January Update!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I played "BROWN" earlier this week for 58 points. Just wanted to share.

How is it the end of January? I’m not speaking figuratively—I mean I actually don’t know how it’s the end of January. Earlier this week I mentioned to my students that we’d be starting parts of The Odyssey the first week of February and one of my students piped up, “Ok, so really soon, then.” And I laughed and said, “Oh, no. Like I said, we’ll start reading the first week of February!” And my student looked at me like : |  and I understood: February starts very soon.

Here are some things that have been happening!

A Good Thing

On Wednesday, I announced that they would have a sub next Thursday, and my class said, “Nooo!” I said, “What? Was the sub last time really bad or something?” and one of my students said, “We just hate it when you’re gone.”

I’m sharing this with you not because I want you to know how great I am, but as an opportunity to remind you that I used to be very much not great. In fact, especially during my first few years of teaching, when I told students they would have a sub, my announcement was met with joy. Not like hushed excitement that they tried to stifle when they remembered that I’m watching their reaction and am a human with feelings, but unapologetic, raucous shouts of acclamation. I was working so hard to be good at teaching—harder than I’d worked at anything in my life—and to hear my students effectively say, “We are happiest without you! Please be gone forever!” felt crushing.

So. If you’re in your rookie years and are struggling so hard that it feels impossible to even imagine the type of classroom you wish you had—know that you will get there. Your journey might not look the way you expected or happen as quickly as you’d like, but if you keep with it, one day you’ll look back the way I did this week and realize: Oh. I’ve made it. (And if you quit before you get there, you’re not weak or inadequate in some way—teaching is hard. Plus, teenagers can be savage.)

A meme that really speaks to me

via @lizandmollie

Two teacher-friendly meals I’ve been making a lot

This slow-cooker chicken tacos recipe. I’ve been making a vat of it on the weekends and use it for leftovers for lunch the whole week—and I hate leftovers. So that’s saying something. It’s cheap, easy, flavorful, healthy and there is NO CHOPPING, which, if you’ve been following me for some time, you know I loathe. I spoon the chicken onto a tortilla and heat it up in the microwave for lunch, but you could put it on salads, add it to soups, stir it in your coffee, WHATEVER.

My overnight oats recipe I’ve been playing around with. I’ve always wanted to be a person who loves oatmeal—it’s filling, warm, soothing—but could never come around to the experience of it hot. Turns out though, I LOVE overnight oats! They’re so yummy and keep me full until lunchtime, which I thought was impossible. I make mine this way:

-1/3 cup Greek yogurt (you’ll use full fat if you know what’s good for you)
-2/3 cup almond milk
-1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
-1 tablespoon chia seeds (I don’t know what they actually do but apparently are healthy?)
-maybe 2 teaspoons honey? I don’t know.
-splash of vanilla
-some shakes of cinnamon
-a tiny pinch of nutmeg
-a tiny pinch of salt
-toppings of your choice (pecan pieces and blueberries are my jam)

1. Mix all the ingredients up in a mason jar (you can also do this for the next two or three days in advance!!!) EXCEPT for toppings. Or maybe you could go ahead and put the toppings in overnight? I don’t know. I’d be worried about soggy pecans. But you do you.
2. Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight.
3. Eat it cold—plain or with toppings! Stay full until lunch! Make overnight oats forever!

Be on the lookout for a Love, Teach cookbook! HAHA I’M KIDDING. There would be a whole chapter on Pop-Tarts.

Give piece a chance

Is anyone else noticing a sweeping trend in the education world of the use of the word “piece”?  Add in the discussion piece, this is the performance piece, the essay is the assessment piece, etc. It’s like one of those things I never heard and then suddenly I hear it everywhere! Is it from something?

I have some district professional development trainings coming up and maybe I’ll throw “piece” around until someone notices. Excuse me, when is the lunch piece? I like your scarf piece. I can’t wait to take this info into the teaching piece.  

More good things

Big things are coming your way in the Love, Teach world. I’ve been teasing this every once in a while for what seems like years now, but now things are really coming together. I’ll reveal the news sometime in February. For now, all I can say is that I’m so, so, so excited to share it with you, so be watching! How’s that for vague hype?!

I love you. Work hard. Take care of yourself. Eat my overnight oats.

Love (and piece),


This summer! This school year!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

School starts for me this week! (Here is your reminder that most public schools require 180 school days, so if you started earlier than me you most likely also get out earlier. Also if you start school later in September you will also get out later. Chances are we teach the same amount of days. Don’t yell at me. Or if you do yell at me just hug me afterwards, like a soccer coach.)

Guess what? I did hardly ANYTHING from my summer to-do list I posted in June.

I threw no axes.

I took no cheese classes.

My dog is still jumping on people.

And yet, I still feel like I accomplished every-dang-thing I set out to do.

Here’s what I did do:

1. Read the following books:
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: LOVED. Five stars. I want to go get Everything I Never Told You prontissimo.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris: A BILLION STARS. His best, in my opinion. (If you’re not a fan of weird/dark humor, i.e. if the idea of someone feeding their own tumor to a snapping turtle is not funny to you, skip this one.)

        Still working on Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Whoops.  

2. Made the following recipes from actual cookbooks:

The Black Sabbath from Cookie Love: Four stars but only because it was a ton of steps and I hate dishes. Five stars for taste, though. It's basically chocolate shortbread with peppermint frosting in between, and it was better than any Oreo you could ever imagine.

Rotochick Chicken Noodle Soup from Cravings: Four stars. Five after I added jalapeno juice and lime juice.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps from Cravings: Seven stars. Delicious.
Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice from Cravings: One hundred stars. I want to put this stuff over (or under) everything.
These oatmeal cream pies: One thousand stars. (They were from the Internet, but that’s only because none of my cookbooks had oatmeal cream pies and I needed them.)
Birthday Cake from Momofuku Milk Bar: Four stars. Also because dishes. Also I changed some things including the frosting. Also the torso in the picture is my big brother!

Compost Cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar: N/A stars because I ruined these. The dough was delicious, though.

3. Started a gratitude journal AND a favorite poems journal.
Look at them! Aren’t they cute?! I got them both on sale for twelve cents UNDER a twenty dollar gift card I got to a fancy store. AND WHEN I BOUGHT THEM THE CASHIER INEXPLICABLY GAVE ME A HUGE BAG OF GOURMET GUMMIES FOR FREE. It was a very good day.

4. Made big, vaulting leaps on my Secret Project

5. Spent so much time with the people I love and their babies and dogs

6. Swam in a pool about a hundred times

7. Went to an outdoor symphony

8. Started Grey’s Anatomy and then abandoned it because I realized it was making me think that the slightest pain in my ankle was an embolism or that a tiny razor cut would give me sepsis. #teacherswithanxiety

9. Had a completely delightful SURPRISE BACK-TO-SCHOOL PARTY thrown for me There was margaritas and guacamole and gifts of wine and ibuprofen, reminding me again that there needs to be a Appreciation Day for Non-Teachers Who Appreciate Teachers

And when I wasn’t doing that I worked on curriculum for school, went to two different doctors, got my car registered/inspected/fixed, met with a financial advisor, opened the mail that’s been collecting for six months, and all the other things a lot of people don’t realize happen in a teacher’s summer.

I just need to say it again: I am so, so excited about this school year. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my journey as a teacher: times as a new teacher I felt like I genuinely could not get out of bed I was so sad, the times I would be convinced I was on an upward slope only to be knocked down again, and those golden moments I’ve experienced throughout my teaching that have pierced my heart with beauty. It hasn’t been a solid line graph getting easier—way more like a scatter plot (math teachers, did I do that right?). I seriously doubt that this gig will ever be “easy,” but I’m so grateful to be in a place and a mindset where I feel effective, valued, and able to take care of myself. If you’re not there now, know that it’s possible. It gets worse sometimes, but the getting worse is always followed by getting better. Always.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, for being my constant reminder that whether teaching feels like it will break my heart or whether it feels like my heart will break open with loveliness, I am not alone.

What did you do this summer? Tell me EVERYTHING.



7 Gorgeous Poems For You to Feed Your Secondary Students

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A friend of mine is an incredible chef. When I visit her, she’s constantly pulling things out of her cabinet or refrigerator for me to sample.

“Here. Take a bite.”

“Smell this.”

“Try this. It’s SIN.”

“What do you taste?”

The stuff she has me try is always phenomenal, and always leaves me wanting more. Herb-marinated homemade feta. Pickled green tomatoes. Vanilla halvah frosting. “Can I just… have the rest of that?” I find myself asking about things I’m fully aware she needs for a recipe.

This has become my favorite way to “teach” poetry. Pulling out samples of my favorite poems and letting them settle on my students’ tongues, just for the sake of sharing something rich and delightful. This is not the only way I teach poetry—we do, of course, have to teach analysis and terms and the classics—but taking a minute or two once a week to share poetry for poetry’s sake does two things:

1) Communicates that poetry has intrinsic value, not just “something you need to pass my class/do well on the state test/SAT” value
2) Is a great way to build relationships in the classroom, through discussion and the mere fact that you’re taking the time to experience beauty with your childlings

Plus, here’s the best part: informally sharing poetry secretly teaches it, too. I find that the more poetry I share with my students “for fun,” the more I catch them in discussions saying things like, “I like that metaphor,” or “This reminds me of that poem we read about freckled things,” or, once, in a comment that almost made my heart stop beating, “I know that isn’t an iamb, but is there a word for a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables?”

Here are some of my favorites and where you can find them:

This is a really fun poem to discuss with students. Their ideas and interpretations will enchant you: I promise.  There are no wrong answers when you teach poetry this way.
Power line: “What must be voices bob up, then drop, like metal shavings/In molasses.”

Long before social media or video games, teenagers had a tendency to feel disconnected and alone, so I love any opportunity to share a poem about our interconnectedness and the invitation to participate. The last line is so powerful.
Power line: "Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array; the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice."

Mary Oliver: "The Journey" 
I love Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” and always share it with my 8th graders, but this is one of her poems that I don’t let students leave my classroom without knowing.
Power line: “One day you finally knew/what you had to do, and/began”

Rupi Kaur: “There Is So Much More To You Than Being Pretty”
Students will love Rupi Kaur, both for her short, meaningful poems and for the whimsical illustrations accompanying them.
Power line: “i am sorry i made it sound as though/something as simple as what you’re born with/is the most you have to be proud of”

I love this poem so much that I can’t decide whether it’s more like cheese, chocolate, or wine—my holy trinity. It’s an important poem, particularly for right now.
Power line: The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.”

This poem, which May wrote about Detroit, might be better understood by high school students, but that doesn’t mean middle school students can’t enjoy or be moved by it, too.
Power line: “…but they won’t stop saying/how lovely the ruins,/how ruined the lovely/children must be in that birdless city.” 

Definitely worth listening to out loud in addition to or instead of reading on paper. Also this has the “d” word for those whose students have never heard that word before and whose ears will crumble at its mention.
Power line: “…because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it is sent away.”

What are the most delicious poems you know?

(And yes, I will be using "gorgeous" to describe inanimate objects like poems or iced coffee or Kleenex Cool Touch from now on. Thank you, Jonathan Van Ness, you gorgeous human.)



Somewhere Between 6 and 7 Things I’m Doing This Summer

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hi, hello. Here I am.

I know you thought I’d left you, but I’ve been right here all along.

Doesn’t that sound like lyrics to the next big power ballad? I’ll make a music video for it. It’ll be of me wading in knee-deep water on a tropical beach in Antigua, except 1. I have no money to go to Antigua OR for professional video services and 2. I don’t want you to know who I am just yet, so the music video will really just consist of someone filming me walking and sloshing along the length of my bathtub and singing a song I made up with a bag over my head.

(As you can see, I’ve grown no less weird in our time apart.)

Today is my first day of summer, and summer feels a little different this year. Professionally, 2017-18 was great. I want to adopt all my students and their parents, and I feel like I’m the best teacher I’ve ever been. But the weight of the world outside of my classroom has just been...a lot. Between Harvey and the shooting in Santa Fe and a hundred other disasters near and far, I felt like I was army-crawling to the finish line this year, dragging both legs because this school year had broken them. You know what I mean?


One of my favorite summer traditions as a teacher besides peeing when I want is to make a list of everything I want to accomplish, complete, try, or visit over the summer. However, I haven’t actually made one of these lists in years. Between grad school, switching schools, professional development, moving, my contract job writing for WeAreTeachers, writing four new curricula*, and a large chunk of my close friends getting married, the past three summers have been so brain-stabbingly busy that I haven’t had the time for such frivolities. (Don’t worry, teachers who are parents—I hear your uproarious, condescending laughter about what I think being busy means.)

But this summer, I’m back in the game. Having a list helps redirect me from my natural inclination of how I’d like to spend a free day (sitting in complete darkness either watching a true crime documentary on Netflix or scrolling through articles online about how bad the world is) to more positive, healthy, productive ways of caring for myself, connecting with others, and developing Skills.

These are things I hope to accomplish between professional development, training, a super secret project I’ll tell you about before the end of the year (!), and the 3.5 million weekday appointments/errands I haven’t been able to complete from September 2017 until now:

My Summer To-Do List, 2018

1. Make at least one meal from a cookbook each week. 
I’ve amassed quite a few cookbooks and have made recipes from, oh, I don’t know, .01% of each of them? There’s something so pleasant about using a cookbook instead of your phone—it harkens back to The Old World. No frustration about your phone locking you out every 30 seconds, no spilling batter or sauces on your screen. Just the usual frustration about how to divide 1 and ¾ cup flour in half.

2. Read books. 
Here is my little baby stack!

Calypso because I love David Sedaris, Little Fires Everywhere because I’m late to the party where everyone read it in 2017, Eligible because my friend Alison’s book recommendation game is on fire, and Cravings because Chrissy Teigen is a national treasure. And yes, I AM counting a cookbook as summer reading, thank you for asking. Also note the jasmine plant that I have miraculously not killed. 

3. Learn how to throw an axe. 
No explanation for this one. I just want to.

4. Go to the beach or a lake. 
I like the beach best in the morning and evening because I’m ancient, so maybe I’ll rent a tiny beach house for a weekend. Want to come with me? I promise to bring boozy popsicles and go to bed every night before 10.

5. Invite my aged neighbor to have dinner with me one night. 
I say “aged” instead of “elderly” because she’s fabulous and zesty, words we might use to describe some great cheeses and wine. Plus I suspect she has some wild stories from her past, and I'm here for them.

6. Take a cheese class. 
I just learned that this is a thing, and I’m not sure if it’s a “how to make cheese” class or “learn about the different types of cheese” class, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be there.

6. Compile my favorite quotes and poems into a journal. 
Right now I have them on a single, giant email thread with myself that I keep replying to, and it’s getting very hard to read with all the >>>>>s. Do you know what I mean by that? It’s only the first day of summer which means I don’t yet the energy to explain any further.

7. Teach my dog to stop jumping on people OR shake. 
One of these is way more ambitious than the other, so I want to have an “out” in case the first is too hard. This is how I approach to-do lists. Also maybe life.

 Just realized I have two number sixes. I’m leaving them.

What is on your summer to-do list? Besides your second jobs to make ends meet and your professional development and your curriculum writing and just in general recovering from a job that people think only lasts from 8-4 Monday through Friday nine months out of the year? Tell me what you're cooking (and which cookbooks you're using), what you're reading, what you're catching up on, what you're binge-streaming. Or just send me pictures of your pets.

I’ve missed you. And summer. It’s going to be a good one.



*Have you ever tried to use someone else’s lesson plans/curriculum? It feels like wearing someone else’s underwear**. I can’t do it.  So I write my own.
**I have not done this often.