the bane of my existence

mkay, right now is probably not the best time to change how i grade, but honestly, every year, i’m dissatisfied with the lack of engagement students have when correcting and self-gauging.
speed reading this article about a grades-less classroom right now. and.. maybe i can connect this with Leah Alcala’s (BUSD teacher) Highlighting Mistakes strategy (teaching channel).
And maybe changing my “hw” strategy too.. I appreciate how this teacher is recording what he’s doing and sharing it real-time.

(regarding HW: I do think it’s important for middle schoolers to get in the habit of completing things independently. I also think that assigning daily hw helps them because otherwise they get overwhelmed by procrastinating which leads to cheating/copying (which is sticky anyway bc of social reasons). I only assign 3-5 problems, and with last year’s 8th graders, who were super gungho, began to provide more. boopityboopboop)

Almost There…

I am almost done. Almost done. As I think about my students, I think about our relationships. This year, it was hard to get the seventh graders onto my team, and I’m still not sure if they’re there. This group for some reason doesn’t really trust adults, and really trust themselves. (And they honestly have done some really mean or gross things).

At the same time, I wonder how cared for they feel… We biannually have kids fill out surveys, and this year, although I grew (especially in the parts that I’m stronger in), I didn’t grow at all in the “care” category. And that makes me sad.

What makes you feel cared for? What must one say or do? What does it mean to be “nice”?

I sort of want to channel Ms. Saunders from The Skin I’m In, or the lovely Miss Stacey from Anne of Green Gables, and some parts of New Girl season 1…. And yes even some of the teacher from Freedom Writers.. and definitely Mr. Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame. Okay, and Rafiki.

But warm-strict might work for 9 out of 10 classes and just implode on the 10th. Sigh.

Gotta try again.

In Respite, my mind meanders

You’re invited to walk with me through the labyrinth that is my mind.

It’s Thanksgiving break and I’m on the other side of the country, where arguably my education journey began.

((Okay fine, it started earlier than that but then that would kill the poetic vibe of time and kismet intersecting so just throw me a bone.))

A lot has happened since the start of the school year and I just thank God that school is going well because He knows what my personal life has been like.

Anyway, I want to think a bit on the original purposes of this blog: to challenge, propose, reflect, share. I think I’ve spent a lot doing the latter two, but not much the first.

I remember seven years ago, not feeling qualified to jump into higher level ed positions,  and I’m so glad I opted to return to the classroom before attempting curriculum development, research, or thinktank work. I’m also glad I’m in the classroom because I really love interacting with people on the daily, and if I like it, there’s one less position to fill with a person who doesn’t.

I’ve been thinking though. In the last few years, I feel like I’ve limited a lot of my life choices. And in light of recent events, I feel more at liberty to pursue things and the political climate is constantly shifting.

I want to continue working with kids but it’s exhausting feeling like a cog, being victim to an overworked, underpaid institution due to bloated overhead costs and a mistaken prioritization of… well, lots of things.

I’m not saying this lightly, but I’d like to start a school for the invisible. In a way, I would embody Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Fraulein Maria, and Hogwarts. Invisible children would attend a boarding school where from 6th-10th, they’d daily hike up a literal mountain rain or shine, engage in regular lessons in the morning, then apply themselves to a rotation of electives (and eventually pick a focus later on). From 11th-12th, they’d choose to either continue in academia via online and community college classes while others may engage in more hands-on apprenticeships or internships. Adults would take on a more advisory role.

If I made it a charter, could the government pay for their programs and food?

What if our location was just outside the city so that on weekends, we could serve as a wedding venue? I’m not even joking.

By eighth grade, all kids should have a plan discussed with an advisor. By tenth, that should all be able to read and write in a way that helps them engage with and understand society. They should have a working knowledge of history and how it affects current politics and why certain things are not okay. Math… They need the background to help them understand logic and statistics. If a kid wants to go into a field where colleges have math prerequisites, they should be good with trig by tenth.

By eighth grade, they should all know how to cook, know if they like music, acting, or art, how to camp, and how to figure out a project.

Just floating ideas.

I could imagine starting with a class of 24 kids, dorm parents, 2 teachers, different electives adults, therapists, and gradually expand.

This school would only be for kids who are invisible or about to be. The ones who get shuttled from home to home and at the age of 18, disappear into a statistic.

We would take standardized tests, but my biggest discovery was made in my fourth year of teaching and continues to be confirmed: high test scores mean nothing. It doesn’t correlate with perseverance or future success. My most academically brilliant kids have ended up in the most wack situations. This connects to the old, old research that the highest factor indicating a successful future is whether or not your parents had one.

So…. I’ll do them. But.. see poem below.

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