(Temporarily) Stepping Outside the Classroom: My last few weeks.

It’s been a whirlwind of a 2016-2017 school year and year in general, starting from summer programs with PCMI, Cuba travel through Fund for Teachers, and traveling to Peru. Then on to coaching new teachers through the New Teacher Center, and then…getting married. So yeh, that happened.

AMP17_W_ImranSahar_0300
Loved our photographer, Amber!

amp17_w_imransahar_01981.jpg

And so I’ve moved to Madison, Wisconsin from NYC. And I’ve decided to take a hiatus from teaching since Madison is at this point a temporary home as I hopefully move on to some other adventures (hopefully to be disclosed when things are a bit less in the air).

My life for a bit. This will be the first time since I was 4 that I’m not in a classroom as a student, student teacher, or teacher.

So as my colleagues, peers, and teacher friends begin a new year, I thought it was time to finally publish my logs that captured my last few weeks in the classroom.

Week of 5/22/17

  • It’s been really hard to be mentally present and be positive. It’s that time of the year when teachers and students start counting down the weeks, but this year is partially harder, but there are still 5 weeks to go so time to keep the head in the game!
  • I need to bring positivity into my classroom life, so in come warm fuzzies thanks to my amazing work wife, Claresa Mandola.

  • I’ve never done them before, so I was skeptical I could keep them engaged with this for 45+ minutes, but they loved it and couldn’t wait to get their fuzzies. After they made them, I collected them and sorted them into paper bags with each student’s name and then distributed a few days later.

                      

Week of 5/30/17

  • We started our team meeting with warm fuzzies–adult to adult. I got extremely emotional reading Staabs note to me since she mentions B being like family. She didn’t realize he was invited to the wedding, which affirmed her note even further! B is family!
    “–When you were reprimanding B, something in your tone, and they way he responded by sitting up straight and tall. I looked up startled, and realized – oh- they’re family. to be able to convey so much caring even in a reprimand – unbelievable.”

     

B during the family portraits

Week of 6/5/17

  • Math team was going to give the final unit exam to the classes. I decide to go rogue with my first period class. Instend we spend 3 days on “curve stitching” on paper based on a George Hart workshop I took at Math for America. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures while the kids we’re in action because I too was too involved in the activity! Students first worked on the 30 dot with the rule I+k, then we doubled for the 50 and 100 dot circles. When we doubled, this happened!

On the last day I showed students my curve stitched ring.

  • I’ve been holding students for detention after giving them fair amount of notice about not following directions. I’m over the scolding and repeated reminding. I just give them a pass for detention or let them know they’ll have it during lunch the following day.
  • Counting down the days and I feel checked out, but my coworkers note reminded me that what I consider “checked out” is still very much present at our school. I’m just not giving my usual 110%. I’m giving 90%.
  • This was a really short week. PD on Thursday and I’m taking a personal day again on Friday since it’s field day and I could use some time to wedding plan and pack.
  • Packed my bookshelf and desk at home and the surreal feeling is beginning to feel very real.

Week of 6/12/17

  • PD days are hard. They are always long and work piles up even more after them. Hard to stay present for things dealing with the new school year knowing that I won’t be back.
  • It feels like I haven’t seen the students forever! Last Wednesday was the last time I taught so I tried my best to really enjoy my time with them.
  • Thursday June 15 was one of the best days of the year. I felt that vibe across the entire school (w/ most people). I spent time talking to students. Checked in with some 7th graders I taught last year too! Classes were loud as they were talking, but they were working too.
  • One of the 7th graders I taught last year had lunch with us on Friday–and I told her I was getting married. She was pretty shocked and upset I didn’t let the 7th graders know sooner. I just never see them. When I tell the kids about not returning I’ll pull a few of them aside and let them know.
  • Toward the end of the week, K in my first period class asked if I was going to move now that I’m getting married…I said I’d let her know if that was going to happen. Some of the other girls overheard our conversation and then proceeded to let me know they got my back of my husband ever wrongs me.

Week of 6/20/17

  • I need to start packing things into boxes from my classroom. I feel overwhelmed knowing I have 4 years worth of stuff in the building. More of that continues at home.
  • I had students making tri-hexaflexagons.

  • I’ve begun cleaning out my school closets. I’ve accumulated so much stuff in 4 years. It’s been hard to decide what I want to keep and what I want to pass on to my colleagues. I also don’t want to go home with boxes and boxes of materials that need to be into storage until I’m back in the classroom.
  • Wednesday: I’m seeing some of my classes for the last time today for content classes. I’m glad that I’ll continue to see them for a few more days in more informal settings. The plan is to tell the kids tomorrow about leaving.
  • Thursday: I told B that I won’t be returning the following year. He’s the first student I’ve told. I knew it would be a hard conversation, but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it actually was. He sobbed. Loudly.
  • Friday: My class wasn’t  allowed to go on a trip that the rest of the school is on. I I I used the opportunity to clean and pack.
  • Told some of the 7th graders and my advisory today that I won’t be coming back next year. Most asked if I would come back for their moving up ceremony at the end of the school year.
  • D cried a lot and soothed herself by reading. She texts me all the time to ask questions about day to day stuff at school so I told her to keep in touch with me. We’re going to have lunch together next week and I told her to bring whoever she wanted.
  • Another student, I. looked so bummed and asked, so you’re leaving us for a guy? Partially, yes I guess.

Last two days of school

I didn’t get a chance to log anything for the last two days. It was hectic as usual — but I tried spending time with my coworkers in between cleaning and organizing the room. Had lunch with students and then dinner after work with coworker/friends. And then on to 3 weeks of final planning for the wedding…

 

img_0067.jpg
Some of the lovely people I’ve come to work with (and teach) the past four years.
Advertisements

Why and how I Bitmoji in my classroom?

Why I Bitmoji?

If I’m being completely honest, I bitmoji because I am obsessed and I find joy in sending
and receiving bitmoji. And all the cool kids are doing it! 5b7f7c53-dffd-4480-b956-6c42daa26d53

So…I wanted to find a way to connect to my students using something that became important in my communication with my family and friends through messaging and TWITTER!

Bitmoji Stickers

One way I’ve connected with my students is by creating Bitmoji stickers one day when I called out sick…because what else could I do while drugged with sinus and pain medication right?

 

My students affectionately call these “Ms. Khatri stickers”
  • Students love the stickers and will work to earn one. They know they can’t ask for it, so they try to get my attention through their action. #winning!
  • It’s personal: it’s my face so the message or emotion of the sticker is coming from me, without me saying anything.
  • There’s so much variety of emotions, messages and I can print however many I want.
  • Even students that I don’t teach have asked about them. Also, my coworkers request them as a lift me up during the day. It’s pretty awesome!
  • They’ve really helped me build relationship with my students. I love to use them with my students since they emote (is that a word?….¡no me importa!) in ways that can’t be found on regular store bought stickers. Sure, I still use a lot of “thumbs up, good job” kind of stickers, but I have a lot more to say to my students. The following are examples:

 

Isn’t it?

I was a little nervous about using this one, but now I ask some of my students “how’s the struggle?” if I notice that they are having a bad day. And if they really are having a bad day they ask for this. It becomes a way for me to check in with them. And if they feel like sharing what’s up, they do. If not, at least I’ve checked in with them. With students that I am already close with I put this on their hand or paper as a way to tell them…”I’m noticing your general foolishness…cut it out and let’s move on.” Most of my students acknowledge it, laugh, and most often than not are like “okay, okay.”

 

If I want to check in with a student about something (academic or otherwise, I might out this on their hand or paper)

 

I’ve given this to students when they look like they are about to give up; I also have given this to them when I want to encourage them to continue their current work or line of thinking,

 

Because I teach math, and we always ask these questions.
My students LOVE this one.

I think I’m going to reserve these for academic awesomeness: they’ve asked a good question, worked well collaboratively, noticed something important, exemplified any of the other mathematical practices!


Bitmoji in notes

Thanks to my obsession, the 6th grade math team now puts Bitmoji into our guided notes. I love using the following to bring attention to directions or key concepts/models:

bitmoji
Sometimes theatrics are needed to get students to pay attention.


coteaching
Excerpt from our quiz last marking period.

HOW I BITMOJI: The logistics

I have had many friends and coworkers ask how I got my bitmoji stickers. I basically print them like you would mailing labels. Most people know Bitmoji as an app. On mobile devices and the cute little stickers to add to your snaps, but there’s more! Here is how I do it! If you’re new to Bitmoji, check this page out for some helpful tips or this.

1) If you don’t have one, download the app on your mobile device and personalize your avatar! Make sure you enable the Bitmoji Keyboard.

Personalize your avatar to your liking.

2) In order to create the stickers you’ll need square or circle 1-2 inch labels. I started with Avery 2 inch circular labels,  but have switched over to Garagesalepup labels since I can get more bang for my buck. Whichever you use, you’ll need the form template. If you use Avery or other well known labels, you can just use the label maker wizard in word. If you use garagesalepups, their website has templates. Before you print mass stickers do a test run, because you may need to adjust alignment and centering in the template. I didn’t really have to but some of the reviews mentioned that.

3)  This is the key ingredient for indoctrination through bitmoji and a way you can assure you leave your faceprint everywhere…yes young lad you heard right! EVERYWHERE!

 

Download the bitmoji chrome extension. This lets you add bitmoji to email and creates a toolbar with a SEARCH feature on the chrome browser which is vital for efficiently copying and pasting into the template from Step #2 or into any documents you create. If that link didn’t work, going to the bitmoji website will link you to the right place.

“What if I don’t have chrome?”

My response 
There is a work around which is a tad more annoying (for me, but you do you). You can use the app on your mobile device to copy the desired Bitmojis into one email. Then copy and paste them on the word template.

Hope this helps! Let the Bitmoji-ing everywhere begin!

I have plans to include Bitmoji in other aspects of my classroom!

Dear #MTBoS, Thanks.

Disclaimer…this is going to be mushy, full of emotions, unicorns, and glitter.

Like many teachers across the country I have been filled with so many feels. It’s been personal and real. Well it’s been very personal and real for me since September 11, 2001 – and for so many others across this country, privilege is hard to come by. The struggle has been real…for a very long time. None of this is new —  Not going to get into that now…

The interactions I’ve been having, the conversations that I am stalking, errr…lurking…observing, give me hope. Real hope. We’re literally educating the future. If you teach 8th grade and beyond, many of your students will be voting in the next Presidential Election!

However, this letter is not about the election…it’s so much more than that and today one of these (non-election related) interactions finally opened up the flood gates and I cried out of sheer joy for having this community in my life and in my journey as a teacher. It was a very simple gesture of kindness and support, but I couldn’t stop the tears from rushing out. I guess the emotional roller coaster finally went for a deep dive.

Dear MTBoS,

I heard about you not long after graduating from grad school thanks to the amazing Sam Shah, at a first year of teaching boot camp at the Math for America office facilitated by Chris. Years prior, I had a personal twitter account, but never thought I could use it as a teaching tool. I was heading into my first year of teaching…it was gonna be hell or so I was told, so I latched on to everything anyone threw at me.

I’ve witnessed how hard you work and so many of you inspire me to be a better teacher for my students…and well a better colleague and person too! Thanks Justin, CaseyBrian, Annie, Megan, Becky, Amy, Elizabeth, Andrew, Ilana, @Mr_Harris_Math, Meg, and soooo many more of you.

And now it’s almost four years later…I’ve had the honor of meeting a few of you at TMC, PCMI, Tweet Ups, or through Math for America, but I haven’t met many of you in real life (yet…). I didn’t expect to make friends with people I didn’t ever meet (#strangerdanger?), but here I am — I know who to turn to for some #gilmorechat  #cannoevenchat, #SWDmathchat, #msmathchat, #numbertalks, and general venting of teacher life and general commentary on life as a teacher working in NYC and/or life as a Muslim.

And even though I haven’t met most of you, I trust you.

I trust you because you have gently reminded us that we’re doing our best.

I trust you because you’ve spoken up when I’ve gotten same hate and shade thrown my way. I can’t express how much that means to me. Thank you.

You’ve validated my feelings without saying everything is going to be okay…because have they ever? are they really?  I hope I can say that some day…

You have called for action and taken action to provide equity for our students with disability, to provide excellence in instruction for all of our students by asking us to become better storytellers. You’re bringing awareness to the issues of social justice in the classroom or sharing some Tales from a Chalkline. Thank you.

I trust you to give me honest and meaningful feedback on my lessons…(even as I’m typing this.) I can tell how hard and tirelessly you work for your students. You push to me to reflect. You make me want and demand better for my students in all aspects of their learning.

You’re not shy about asking me questions about my faith. We’ve learned a lot about each other (I hope)! And I hope in the coming weeks, months, and years…you ask and reach out.

More than anything, in the last few weeks you’ve taken the time to listen to your students. To listen to each other. To reach out to each other. To care for each other. So many of you have checked in with me, either on facebook or twitter. And you continue to do so. I’m really not sure how to close, except by saying thank you.

Love,
Sahar
P.S. I promised there would be unicorns…

Being Human: No longer allowing myself to feel guilty. 

One of my year 2 goals was to work in a way that was sustainable. I failed miserably. Year 3 took the biggest toll on my body both physically, mentally, and emotionally as I had a group of my most challenging students. (I LOVE them to death, but they drained my energy. Every. Single. Day.) So needless to say my work-life balance was…well imbalanced. 

I really enjoyed my travel this past summer and did 0 teaching related work except for 2 days (and whatever I did in Utah at PCMI, but I’m not counting that as “work”). I came back to work relaxed with very little stress because I knew I didn’t do anything during the summer, so  there was no point in stressing over the fact that I had done nothing. 

In Urubamba, Peru — Sacred Valley close to Cusco

I didn’t really have time to do anything, therefore things wouldn’t be complete, and with only 2 days to prep for students, I wouldn’t finish everything. Duh. 

It’s taken 4 years to finally not feel guilty about getting an impossible amount of things done in an unrealistic stretch of time. 

I haven’t overplanned like I usually do or overstress my first month of teaching–which has done wonders for my sanity. I have less expectations, so when things don’t go perfectly I have less disappointment. I’m still working my butt off, my students are still learning, but I’m no longer allowing myself to feel like I’m not good enough. I’m allowing myself to be human–with human limitations of time, energy, and physical and mental capabilities. 

Flexible Groupings

This last week we joined 3 classes that have math at the same time and regrouped students into 3 semi-homogenous groups. We based the groupings on diagnostic data from iReady, an adapative program that gives us the grade level equivalency of students based on their performance across different strands in math:

  • Number and operations 
  • Expression and equations
  • Geometry
  • Measurement and Data

My initial hesistancy when this was proposed was that this would become tracking and we’d be doing disservice to students who were below grade level. Here’s what we’re doing to ensure that this remains flexible grouping.

  • We’ll be revisiting the groupings often. We’re open to moving students as needed. 
  • All groups take the same standard aligned exit ticket at the end of the week. The idea is to get students to be able to complete the same task,  but the process and time to get there might be different. For example this weeks goal was for students to solve ratio word problems by generating equivalent ratios. My group, Group A, where students are at grade 5 equivalency or above immediately went into solving word problems without any scaffolds, group B (grade 2-grade 4) also solved word problems, but were given a table to organize their thinking. Then group C (below 2nd grade level) started with analyzing number patterns and then moved into the same lesson as group B.

Here’s some work that my students did the first day of the flexible classes.


I haven’t yet had a chance to look at student work from the different groups yet, but I’m excited about this a lot more than I was when it was first proposed. I’m looking forward to seeing students move around between groups in order to get the support that they need. 

Cuba Travels Post #1: What? Why? How?

img_0495

Thanks to funding through Fund for Teachers and its local partnership with Math for America, I (along with other members of my school community) had an amazing opportunity this past summer to take a 2-week course at the Instituto Nacional de Higene, Epidemiologia, y Microbiologia (National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology, and Microbiology) and learn about Cuba’s health education system. My goal was to type my reflections while I was in Cuba and then publish them whenever I had access to connect to the internet, but that never happened for a variety of reasons. However, my revised goal is to blog a little bit about my experience as a post trip reflection the next few weeks.

Why was I there? 

Cuba has developed a preventative approach to healthcare which starts early on by implementing a national health curriculum in all schools. We essentially went to Cuba to learn about the general health care system, the education system, and the cross-section of it all.

“Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation,” She also praised “the efforts of the country’s leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development”

~Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Isn’t it illegal for Americans to go? How did this even happen?

When I told family and friends, I was asked this question enough times. No — it’s not illegal to go to Cuba. Going to Cuba for the purpose of tourism is still illegal, but there are 12 categories for authorized travel. Since one of them is educational activities, our trip was completely legal.

Our amazing guidance counselor made it all happen! Her father has some contacts who work in the Cuban health ministry. At some point, they talked about the work we do at our school with regard to social-emotional health. The Cubans were extremely excited to share with us their approach to health, education, and health education. I cannot express how much because they JAM packed so much into 2 weeks, so much that it felt that I was in Cuba for much longer than 2 weeks. Just look at out program!


When we all signed up for this, we acknowledged that there would be a chance that we would have to pay for this out of pocket. Thankfully some team members (including myself) were eligible to receive a Fund for Teacher’s grant. We wrote a team proposal, submitted it in January and found out in April that it was approved! A few people fund raised through other means, which meant the trip was not completely self-funded.

 

So who went?

There were 7 members from my school and 2 members who joined us from a different NYC school.

IMG_0235-2.jpg
This group consists of guidance counselors (3), social worker (1), Special Ed-certified teachers (2), ENL specialist/teacher (1), and 2 math teachers 😛

 

 

Key Take Aways 

These are my personal impressions based on what I saw and learned. But to be honest, with my limited time in Cuba and limited background knowledge of its history and current political system (which is currently in a period of transformation), I don’t think I have the entire picture. I can’t. Especially with people not being able to say anything against the government, it was hard to ask or speak frankly about what didn’t work or what was really happening as opposed to what we were told was happening. We were mindful when we had those conversations. Additionally, since school was out for the summer, we did not really get to interact with many teachers or any students.

I hope to write about these take-aways with details, but these are the few that come to mind:

  • The Revolution is very much kept alive in Cuba–and arriving in Cuba 2 weeks prior to Fidel’s 90th birthday, I definitely saw so much more than normal.
    14711203089559
    Saw lots of homage to Fidel like this. Courtesy of El Mundo

     

  • There are elements of Cuba that are “frozen” in time, but there are so many other ways Cuba is progressive and revolutionary.
  • Mental health is integrated and all doctors regardless of specialty are trained in mental health to a certain extent.
  • The key approach towards health is prevention and not treatment.
  • The approach to health and education seems research driven.
  • A lot of what Cuba is able to do with regard to health and education is because of socialism and a lot of what is happening in health and education is dictated by the government in a top-down manner.
  • Special education services seem much more stream-lined as there is one government entity that overlooks it all.
  • There is a partnership among parents, doctors, and schools with regard to student performance.
  • While Cuba has systems and structures in place, much of the weakness lay in the fact that they have limited resources-which includes access to quality medications and facilities.

¡Viva la educación!

Year 4 Goals: By June 2017 my students will hate/fear math less than they do right now.

My goals for this school year came full circle while I was speaking to Brian P. I want my students to leave my classroom in June 2017 hating or fearing math less than they do right now. Perhaps even be a tad bit excited because they did something in Ms. K’s math class that reminded them that they do not suck at math. That they can still “do math” even if they don’t have the correct answer because their thinking process is just as important, or rather more important, than their final answer.

63yw5ajbjny9i
Okay that might be a bit much, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

So I decided that this year, in order to meet this goal I’m going to focus so much more on establishing and cultivating the classroom environment. It’s always has been rushed the past few years because we “need to get through the material.” But not this year.

  • I started our first math class with Sara Vaderwerf’s amazing 100 numbers to get students talking
  • We established some group norms based on the previous activity and I refer to them often.
  • I’m spending MORE time on LESS things so that students have time to explore, engage, ask questions, and then explore those questions.
  • I’m modeling what talking in math looks like. I’m facilitating those conversations when I check in with students instead of pushing the conversation along.
  • And I’m trying to be okay with not “finishing” as long as I know that students fear math less and are willing to engage even when they are not sure what the correct answer is.

Hoping the best for a great 2016-2017 school year.

ujigdwemdwftq

Ramadan Lenscape: Shapes 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared, but end of school year craze is in full swing! Continuing my Ramadan snapshot..

Savory and very fried. Yum.


Samosas are a clear indication of Ramadan in my house hold. I don’t think I eat them much outside of Ramadan. Samosas can be meat or vege-filled in spring roll sheets which are squares (so yay more shapes).

While samosas are something my family eats most often in Ramadan and it’s great and delicious and all…there’s something special about being together for Iftar (breaking the fast meal) with my family and eating this kind of traditional food that is prepared in Ramadan. For starters, it’s a meal with most of my immediate family for a month. That is rare in my family…even growing up. We just have never been a “sit together at the table for meals” kind of family. To this day we’ve never even have had a dining table!!! We either eat sitting on the floor or at the coffee table in the living room. My dad worked/works inconsistent hours of the night so he was never home at the same time. The siblings and I had extra curricular commitments that never allowed all of us to be home at the same time for dinner. Our door was constantly revolving with people going in and out, so whoever happened to be home just ate their meal with whoever happened to be home or alone if our timings didn’t coincide. And that continues to this day…except in Ramadan. So unless any of us have an invitation to a friends house for Iftar, my entire family breaks out fast together (most often than not). That’s pretty sweet…a few more nights to go before the door starts revolving again.

Ramadan Lenscape: Parallel Lines, Symmetry, and Tiles

This is my first photo share post. Hope to share more as I experience the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a time where many Muslims increase prayer.

12pgyulmfexpzc
Focus game on strong!

I’ll be spending many nights on this carpet standing in straight rows amidst hundreds of Muslims in prayer. Many mosques, including mine, have tiled carpet that are used in the prayer spaces. The carpet can vary from simple to intricate design, but usually have some sort of symmetry and tiling. Standing in straight parallel lines is vital for any prayer done in congregation.

Prayer Rug at the mosque I frequent the most during Ramadan.

Our differences sometimes divide us.

Islam allows for differences – different cultural norms, backgrounds, and even Islamic practices, but sometimes they become a point of tension within a group of people.

 

Perhaps we:

  • don’t pray like each other
  • begin fasting on different days
  • have opposing opinions about what we can or cannot eat
  • have opposing opinions about roles/gender norms
bp6
Courtesy of Boston.com, Big Picture, 2013

Parallel lines never meet, but standing in straight parallel lines is a reminder of our unity.

At the end of the day we (i.e. Muslims) all have the same core belief and goal of building our relationship with God through the 5 pillars and same values – treating family, friends, neighbors, and the larger community with the dignity they deserve and being of service when necessary…and well just being a good human. Regardless of where we stand on matters such as above, when the time for prayer comes in and the prayer call is made we stand together feet to feet – shoulder to shoulder. 

 

 

Math/Ramadan Snapshots: My Ramadan Lenscape

Ramadan officially started yesterday at sunset. For the next 30 days or so a billion plus Muslims will be observing the holy month by fasting. It’s a time of spiritual growth, extending generosity, and connecting with God. Observing Ramadan  looks very different across the Muslim world since it’s a VERY diverse community and it even varies from person to person as people establish their own personal Ramadan goals. I hope to capture some of my own moments in this month with photographs that reflect both something about Ramadan and math because … Duh!

And if anyone who happens to read my blog has any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll try my best to answer them.