’re in a WBT class where your farts don’t stink and your wrong answers are cool.

Posted in Teaching | Tagged , | 6 Responses

Ethan Hall, teacher and web entrepreneur from Israel, emailed me this morning asking me to check out his visual patterns generator on

There’s a lot of cool graphing tools other than the VP generator.


I’m kinda blown away. Go play! Go do math!


Posted in Algebra, Course 1 (6th Grade Math), General, Geometry, Math 8, Problem Solving | Tagged , , | 5 Responses

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.
  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.
Posted in Shallow Thoughts, Teaching | Tagged , | 8 Responses

Making a Difference

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




Posted in Teaching | Tagged , , | 5 Responses

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.


Posted in Course 1 (6th Grade Math) | Tagged , , , | 8 Responses

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.

J: You want us to do that now?

Me: No. Two hours from now.

K: 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.

Posted in Shallow Thoughts, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 5 Responses

Warm-Ups in Google Classroom


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.


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.


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.



Posted in General | Tagged , , | 14 Responses

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.


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

Posted in Shallow Thoughts | Tagged , , | 15 Responses

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.


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.


IMG_4075 (1)

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. [6/2/16: I took out what I originally wrote here. Anyway. Never be sorry for being you, for existing, for trying to do your best with what you have.]

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.

Posted in Shallow Thoughts | Tagged , , | 9 Responses