Home Visits Break My Heart.. or maybe they enlarge it.

My school has been reserving a week for home visits the past three years.

I must admit, every time this comes around, I dread it for a few reasons.  Minimum days make us all crazy. It’s awkward making the phone calls.  It’s awkward figuring out translators.  It’s just.. weird.

But every year, I really do love it. Last year, I was super gungho and saw a bunch of families (maybe around 7?). This year, I’m going to cap it 4.  I’m tired.

I love asking families what their hopes and dreams for the future of their child is. I love watching the faces of their children (7th/8th graders) as they listen to their parents voice their hope.

Last year, in addition to visiting families of newcomers, I purposefully went to homes where I thought I might need to add some TLC early on because I could sense some future parent-teacher collaboration needs.

This year, I’m again, focusing on newcomers, but also, decided to just go to random kids who don’t necessarily make any splashes.

The week began awkwardly. I’d show up at a house and find out that the parent misunderstood and met me at school or wrote down the wrong date.  I was driving around Oakland and sad about my gas (if we were unionized, this would be reimbursed).  Lots of unanswered phone calls and unavailabilities occurred prior to this week, so I felt discouraged.

But the 3 meetings so far has filled my bucket and twisted my guts.  I sat awkwardly in one student’s room. It was clear that they shared their home with other families and had so little. The mother didn’t speak much English or Spanish (rather her own indigenous language), and I felt almost intrusive. I wonder if they had understood the Spanish, if they would have asked to meet at school versus in their home.  In another visit, I found out through small talk and chatter with a younger sibling, that the father of my student had passed away.  I have always read the phrase “pained smile” but I believe today was the first time seeing it on a young face that usually holds such a confident, nonchalant demeanor. I don’t think I can erase that.  Lastly, I visited a home that was more lavish, and I was so warmed by the love they had for each other and for me.  But also, I know this child wrestles with a lot of turmoil that he finds difficult to share in his warm home.

And I wonder, it must be so hard to be an adolescent, but to live among opulence so glaring in society and media and in the Bay Area… I don’t know how to end this reflection.  Besides just.. admiration for the families of my students and the determination to love them rightly.


Summer Search Phrases

After Watching Jurassic World

  • Google Search: are rhinos herbivores
  • Google Search: are hippos herbivores
  • Google Image Search: hippos rhinos triceratops
  • Google Search: Jurassic Park when they first see the dinosaurs scene
  • (for your viewing pleasure) 

(results: Rhinos are herbivores, hippos are omnivores (savages) and no, a triceratops isn’t a mix of a hippo and rhinoceros — that’s not even how it works but you know. and dinosaurs are so cool.  Oh and hippos are terrifying).


On Rosy Boas

  • Google Search: How to train a snake not to bite
  • Google Search: 10.9 oz in grams
  • Google Search: 309 grams adult Rosy boa
  • Google Search: rosy boa weight
  • Google Search: Is my Rosy boa underweight?
  • Google Search: Rosy boa gain weight
  • Google Search: why tap a snake on head?
  • Google Search: why tap a snakes head
  • Google Search: bely
  • Google Search: belie
  • Google Search: normal for Rosy to eat every four days?
  • Google Search: normal for Rosy boa to eat every four days?
  • Google Search:Rosy boa tap train
  • Google Search: how often should rosy boa shed?
  • Google Search: underweight rosy boa
  • Google Search: do rosy boa pee

Results: no conclusion except that there is no “bely”.. I’m a terrible rosy boa mom.


On Sorry to Bother You

  • Google Search: Sorry to Bother You
  • Wiki: Omari Hardwick
  • Wiki: David Cross
  • Google Search: Sorry to bother you what???
  • Google Search: what did i just watch Sorry to bother you

Results:  I guess what I understood about the movie is what everyone else understood too.

Proposition: A unit on Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure

So, it’s summer. Our break is cut one week short because next year we’re starting a week early (womp womp). I opted to stay local this time… and lo and behold, Amazon Prime came through with Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure.  I’ve heard of it, but never watched it.

As I watched it, i thought.. how fun would it be to do a  short vocabulary unit and a crash-course World History unit.  You’d learn some really amazing vocabulary words (bodacious, heinous, excellent, savory, oddity, ease, triumphant, tranquil, outstanding, afoot… I’m sure there’s more) and you could do a crash course on world leaders around the globe (perfect for 7th grade).

I could imagine that at the end of the unit, having each student take a subject to do a short oral presentation, and right before doing it (or right after), watching Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure.  

It would be fun and ridiculous and insert some social studies that our schools keep seeming to shrink every year.


  • Pick vocabulary words
  • Make a list of world leaders
  • Create a large timeline
  • Create a word wall

Week 1:

  • Show BTMEA trailer
  • Introduce vocabulary words gradually or all at once (spend about 15 minutes a day using whatever protocols you use)
  • Introduce unit and explain major deliverables (notes + final presentation + movie reflection?)
  • Start by doing a general overview on Ancient Greek Civilization (1-2 days)
  • Jump over to China and Japan (1-2 days)

Week 2:

  • Continue vocabulary word work
  • Ancient Africa (1-2 days)
  • Medieval Europe (1-2 days)
  • Pick historical figure and start personal research

Week 3:

  • Continue vocabulary word work
  • World in the 1800s – 1900s (1-2 days)
  • Mid-research reflection
  • Peer edits / practice

Week 4:

  • Written report due
  • Final presentations (1-2 days)
  • Watch movie
  • Movie/learning reflection
    • what’s accurate vs. what’s not accurate
    • more questions?
    • “I used to think… now I think…”


I’m sure you could shorten this too by doing really general overviews OR if you were teaching this throughout the year, you could do a quick review over a few days.  Anyway, I think this would be fun for the end of the year.

Another End of Year Post

Yesterday I posted a super wordy post on my Instagram (@oaklandteacher). Today I posted a super lengthy Facebook post, another photo-heavy IG post, and now I’m here.

I think I honestly do low-key grieve when the year is over. Just give me a few days to slowly unwind and let the year wash over me and fade out. But for me, I like to process expressively.

I did a Keep/Change/Start/Stop reflection with my seventh grade kiddos and out of the list of suggestions, here are things that stood out:

-shaking hands at the door
-changing seats every month
-math notes pages
-being available after school (except the kid who said this has NEVER come. He said he just likes the option. Lol. Security?)
-math reflections
-Growth mindset
-algebra tiles

-more projects
-more homework (every time this was suggested by kids who never do homework so I don’t understand why…)
-saltiness/attitude/outfits/haircut (Evelin and Alex, I will hold a grudge until the grave)
-more blended time
-incentives systems
-more field trips
-less time for warm-ups

-different table arrangements
-computer homework
-class jobs
-more specific comments on math work

-Last minute projects (🙄🙄 I always give 3 weeks)
-Toby the Testing Toad (one kid chimed in, “Hey! He helps!)
-overlapping tests and project due dates with other classes

This was a sweet group of seventh graders. I never had such a sweet seventh grade group before. Unfortunately the seventh-gradiness kicked in around May but hey! Twas good while it lasted.

I love the Keep/Change/Start/Stop for so many reasons. But I’ve waxed on that before so without further ado… I’m just going to close though with this: “Ms. Kim, you’re the perfect amount of salty.” – Lexi

Thank you for staying (or leaving)

It’s May, and I’m seeing a bunch of convocation speeches and phD photos. I love staying updated with my alma mater (Go Bears) and my grad school (HGSE), and every year, I’m a little tempted to go back.

In a sense, it’s more validating. There’s more and more questions that build up as I teach, and there’s not enough research yet. [What *is* the best reading curriculum; What skills in middle school lend to success in high school and college? Academic or SEL? or a balance of both? Is it better to talk about reading levels or genres and love of reading? How can we make tests shorter and more effective? What’s the best math curriculum and why? what’s the best new teacher training? How effective have teacher-intern programs been? How has the homeschool landscape changed over the years? Results of busing and integration in schools. What’s the sweet spot for school budgeting or school time? What makes a good teacher? Experience? Excitement? Expertise? Arts? PE? Science? Where’s the place for all that?] .

Yet at the same time, I know that it’s so hard to implement research in the classroom. It’s so hard to stay up to date. And regardless of what the research might uncover, putting it into practice is totally different.

It’s so hard to be in the classroom real time.

I’m thankful for my coworkers who stay or leave for another school — because they’re staying in schools. This is the toughest place to be, and every year, I’m grateful for coworkers who’ve had experience. Experienced teachers are WAY easier to work with than new folks… and I totally don’t mind working with them, but at the same time… it’s just disheartening sometimes knowing that a teacher is only there for 1-2 years before they pursue higher education or other callings within the ed sector.

So anyway, thank you to returning teachers and to teachers moving on to other schools.

Getting Musical in Middle School!

This year, I had the privilege of participating in our school’s second musical production. We had a LOVELY group of around 30 3rd-5th graders, and just finished a smashing rendition of Disney The Lion King Kids (funded through Disney Musicals in Schools – a GREAT program that provides support, licenses, and basic materials for Title I schools that are wanting to get their feet wet in this area). The teacher who mainly headed this up, was AMAZING, and the other two teachers had their own talents and strengths. All in all, it was one of my favorite parts of this school year, even though it was after school and did not include any of the actual kids that I teach. haha.

I love musical theater because this was definitely an area where I learned to take risks, be silly, make friends, reserve judgment, and recognize talents in others that I may not have seen right away. Interestingly enough, currently on social media, the folks I actually casually chat up the most (on Facebook), are not my friends from sports teams or school projects, but from the one season of my life sophomore year, when I participated in a community musical.

Anyway, I think it’s an awesome way to get kids excited, creative, resolve differences, etc.. and I think the excitement is there to try to run junior musicals for 6th-8th graders…

But where is the money? What I’d really love is maybe $3,000 in seed money. It would be to start off our main costume needs and set needs, and then have enough to purchase 2 licenses – one for the kids musical (3rd-5th) and one for the junior musical (6th-8th). Essentially, after we sell tickets and get better at fundraising, we’d just be bringing back about $5-600 a musical.

If I set my sights real high, I’d love an artist in residence to help us lead the 6th-8th grade junior musical. To help us figure out how to schedule rehearsals, lead dance practices, etc.

I guess I missed the boat for a lot of grant opportunities this year, and most programs are unfortunately closing because our government decided arts is no longer a priority… buuuut for future reference:

http://arts.ca.gov/programs/ae.php — this is a grant I can apply for since we would be doing arts as an extension of our school day (after school). (Fall 2018)

https://www.arts.gov/grants-organizations/art-works/musical-theater – I would need to be able to match whatever funding I receive, but this could be a possible source… Spring 2019… except they might lose their funding..

http://disneymusicalsinschools.com — this is the organization where we got an artist in residence and 2 years of free licenses. Feel free to apply!

https://www.bankofamericasponsorships.com/sponsorship/Index.aspx – should I try to get sponsored by Bank of America?? hmm

http://americantheatrewing.org/program/the-andrew-lloyd-webber-initiative/ — apply in the Fall of 2018

https://corporate.target.com/corporate-responsibility/community/philanthropy – Okay, this is for soccer, but I might as well throw this in here. Plus there are other grant opportunities.

http://giving.walmart.com/apply-for-grants/local-giving-guidelines – APPLY NOW! *rolling*

http://www.theatreworksusa.org/financial_assistance.cfm — will look into this list more closely later

an ode to book remixes

I just finished watching Jumanji (2017), and I enjoyed it. What brought a little twinge to my heart (besides remembering Robin Williams in the first Jumanji movie – a film I never fully watched because honestly, it was really suspenseful and I couldn’t deal with wave after wave of disastrous surprise) was the film credits, “based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg.” His book covers were always so haunting, and I’m glad for these artists who shed thought into a growing mind.

I just got back from a 5-day backpacking trip through BAWT. And on the last day, they reminded us to ease into the day-to-day. It’s true. How do you explain everything AND share AND get people to experience what you did? They simply nod, and smile, and offer their polite, “That does sound great,” responses. If anything, the trip reminded me a lot about childhood.

I was blessed to have spent my childhood surrounded by books and nature – as cliche as that may sound. I loved to read, (but I didn’t care or value the nature until much later).

Somehow they go hand in hand. To me, they stretch the mind, build the imagination, and make connections. So that decades later, seeing a mustard sprig reminds me of walking the field behind my house, grabbing fistfuls of wild oats in my hands. Looking at toad eggs in a pond reminds me of tadpole springs and bringing egg sacs home. With books and authors, it’s the same. I was never “into” Chris Van Allsburg”, but I was always attracted by how his name looked on his book covers, and flipping through the books, the stories never “caught” me, but strangely enough, the images linger.

And maybe it’s a phase, but lately, I’m realizing that although I do like a breezy, quick read, or a stormy, deep read, I am also finding a place for the slower, paced reads.

I’m glad that we continue to remake books and movies. It’s interesting to see how plots and messages get maintained (or changed), and just how we as humans love a good story.