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Practicando Español

Necesito practicar mi español escrito! Mis compañeros de trabajo hablan en español todos los días y es muy dificil comprenderles. Ellos hablan muy rápido! Y a veces, necesito decir algo sobre mis estudiantes que solo ellos (los maestros) pueden entender.  Así que estoy practicando.

Estoy sentada en mi avión en dirección a la costa Este.  Es de noche y está oscuro afuera de mi ventana, a excepción de los pequeños de luz de las ciudades que estamos sobre volando. Estoy probablamente en algún lugar sobre Tennessee.  Me encanta el invierno en la costa Este. El invierno es un poco débil y ridículo en California, pero se siente tan rico y acogedor en la costa Este.  Me encantan las casa grandes y viejas, con grandes jardines y coronas de Navidad en las puertas, velas en las ventanas, fuego en las chimeneas y mantas. Me encanta como todo el mundo tiene miedo y las escuelas cieeran cada vez que hay nieve (solo en DC tal vez). Me encanta San Francisco por un millón razones, pero el invierno y la Navidad simplamente no se sientan tan auténticas o tan encantadoras como cuando hay 50 grados afuera.  Me gusta el invierno autentico.

Por otro lado, hice algunos propósitos de Año Nuevo para 2016 e hice progresos recientamente sobre lo que respeta a la television.  Ya sé es ridiculo, pero normalmente no veo la tele.  Y la television es uno de esos puntos de conversacion que reune la gente, como lo es también la comida.  No es super polarizante o deprimente como muchos eventos actuales ahora.  Asi que por muchos años, he hecho un propósito para el año nueve de ver una temporada completa de un programa de television, y cada año, siempre lo he dejado de lado (gracias por escribiendo esto phrase, Ana! jaja).  Quiero relajarme y ver la tele, pero cada vez que empiezo, solo pienso en todas las cosas que debo hacer, asi que no veo la tele.  Pero el otro día vi un programa que me encantó.  Tal vez, puedo hacer esto.

Gracias por leerme! Y muchas gracias a Ana por ayudarme!



Gorgeous San Francisco

After my workout this morning, I had to whip out my camera and take a few pictures, because the city in October is just radiant.  No fog, no cold, just prettiness.

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Come visit me in my gorgeous city!





Happy Father’s Day Weekend! Remembering my Grandpa

Happy Father’s Day!  My Grandpa passed away recently and my brother edited some videos of him so we could watch and remember.  This is the second half.

I loved my Grandpa so much and I really hope he knew how much I loved him.  I remember when I decided to move to California, I flew across the country, rented a car and drove to his house. My grandpa had ‘vitamin o’ (donuts) and a jolly smile waiting for me. He was actually giddy to see me!  Like a little kid.  My grandpa always had faith in me.  He never hesitated to tell me how much he loved me or how proud he was of me.  We spent summer of 2013 together and boy did we ever have fun!  I was running around like crazy, applying for jobs, and he was busy reading and watching golf and even going to the gym.  We talked about life, about work, about food, about his experiences.  He took me to restaurants and on the scenic backroads to Oakland.  And of course, we went to the gym together! I was so, so proud to go to the gym with my 89 year old grandpa.  He has never been ashamed of his love of work.  He was very in love with life in general.

My grandpa grew up during the Great Depression and always knew he’d never go to college because there was no way his family could afford it. So when it was time for him to graduate, he went and asked the principal if he could stay for a fifth year and take more classes.  They said yes and he stayed and studied a fifth year.  Knowing how  much my grandpa hated high school, I always thought that was a bold move.

Later he was drafted to fight in World War II. He passed an aptitude test so he could be a war engineer, although towards the end of the war he was put in infantry with everyone else.  My grandpa wrote about his experiences in the war in his life story, but he refused to talk about it otherwise (unless a sweet second grader needed to do a report on a veteran). I know the war took a toll on him and I don’t think it is a coincidence that he died on Victory in Europe day.  I am very proud of his service to the United States.

After World War II, my grandpa was able to attend college through the GI bill.  My grandpa worked forty hours a week while attending college, graduated with an accounting degree in three years, and never got less than an A. If you knew my grandpa, this would not surprise you at all.  As long as I knew him, my grandpa was completely, hopelessly addicted to work.

My grandpa always talked about how grateful he was for his education, how lucky he felt to have the chance to study and learn in college from good teachers. Whenever I was feeling down about my job, he would remind me of the power and importance of education. My grandpa was an inspirer and he was passionate about  education.

My grandpa was a Catholic in Utah (a rare demographic), and he sort of tried to hide that from my grandma while they were dating, but she knew the whole time and it didn’t bother her.  They got married and the missionaries started coming over. As I understand it, my grandpa gave them a fairly hard time for about six years and then he finally decided to get baptized.  He was still very skeptical of many things, but he jumped right into Mormonism and when he died he was certainly without any shame or doubt in his faith and the sacrifices he made for it.  He was Bishop of the Laotian branch and he was a sealer in the temple for 23 years.  He loved being able to give service.

My memories of my grandpa are mostly of his sense of humor, generosity, and his obsession with work.  I remember when he and Grandma would come visit he would wake up early and make everyone breakfast (turtle pancakes) and then clean the kitchen and weed the backyard empty and then mow the entire lawn.  And my mom and dad would beg him to just sit and relax, but he was incapable of relaxing.  The only thing that was relaxing for him was work. At my grandpa’s funeral we found out  that he had turned in his home teaching report (checking in on about 20 – 30 home teachers to make sure they had visited each of  their assigned families) on the Tuesday before he died.  He had 100% completion. He was incapable of eating or getting up off of his lazy boy, but gosh damnit he was going to call people and harass them about their service and home teaching for the month!  My grandpa loved work.

My Grandpa loved delicious food and I think it was partly because he had gone a good deal of his early life without being able to have much food at all. After my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary we started having family reunions in Carpinteria, California and I sincerely think Grandpa’s entire reasoning for this week of the year was to get everyone as fat as possible.    The whole trip was always on his dollar and he would always shoo us off to Robataille’s to get more candy and then after he’d force-feed us cookies and donuts and ice cream.  Etched on his gravestone are the words:  “Are you hungry? Can I get you anything to eat?” because you couldn’t go ten minutes without him asking you that.  OK so they’re not really etched on his gravestone, but we should at least check to see if there’s any space left for that. My grandpa loved food and he loved talking about food.  And as a survivor of the Depression and World War II, he shamelessly saved food, for years.  Oh how I love my grandpa.

My grandpa loved laughing. He had some famous jokes and he loved messing with little kids.  When they were little he tried to convince my twin brothers that the reason their hair was curly was because they had eaten too much soy sauce and they needed to cut back.  Hahaha.  There’s a clip in the video where he’s trying to convince me that he’s holding up the cannon.  He had a pretty big inventory of jokes and he loved being a wisecrack.

My grandpa never, ever complained.  I honestly don’t think I have ever heard my grandpa voice a complaint in my life.  When my grandma died, he pulled out pictures of her all over the house, but he never complained about missing her.  If I understand correctly, my grandpa died because his kidneys quit working and his body filled with toxins.  So it was a slow and miserable process. This last year was really brutal to watch, but he was such a champion about it.  When someone would ask, “How are you today Grandpa?” he would always say he was doing well, even though it was fairly obvious that he wanted to pass on.

Thank you for loving me and for being so great Grandpa! I love and admire you deeply and I am so grateful to have you for a grandpa.

Happy Father’s Day and thank you to both of my grandpas (I’m spoiled; my dad’s dad is actually equally wonderful and hilarious), to my dad, to my brothers and cousins, and to all the honest men making their contributions to our human family.  Your goodness makes a difference.




Me when I was little


Here is a video my brother compiled of me when I was little!  Wasn’t I cute?  Although I apparently had some misconceptions about the game Duck, Duck, Goose….

I love my family.

Also, yesterday I found this article which references my brother’s research in the seventh paragraph!

Hope you are having a great week!

Thanks for reading.



Weekend in Boston



Harvard Selfie. (She doesn’t even go here!)

Last weekend I went to an education conference in Boston and it was simply fabulous.  I learned tons of ideas that are shaping schools and technology and I came away with many new insights.  In all honesty, though, some of these new insights about education were a little disheartening to learn about.  For instance, I was reminded that education is immensely political and polarizing. It is something that humans fight over and blame each other for.  Good people who go into education with the best intentions seem to create enemies out of nowhere, over sometimes seemingly trivial things.  It’s a shame, because we really do all want the same things: for young people to be safe, to be challenged, to enjoy learning and working, and ultimately be prepared to contribute to the workforce and the world.  And yet we usually don’t agree on the pathway to those goals or have the powers of persuasion to move together towards them. But, I’m still a believer.  I still believe that good people will rally around improving education and we can agree on the fundamental components of a solid education.

Anyway, the conferences was the perfect excuse to romp around Boston on my own; I got into the city a day beforehand so I could explore.  For me, there is nothing more exhilarating and liberating than purchasing that Charlie card and  running around a new city on my own.


Memorial Church at Harvard. My real goal was to get inside the building across from Memorial Church, the Widener library. Widener library has a famously spectacular interior, but alas, you must be a Harvard student to see it.



More Harvard. I love red brick and I can’t get over the windows or that flat-trapezoid-y shape of the building on the left.



Museum of Fine Arts. Very beautiful.



We’re heading into our Rome and Italy unit. I took this picture to show my students! I’m excited to learn about Roman pottery with them.



The MFA had an impressionism exhibit which was my favorite. Renoir is my mom’s favorite.



Monet is my favorite.



Copley square, outside the Boston Public Library.



Boston Public Library. It’s like a Palace, but just for learning. Its nickname is the “Palace for the People.”



Yours truly. Taken by a nice Chilean gentleman and I completely, accidentally passed up a chance to practice my relatively lousy Spanish on someone who was probably missing his Spanish-speaking comrades.






Old red brick ftw! I’d like to move here.



Burdick’s hot chocolate. You must taste this decadence. Life-changing!



LearnLaunch 2015. This is Michael Horn from Clayton Christensen Institute interviewing Jose Ferreira about Knewton and big data within ed tech. Admittedly, Jose used enough techy acronyms that I’m not sure how much of his interview I understood correctly. If there’s anything I gained at the conference though, it’s a new hunger for learning and keeping up with all of the changes in the world, especially in technology.



My host, the lovely Katherine Boren. We did a lot of eating out as well as a bit of shopping. Here we were taking the T to see Into the Woods for my first time.

That’s my recap!  More substance to come.




Schools in Korea

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Seoul, South Korea. My brother took this picture in 2010, when he presented a paper at a computer graphics conference.

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My brother and his Korean fan club.

Chapters three and nine of The Smartest Kids in the World talk about schools in Korea.  I think we have some things to learn from them.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Korean students do not use calculators in their math classes.  At all. In fact, they hardly have any technology in their classes.
  • Korean schools rank their students and everyone knows everyone else’s scores and standing.  As a side note here, I think we concern ourselves too much with self-esteem here in the U.S. We overanalyze it a bit too much.  I’m not a big fan of making a huge stink over ranking students, or permanently labeling anyone ‘smart’ or ‘stupid’ but posting scores is a necessary evil sometimes, and it creates accountability, especially when the effort is acknowledged as the deciding factor in success. I think this should be explicitly addressed in the classroom.  In a healthy classroom, students should feel they can improve their outcome, based on their efforts.  We don’t need to coddle anyone and protect them from the reality of consequences.
  • Korean students clean their own schools.  They mop the floors, take out the trash, clean the chalkboards and for a punishment, clean the bathrooms.
  •  Korean students have school until four, then cleaning, then test prep after cleaning time, then dinner at school, and then a study hall, before they go to hagwons which are private tutoring academies.  Hagwon curfew is at 11 pm.
  • In other words, Korean students study from the wee hours of dawn, until about 11 or 12 at night.  Koreans study their lives away.
  • Korean students sleep through most of their morning classes.

Why is Korea this way?

After the Korean War, Korean government re-evaluated their priorities.  Korea didn’t have any resources, so they poured their efforts into the human capital, education.  In so doing, they created an extreme meritocracy.  They attracted the best and brightest to the classroom and created their  version of the SAT after high school.  In Korea, it is a test that determines their lives.  Students with the top scores go to top universities, go on to successful careers with lucrative salaries.  So it creates a brutal system– a pressure cooker.

I like how pure of a meritocracy Korea seems.  A poor person can rise to enjoy a much higher status in society, solely based on their studies.  I wish that happened in America.  But Korean students waste their entire lives (and an enormous amount of money) studying for this test– no hobbies, no travels, no fun. I don’t like that.

I’d be interested to see how this translates to their workforce and economy.  My brother mentions how technologically savvy and advanced the Koreans are in his recap of his trip there, but they’re certainly not ahead of America.  I’m not sure where to find the best evaluation for comparing the two.

Anyway, that’s my Korea recap, at least until I get to chapter nine.


In other news, I found this list of words every high school graduate should know.  I’m embarrassed to admit I need to look up a few!

I also devoured this article  about East Palo Alto (where I used to live).  I loved learning the local history, but in all honesty, it was a little upsetting.   Now it looks like the long time minorities are about to be forced out of EPA, because all the tech companies are vying for the property.  I hope that is not the case.  Real estate in Palo Alto is insanely expensive, and it’s affecting the culture in bizarre ways.

I also googled how much money exists in the entire world , because why not?  And because I get annoyed with people trying to impress and control each other with money. Somehow this bit of information alleviates that annoyance for me.  It can’t be particularly accurate, because internet, but the good people from this website seem to have taken a decent stab at it.

Next week I head to Boston for a conference about ed tech at Harvard.  I’m excited but I get cold just thinking about it!

Thanks for reading.




Holidays 2014 Recap

Before it’s too late, here are pictures from my Christmas festivities.  It was a good one!

Christmas 2014:


This year’s winner of the ugly sweater competition. Scott took his game up a notch by gaining a few and buying a whole body suit!


I went to Tyson's to get some last minute shopping and had to document this brave soul.

I went to Tyson’s to get some last minute shopping and had to document this brave soul.


Facetime with the nephew. He could not believe he had NINE presents under the tree. He is the sweetest little guy.

Facetime with the nephew. He could not believe he had NINE presents under the tree!!! I hope one of them was Power Ranger Gloves, because heaven knows he needs those.   He is the sweetest little guy.


Opening presents on Christmas night. We waited for B to fly in from Florida that afternoon.

Opening presents on Christmas night. We waited for B to fly in from Florida that afternoon.


The xkcd book answers absurd hypothetical questions, like, "What would happen if a pitch was thrown at the speed of light?"

The What if? book! it answers absurd hypothetical questions, like, “What would happen if a pitch was thrown at the speed of light?” It’s written by Randall Munroe, the xkcd guy. Ps. Did you know he’s only 30?


Road trip to Atlanta! To see my brother's family.

Road trip to Atlanta! To see my other brother’s family. Sunshine and clear skies. I listened to the first five episodes of Serial on the ride.


My nieces! First order of business was a bike ride to go see their neighbor's dog Sadie. In this picture, my niece is telling my, "One time Sadie yict (licked) my pants!" Hahaha. They kill me.

My nieces! First order of business was a bike ride to go see their neighbor’s dog Sadie. In this picture, my niece is informing me that, “One time Sadie yict (licked) my pants!” They make me laugh. 


The wake-up fairy committee.

The wake-up fairy committee.





The Botanical Garden lights.

The Botanical Garden lights.


Other memorable moments:

My little sister saw me putting makeup on the other day and asked if she could wear some.  I put some on and she thanked me about 15 times.  She is so easy to make happy!

One of my nieces would really like a kitty-cat. Coincidentally, she cannot say the ‘k’ sound.  Bless her sweet little three-year-old heart, she is constantly asking for a ‘titty-tat’.  She says, “Mom, can we pu-weeeeeese det a titty-tat? Pu-weeeeese?”  Hahaha!

Thanks for reading and hope you are having a wonderful start to the new year.



Moth Story Slam & the Power of Stories

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Cory introducing the Story Slam. I took this picture riiiiight before they asked us not to take pictures. 😀


I went to see a Story Slam put on by Moth up in San Francisco  with some friends a couple weeks ago and …. it was fantastic!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the stories were powerful and inspiring.  Some of the storytellers were so honest and vulnerable, so skillful with their words and emotions. I felt like I learned a lot about being human and about what we have in common.

The theme was art.  Storytellers (all from the audience) had prepared a true story of an experience that required all of their creativity.  There were several that I really enjoyed.  One  gentlemen told a story about his experiences as an actor in New York.  It sounds like he had a decent career in soap operas, but the real story was about his dog’s career as an actor and model in ads and such. His dog actually became quite renowned in the business.  An older woman told about her husband recently leaving her for a younger woman and her subsequent decision to sell all of her belongings and move across the country.  She is now living with her daughter and has courageously started a new career, a new chapter. She seemed genuinely happy in spite of a gut-wrenching curveball that had been thrown her way. I have immense respect for her.

Another woman told of her concern that her son would treat her cross-dressing friend badly (spoiler– he doesn’t!) one man told of a close friend of his, who was brutally charming, but coincidentally also a pathological liar and swindler; another woman told of her experiences as a flight attendant in the 60’s, when their only real requirement was to look nice and speak sweetly to the passengers….

NPR takes the stories and vets the best ones here.  Take a look!  They are pretty cool.

One thing I have learned in Montessori is how motivating stories can be.  And one of my colleagues tells the most riveting stories. Students beg for them at every chance!  Lunchtime, free play, after-school… they always want more stories.

An Indian proverb says: Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.

Stories are powerful because they give the listener an opportunity to absorb information through their own paradigm.  I can tell my students: “You should love learning!  You should work hard!”, or I can illustrate learning and hard work through impressive experiences and  listeners can draw their own conclusion freely. They can file the gist of it into their own decision-making framework.  The partaker can create his or her own vision of success and feel inspired to take a new direction. Stories replace bossiness.  Stories create autonomy.

As a teacher, I can tell a story to illustrate a quality (persistence, apathy, patience, humility), to teach a bit of history, or simply to entertain my students. And, in telling personal stories, students usually feel a new respect for the story-tellers vulnerabilities and dreams. People form bonds through story-telling.  Leaving the story slam a couple weeks back, I felt like I really knew the story-tellers.  I respected their life experiences. 

Thanks for reading! And Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.




NASA Ames Research Center 75th Anniversary

Back in October I got tickets to see the NASA Ames Research Center Open house.  They open it once a year and I was pretty excited about it.

My family is a NASA family. Growing up, my brothers really loved keeping up with NASA’s recent shuttle or mission so that was often dinnertime conversation at our house.  And I think we watched Apollo 13 many, many times.And then of course, we were super bummed when the Shuttle Discovery was retired in 2011. Anyway, although I’m not an expert in space or aeronautical engineering, I try my best to fit in and represent. I was excited to see the hangar where they worked on shuttles, the wind tunnel and all the booths they had up showing what’s going on in the private industry now.

Here are some pictures:

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The hangar!  I really didn’t learn much about this on the tour.  Reading online I’ve learned that it originally was used to house the USS Macon a Navy Airship first used in the 1930’s.  It was only turned over to NASA in 2003.  It is an incredible feat of engineering.

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Ok so if I understand this correctly, this object here on the right /\ /\ is a megawatt arc jet and it somehow simulates speeds and temperatures so it can test samples of materials that will withstand the fire and pressure of exiting and re-entering the atmosphere.


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/\ /\ The wind tunnel. Apparently this can operate between Mach .30 and 1.50.  And on the right is a remote controlled Mars Rover.

One other thing we stumbled on, but I don’t have a picture of, is this space-simulating incubator that medical researchers have used to grow cells.  The incubator doesn’t have any gravity, thus the cells can grow in all directions ( as opposed to with gravity, cells can only grow on two planes– length and width), thus they can test cancer treatments on the three dimensional tumor-like tissues that are grown in the incubators. Their tests are much more realistic than tests on 2d objects.  I thought that was nifty.

I guess now that NASA is less funded I will have to invest more learning into SpaceX.  I’m curious to see more of private industry space travel.




The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley


Maybe I am reading more than ten books right now and that never ends well.  But this is a book I’ve heard good things about  and it’s piqued my interest in what other countries are doing in education that leads them to be more successful than America.

The book follows three American exchange students (teenagers) in their studies abroad; in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.  Finland is leading the way in education and has been for the last several years.  What I have heard and read is that 40 years ago,  a large focus of their economic reform plan was to improve education, especially the quality of teachers in school.  This article goes more into detail about their success.   What strikes me the most in the article is the optimism of the teachers; how much faith they have in each of their students (including poor and historically underachieving populations), how they refuse to label a student ‘lazy’.  It’s the exact opposite of the experience I had teaching in the projects.  I felt like teachers there had nowhere near the support or funds they needed to run a classroom.  And the pain and discouragement, the cynicism, the bitterness in the school was palpable.  You could touch and feel this dark lethargy in the classroom.  The teacher turnover rate was fast.  No one wanted to stay and many teachers who did stay became very jaded; certainly not a lot of hesitating to call students ‘lazy’.  I wish I could say I think those schools are few and far between in America— but I don’t.  I think defeatism is all too prevalent in our school system.

So I’m excited to read this book and find out what we can do to emulate these places.

Here are my questions I’m looking to answer as I read.  I’m about 30 pages in.

1) How do these countries attract the best teachers?   Of course, paying teachers better than doctors (Finland) does a lot to make the job appealing and competitive.  Can we do that in America?    How do they evaluate teachers?

2)  What are the training programs for teachers in these countries?  Are they more rigorous than our college programs in America?

3)  What does this rigorous education translate to in these economies?  Does their program of studies line up with the demands of the workforce?  What is their unemployment rate?   At what age do students begin specializing in whatever field they would like to work in?   Because the ultimate goal of a good education is to have students who are capable of solving problems and meeting the demands of society; it is to have proactive, employed citizens.

4) How can America adopt a different attitude and approach to education?  What are the underlying ideals in these countries that make their schools tick?

The PISA came came to Mount Vernon High School where I taught and I thought it was a solid test, very different from other standardized tests, but that’s another post for another day…

Thanks for reading. =)