Sometimes, I Eat Cake For Lunch

…and other advice you probably never asked for

“Terrace Attacks”

The title of this blog post comes from one’s student comment as we examined a photo of Incan farming techniques.

Also, this, from a different student:  My favorite part is how in the last part he leaves the future up to chance. Who knows what bad behavior could happen before June 17th?

School is good. It is both easier (I had a conversation recently with one of my instructional coaches who asked me if I was finally at a point where I didn’t have to plan much any more, and I could finally answer YES!) but also more…strategic? Even *I* am impressed with my own planning abilities sometimes, which only happens since I’m in my third year of the same content. For every day where I am absolutely THRILLED to go home at 3:15 with nothing to do because I worked out the kinks in a lesson last year, there are an equal number of days where I can’t help but re-work a lesson because I just know it can be better — and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve come up with lately.

This last thing is also due to my students, who continue to impress me (I was going to add an aside that started with “For every day that someone impresses me, there’s also someone else who…” but I think I won’t finish that thought here). Anyway, I have a lot of faith in the future of the world when I see what connections they can make before they have even learned about something. On Friday I wanted to preview the Incas so I posted a photo of Machu Picchu and another photo of Atahualpa, the Incan emperor, and asked them to make predictions about what the Incas were known for based on the photos. They came up with the ideas that 1) The Incas lived in the mountains, 2) they worshipped the sun, 3) they took their ruler seriously, and 4) they had a lot of silver and gold, all points I needed them to make AFTER reading the day’s text, before we even got to it. Pretty exciting!




The 12-year-olds surprise me everyday (go middle school!) but sometimes they really, really surprise me.

One of the standards we cover in our China unit is about the Imperial state and the system of scholar-officials who ran the Chinese bureaucracy. This connects to another standard I am supposed to cover about Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism. All of this stuff is very dry and very abstract, and it doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to any sort of fun, game-based learning. I have a pretty solid textbook text with text dependent questions from Year 1 that I had ready to print off, but you really can’t orchestrate a whole 70-minute class period around kids reading a really easy text and answering questions. So I pulled out a poem I had found two years ago but never had the chance to use. It’s a ninth century poem written from the point of view of someone who has just passed his civil service examination. It’s a pretty dry poem, and I was worried about introducing the topic of scholar-officials with it, but the kids blew me away! We don’t usually analyze 9th century Chinese poems together (or, any poems for that matter), but their connections were so exciting. I was really proud of how seriously they took it. Here’s to taking risks (and to using poetry!) in the classroom!


Po Chu-I (772-846 AD) was a famous poet during the Tang Dynasty.

After passing the examination (by Po Chu-I)


For ten years I never left my books,
I went up… and won unmerited* praise.
My high place I do not much prize;
The joy of my parents will first make me proud.
Fellow students, six or seven men,
Waive goodbye as I leave the City gate.
My covered coach is ready to drive away;
Flutes and strings blend their parting tune.
Hopes achieved dull the pains of parting;
Fumes of wine shorten the long road…
Shod* with wings is the horse of him who rides
On a Spring day the road that leads to home.





Winter Break in Pictures

I go back to work tomorrow! We cooked, ate, and did a lot of visiting this break. Here it is!


Planning a New Unit 

This is definitely one of the areas in my adult life that inspires fear and sometimes nausea in my life. And I’ve been feeling it lately with my Africa unit that it scheduled to begin in t minus 3 days. I’ve never taught this unit before, and I definitely never learned about Africa in K-College. It’s funny (uugh) that I should feel such anxiety about planning this unit since I am presenting on the very topic of reducing anxiety when planning a new unit at a conference later this month (more on that later!). I spent four hours at school yesterday putting together the beginnings of this unit, and I think that at least the beginning will be good. The rest of the unit remains to be seen. 

Feeling Productive Again

This Christmas break, all glorious three weeks of it, has been the longest time I can remember where I just couldn’t do anything. Nothing has been able to motivate me (except for the fear of a less-than-perfect Africa unit when we come back to school on Monday?) and I’ve spent far too many hours doing nothing on the couch, online, feeling blaaagh.

Today was finally good though. I went into work for 4 hours and was incredibly productive (though, erm, the 11 different things I created and printed out were only for approximately my first two days of lessons, but that’s neither here nor there — #teacherlife). And it was the first day where my head wasn’t panicked about the day moving too quickly — I didn’t give myself a time limit for anything. I finally felt good about something.



Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving was delicious this year and very relaxing!


On Saturday we tried a new brunch place nearby before we did some Christmas/Channukah decoration shopping. I’d say the latte art alone makes it a winner. IMG_5367

And my first cranberry pie for the win! I only wish there were more leftovers.

Almost Thanksgiving

Each time I write a blog entry in my head I have to mentally delete it because it’s just not the kind of thing I can actually post here. But it’s things that make me frustrated that have been occupying a large part of my thoughts lately, hence the infrequent blogging (ugh that it is so vague. I’m fine, seriously, I’m just super annoyed with REDACTED).

I recently picked up David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris after putting it down midway a few years ago. I walked into the Barnes and Noble at the Grove on a whim the other day and I think just being inside for 15 minutes was enough to remind me that I do actually enjoy reading. I haven’t sat down to read for fun in years (it’s embarrassing) but I did a few times this weekend and it was wonderful. It also helped that I guess I had left off in the middle of the chapter on the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, two topics which I am immensely interested in. I can’t wait to keep reading.

Tar Pits field trip tomorrow! Will try not to lose any of the kids in the pits, but no promises.



We’re covering the standards about the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, and in an attempt to stretch out the lesson/give students more access to the material, I painstakingly selected a few four minute clips from the 2011 documentary “Koran by Heart” for the kids to watch. It’s about kids their age from various countries memorizing the Qu’ran, but the reason that I selected the clips so carefully is because I didn’t find it very exciting. It’s about memorizing a 600-page book….and almost all of it is in Arabic/other languages with English subtitles. I thought the kids would be bored, but today they BEGGED me for more. They continue to surprise me!

New York

We’re enjoying the windy weather and eating a lot. We took a tour of the UN yesterday which was fascinating, and today I’m stuffing myself with soup-filled crab dumplings in preperation for Brad & Rosa’s wedding tonight. So much to do!

Work work work work

In preparation for our red eye to NY for some friends’ wedding, I have been a CRAZY WORKING MACHINE. Due to anxiety (which is getting worse?), I had my packets for both tomorrow AND Monday nicely printed and stapled by Tuesday…add this to the fact that progress report grades are due tomorrow (done!), AND that my papers for my return to school on Tuesday are neatly waiting in my “Tuesday” drawer, so it makes sense why I’ve been using every spare second to grade/plan. But the good news is that I have ZERO intention of thinking about work alllll weekend (or tomorrow or Monday). Weeee!