Squirrel Wife

“You are squirrel! I am monkey! We are friends!”

After years of my husband calling me a squirrel, I decided to go New Age on him and look up squirrel as a spirit animal. Apparently squirrels like to “chatter and scold, save for the future, and tend to do too many things at once,” I read out loud.

“See! I told you! You are squirrel wife!”

Math Without Numbers

“What are we doing today? We’ve already learned everything.”

“Everything you need to know? Ready to go be an adult?”

“Ms,” my student whined, “you know what we mean!”

“I know, I know,” I said, “So we’re doing something new today.” I looked at my students and laughed. “You look suspicious!”

“You have that Ms Look,” one of them replied.

We’ve finished The Tests.

Now I have three weeks to kill (although I’ll be absent four days of the remaining 14). It’s awfully difficult to keep the kids’ attention for three weeks since they’ve learned the entire curriculum and feel like they’re done with school because The Tests are over.

An added difficulty is that other grades are still testing, and they use the rooms around us for testing every single day. Quite frankly, I’m tired of having to keep my kids silent all day long because there’s normally almost always a buzz in the class.

Add to that the weird schedule that takes place at the end of the year?

“We’re doing math without numbers. And we’re doing math without one correct answer.”

My students stared at me.

“How do you do math without numbers?”

Last month I went to a STEM (Science/Tech/Engineering/Math) workshop in the District and was introduced to MEAs (Model Eliciting Activity.

The idea behind an MEA is that students are working with a realistic, open-ended problem. The entire goal is to come up with a method to solve the problem which can be used in other cases.

I handed my kids a letter from a cereal company telling them their task. They needed to analyze the data for five new cereal recipes to decide which one to sell. They would have information about taste, texture, healthfulness, and cost to manufacture. They needed to rank the cereals, explain their methods for ranking, and be sure that the method could be used for any other similar data.

“So,” I asked, “What do you think this data will look like?”

“A tally chart!”

“A bar graph!”

“A pie chart!”

I handed them the data.

Smiley faces?”

I stepped back and watched the kids work. Most of them started by assigning a frown zero points, a neutral face one point, and a smile two points. But of course I’d built ties into the data if they did that.

Then the arguing began.

“I think we can ignore health.”

“No we can’t! My mom always looks at the labels!”

“This one is good in everything except texture.”

“Yeah, but who wants to eat food that feels gross? Eww.”

With the exception of one student, the entire class was engaged for the math period. They were working together, defending their ideas, using persuasion, and exhibiting flexible thinking.

I think I have found engaging work for the last 14 days!

Payout Night

Tonight was the payout night at our bowling league, followed by a potluck and a no-tap bowling game.

Last week, which was the final competition week, we arrived in first place. We needed to win two games to get a clean first place standing (71 points). We needed one game to get a very probable first place standing (69 points). If third place won all three games, they’d end up with 70 points total, so they were the unknown.

There was a study done on Olympic winners. Gold winners are the happiest, bronze the second happiest, and silver the least happy. Second place thinks about how close they were to first, while third place thinks of how close they were to not placing.

This might explain why one half of team we were against ended the night saying, “Yeah, you lucked out the first game, you know that right? I sucked and that’s the only reason you won. What’s ‘Hanmi'[our team name] mean? Huh? HANdicap is Most Important?”

“No, ‘han’ refers to Korea, and ‘mi’ refers to America. Korean-American.”

“Oh, well, your name should be handicap is most important.” (Yes, so says the man whose partner has the highest handicap in the league…)

We finished the season with 69 points. They ended with 68. Third place ended with 66.

Guess it sucked being silver.

W-2 Disbelief

I handed Good Man a stack of papers. “Can you scan these papers?”

Good Man started scanning them, then waved a piece of paper around. “What’s this?”

“Your W-2.”

“Where did it come from?”

I was confused. “Huh? I pulled it out of our fiscal year 2011 file.”

“But how did you get this? I didn’t print it off.”

“It came in the mail.”

“But why?”

I stared at him in disbelief. I have always done the taxes (except for the one year we paid someone else), but I couldn’t believe he didn’t know what it was. “So we could do our taxes…?”

Good Man laughed, “But why haven’t I seen it?”

I stole one of Good Man’s phrases. “Oh. My. God.”

“No, really, why haven’t I seen this? I didn’t know I made that much money.”

“I guess because I did all of our taxes!”

He grinned, “Oh, that must be it!”

Good Man Humors Me

“You’re crazy.”

“I’m not crazy. I am wise,” Good Man replied.

“No, you’re not old enough to be wise.”


“Wisdom has this implication of age. It’s like being smart, but with the benefit of age.”

Good Man laughed. “So ‘smart’ is like cabbage and ‘wisdom’ is like kimchi?”



‎”You are Brazil squirrel. Samba squirrel!”

I don’t know why Good Man calls me a squirrel more often than he calls me any other animal. He has no explanation.


A few nights ago, Good Man made dinner (samgyeopsal).

“I can cook!”

“This is really good,” I agreed, “But there’s a lot. Maybe we should save some for tomorrow.”

“Oh no. Cooked pork in the fridge? It’s not healthy.”

I stared at him.

“Yeah,” he said, “[GoodMan]pedia.org. Look it up.”

Contrary Mother’s Day

Because I am apparently contrary, I spent Mother’s Day meeting my father about an hour away as he was driving through the state.

We haven’t seen each other since the wedding nearly three years ago, when Mother gave him a bottle of 17 year-old whiskey that he couldn’t take home since he only had carry-on luggage. If he waits one more year, the whiskey will legally be able to drink itself.

We spent about an hour together before I realized he’d cut his hair. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with hair this short!

With Dad


Sometimes my husband’s patience annoys the hell out of me.

When I ask him questions about Big Life Decisions, he talks, listens, but basically tells me whatever I want is fine. Then he waits until I talk myself into his position. It could be minutes, weeks, or months later. When I finally completely change my mind 180 degrees, he just smiles.

I’m on to him, though.

Right Spouse, Rich Life

“Can you live forever? Marry the wrong spouse, and every day will feel like an eternity. Marry the right spouse, and life will be joyful and perhaps even a rich experience.”

Thomas Stanley, author of Millionaire Next Door and other millionaire-mindset books

Yesterday I was telling a story about something or other. One of my students looked at me and said, “You know, based on your stories about your husband, I think one of your shiny parts [talents] is picking a spouse.”

This was after another student informed me I must “be rich, because [my] life is so interesting.”


My seventh grade science teacher had worked in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa. She used to tell stories of her life in Western Samoa, about being able to watch the sun set on the entire world because of time zones. I thought that was the neatest thing ever.

She loaned me a tape of Western Samoan music so I could make a copy. She begged me to be very careful with it. I made a copy, and a few months ago, I actually converted that tape to MP3. I now play that music in my classroom for my students, actually.

I wanted to travel like she had. I wanted to have adventures like she had. I wonder if one of these kids will grow up and want to travel because of my stories.

I tracked my old teacher down and emailed her, thanking her for her stories. Maybe that little note will keep her going the rest of her school year.

Money, Teachers, and Teaching

The state is messing around with our pension. The pension they force us to pay into and promised teachers years back in exchange for lower pay. The county is now claiming they’re going to give us raises, when they’re actually playing a shell game with our money.

Monday, at lunch, one of the association reps was explaining this to the people at my table. A younger coworker in her second year mentioned that she knows she should have extra retirement put aside, but she doesn’t even know where to start or what to do.

I lost out on five years of retirement planning in my first five years of teaching. I have no SSA for that time because my old district didn’t pay into SSA (not that I think SSA is going to be around for me).

I had only a small pension, which sat around for several years after I left the county, until they eventually sent me a letter saying I was no longer going to get interest on my account. That finally got me to roll it over.

I told her I don’t want her to make the same mistake, and I dragged her up to my classroom. She set up a 457b before we left for the day. It felt really good to help her out, and she was grateful.

While we were opening her account I said, “I know talking about money is socially unacceptable. I hope this isn’t making you uncomfortable. But I really want to help people not make the mistakes I made.”

“No, I am so grateful for this, because nobody ever taught me about this, and I just had no idea where to even start.”

A few years ago, my job helped me discover that I truly wanted to become a gifted and talented teacher.

Working with an intern this year has taught me that I really like working with neophyte teachers. My mentors were all assigned to me by their principals, and they had no choice. I was assigned an intern because I asked for one.

A few months ago, an instructional coach said she could see me in coaching or admin. I don’t see myself in either position, but I do see the appeal of working with adults.

Running on Fumes

I have been running on fumes at work. Blame The Test. Thirty days to go. Not that I’m counting or anything.

Today I found an envelope in my mailbox that simply had my school’s name on it. It was from our interoffice mail system, but my name wasn’t on it.

When I opened it, I found a letter addressed to me from one of my former sixth graders. She told me she was a freshman in high school and that she was a freshman because of me and what I’d done for her.

My heart sang.

And suddenly, I wasn’t running on fumes any longer.

Teaching can be such a thankless profession. When a former student tracks me down and thanks me, it keeps me going for months.

And what still surprises me is that the students I’m afraid I didn’t do enough for? Those are often the ones who write me, years later.

Teaching, in America at least, is a profession that encourages self-doubt. But I reached this student. I mattered to her. I made a difference.

My closest coworker, when I told her about the letter, said, “You were nominated for GT teacher of the year! Of course you make a difference!”

“But that nomination came from my boss. This letter came from a student. It means more.”

I have thirty more days with my current batch of students. I have thirty more days to push them, to stretch them, to make them say “Oh! I get it!” I have thirty more days to make a difference.