6/7/18: Wedding Photos

Here are some of the photos taken at our wedding!

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I thought of making this sign 2 days before the wedding and I’m so glad I did. (w/ Aunt Lynn and Uncle Dave)34309134_10213778464749262_2256302103347593216_n

Great candid from Alex Scheidt34321032_10212118681906681_2489112171426873344_o

My wonderful cousin Tiffany. She’s graduating from UCLA next week with honors in Psychology and accepted a lab manager position at Harvard!34344303_10213778467389328_6894551721406627840_n

Another great photo from Alex Scheidt.34346960_10213778465189273_5251057604846682112_n

Another one from Alex Scheidt.34368457_10101434646733551_2381658244369088512_n

A picture with my sister Cindy.34368878_1526537837473466_4692641178384859136_o

I love this photo from Tess Schmeling.34418473_10212118682026684_6030631290473021440_o

My Aunt Ying and Uncle Tom.34507548_10212118687266815_4930548084154302464_o

Most of my cousins from my mom’s side! Love them!34536743_10156212981480170_4436513449387753472_o

My dad’s side of the family.34552695_1526537010806882_7606418245498699776_o

It was an emotional time.34583763_1526343294159587_5835868357689081856_o

Walking into the ceremony.IMG_0071

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Selfie with Alice Keeler and Jennifer Elder.IMG_0076

So for our guestbook, I decided to do a “Remember When…” where I would paste pictures of us with our guests and they would share some fun memories with us.IMG_0101

Jim’s sister Hailey right after our ceremony.IMG_0109

Welcome to my wedding, AKA the event where Howie cries for 5 hours straight.IMG_0171

My UK friends came to witness our wedding!IMG_0185

My very close marching band friends Aaron and Katelyn.IMG_0190

Betsy and Cecilia are some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet.IMG_0196

I had disposable cameras at every table and we tried to take a selfie with one.IMG_0231

These are my far travelers. Three came from Buffalo, NY, one came from Boston, two came from England, and one came from Australia.IMG_0241

We shared our stories of how we met.IMG_0309

Sharing a piece of cake.IMG_0334

We played the Name Game, where we would raise the name of who fit the description the best (ex: Who is more stubborn?)IMG_0338

I forgot what question this was but I love this photo.IMG_0344

We also played the hand game where I was blindfolded and I had to guess which one is Jim’s hand (and vice versa).

Overall, it was a lovely day. This is probably the only day where all my favorite people will be in one spot so that alone made me extremely happy. It made me happy to see so much support at the wedding and on social media because even 10 years ago, I don’t think the support would have been this overwhelming.

Thank you for visiting.

Love is love.

 

5/17/18: What I’ve learned from Diana Herrington

One year ago today, we lost the great Diana Herrington. It was at about 1:05 PM when I grabbed rulers from her classroom and said my last words to her, “See you later!” as I headed to the classroom next door, ready to give my final. I got a call at around 3:10 PM when I heard from our department chair that she passed. I was in shock because I just saw her 2 hours ago and she seemed fine. I had to go back to campus because I just could not believe it. She is gone too soon, but I would like to share what I’ve learned from her so her teachings live on.

Some background: I first had her in the credential program where all the single subject math credential student would meet weekly with her just to talk about how things are going in our classes. It wasn’t until Fall 2015 that we got really close. The Department Chair Rajee wanted me to teach Math 10A and 10B (math for liberal studies majors) but since I was still a master’s student, I couldn’t teach non-remedial courses so he paired me up with Diana Herrington. We co-taught for one year then after I graduated, we taught our separate classes but still stayed in the same office to collaborate.

We would spend hours over the summer hanging by the Fresno State Starbucks creating lesson plans by backwards mapping. I would always be in awe of her creativity and how to teach. It was honestly a struggle for me creating her style of lessons (it would take me days to create just one) but looking back, I wouldn’t have taught any other way. People may think that spending hours creating lessons isn’t ideal, but I remember the feeling that I would absolutely love creating lessons with Diana even on my birthday. Like, that’s literally what I would like to choose to do on my birthday.

She gave me a book to read (Mathematical Mindsets just came out) but I put it to the side just because I was busy with the master’s program and teaching and I didn’t read it until a couple months later and I told her “Diana! This entire book is basically how we’re teaching right now!” She said “Yeah! That’s why I told you to read it!”

I’m finding it hard to put into words what she taught me because her teachings are integral to who I am as a teacher and I can’t imagine the teacher I would be if I didn’t cross paths with her.

What I learned from Diana:

She taught me to have students buy back points. Say a student got a 60 on Test 1, they missed 40 points so they can “buy back” half (20) of them by not erasing their mistakes, but rather have them write “I got this incorrect because…” and “I now know…” and then doing the problem correctly.

She taught me to give students the first 5-7 minutes of the testing period to hand them the tests and have them talk with their groups about the tests with no pencils. That way it reduces their test anxiety.

She taught me to use Digital Portfolios. I absolutely love these because I’ve had past students ask me for letters of recommendation so I just go back to their Digital Portfolio for concrete work.

She taught me to have weekly reflections. She was huge on reflection and I think that that cannot be emphasized enough in schools.

She taught me to find math in the real world. A mathematician will have a different view of the world as say, an artist. One great example that she told our students was the table in front of our classroom. She gave them the exercise, “How would a ______________ view this table?” A 4-year old might see this as a great hiding spot for an Easter egg. An engineer might be looking at how the table is stable. A dancer might see this table as a good prop for their dance. A mathematician might try to find perpendicular angles or talk about the most appropriate units for surface area.

She taught me that we need to value everyone’s opinion. With her decades of experience, she could have easily shot down my ideas since I only had about a year of teaching under my belt, but that wasn’t Diana. We worked really well together, really making the class OUR class and I loved that about her.

She taught me how to effectively use technology in the classroom. She would always carry her iPad and use airplay so she can walk around the room and even have students write on her iPad so it would show on the projector. She also definitely made me feel more comfortable with Google Slides. Alice Keeler definitely changed my mind about the use of technology in the classroom; Diana made it go further.

She taught me that stories go a long way. Anyone who was her student knows that she is very story-driven. I could listen to the same stories over and over. She told her students to bring in stories. Even bad stories are good in lessons. If we want to make lessons memorable, bring in stories. For example, she would always talk about her bike trips when talking about slope/grade.

She taught me that teachers are selfless. She bought SO. MUCH. stuff that we use in the classroom thanks to Trash for Teachers or RAFT (a teacher store in San Jose). She would just keep buying things for our classrooms. Her job here at State actually paid less than her retirement she is getting from Clovis Unified, but she still put her whole heart into what she does because that is the person that she is.

Continuing on that selflessness, she decided to create an award for the regional science fair competition  called the M-power award, an award given to 2 students who used mathematical modeling in their project. She wanted to do this because she noticed that people who do well nationally had great mathematical modeling so she wanted to encourage it locally. The award is still going thanks to the funds from her and Alice Keeler’s book “Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities.”

Diana greatly impacted who I am as a teacher and I’m just one person. I can only imagine the impact that she has made on everyone that she has encountered. She is definitely missed.

 

 

 

 

5/9/18 – My Spring 2018 Students

I always say this, but I really mean it when I say that this has been my best semester so far. It’s natural for me to build relationships with students, but I put a little bit more effort in this semester by having students create autobiographies, emphasizing more group work, going around the room before class starts and asking them how their day is going.

I have quite a diverse group this semester: I have athletes in water polo, lacrosse, track, equestrian, musicians, cheerleaders, teaching fellows, artists, people who speak multiple languages, dancers, gamers, fast food workers, lots of people who binge Netflix (who doesn’t?) and many many more. But one subgroup that I’d like to bring attention to is: moms. I always highly admire mothers who are in school, for being a mom is already a full-time job and some of my students have up to 4 kids! They are the true heroes.

I had this crazy idea of writing a thank you card for every student of mine. I’ve had this idea for a while but never followed through but I am so glad that I did it this semester.

Students will forget lessons that you’ve taught, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Maybe it’s because I grew up extremely self-conscious, but I am extremely grateful that students chose to be in my class. Like, really? Me? What makes me that special? Maybe it’s the only class that fit their schedule, or maybe they really did choose me, but nevertheless, they’re putting their trust in me to make them the best they can be. The least I can do is write them a thank you card for taking my class.

I wish colleges weren’t notorious for being lecture-heavy and not personable. I get it, instructors have a lot of students, they’re adjunct, they have research, they only see students for a semester, etc. but we have the wonderful opportunity to affect their lives and trajectory. I often think back to my college career and how some instructors changed my trajectory: My EES professor inspired me to declare a geology minor and my philosophy professor inspired me to not eat meat anymore. I wonder what trajectories I’ve changed.

On Tuesday while I was watching student presentations, I looked around the classroom and realized this is the 2nd to last time that I’m going to see them and I was about 30% on the way to tears. I’m going to miss them and I hope that they enjoyed this class as much as I have and have affected them in a positive way.

Here are all the students who I believe will be great teachers:

Math 10A:

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My 2nd 10A:

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My 3rd 10A:

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Math 10B:

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Math 100:

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For the students that are reading this: Thank you for a wonderful semester. I hope you learned a lot and I can’t wait to see how you grow as a teacher. Please keep in touch!

4/27/18: Oh Registration Week…

Registration week made me nervous as a student and it makes me nervous as an instructor. I am aware that a single instructor can make you fall in love with a subject or make you hate it. For example, I loved my Earth and Environmental Science instructor. His class motivated me to become a Geology minor. On the other hand, I had a math instructor who had a 30% pass rate and it made me feel like I’m on survival mode the entire semester.

Growing up self-conscious, I feel really humbled that students want to be in my class and it breaks my heart getting a dozen or so emails asking to be in my class after the class closed because if someone believes in me, I want to help them out, but there is such a thing as room capacity so unfortunately I cannot accept everyone.

This is why I want to post more lessons on my website or glimpses of what we are doing on Twitter so I can give people who are not in my classes access to the activities that I do in my class. Unfortunately, students need to be lucky to get the instructors that they want. We should have the top instructors of the field so there doesn’t need to be any “luck” that they get one instructor. Students are paying thousands of dollars for an education and they deserve the best education possible, and I hope that I’m at least doing a decent job at it.

I don’t have a strong solution to this, but one thing that could help is mandatory professional development for college instructors. Just because they have grad degrees doesn’t mean that they are automatically fit for teaching. Some instructors know nothing more than lectures and we are doing a disservice to our students and our own personal growth if we don’t expand our mind in different ways of teaching.

 

Thank you for reading.

4/15/18: Central Self vs. Calculating Self

I’m reading “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander and it talks about how we have two selves: our calculating self and our central self. Our calculating self is basically us in survival mode. It holds our ego and it is selfish. It thinks about everything as an attack on us. Our central self is considered our “true” self, the self that the best people in our lives bring out of us.

There are situations in which we show different versions of ourselves. For example, if we dislike a class or a subject, our calculating self might take over because we’re just in survival mode. All we want is to pass the class. Our calculating self would often say “I need a ___ to pass the class” or “I need to know ____ to pass the class.” Our central self comes out when we are with our loved ones or when we don’t have high stakes. Our central self would say “I want to learn ___ because I really want to/it interests me.”

The problem is that we don’t really see our students’ central selves if we make our classes high stakes. All we are doing is bringing out their calculating selves. I am nowhere near perfect in bringing students’ central selves to the classroom.

This is why I want to let go of grades; grades are a huge part of bringing out their calculating selves but I still have reservations with it. What if admin questions my methods? What if they just think I’m just “giving out” A’s? With semester-long contracts, I don’t have the freedom to really do what I want. Another concern is that students will just do the bare minimum if I just do “credit/no credit.” I know that this can be remedied by bringing out that intrinsic motivation out of all students but I’m still working on how to do that.

So there it is: the students that we see in our classes might not be their true self. Our goal is to make the classroom an atmosphere where they are showing not their calculating selves, but their central selves.

3/24/18: My thoughts at the gym – Reiterating why the classroom shouldn’t be competitive

I’m an okay gymnast. I can do back tucks, front pikes, aerials, back layouts, but as I look around the gym, I feel inadequate. People trying double twists, double backs, skills I wouldn’t even dare to try. I try my best to just keep the blinders on and focus on my own skills, bettering myself,  and then it made me realize: this is probably how students feel when the classroom turns into a competition. In isolation, I would feel accomplished and proud of what I am doing, but when compared to someone else, it feels very self-defeating, and it made me have thoughts of “I’ll never be as good as him,” and “This person is doing ______ and all I can do is _______.” This brings the idea of deficits rather than what people are adequate on.

Sure, some can say that seeing other people next to you do greater things should inspire you to be better, but that takes a mindset that I’m not sure I can make my students have in a short amount of time. It takes a lot of courage out of me to go up to one of the gymnasts and ask them how they do a particular skill.

So what can I do about it in the classroom? How can I make sure that my students don’t feel this way? I can make sure that I do not value speed; instead, I should focus on the growth. Individualize and don’t compare students. Sure, I will definitely show student work sometimes, but if I do that, I would make sure that everyone’s work would be shown and valued throughout the semester. Everyone is on their own path and they come from different backgrounds and should be treated as such.

 

Thanks for reading.

3/24/18: Michael Fenton’s Talk about Desmos at Fresno State

A Different Approach to Personalization – Michael Fenton

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It seems like the stars aligned in that the same week that I tried Desmos Classroom Activities, Michael Fenton, Lead Instructional Designer of Desmos came to do a colloquium talk at Fresno State. I taught at the same time as Michael’s talk so I had my class go to his talk because he would give way more information than I could, and my future teachers would benefit from seeing people actually working at these types of companies.

Michael talked about the flaws of some educational technology (I won’t mention them here) and how Desmos is different and how he believes that student outcomes improve when things are personalized. He narrowed his view of using technology in the classroom to three words:

Delightful. Creative. Social.

Delightful – He let us play with Function Carnival where we had to plot the cannon man’s height with respect to time and all of us were engaged. He pointed out that we were laughing. We were having fun while doing math. He also quoted Jean Piaget, “…the joy in being the cause.” Something like Function Carnival where students can make the cannon man do whatever he wants makes students say “I made that happen.” He states that Desmos doesn’t give out badges like other educational websites, but Michael said “You’re not going to get a badge, there are better ways to motivate students without a badge.”

Creative – Desmos allows us to generate something that didn’t exist before. We played with a Challenge Creator where we create a triangle on a Geoboard, find the area, and then it becomes a challenge to other students to find a triangle with the same area as the triangle we created. Michael stated something that a lot of teachers have trouble with: differentiation. With Desmos, we can create the right kind of task that differentiates itself. Students could try the easier challenges or the more difficult ones.

Michael showed us Number Machines, Part 1 and I absolutely love it. This machine gives us the output and we need to find out what the input was by reversing the operations. He also showed us the activity “Adding Integers” where the cards on the left have to add up to the cards on the right.

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(picture from teacher.desmos.com)

Social – I really liked this part of the talk. Technology if used incorrectly could separate each student, letting them to their own thing, but Michael points out that when we use technology in the classroom, make sure that it does not dehumanize the students. Technology should be used to increase rather than decrease interaction. Desmos makes learning more social by getting to see other students’ answers, seeing other students’ challenges, and even play with each other through Polygraphs.

At the end of the talk, I loved how Michael mentioned to hold them accountable. If things are moving in the wrong direction, let them know. I love that growth mindset and the care for feedback that this company has.

The math department had dinner with Michael and his wife after the talk and I got some great information from him. I mentioned that I wanted to feel more involved when doing Desmos in the class because so far, I just look at who has orange triangles on the overview and help them, but he said to sometimes not look at the progress bar to still maintain those relationships with students and honestly ask how they are doing. I also asked about the Desmos Fellows and I really want to join in the next cohort. From what it seems, it seems like a great community to be a part of where we all learn from each other. I can see myself using Desmos for a while because my future teachers should be exposed to this great ed tech resource.

Thanks for reading.