Nasty Women of the world unite! I saw this t-shirt a while ago on the Instagram feed of a woman I watch on Youtube – Stephanie Villa (#stylecrush). I loved it so much I absolutely had to pick one up for myself even though I started a shopping ban at the start of the year. I wore it yesterday, and turns out it played right into the spirit week theme for the day – black out. Winning.

Speaking of winning, I’ve decided today that it’s ok to give myself some pats on the back more often. Over the years I’ve been so well trained by evaluation rubrics (like LEAP and Danielson) and professionalism rubrics (that’s a thing here in Denver) to think only in terms of what I coulda/shoulda/woulda have done better – because unless you’re a unicorn, you are not a good teacher (or at least just effective). So well trained, in fact, that I’ve completely forgotten to remember that sometimes, I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! 

Today I hosted a learning lab through PEBC, where about 15 teachers and administrators came into my class and watched me teach. I was so nervous, my hands were shaking a bit at the start! The focus of this learning lab was on teaching students to use thinking strategies in a Science classroom. The content for the day was gene expression, so I taught it through the lens of supernumerary nipples, with some reading, discussion, and grappling. The kids were great – they did everything I planned, and asked the best questions. They performed so well they even all remained in their seats and kept discussing the prompt while I went into the hall to break up a fight! Seriously. Never a dull moment. Today’s learning lab was more learning for the observers than my own learning, but I did get one valuable lesson out of this – that I’m actually a pretty darned good teacher sometimes, and it’s ok to admit that to myself more often. It’s ok to be a Nasty Woman!





glasses: warby parker – t-shirt: twostringjane (etsy) – cardigan and jeans: uniqlo – boots: madewell – bracelet/cuff: julia szendrei – belt: urban outfitters

Questions for Teachers

I have foot-in-mouth disease, and it’s been getting me into trouble for as long as I can remember. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person anymore. Sometimes the more extreme of these moments can haunt me for years (not an exaggeration), and I spiral into a death pit of shame, regret, and embarrassment, every time something triggers the memory of what I had said. A bit dramatic? Yes. But it’s #truths. Occasionally I have to remind myself that it’s better to just have awkward silence than to say the wrong thing. I’m pretty bad at small talk and socializing in general with strangers – combine that with my RBF, and I’m doomed.

Today I had one of those foot-in-mouth moments AT WORK. Oh god. I need to remind myself just to shut up more often during staff/department/grade team meetings. Today I basically told an admin that it was “irresponsible” to give a teacher multiple preps (multiple courses to prep for), when one of those preps is an AP course that has never been taught before by that teacher or even at the school (especially when a teacher is new to teaching). When I left the meeting and re-played things in my head, a flush of “oh my god what if that was taken the wrong way, I should have chosen better words!” came over me. #deathpitspiral

So here I am with a lot of questions for the teachers out there. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I spend my time as a teacher, specifically how I can optimize time in terms of planning/grading/etc to stave off burn-out. I would also like to get a pulse on what is considered fair game in terms of the work expectations placed on teachers.

First, how much time does it take you on average to plan a lesson for one course? I find that if I’m planning a lesson from scratch it takes me on average 2 hours to complete, from finding resources, creating the PowerPoint slides, and creating the handouts/worksheets.  I have never worked out of a book, and I’ve never heard of a science teacher teaching from pre-built lessons/curriculum. If I get to reuse materials from previous years that work time gets cut down, but I still have to lesson plan and create new slides every year.  Am I doing something wrong? How long does it take you to plan a lesson?

Secondly, how many preps do you think is reasonable for a teacher to have? Two preps? Three preps? Four preps? This year, I have 3 preps – AP Bio, Honors Bio, and Regular Bio. At our school, we teach 5 classes and have 8 hour school days, which means I teach for 5.5 hours and have 1-2 hours a day to prep (on average, with block schedules and meetings).

Lastly, what types of additional tasks are you asked to do regularly on top of teaching, planning, grading, meetings, etc?  At our school, we have stacks on stacks of data tracking spread sheets, surveys, analysis, and plans that we have to submit. Do you consider these documentation tasks to be fair game as a part of the job description?

I have a very real fear of being the ever present negative complainer, which leads to even more foot-in-mouth moments. Please, teacher friends and readers, give me some fresh perspective!

In the mean time, here is my throwback to the 90s outfit from today. I picked this dress up at Urban Outfitters a little while ago, and decided to go all out Sassy Magazine in the mid 90’s style with my Docs and my granny-chic new glasses from Warby Parker x Leith Clark. It was fun getting dressed this morning.








glasses: warby parker –  cardigan: uniqlo – dress: urban outfitters – tights and tank: h&m – boots: dr. martins

I’m No Expert on Cat-Calling

I just finished up sexual health week in my bio class, where we talked about STIs, contraceptives, and I answered a hundred burning questions from teenagers about sex (both as a noun and as a verb). We ended the week with consent as the discussion topic of the day, and it spilled out into a whole new can of worms that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days — rape culture in high school.

A few disclaimers to start with: I’m not an expert on anything.  I’m not an expert in teaching, not an expert in science, not an expert in rape culture, not an expert in sexual health, not an expert in psychology, not even an expert in fashion (which is what this blog is all about). I’m also not intending to make blanket statements about any groups of people. I may inadvertently do so in this post, but please know that it is not my intent to create nor perpetuate stereotypes about any groups or communities. So, take this for what it is – a teacher who is struggling with how to approach a sensitive topic with her teenage students.

I started the lesson with a warm-up, asking kids to respond to this comic I found from an old Huffington Post article. Responses in my  first period class (non-honors Bio) ranged from “some of the things being said aren’t bad at all” and “she’s getting complimented”, to “she looks angry”. Responses in 3rd and 5th (Honors Bio) were more what I expected to hear, such as “she’s being cat-called and it’s gross”. Following the warm-up, we watched this video about a woman walking the streets of NYC for 10 hours and getting cat-called a ridiculous number of times. The conversations exploded the moment the video finished in every class, but the difference in the tone of the classes was striking.

In first period, the conversation was dominated by the boys (and one girl) with comments such as “well, she was walking down by the clubs, so what would you expect?” and “that’s rude! she should say thank you when people say good morning!”. Girls are already out numbered in this class, and most of them pretty much kept quiet unless I called on them.  A couple girls tried to argue back with the boys, but they ended up getting drowned out. One kid said something along the lines of “well, you know, she’s got curves and she’s wearing tight pants, you know, how can people ignore that?” The most vocal girl was agreeing with the boys – even going so far as to say the guy in the video who followed the woman for 5 minutes was “just going in the same direction, what’s wrong with that?” My jaw just hit the floor at that point.

This was when it really hit me (at 8 in the morning) how grossly ill-prepared  I was for this conversation that was happening around me. These are teenage boys (and a girl), earnestly and innocently having a conversation that essentially perpetuates rape culture in our society – victim blaming, mansplaining, and #notallmen. The saddest thing of all was when I moved the conversation on to Brock Turner, a couple girls said, “it’s sad, but that’s what we expect now”. *tears*

My 3rd and 5th periods were so different from this – girls spoke up, the boys agreed with the girls, and even expressed solidarity with the woman in the video.  *tears* One kid mentioned that a girl from 1st period had warned her that she “was going to get so mad about class today”.

In the end, I failed my kids big time on this.  I hadn’t created enough of a safe space for my girls to speak up. I assumed the kids were mature enough to tackle these sensitive subjects and I assumed they’d all agree that cat-calling was a negative thing to do. I failed to recognize and anticipate past experiences of my students (one kid told a story about when he had paid a genuine compliment to a stranger who misunderstood and cussed him out and how he’s still upset about it).  I was woefully unprepared for what happened. I should have paid closer attention and structured the lesson to give girls opportunities to share in smaller groups. I should have designed a pre-lesson that focused on empathy. I should have done a lot of things, and next year, there will be changes.

Or…maybe I should just leave it up to the experts? Who are these experts in high school? I know some of my colleagues also struggle with this. When I asked around, I heard that one year an English teacher taught A Streetcar Named Desire, and some kids said that Blanche deserved what she got (rape). Who’s taking this on and is it even our place? Is this one of those things were I’m stepping out of line as a biology/science teacher? I really don’t have an answer to this. Reader, do you?

In the meantime, here’s an outfit from this past week.  Moving through my Australian COS haul slowly. A lovely kid in 6th period (AP Bio) said that my “outfit is on point today, Miss.”  *tears*






top: cos – jeans: uniqlo – shoes: cole hahn

Code Academy, a newbie’s perspective

This summer and its idleness has been turning my unused brain into mush.  With a good amount of prodding from B, I’ve decided to revisit my olden days of “coding” by learning some front end development.  Mostly just for fun now, with a long range plan of redesigning this blog on my own, and possibly, maybe, perhaps some small side work for future summers.  My experience with coding goes as far back as 1994/1995, where my freshman year computer class was introduced to the world wide web through Netscape.  This naturally led to a desire to create my own page which documented all my favorite bands.  I learned some HTML through viewing the source code of pages, coded a few iterations of personal sites and promptly stopped when it got really complicated with tables. A couple years later came sites like GeoCities, and my need to learn how to code just died.  If I had known back then that this tinkering around with coding  could branch out into an actual career, I probably would not have just given up so soon.

My background knowledge of HTML only gets as deep as links, images and background colors, so needless to say, I’m starting from the bottom.   The internets to the rescue!  B suggested three sites for me to check out:  Codeacademy, Treehouse and CodeSchool.  Code School requires a decent background on the fundamentals of HTML and CSS, so that’s coming later.  I poked around Treehouse and Codeacademy, looking for a good fit for my non-existent skill level and learning style.  After going through the first demo session of Treehouse and Codeacademy, I’ve decided to go with the freebee and more comprehensive Codeacadamy (CA).

A few things I love about CodeAcademy as a student of code with the mind of a teacher:

  • It’s free, and therefore I can force recommend that my students use it also. When you start from scratch, it makes sense to save here and shell out bigger bucks (possibly at Code School) for higher level coding.
  • CA starts you off with the basics.  The real basics, from the very very bottom, as in “what are tags?”  Treehouse on the other hand, claims to start with the basics, but jumbles CSS and HTML together from the get go, which was confusing.
  • CA leads their Web Fundamentals track with HTML only, getting you used to the skeleton of a page.  After a bit of practice, it eases you into incorporating some CSS  inline with the HTML, before guiding you into separate HTML and CSS files.  My student brain needs that type of delineation between HTML and CSS in order to fully understand how the two interact with each other.  It also helps with a more overarching understanding of why CSS exists in the first place.
  • CA’s “teaching style” is practice and learn through both repetition and applied skills.  It works well with both my old school “memorize and regurgitate” brain and my new school “show me what you have learned by applying it in a different way” brain.
  • Positive reinforcement! Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 7.39.45 PM I’m not such a sucker for badges and the like.  But I do value positive reinforcement, no matter how cheesy I find it.  It ads a bit of cutesy and competition that I know the kids would like.  I have a bunch!Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 7.40.28 PM

A few things I feel like CA was missing as a newbie coder who needed B (web developer) to help fill in the blanks:

  • There was never any real explanation for coding syntax and the reasoning behind it.  Why is it “font-family” and not “font family”?  Why is it a “{” in CSS but a “<” in HTML?  I felt the need to ask these questions so that I could move away from just memorizing to applying, ie: when spaces are allowed and when you need hyphens.  CA goes into a bit of syntax reasoning with the use of a “;” to separate properties.
  • The individual lessons were too small for my taste.  I wanted larger chunks to learn.  CA walks you through one tag at a time, which can get a bit tedious  I’m such a fast learner I blow by them as my brain needs larger projects with multiple tasks to fully grasp the bigger picture.  With CA, you learn headers, then paragraphs, then lists, then tables, etc all as bite sized lessons.  Why not learn more at once and use more at once?
  • I need my vocab to be front loaded (little known fact: I was classified as an ELL until 4th grade) and CA academy does not touch on vocab development.  I kept calling things like “background-color” style elements until B corrected me to “properties”.  A bit of vocab can help, so that I at least have the right words to use when I’m stuck and looking for help.  I already forgot – what’s an “attribute”?  So far I’ve gotten one little bit of vocab in CA:Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 7.43.11 PM
  • no videos – not something I mind, really.  But I can see how some people would be drawn to Treehouse’s snazzy tutorials.
  • There wasn’t much said about code formatting and code editor use.  Little did I know, this question led to a complete TMI explanation from B about tabs vs 4 spaces and nesting and aligning coding practices.

School is starting in a couple short weeks, so here’s hoping I find the time to keep this up during the school year.  It would be pretty darn awesome to be able to teach a web design class of some sort in the future.  I’ve only been at this for a few days here and there so far — I’m about 60% of the way through CA’s “Web Fundamentals” pathway.  I’m still far from embodying my favorite 90’s move character: