excerpts from: Emails I’ve Sent This Week

Answering emails (particularly work emails) is one of my least favorite parts of my day. I don’t understand the level of formality or conventions. I am always afraid I am going to say something slightly wrong, or have a typo, or reply with the wrong tone. But I’m pretty proud of myself this week.

  1. My reply to asking if I would like to work on a costume in the next few weeks: “Thanks for thinking of me! I am currently stretched a little thin, and so I think I have to say no to this one sadly. But I can’t wait to see the show!”
    1. Wow did I just say no to a thing?
  2. My reply to a student (my first one ever!) asking me to write them a recommendation: “It is submitted! Good luck, and let me know what happens with this. The program looks incredible!”
  3. I asked for help!?
    1. “I was wondering if you have any advice for facing the next few weeks. I am struggling to find a way to best prepare lessons for students in school, knowing that in some of my classes as many as 1/3 of the students are out for the next week or so.”
  4. Checking in with students who were on quarantine: “I just wanted to check in and see if there is anything you need looking towards coming back to school. We have missed you!”
    1. I went back and counted, and I have 21 email conversation from students about covid from this week. Each conversation has 3-15 emails in it.
  5. I shared a puzzle I found and liked (found here): “Here is a cool puzzle thing that I found and am going to use for an opener in Geo.”
    1. These are really fun and students loved them and I am excited to do more things like this.

parenthood

to acknowledge that I want a child 
is to acknowledge that my parents wanted me 

that someone wants me
that someone thought the world would be better off with me in it
that without me, something was missing. 

and for some reason my soul has trouble accepting that. 
original scribbles

Reflecting (~7 months after originally writing this poem): i really want to be a parent someday. i want to be a soft place for a child to land when things get hard (i heard this phrase recently and its stuck in my head. it just feels nice). I want to be a safe space to be imperfect. i want the experience of parenthood. i think i would be good at it.

themes from writing feedback: fall 2021

At the end of the term, my school has a thing called narrative comments: individual written feedback by each teacher to each student.  A typical structure (and the one I chose) was 3 sections: commendations, recommendations, and comments. Below are some excerpts from my first term of comments. 

Commendations

  • You do a great job of leaning into the challenges in class. We have had many concepts that were tricky and nuanced, but you have always been willing to jump in and start trying to make sense of them.
  • You do a great job of pulling apart diagrams/breaking complex problems into smaller, more manageable problems.
  • You always come to class with a great attitude and a willingness to work with anyone.
  • You are very good at working slowly and methodically through problems and keeping your work organized. This will serve you well and we continue to delve into more complex problems.
  • You do a great job of asking for help with focused and specific questions. This shows me that you have put a lot of thought into your work before looking to other resources for help.
  • I was very impressed with your work on the unit 4 assessment, and the thoroughness of your proof map. Your best work comes out when you have the time to dig deep into a complex problem.
  • You use your time in class efficiently, and take advantage of extra class time to start homework. This is a great habit that allows you to get your questions answered before you leave.
  • Over the term I have seen a large growth in your skills tackling difficult problems. You seem more willing to dive into the complexity, rather than shy away from it. 
  • Your work is always thorough and well thought out. Your homework could be an answer key. I appreciate your ability to communicate so clearly and precisely in your work.
  • You are patient and kind to group mates when they find a problem more difficult than you do. You do an excellent job of balancing listening to others’ thoughts and contributing your own.

Recommendations

  • Continue to push yourself with communicating mathematically. There is a lot of specific notation in geometry, but it all serves a purpose. Becoming as comfortable as possible with notation (in diagrams and written out) will help to avoid confusion or miscommunications in your work.
  • When you face a problem that feels overwhelming, try breaking it down into smaller pieces. Another strategy is to list out everything you know in the problem. It will surprise you how much information you already know
  • Work on improving the organization of your work in order to communicate more clearly. Your process should be able to be read and understood by someone else.
  • Work on understanding and using math notation when marking up diagrams. In geometry, these figures hold so much information, and it will help if you write on diagrams rather than trying to keep the information in your head.
  • Practice slowing down when working. With some assignments or problems, you seemed rushed to get it done, causing you to miss some of the details. It will help your understanding to slow down, and take the time to make sure your work is organized well and you understand all the pieces. 
  • Practice approaching problems from different vantage points. See what ways classmates look at problems, and try to understand the similarities and differences in the approach, and why both may work. This will help you be more flexible when approaching unfamiliar problems.

Comments

  • You have done a wonderful job of adjusting to so many changes this year, including switching classes. I am so proud of you for advocating for what you needed, and taking care of yourself. It has been wonderful to see your confidence in math growing.
  • I really appreciate your honesty when giving me feedback on what works and what does not work for class. Our class is better because your suggestions, and because of your presence and participation.
  • I want you to know that your effort and hard work is seen, and remind you of the resources that are here to support you.
  • I appreciate how honest and communicative you are about how you are doing and what difficulties you are having.
  • You have all the makings of a great mathematician. You think critically and question information that is given to you, you persevere through difficulty, and you do it all with humor and joy.
  • Continue to hold yourself to high standards, but remember you are allowed to make mistakes as part of the learning process.

thoughts going into term 2 (as a real life math teacher)

(I’m actually a teacher, wow. This is my job? I am responsible for the education of actual human beings. I have been trusted with this? That still is sinking in.)

  • of course its starting with a new surge of covid and the possibility of going virtual. i am trying to not overthink things or get too anxious but wow i did not need that.
  • i spent about as much time planning when i would do various planning as i did actually planning.
  • i have a few new ideas for systems of organization, and i am excited to see if they work or make a difference and help me feel less chaotic.
  • i am very nervous for reestablishing norms. balancing being kind and understanding and encouraging them to take care of themselves now more than ever while also having high expectations for what I think they are capable of

Update: Thoughts after 2 days:

  • Wow I am so tired. I forgot how tiring this is
  • i did miss this, and these kids.
  • i did not miss emails. i hate answering emails. i don’t understand the genre of emails.
  • in general, i am very happy with my decision to do minimal work during break. this week is a little more busy, but i am glad i let myself rest

guiding thoughts for 2022

Alternatively titled: things learned in 2021

  • trust my note to self from a while back (see thoughts i found in my notes app while cleaning it out pt 2): “I have to consider the possibility that I have not done something wrong up to this point”
    • perhaps i need to approach this year differently than past years: I am not trying to fix all my mistakes from the year before and break all my “bad habits”. I am not trying to reset and have this finally be the year where I get everything together.
    • I don’t want to reset. I am happy where I am.
  • processing things takes time. its messy and chaotic but when the dust clears, things will feel better.
  • sharing thoughts with people i care about helps me feel closer to them. who would have guessed.
  • allow myself to rest. I need more rest than I think I do, and that’s okay.

a mathematician crochets

As I have learned to crochet, my first thought is (as it is for all people, I assume): what is the mathematics involved in this beautiful fidget medium. Here are some questions I have asked so far (with answers, if I have found them):

Side note: Nothing would make me happier than other people engaging with these questions/trying to find answers/asking their own questions…. (:

  1. how do you tell how many yards of yarn there are in a ball, without just measuring it all?
  2. how do you tell how many yards of yarn a project will take, without just making it?
  3. knot theory things… (this is probably about a million questions, I know approximately nothing about knot theory, and am fascinated)
  4. weight vs. volume? Potential formula???
  5. making regular polygons?
    1. found this beauty: https://www.revedreams.com/crochet/yarncrochet/single-crochet-shaping-3-polygons/
    1. making platonic solids? I need to do it. There are only 5, after all. I can do that.
  6. mathematics of winding patterns for various yarn ball things…skeins, cakes, big ol’ knot, etc…
  7. mow does tightness of balling/density effect the ratio of final yarn length to weight (or some other measure)?
  8. how does material effect all of this? (density?) (Which size hook to use?)
    1. how does the size hook effect the final area of the piece?
      1. does that match with sizing? If so, US, UK, or metric? (side note: Why are there 3 different systems (according to the conversion chart that came with my hooks))
  9. How do types of stitches play into all this (single crochet, double crochet, half-double crochet (side note: terrible name. better name would be 1.5 crochet maybe?)

holding on/letting go

I don't trust the world to hold me
my muscles remain tense, always holding myself above it 
I can’t even let the earth take my whole weight
my whole self
for fear of being too much

I mistake the feeling of muscles relaxing
of giving up control
of allowing myself to melt
for falling

version 1.1 12/27/2021
a handwritten original version of the poem, dated 5/3/2021

Afterwords: I struggle to allow other people to see me fully because I feel the tremendous weight of everything i am holding every minute of every day, and i couldn’t imagine giving someone else that weight to hold too because it is so overwhelming. but i am practicing both trusting other people to help me hold things, and also practicing sorting through all the things I’m holding and just deciding to put some stuff down. Some things I can put down until tomorrow, or next week. Some things I can put down and just leave them the heck there. Every now and then I need to do a spring cleaning of my thoughts.

Also related: the song Surface Pressure from the movie Encanto which I have listened to about 27 times today https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErY3eeRFTFg&ab_channel=DisneyMusicVEVO

things i learned in costuming my first show

This was my first show as the lead costume person. It was the fall production at the school I teach at. I had worked in the costume shop at my college but costuming a 30 person show was quite the learning curve from being responsible for a handful of pieces.


  1. shopping is the last step. the first step is to assess what you already have to work with. That means going through the closet at the school as soon as possible. and that means overcoming the anxiety of having to ask someone to unlock the closet as soon as possible. And that preferably means more than 2 weeks before the show goes up.
    1. when you do go shopping, go with a List.
    2. Stick to the List.
      1. unless something really sticks out and would be so perfect for some specific thing.
    3. but otherwise stick to the List.
  2. ask for clarification when you have questions, and ask for guidance when you feel lost.
  3. start big projects early. and finish them early. There’s more to do the closer you get to the show. it grows exponentially.
  4. you can not make custom clothes for everyone. particularly if you insist on avoiding using patterns. Or just get more comfortable using patterns.
  5. Students care how their clothes fit them. they might not always say it but they care. I said this when I started but “clothing is both an important part of creating the world of the play, but also is something deeply personal. It is something that will affect how people see and perceive your body.” i agree with past me on that. 
  6. not everything has to be (and shouldn’t be) original or handmade. you need clothing that fits into the universe of the play, and with many plays taking place in a human/earth universe, good costumes are often just real clothing. wild.
  7. shared shoes need work. there needs to be a better system. the shoe buckets were my nemesis
  8. have a rack of things to be put away, a rack of general pulls, and then a rack of specific pulls with sections for people to try on. and have a done rack. so 4 racks ideally.
  9. have more organized costume closest. (and yes what could be done is i could stay after school in this off period between shows and organize it but i am trying to set boundaries and that is not my job. i need to figure out how to organize as we go or something)
  10. talk to the middle school play costumier so you don’t accidentally mess up each others stuff
  11. learned from the director: have a big vision. You will inevitably have to make cuts, but it is easier to edit.
  12. student assistants/costumiers/actors helping out are EVERYTHING.
  13. get to know as many students as possible. they have amazing ideas. and wardrobes of clothes that already fit them.
  14. you will always stay later than you think you will during tech week
  15. take pictures of finished outfits. people will forget what pieces went with who. (You are people).
  16. must have: hot glue, needle and thread, backup neutral base costume pieces, pencil, sharpie, scissors, dark socks, sticky notes, extra hangers, Safety Pins!!!!, running to-do list
  17. make a list of costume elements that are mentioned at all in the script. go to rehearsal/find out if costumes have stage directions (ex. someone’s jacket is stolen, so they need a jacket)
  18. set up regular meetings with the creative team, or make sure you have regular check-ins in some way
  19. you can make most things out of scrap/repurposed fabric. as long as you don’t need many, many of that thing that match (for example, 20 mermaid tails)
  20. i need to share my ideas. they are good ideas. even if they are too large sometimes. that does not mean they are not worth sharing (see 9)
  21. if the director doesn’t like your pick, its not a personal insult. it means that it didn’t match the universe he was envisioning. and thats okay.
  22. student assistants/costumier/actors helping out are EVERYTHING (repeated for emphasis)
  23. just because an idea wasn’t right for this show doesn’t mean its a bad idea (see 17).
  24. dilemmas about how to work with problematic source material are really hard. no real solution here other than talk it out with people until you land on a solution that everyone feels comfortable with. don’t ignore it. put it out in the open.
    1. this was made in reference to a group of people who were ~ implied ~ to be native to an island
  25. the students are so good and kind and talented and work so hard, and it is incredible to see the magic they create and their growth over the course of the show. the students will make this experience for you.
hot pick mermaid tail made from an old curtain, with glittery scales cascading from the top. The bottom is lines with dangling sparkles. The skirt is only visible from the waist down and the person wearing it sits atop a latter.
big ol’ mermaid tail that I am very proud of.

taking care

Originally written December 25, 2021: My current style of self love, or self care, because they really are one in the same, is very sporadic. I have impressive streaks of hygiene, meeting sleep goals, and staying on top of chores. But more often I have ruts of exhaustion, of “I’ll get to that tomorrow”, of “I’ll be fine without that”. These continue until there is some impetus, something within my body that can no longer be ignored or pushed off. Often its acne, or a muscle, or a joint, or a migraine.

I am going to work on, instead, taking care of myself gently and consistently.