mitchell

today i was having a particularly bad day – too little sleep, extremely stressful environment (we were turning in our first lesson plans), and so much left to do. it has been a very long time since i’ve had coffee, but this morning i drank half a cup when i arrived at school at 7am, which i believe speaks to our collectively dire situation, and by my first session at 8:15 my hands were shaking like leaves. when i went into the classroom for my 90min assistant teaching session, i was not feeling great. we were learning about inequalities (this is an algebra 1 class), and so i was walking around the room helping students with their classwork.

mitchell* is one of the students that any teacher would naturally gravitate toward. he is very polite, well behaved, and has a kind face. moreover, he is very bright and it is evident that he is working hard to improve his math skills. as it turns out, mitchell struggles a lot with the concept of negative numbers – how to add them, subtract them, divide them, you name it. he has trouble remembering when to keep the negative sign and when to drop it. following a suggestion i had heard from another math teacher, i explained the concept of adding negative numbers using the analogy of borrowing money. we drilled this and other operations of negative numbers for quite some time. then we moved on to the concept of dividing a number by one resulting in the same original number. mitchell completely grasped the idea, until i asked him what -3 divided by 1 would be. it took a lot of hypothetical situations involving grouping various fruits, and a bunch of ridiculous pictures illustrated by yours truly, but he finally came out with, “OH! I be trippin’! it’s -3!”

before these first two weeks of teaching, i never would have imagined how difficult it can be to teach these basic concepts, that i take for granted, to a high schooler who should have learned them years ago. but before these two weeks, i also never could have imagined how amazing it feels when a student finally gets it, really and truly. as we were both gathering our things before the bell, mitchell turned to me and said, “man, I wish you had been my teacher last year. it’s so easy when you explain it.” i almost burst into tears on the spot (even though i maintain that this was due to my sleep deprivation). he turned my whole day around, and has reminded me that i made the absolute right decision to take this teaching job. i have a feeling that i’m going to see a lot of improvement in his math scores by the end of the summer – best thursday i’ve had in a while.

*name has been changed to protect identity

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some thoughts about education

hello. it’s been a long time. i have graduated from my beloved wellesley college and i am sad about it. maybe i’ll write about that sadness another time. i am at home and just finished typing up a ridiculous essay that attempts to cover the problems in the US education system, how to fix it, and how i am going to fix it. i say that is a ridiculous essay, not because i didn’t take it seriously, but because how am i supposed to cover those three enormous subjects in an essay that ended up being 3.25 pages long? i hope that was long enough. i have now realized that i have not announced yet via this blog that i am employed for the next two years! i am going to be a public school math teacher here in jacksonville. i am not going to specify for which district i will be teaching, nor for which widely known nonprofit i will be working with over those two years because i want to feel free to openly discuss those things on this blog without fear that i am going to attach opinions to their names. if you would like to know more details about my job, you may of course email or facebook me, it’s by no means a secret.

i have decided to post this essay now. i have also decided that i might write a book about my teaching experiences. it will most likely be an expansion upon things you will see on this blog. my mom just told me that i will have to pay out of my own pocket to publish said book. yikes. maybe i won’t publish it. but it will be good. are any of you publishers?

in the meantime, here you go:

A public school student in the United States today has too much to worry about. Am I going to be able to safely walk to my bus stop? I didn’t eat breakfast – hope there is something of nutritional value for lunch. Is that older kid going to shove me in the hallway again? Who should I play with during recess? What if the other kids make fun of me? Have to take care of my little sister after school is over. Don’t forget to set my alarm clock.. and then on top of all of that they are supposed to be learning. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the struggles that some students and their families face, and yet we wonder why they are “underperforming”. I put that word in quotations because I do not think that a single person can define what it means to ‘perform’ or ‘underperform’ – it is different for everyone, and that is why I have a real problem with standardized testing, but alas, that is another essay.

We live in a society in which fingers are pointed everywhere but at oneself. We do not have a perfect education system by any means, that much is obvious. But I often feel that instead of truly working to find and solve the root of the problem(s), no one will simply accept their portion of blame and move forward. Race, ethnicity, wealth, poverty – all terms that people are slightly nervous to use, but then throw them around like they are supposed to mean something, bring more gravity and urgency to the situation. All of those aspects should absolutely be acknowledged and taken into consideration, but we are already at the point of grave and urgent. It’s the government’s fault, it’s the parents’ fault, it’s the teachers’ fault, the students just aren’t trying hard enough, maybe we should switch to another testing system, maybe the learning environment is not set up well, we should change that too, but wait we don’t have enough funding because of the government again! Those all might be true in some combination or another, but that is not the point. It is my firm belief that we all have to quit yelling at all the things that are going awry and instead stop to fix the things that we as individuals can change. That’s why I am here.

The achievement gap. It isn’t an achievement gap, it is simply a gap. It is the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I have been on both sides of that gap. I grew up here in Jacksonville, and I have experienced both public and private institutions. Race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic factors all certainly contribute to this gap, but what it all really boils down to is what do you have that I do not have? How do I get what you have? What do I do if I can’t?

I am a person of mixed race, but people can only sometimes tell. My surname is Scandinavian; I don’t look that different from a white person (at least that’s what people tell me), and so when I was at school I was white. What do white people have that non-white people do not have? I would be a fool to attempt to answer that question in just a few sentences. But there is an undeniable gap between the two groups. And so why does our education system treat them as equal? The world is not colorblind, and I doubt it ever will be. As a teacher, I will not be colorblind. I will be color aware, and I will not insult my black students or Asian students or Native American students or Latin@ students or white students by treating them as if their situations and lives are equal. They are not. That does not mean that any are inferior to another, nor does it mean that any deserve special treatment relative to others – it means they are different, and those differences should be embraced, not ignored.

The same goes for people of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Saying, “it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, you can still get a great education”, is laughable and will probably bring a person physical harm should they utter those words too loudly. I didn’t have to work to support myself or my family, but you can bet that students who do are more likely to fall into that category of “underperforming”. My family could pay the cost of a new suit every year so that I could be on my school’s varsity swim team throughout high school, but not everyone can afford that type of extracurricular. And then how are students supposed to look well-rounded on a college application? How are poorer students supposed to go up against the more wealthy students taking the SAT, when their preparation has been a CollegeBoard book borrowed from the school library and the other kids had the time and money for a $2000 Princeton Review course? I by no means want to discredit the Princeton Review or any other test prep company. I was one of those kids who took a $2000 course, and it probably got me into the college I just graduated from. My academic life thus far has been defined by the privileges I had and have now. I know that not every student can have those privileges, much as I will them to. Student A will never have what Student B has, unless A and B are literally identical in every way. And thus, I believe that our education fails most egregiously by assuming that one program will work for every student, or for the majority of students. Where does the school to prison pipeline stem from? It is this concept of using the method for the majority. High achieving students are rewarded, while low scoring students are essentially shamed leading the achievers to achieve more and the low scorers to unravel completely. I have learned during my very short life, that quite few people respond well to (especially repeated) scoldings, shame, or punishment. In fact, it simply makes them feel that they never, ever want to do whatever it is that caused them said shame ever again. And if that thing that caused them shame happened to be a failed math test, well then there goes the little interest they had in the subject of math. I do not promise to never hand back a paper with an F at the top, but I do promise to never make my students feel shame for their lack of achievement.

So then what? How do we close the gaps? We do everything possible to help the have-nots get what the haves already benefit from. Free and reduced lunch programs are one way, test prep organizations like Let’s Get Ready (the group that inspired me to be a teacher) are one way, non-profits and individuals that are wholly dedicated to solving these problems are one way. In my opinion though, every student has to have a teacher or mentor who awakens within them this idea that they can be greater than their circumstances. They can be great in their circumstances, not despite or because of them. I promise to know as much about my students’ circumstances as they will allow or want me to know. I promise that knowledge will not affect my judgement of those students, but it will influence the way that I understand them and what I expect of them. And I promise to try my very best to not allow any of my student’s circumstances be to his or her detriment.

After rereading this essay several times, I think that I sound righteous and idealistic. But I have decided that if those are the worst things I can be while I am shaping the lives of young people, then maybe that isn’t such a bad way to be. Ask me again how I feel at the end of these two years and I might look back at this and laugh at my own naivete. But I think the world needs more naïve, young people who think they can change the world. Because if people thought that the impossible was truly impossible, then nothing great would ever happen. So here is my impossible task: give my have-nots what the haves already have. And if I can’t, then I’m going to figure out the next very best thing to give them.

top rated

just like these papers i’m writing at 4am.. classic

icona pop is totally underrated, i’m really into them right now

puerto rico tomorrow!! so ready for some warm weather

xo, c

the barefoot christiannessa – dumplings

you may recall my previous adventures in dumplings when i was at middlebury, and i can now happily report that my skills have deteriorated entirely. it’s rather sad actually. but it’s the thought that counts, or whatever.

today in class, prof. orquiza demonstrated how to make soup dumplings (小笼包, for those of you who are familiar with shanghai cuisine). he spent much of his time lamenting about how they weren’t soupy enough because he used chicken wings in lieu of chicken feet, but you can only do so much with a department budget and a dorm kitchen, i say.

same methodology as last time. make some dough (2:1 ratio of flour to boiling water), and roll it out using a whole lot of flour. then add the filling – which as some french dude said, is simply taking one’s leftovers and grinding the crap out of them. side note: using chopsticks to put filling into a dumpling is not something that i will ever do again. it went everywhere. then you have to pinch the dough together, which as you can see is something that i am totally stellar at. finally, throw them in your cute little steamer baskets over a wok filled with water and enjoy with the sauce that you have mixed inside a solo cup. yay college. the sauce btw is rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and ginger that has been expertly chopped by your cool prof’s chef’s knife.

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YUM

 

 

a grammy nod

this was probably my favorite performance of the night. not elton’s best ever, but great nonetheless.

sorry the video quality sucks. also if you didn’t get to see taylor swift’s opening number, let me just tell you that it was really weird.

here’s the original song by ed sheeran, nominated for song of the year. the award instead went to we are young by fun. i disagree with this decision, but alas i am not on the grammy award decision committee (or GADC as they probably call it).

and here’s the list of all the people who won stuff. no call me maybe, thank god.

the barefoot christiannessa goes academic

this semester I am in a class in the American studies department called Asian American Immigration and Food. I know. there have only been two classes so far but I already know that it’s going to be one of my favorite classes at wellesley.

first of all, our professor is a professionally trained chef in addition to having a PhD. and he has integrated weekly cooking demonstrations into our syllabus. eeek.
today he showed us that he is a master of knives and how to not chop off our fingers while wielding one. he made a pretty simple salad with carrots, celery, and cilantro. then added a salad sauce of coconut vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and sugar. this sauce is sort of like the opposite of your traditional vinaigrette. while vinaigrettes have a high oil to vinegar ratio, this sauce has more vinegar than oil.

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prof. orquiza also talked about thinking about the history behind ingredients we use. he found all of the salad components at the grocery store, but it obviously didn’t used to be that way. wars were fought over sugar, carrots used to be mostly purple and black before the Dutch introduced the orange variety to the world. ginger was originally a spice used to mask rotten food, now you can find it in almost any restaurant kitchen.

so in response to this cooking demonstration I will share with you one of my very own recipes – peanut butter ramen. I first got the idea from an article on buzzfeed about how to jazz up your ramen and from there I just added a few more things.

1. cook two packets of ramen. please use the stove, microwaves don’t do it right. add the two packets of chicken stuff at the end and let that sit for a while (heat off).
2. in a bowl, add 2T smooth peanut butter (crunchy would taste weird), about 1T soy sauce, and a healthy amount of chili powder, sriracha, whatever spicy thing you have that’s lying around.
3. ok pay attention, this is important. drain the ramen except for about 1/4 cup of the broth. this hot broth will help to melt the peanut butter and combine everything together. I have tried doing this without the reserve broth and it just turns into a gloopy mess, so trust me.
4. add your ramen and it’s lil broth to the bowl with the peanut butter. stir until the peanut butter is melty and everything is combined.

I can see the look of skepticism on your face. (quick, cover your webcam!) but seriously it tastes really good. ramen has approximately zero nutritional value, but if you’re going to eat it then you might as well make it taste good.

although this is a super quick recipe, I can definitely appreciate the long history of ramen and acknowledge that the 99cent instant stuff is not the real thing. I am really excited about the rest of this class and obviously I will be posting pics here every week.

later yall

back home

i’m all settled back at wellesley for my very last semester. i’m sitting in bed, drinking some milo and watching aves swimming around. i think he’s happy to be back too. plus i’m listening to the of monsters and men album which is amazing. have a listen.

xoxo, c

accidentally cool nails

i attended a birthday party yesterday and the attire was cocktail dress, so i had to cover up my chippy black nailpolish. i decided that i wanted to put a thin layer of silver over it so that it would look like a darker silver, and would thus complement my super blinged out top without being overly matchy. i did not have time to put on a top coat, and so the black polish started showing at the tips of my nails almost immediately. at first i was really annoyed, but now i really love it and it looks like i did it on purpose. no one will ever know hehehe except i just put it on the internet so just kidding.

here’s a quality pic that i did not take on my webcam while sitting in bed.

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black polish is chanel, silver is sephora by opi

zero dark thirty

i saw kathryn bigelow’s zero dark thirty a few days ago, and i have to say that it was an awesome film. i do not mean ‘awesome’ like in the context of, “wow! look at this pair of socks with triceratops printed on them – they’re so awesome.” i mean it in the way that i sat there in the dark of the theater for a substantial amount of time before silently exiting the building. i had gone with a friend to see the movie, and it took both of us a long time to formulate a concrete reaction that was worthy of vocalization.

does this movie show some very intense torture scenes? yes; be prepared. this movie made me think a lot about whether or not torture is a justifiable means (hey, machiavelli) to extract information that could potentially save the lives of many. notice here that i used the word ‘potentially’. there is no guarantee when it comes to interrogation and the human mind. the director herself discusses more about torture in this movie, here. obviously, there is an enormous amount of controversy surrounding this film. how true is this story? i can’t answer that question. does it seem a little bit ridiculous that a single person successfully spearheaded an intelligence operation to find the world’s most wanted terrorist? absolutely. in my mind, the intelligence alone must have required hundreds of agents (is that the right title?) working around the clock for over a decade. that being said, having a ton of worker bee people in suits milling around for 60 minutes of a movie is the opposite of entertaining, and so the decision to have a main character is natural. i very much appreciated the fact that this character was a woman and one who was (again, according to the movie) strong, filled with conviction, and damn good at her job.

[some spoilers here] when the movie ended, i was angry. i thought that the ending was ill fitting and made the protagonist look incredibly weak. but the more i thought about this, the more i have realized that the ending was right. how should a person feel if they have been working tirelessly toward a single goal for more than a third of their lifetime.. and suddenly the goal is achieved? initial reactions must have been relief, maybe elation. but then what? when she got on that plane and the pilot asked her where she was going now, she had no answer. what could she say? where is her home? what is she supposed to do now? i cannot imagine that people who are that high up in the intelligence division, who are constantly moving around because of their jobs, have a 10 year, 5 year, or even 1 year plan. what a terrible feeling it must be, to know that you helped achieve something so great (again, let me emphasize that i am not saying the assassination of a human being is a positive thing, but rather a very notable event), but because of that achievement a piece of your identity is now gone. i’m sure that in the real world, jessica chastain’s character would move on to the next assignment, but for the 300th time i will clarify that i am speaking in the context of this particular film.

i do not believe that this film is necessarily representative of the true occurrences of events. however, regardless of one’s political views, humanitarian views, religious views, whatever, i believe that it deserves to be watched. i believe that kathryn bigelow deserves the awards she has received and will receive. i believe that zero dark thirty was an incredible interpretation of intense emotions in the context of the mission to locate osama bin laden – to whom the film refers as ‘usama bin laden’ and ‘UBL’. after some research on the FBI’s website, i have found that usama is in fact the spelling that they use. i did not know this before. (i was going to link to the website, but i think they track things like that and i got paranoid that they would think i was a weirdo. just google his name, it’s not that hard to find).

i’m going to be honest, if this movie was in any way supposed to be propaganda for applying to work at the CIA or FBI, it was very effective. i did not, though, feel the least bit patriotic after watching the film – which i found to be strange considering the strong reactions that many US citizens expressed via the internet after learning the news of bin laden’s death.

i highly recommend that you go watch this movie with an open mind. it is worth the current and ridiculous $12 price of a movie. just bring your own snacks, they seriously overcharge for concessions (as you should already know).

christianne and anna watch the golden globes!

if you take christianne and make it christina (which is what many people mistakenly call me), you get tina. and anna and amy are basically the same name anyway – amirite anne “get my name right, dammit” hathaway? so basically we are the hosts. lollll ok i’ll stop.

NBC literally finished the show at 11pm on the nose, so good job there, but tina and amy def did not get enough airtime so i am sad. here are the many texts that anna and i exchanged while watching the golden globes…

c: man kate hudson looks rough. her dress is fug[ly]. oh man this dude [christoph waltz] is already crying and his speech is horrible. i do not know who he is, i have never seen this dude before. maggie smith just won for downton abbey DRINK.

a: christoph waltz was amazing! [you dummy, how do you not know who he is?]

c: never heard of him oops

a: [explains who he is via inglorious basterds reference]

c: ew francesca eastwood. also game change won best tv movie/mini series

a: idk what game change is. can’t believe liz and dick didn’t win

c: it wasn’t nominated… oh you’re joking

a: …..

c: game change won something else dumb. julianne moore is tripping over her words. jack black isn’t amused.

a: he’s probably blasted and concentrating on looking sober.

c: i’m confused they showed a montage for best motion picture and now it’s commercials

a: weird [neither of us knows how the show is structured apparently]

c: some old lady [hfpa president aida takla o’reilly] just asked bradley cooper to call her, maybe.

a: double ew

c: PAUL RUDE [paul rudd is on stage now]

a: i sometimes think my love for paul is too much [false]

c: damien lewis won something for homeland and is now crying about his dead mom

a: that’s sad… but also seems irrelevant

c: if i were actually taking shots for the crying i’d already be drunk. also i’m going to use this text thread for a blog post.

a: so you’re just using me?

c: yes. homeland won best tv drama. yawn. jennifer lawrence is wearing some dude’s blazer!! new bf alert?

a:OoooOoooOo [verbatim]

c: dude there is someone below the stage adjusting the mic for every person lolol

a: worst job at the golden globes

c: the anonymous announcer just said “anna karahnina”. life of pi gets best score. ang lee is the cutest.

a: that’s so true. i adore him.

c: uh oh they’re music-ing this dude off stage. irony. adele gets best orig[inal] song for skyfall.

a: how could she not?

c: t swift is pursing her lips..

a: HAHAHAHAHA suck it

c: but still she’s about to make another billion dollars since breaking up with that one direction kid

a: ugh

c: jessica alba is super pretty. kevin costner just won something. bill clinton just showed up.

a: WHAT

c: p diddy is rull [really] excited about it

a: I AM TOO

c: i think it’s a segue to the licoln movie. [yes, it is] yep i called it. well this is dumb. “we are all here tonight because he [licoln] ended slavery”. false. the white people would have all been fine. will fuhrell [ferrell] and kristen weig [wiig] are now up. and don’t know their lines. jk they’re making up movies and putting actors in them. they’re doing the thing where they try to say the same things at the same time dyingggg. wow it’s so bad it’s good.

still c: apparently salmon fishing in the yemen is a real movie. i thought they were making it up and randomly put emily blunt in it.

a: HAHAHAHA of course it’s a real movie [you idiot]

c: jennifer lawrence wins for silver linings and gets standing ovation from t swift only. apparently they are friends.

a: t swift is terrible at awards shows. she should stop getting invited.

c: [anne hathaway sucks]

a: [yes she does] ohhhhh game change is the sarah palin thing

c: oh my christ. tarantino’s wife is really hot.. wait, maybe that’s not his wife.

a: [people wearing pretty dresses]

c: claire danes looks a little weird and has crazy eyes.

a: she almost always has crazy eyes.

c: and she casually dropped in the fact that she won her first golden globe when she was 15. like ok, calm down.

still c: OMG jason bateman just walked out carrying aziz. bc downton abbey has some awesome weed backstage. apparently i really need to start watching girls. OH SHIT tina just told t swift to stay away from michael j fox’s son.

stillll c: i’m so confused was it not common knowledge that jodie foster is gay?

a: i’ve known for ages

c: i think she just came out officially. ok yeah she did but she is waaaay rambling.

a: yiiikes or yay? ugh anne hathaway. after anne hathaway thanked her husband, my grandma just said, “until the divorce”

c: burrrn. halle berry’s dress is hideous and she’s talking super fast like she’s nervous. ben affleck is super cute and flustered. damn girls is killing. also hello, why was pitch perfect not nominated?

a: lena dunham is going to fall over

c: seriously wtf is this salmon movie? ughhh les mis is winning too much. jessica chastain is crying, but her lipstick is great. holy shit richard gere got old.

a: jodie foster is going on too long

c: daniel day lewis appears to be having absence seizures

a: or boredom and drunkenness

c: aw man it’s over. tina and amy did not get enough airtime

a: my sentiments exactly.

 

ps i should have probably mentioned that we were not watching simultaneously. high five if you read this whole thing!