Life’s Balancing Act

I’ve started working somewhere (don’t ask) and my experiences have got me thinking about routine, regularity, structures, innovation, expansion for growth, space for new learning.

We talk about routines and how the regularity of routines create a safe environment for discussion. Being prepared and knowing what to expect. We humans, we like routines. The daily breakfast routine, the morning get ready for school and sharing the bathroom routine, lining up for lunch routine, math talk routine, etc.

I get this, I’ve lived it. I know the benefits it provides for many humans.

Then I think. . .what happens when humans get so deeply rooted into a routine that there is no space for learning and trying new things? Sometimes there even is this heightened FEAR around why things can’t change inside of systems.

A while ago I attended a session where Steve Leinwand said something like

It is unprofessional to ask teachers to change more than 10% a year. But it is also unprofessional for teachers to change less than 10% a year.

So now I’m stuck wondering about the sweet spot. We need structure, routine and regularity but we also as professionals (ANY professional) need that push to the uncomfortable learning space. Our roots can’t get too paʻa or we become stagnant and fixed in the way we do things

This is a tricky balance I’m seeing for humans in general. I’d love to hear how you manage this. How you support teachers or other staff to manage this? How do you develop a space that provides enough support and push to keep things balanced?

Life’s Balancing Act

Here goes nothing…

So I have been holding off on this post for a while for a few reasons, the main one being I don’t like to ask for help. It’s one of my biggest challenges that I’ve struggled (and currently still do) with most of my adult life. This struggle stems from me being a child of addicts and the feeling that I don’t want to be a burden on anyone directly. But I’ve decided to lean into the uncomfortable and finally post about my current life space of searching for my next professional opportunity (aka looking for a new job).

Honestly, I am unsure in what direction I want my next move to be in and I am not good at talking about the things I do great. I would rather let my actions (for the most part) speak for me and what I do. I hope to list some of the things that I’ve done in the past and have really enjoyed doing and maybe you will see a job posting that you’ll share with me or you might have a job in your org that you would like me to be a part of OR maybe even help me be brave enough to venture out on my own and start my own business! Any and all ideas are welcomed! (including ones about leaving the education profession because that is also an option in my brain)

Here are some beliefs that I am committed to before I get into the list of things I have done.

  • Life long learner – I love to put myself in a space that is uncomfortable in order to learn new skills. With the right support, org or group of people this is one of the main things I really continue to strive to do.
  • Interacting and meeting new humans – in Hawaii we call this talk story. I love to talk story with people or also known as doing the the human “dance”. I enjoy watching, interacting and figuring out how humans work.
  • Every human deserves a chance – I truly believe that all humans deserve a chance (more preferably a fair chance) to get access to or have the opportunity to try whatever it is their current passion is. Sometimes that passion changes along our journey of life but no matter what happens every. single. human. deserves that opportunity (even if it changes rapidly along the way).

Now for the things I have done and wouldn’t mind doing more of…

  • Project manage/coordinate the production of the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum – I project coordinated Grades 6-8 curriculum and then fully project managed the Alg 1-Geo-Alg 2-Extra Supports curriculum project. I can schedule, plan, create and meet deadlines for anything that has A LOT of moving parts and components. (Check out all the pieces of the curriculum, I made sure we had the resources to get all that done)
  • Write/review curriculum for students – I did work writing/reviewing lessons for a variety of students. I have a specific eye for being able to identify what students who are “behind” grade level need. I also have done work around designing classrooms for students who need to experience success in the system of school. Creating a space for learners who have been callused and have come to believe in themselves as unable to learn.
  • Write/review professional learning for adults – I have done professional learning and coaching for teachers and have come to realize that I really enjoy this work. I have supported a few schools on Maui with in class coaching and planning. Mostly focused around 5 practices and various teacher pedagogical strategies.
  • Driver’s Education – I really enjoyed being a driver’s education teacher and I think I did a pretty good job at it.

Here are a list of things I am interested in challenging myself with:

  • Figuring out how to work with the Hawaii Dept of Education to meet the needs of more brown students and start the big uncomfortable and hard convos around equity, race, class, sex, etc. here in my home.
  • Work with an org or group of humans to discuss, plan, create professional learning plans and school long term plans around bettering school systems to meet more students’ needs. Especially students of color.
  • Get back into the Deaf Community and be able to either interpret or use ASL regularly in my life to communicate.
  • Start my own school!
  • Be able to have a hybrid position at a school that allows me to create a classroom that is a learning lab. Where I would be a coach and a teacher and my classroom would be come a learning space that anyone at the school could plan to visit and learn from and with. Students would get to watch their teachers and other adults on campus learn with them in their classroom!
  • Some thing else that has not crossed my mind that you have thought up!

I am all ears and would love to chat with anyone about my next moves in life!

Here goes nothing…

Playing math with @sumboxes

This post is about a year and half overdue but I still wanted to share the info and it’s also not too late to sign up and try it out!

Within the past few years, there has been this rise of subscription boxes. From clothes to books to even personal care products. A few years ago I came across Sumboxes, a math version of a subscription box. I got to use it with a girl I was tutoring a year ago. What’s really nice about the box is I don’t have to do much planning! Don’t get me wrong I love to plan! I do it for a living! But I only have so much time to do everything! Which is why I was interested to check out what this box had to offer.

Here are some things I love about Sumboxes:

  • Children get to play math!
  • Families have access to fun math games that allow children and parents to enjoy math together.
  • The game cards and directions are high quality and are laid out well (cuz I do love me some nice graphic design work).20170913_143759.jpg
  • Teachers can use them in their classrooms in a variety of ways without too much preparation time!
  • Great to use during breaks to continue math engagement.
  • There are different grade levels to choose from.
  • It is prepared and comes with everything. In awesome storable pouches!20170930_084521
  • There are variations of the game to meet different outcomes of learning.
  • You get more than one game per month!!!

Things I recognize are tricky:

  • Price! I get it! but no one said you have to buy a new one every month! Since it comes with 2 games you can play those games for a while then save up money for the next installment!
  • Games take up space! Trying to get rid of stuff? Yeah, I hear you! My dad’s a hoarder, trust me I get it. But honestly, these are like books! They are versatile and take up less space than most game consoles or books.
  • You’re thinking: “I am not good at math! I can’t help my kid!” Whether I believe that statement or not you could be having fun math experiences with your child! Be brave! Show your child that just because you are scared doesn’t mean you can’t try it!

Whether your pros list outweighs the cons list (mine does not) I highly suggest trying it out for a month and playing with your kid over summer break! You never know what you’re missing out on!

Playing math with @sumboxes


So I am finally getting around to sharing some info about my presentation from 2019 NCTM. I went out on a limb and tried something completely new. I didn’t nail the delivery but the content was real close to my intention. The most ironic thing is the week I got back from San Diego I was dropping my niece off at tennis practice and her coach did the exact thing that my entire presentation was trying to get teachers to be aware of. I am sharing this story in hopes that it relays what the gist of my NCTM talk was about.

My niece is a freshman and it is her first year playing tennis and her first year at this high school. She really wanted to play tennis and she was VERY new to the sport. This practice that I am taking her to is not the first practice of the season. They have been doing this for some weeks now and are about 75% into the season. I sit to watch the beginning of practice like I have been doing for the past few weeks. There are about 9 players all standing around their stuff and just chatting. Practice starts at 3:30pm and at this point, it is 5 mins or so after 3:30. The coach has been there the whole time… nonchalantly bringing supplies from their car to the court. He then makes a comment

Come on guys, it is 3:30 you should be starting to warm up and practice. You are supposed to be self directed here.

I’ll let you know that I’ve watched about 90% of my niece’s practices and this is the first time I heard him say this.

This is where I want to stop and talk about expectations and how this relates to my NCTM talk (“Whose Classroom is this Anyways?”).

  • The coach’s expectation was for the players to get themselves started at 3:30pm.
  • The players’ expectations were to wait for the coach to tell them to get started.

Two different expectations…Both not wrong in any case. Both parties not aware of the gap in understanding the expectations.

This happens A LOT in classrooms! Between teachers and students.

  • Teacher expects students to do blah.
  • Students expect teacher to do blah blah.

Both expectations not quite lining up with each other.

So how do we address this as teachers?

Well I am not sure I have answers but my NCTM talk attempted to provide this

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for attendees.

I asked teachers to discuss and categorize these

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and then analyze how they make students aware of these expectations.

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We then flipped the table and I asked

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I then lightly touched the surface of an idea I’ve been thinking about a lot….

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In a sense, the expectations that we have for students put a notion of institutionalized respect on top of them however we as teachers fail to play a role in their success of meeting the expectation by not being explicit or by having expectations that strip students of who they are as their true selves. So how as teachers do we find that breaking point? What do we have in our classroom culture or instructional routines that helps break that institutionalized respect and/or provide support for students to meet our expectations?

Back to the case of the tennis coach to answer some of these questions….

If the coach’s expectation is for everyone to start at 3:30pm as a team then that is communicated (verbally) from day 1 of practice. Routines of how that looks and sounds like are also practiced from day 1 over a reasonable time period with the coach watching and proving feedback on things that meet expectations and things that need adjusting. Also checking in individually with players to be sure that the coach’s expectations are not asking players to go against their beliefs and their true selves (this should probably be shared with the coach via writing or a safe activity as a team prior to this feedback).

Once the team is meeting the coach’s expectations the coach’s role changes to focus on other areas of need. The process of expectation building, clarification and feedback become an ongoing process.

All of these ideas are still murky for me. I am still in a learning and making sense of phase when it comes to institutionalized respect and expectations. I’d love to chat more….maybe these two ideas are completely separate and after chatting with different people I’ll be able to have more definitive ideas. I’d love to hear from you!


Life is weird

The universe is quite weird at times…

A few months ago I was struggling with a work decision and I needed guidance. I spoke with friends an co-workers. Trying to hear different ideas and options. During that time, I received a self-address envelope in the mail and did a little head tilt thinking…” what could this be!?”

I open it and read it and am instantly in tears.


4 years ago I attended a workshop held by Jo Boaler at CSU-San Marcos (which I had paid on my own dime). We had to write this letter to ourselves. I apparently knew how frustrated I would be being out of the classroom for so long. I am still frustrated but this letter reminded me that maybe I should be looking at other options. Maybe back to school? or a location change? or maybe a break from education altogether? Hopefully, the universe sends me more signs soon.

Life is weird

Here goes nothing…

Today is #NationalComingOutDay. I thought it would be a safe time to share a quick story. Two years ago, I met a woman who changed my life forever. I had never (and haven’t since) experienced such a connection with another human being the way I connected with her. She was the first woman I was physically, emotionally, and mentally attracted to (and still am). I never knew that I liked women as much as I do men. And this woman introduced me to a world that I feel the most comfortable being a part of. I am officially announcing that I am pansexual.

Here goes nothing…

Info Gap Cards: The Hidden Gem

May 2016 seems so long ago. I actually had to look it up on a calendar because I really thought it was more than 1.41666years ago. That was when I officially started this journey with Illustrative Mathematics. Our kickoff meeting was in Chicago. I was pumped to learn about this new adventure I was embarking on (and honestly quite scared too). One of the things I distinctly remember taking away from that meeting was this idea of an Info Gap. I hadn’t learned much about math language routines just yet but this Info Gap thing sounded really cool.

As I dove into this new project and flailed around learning about writing curriculum and style guides and all the correct language I had to use, I was still wrestling with this idea of an Info Gap. Lucky my colleague Dave Peterson started us off with one. After reading his example I understood it a bit better. This is what I know….

An Info Gap card routine is an activity involving two students. One student gets a problem card and one student gets a data card. Each student has enough info to get curious about the question but not enough info to answer the question individually. The problem card mostly contains a problem for students to answer.

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The data card mostly contains information needed to answer the question.

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[Info Gap student materials] [Info Gap teacher materials (requires free registration)]

One of the purposes of an Info Gap is for students to use mathematical language to communicate with each other in order to answer one (or more than one) question. For example, a student with a problem card knows what items are being purchased from a sports store but the student with the data card has the prices for the items being purchased. Now….you’re right…students COULD just sit there and hand cards to each other to get info but an important part here is the ROUTINE! The routine looks something like this:

Data: “What specific information do you need?”

Problem: “Can you tell me (a piece of information they need)?”
Data: “Why do you need that info?”
Problem: “I need that info because…..”

This interaction might happen more than once until the student with the problem card determines they don’t need any more information and can answer the question. They would solve the problem and proceed to explain their reasoning to their partner. The student with the data card would listen to their partner and ask clarifying questions if needed. After the routine is complete they switch roles and get a different set of cards (we always wrote at least 2 different sets) and go through the same routine. Overall you get the idea but if you want more info, read about them here.

Most people know instructional routines are MY JAM! So it might seem obvious why I like this whole Info Gap thing. However to take this a bit further…..

In June 2017, I was sent to PHX to get trained as an Illustrative Mathematics facilitator for our professional development. On day 2, we get to participate in an Info Gap as though we were students. I was pumped about this for a few reasons:

  1. I get to be a student of math again. One of my favorite things! (even though it is middle school content, ALWAYS LEARNING!)
  2. One of the Info Gaps used in the PD was one that I WROTE!
  3. I really wanted to see how this whole interaction went down in an Info Gap.

My partner and I did the routine. Now of course it was shaky it was our first time but again ROUTINES build over time so I wasn’t worried about it. The biggest thing that got me sooooo excited about Info Gaps was the thinking and discussion that was happening in my head and between me and my partner!! I had to think a lot about the problem, what info I need to solve it. Form a plan of attack, if you will, then decide what info I needed. Then I had to communicate that to my partner clearly enough so that they could rifle through the info on their card and share it with me. As all this was happening I was being forced to really think through my plan of attack because my partner keeps asking me why I NEED the info!!! Then I got my answer and had to convince my partner of my plan of attack. Then we switched cards and roles and I really was trying to figure out my partner’s plan as she was asking me for info.

Now taking a step back to think about all the things I was doing here….

The amount of metacognition happening as I engaged in the routine had me really analyzing my plan I formulated. It helped me get through sticky things in the problem and make mistakes (by just asking for needless info sometimes) and I also reevaluated my plan again when I had to explain it to my partner.

The second layer to this was that math language I was using throughout the routine. What to specifically ask for, how was it given on the card. Is this really info I need? What info do I need after that? I had so many questions for myself!

Then this got me thinking beyond the math classroom. What skills is this building that a human might use to be successful in the workplace. And THAT my friends was where my mind was BLOWN! I couldn’t name them all!

  • Determining a plan of action
  • Communicating to someone what you need and why
  • Re-evaluating an original plan as you start to implement it to make sure what you anticipated happening is still going to happen
  • Explaining to someone why your plan works or why your plan might be better than a different plan

This training left me with this hype about Info Gaps that I can’t begin to describe to other educators. I have referenced these routines time and time again since our curriculum has been released. I don’t know if this is true or not but sometimes I feel like they are our hidden gem.

Info Gap Cards: The Hidden Gem