wrapping up year 1 of teaching

  • things that have been on my mind lately
    • i want to crochet something for students in some way but it either needs to be a very small (like 5 minutes each) type thing, or i don’t give one to everyone. perhaps only my advisees.
    • how to send off the seniors? I don’t teach any, but i know a handful from clubs and the play and such, and i would like to celebrate them
    • this department is really shifting. there is so much possibility here.
    • how are there so few weeks left. one month from now i will be done with my first full year. beginning to end with the same students.
    • grades are meant to be simple, transparent communications but also convey so much information and i dont know how to do that accurately/meaningfully (yet?)
    • there are so many things i wish i could do to wrap things up and reflect and preplan for next year because im already excited to try this dice project again. its going pretty well but there are a lot of things i would do differently the second time around and i am excited to try again!
    • a middle school art teacher in florida was fired for allowing discussion of sexuality and identity in class. i am tired. i am sad. i am anxious.
      • every week it feels like my humanity is questioned anew.

Geometry Solids Project: Creating a Die

I am looking to attempt this project with my students starting in a few weeks. I am still working out details and testing it, but I would love feedback.

Objective: 

Students design and create a non-cube die of their choosing using either 3D printing, crocheting, (or something else?)

Definitions: 

Polyhedron: a solid formed by plane faces

Dice: A solid object that can be rolled and land on one of n-sides. Each side is labeled a number or other symbol(s). 

Deliverables

ItemFormatDetailsDueDone?
ProposalGoogle FormWhat polyhedron?What material?Who you are working with (if anyone)? 
*Everyone must submit a form, even if you are working in pairs*
Digital 3D Model.spl fileUse tinkercad.com to design your dice. It must include the polyhedron listed in your proposal, but you may combine it with other polyhedrons.
Play with the number of sides, steps and other settings to create your die.
Paper/cardboard NetFlat net and folded netDrawing of net(s?) and calculations (perhaps showing multiple approaches for calculating?)Find Area (in general terms, and then with a specific size that you plan to make)
SummaryPaper
 AND 
Google Classroom
Stats/Calculations: 
-Surface Area of Net (General and specific)
-Volume of paper (General and specific)
-Print/Crochet speed (in. of material/minute?)
-Length yarn/filament used 
-Something with the probabilities/fair and unfair dice???

Reflection: 
-It is impossible to create a perfect physical polyhedron. In what ways is yours an approximation? In what ways is yours an accurate representation?
-What did you learn during this project about your medium? About polyhedrons?
-Discuss the math behind constructing your die
-What surprised you during this project?
-What are you most proud of from this project?
DiePhysical ObjectPossibilities:
1. 3D printed
Crafting Days: Research/learning about how 3D printers work, beginning prints

2. Crochet/Knit
Crafting Days: Time to work on your project and troubleshoot together

3.Something else that you think would be cool? Talk to your teacher!
After Project SurveyGoogle formGetting your feedback!
  • Questions for those reading this:
    • How does this read? Is it logical? What questions are you left with?
    • How would you assess this? What would you include in a rubric?
    • What should the presentations/celebration at the end of the project look like?
      • Possibilities: gallery walk, verbal presentation, giving feedback to each other, playing dice games…?
    • Any ideas for extensions to this/other mathematics to explore
Photo by Matthias Groeneveld on Pexels.com

motivation when I’m tired

(Alternatively titled: A teaching philospohy)

In trying to understand who I am as a teacher
I found a misconception I had been holding on to:
I thought the pull to teaching was math.

(And I do love math
I am grateful to have it as a partner in this endeavor
I love its definitiveness and ambiguity

Give me good pattern any day of the week and I’ll be happy
Or an algorithm
a visualization
a comparison
a mapping
a graph
a prediction
a puzzle

Math is a language where you can express
both more
and less
than you can with words.

Math carries a precision that syllables and sentences never can
Yet fails to articulate the finest points of humanness)

But to say I am tied to teaching because I love math
is a knot that will unravel under tension.
I would not have ended up here if I had not accompanied a bouquet of trans folks
On legs of their expeditions:
Through crushing expectations
Through meeting themselves
Through glimmers of expansive freedom
Through letting the world in to meet them.

I teach in order to hold a place for these gender explorers and defiers
For these norm breakers
For these students looking for someone to see them, to know them.


I stumbled into teaching with my crochet hook and calculator
with enormous and hazy and overwhelming dreams
To chip away at these walls against which my back is pressed
To exist where they said we couldn’t
To make space
for us.



Black trifold board poster with a rainbow geometric stripe from the bottom left to top right. Title in silver: lgbteacher: being out in the classroom as an act of radical honesty. 
Bottom right is a timeline with pictures. Middle contains titles with flap doors that reveal to more
final project for my first grad school class in teaching in 2019

long and short term goals and dreams

But who’s to say which is which

  • Create a math elective
  • Decorate/organize classrooms and office
  • write a play
  • create knit/crochet clothing
  • create a gender retreat or pen pal network or mentoring network or something related to giving the trans youths a place to explore gender
  • write pretty math puzzles
  • make cool escape room puzzles
  • crochet cool things
  • knit cool things/learn to knit
  • Research the crossover of fiber art and math
  • journal/post updates more consistantly
  • write poetry
  • Create art with trash
  • Learn more about 3d printing
  • Write a letter to students thanking them for being my first group I’ve thought for a full year
  • Do a workshop on gender/trans competency for faculty
  • Learn to roller skate more
  • Find a way to get back into dance

Defining our purpose: the trajectory of my math department

There is a lot of discussion around what the math department at my school will look like over the coming years. I rarely contribute to the discussions, sometimes out of anxiety but mostly because I am listening to what others have to say. I want to fully understand where we stand right now and how we got there before I can begin imagining where I want us to go. Here are some things that have come up when I have been thinking about this.

I want us to be a place:

Where you problem solve and model and visualize and predict

Where you learn to communicate precisely

Where you practice seeing patterns and connections

Where you use logical and organized thinking

Where you analyze and critique the world you live in, and brainstorm solutions

Where you come out in the end fundamentally believing in your ability to struggle productively

Where you lean into the unknown and the confusing with curiosity and creativity

Where you learn to ask questions far more than you find answers

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.

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.

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?)

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.

on being the only trans person in the room

This is a series thoughts in my attempt to process a meeting at work where we discussed trans people and students in such an abstract way that I felt invisible.


To be trans is to be traumatized. 

To come out is to choose authenticity but also to choose more trauma — not because you want it but because it is inevitable. When I am in public I am afraid of “looking too trans”. I am afraid of what people will say to me. I am afraid of what people will do to me. I am afraid that I only have myself to rely on or protect me. I feel alone.

This violence has never happened to me. But it happens to people like me, for being people like me, every day. I have accepted that I will face people who hate me before we have even met. I have accepted that because I need to in order to survive.


Part of coming out for many people is sharing your new name. Names hold power. To be trans is to take that power back. To fully attempt the human super power of self definition.

There is so much in changing a name or pronouns. 

It is not a small or a quick decision. 

It is a decision filled with anxiety and pain and stress. Asking for this change is an incredibly difficult step for a student to take. It is one that is not taken without a tremendous amount of thought and consideration. To choose to come out as trans is to choose to have to prove that you know yourself better than anyone else does, to a judge to a doctor to a school. And to have to prove that over and over and over.

And to, after all this pain and anguish and celebration of making it to the moment of living in truth, be told that the “official record” is more important than your lived experience is detrimental to someone’s sense of self and belonging. 

A document with name your parents chose before they even met you is somehow more official than one that you labored over and tested and changed and finally found something that made you feel whole. I don’t understand. 

To choose to dead name someone is to tell someone that you don’t care about the pain and trauma and bravery and hatred and joy that got them to this point. It is to say that your comfort is more important than this person’s personhood. We cannot do that to students.