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.

P.S. I promised there would be unicorns…


Post 3: Trying to keep up with “time” when time is a struggle.

I’ve struggled with the concept of time my whole life. I struggle to get anywhere on time. I underestimate how long everything will take me. It takes me forever to say something aloud that I think will take me a few seconds.

Priority was a foreign word.

Related, I’ve always had trouble prioritizing. Everything. For majority of my life, that was never an issue. If I needed to get x, y, and z done, I’d get it done within milliseconds of their ultimate due time. Writing an undergraduate honors thesis? Done (research done two weeks before due date, written in 3-4 days). If I had to do a, b, and c things together no matter how intense, I would and I could. Taking a 3-day intensive weekend Islamic course the same week as mid-terms? Done. Help curating a photo gallery which required traveling 1.5 hours (one way) weekly for 2 months during my undergrad years and spending a bunch of hours learning how to use GIMP to photo edit while “studying” for Calc Honors, Linear Algebra, and Discrete Math? Done. All-nighters were my life because I decided all duties related to being VP of MSA, no matter how minute, trumped all classes. Sahar never said no to anything. “Sahar could you…?” Yes. Almost always. People asked because I never said no and I knew I would get it done. Everything. Without much compromise.

I got things done. I did them well. So there was no urgency for me to get my ish together.

That changed three years ago, when I started teaching. The inability to juggle everything thrown at me, inability to plan and execute my lessons in the best manner (as I was used to doing everything else in my life), and the inability to say no hit me all too hard. So much stress and anxiety manifested physiologically. My adult acne was at its all time worse and I had stress induced acid reflex and ended up going on meds to put both under control.

multitasking multitask multi-tasking
I wasn’t naive per se. I went through 5 years of undergrad/grad education, 3ish years of student teaching, so I thought I knew what to expect going into teaching. I also knew to expect the unexpected. Countless of teacher friends and mentors told me: you won’t truly understand what teaching is until you’re a teacher.

yes seinfeld true kramer correct
So now 3 years later, time, pacing, getting things done, and being an organized teacher are daily struggles. I’ve learned ways to cope and have grown somewhat. I’ve had to change my mindset about somethings. Perhaps if I have time, I’ll write about that later…

Post 2: Dear Teenage Self…

Posting twice in one week probably means I won’t be posting for a while. #oops #sorrynotsorry

friends sorry joey sorry not sorry im sorry

I went through a list of 30 reflection prompts Tina Cardone shared on her first #mtbos30 post and #2 seemed the most intriguing/stuff I wouldn’t mind being out and floating about the virtual universe. While only a preteen in 2001, the 9/11 attacks very much defined my young adult life and acted as a catalyst in my exploration of Islam. I began to develop my identity as a Muslim American during my teen years, so it feels appropriate to start there.

Things I would say to Sahar (circa:2001-2008):

  • Don’t be hasty: You do not need to become the ultimate Muslim overnight. That’s not even the purpose. You just need to do the best that you can and everything else will sort itself out.
    tina fey stop calm down cool it you need to cool it
  • While finding your identity as a Muslim American, don’t forget that a part of the religion is maintaining a good relationship with your family, especially your parents. THAT is not optional-it’s actually a part of Islam. If you end up neglecting that, you’re really going to regret it one day. Trust me.
  • Islam is not black and white. There is a grey area. It is purposeful in order to make the religion easy on people. So don’t make it black and white because you’re going to make it really difficult to function on a day to day basis for yourself; it’s also easy to fall into judging people and #onlygodcanjudge.
  • Seriously your wardrobe needs work. I get it, you want to make sure you’re dressing within the guidelines of a Muslims women, you’re going through a weird identity crisis, but read the previous point. Ask your sisters for help in this department. Don’t wait until college. Seriously. Don’t.
    lol comedy jon stewart comedy central the daily show
  • Consider applying to a college away from home. While you will be extremely happy to be a product of the NYC public school system (K-12, undergrad, and grad school) teaching in the system with $0 in school debt, you’ll sometimes wish that at the very least you had considered a college away from home.
  • Don’t ever stop practicing Spanish. It’s going to come in handy when you end up working with students whose families are from Puerto Rico and Domincan Republic.
  • Don’t want until you’re 22 to get your license. You might think that the MetroCard is life, but once you drive you’ll think otherwise. You can drive and use your MetroCard around the city. You can also easily escape the city. It’s the best of both worlds.

That’s it for now, but I’m sure there’s a ton to say to young Sahar.


Day 1 of #mtbos30: MTBoS getting in my head.

Day 1 of 15
Getting on the #mtbos30 train a bit late, but I took having a mtbos dream last night as a sign to get this started. Successive posts may (or may not…) have substance. Ha! My goal is to post at least 15 times this month.

A few days back I asked the twitter-verse to describe MTBoS in 100 characters or less. I was asked to describe myself, career, hobbies, and interest for a short bio and not mentioning MTBoS just seemed wrong because the support from this community has defined and developed who I am as an educator from my first year as a teacher. Three years in there’s always something that I now do that has been inspired by someone (or collective someones) from MTBoS.

These were some of the responses:

I guess because of this along with seeing so many #mtbos30 posts, I had a dream in which I was sitting with a bunch of my colleagues trying to convince them that Twitter was the best thing to happen to the Ed world. The conversation moved on to MTBoS and I described it as this huge party that has all these amazing people that are having meaningful conversations about all sorts of things. One can stand within a group and just listen in to the conversation or butt in whenever they want – and nobody cares if you decide to do that. In addition, anyone can decide to start a new conversation. Regardless of whether you say anything or not, most often than not you leave the party with some party favors. While this is not exactly how I would describe MTBoS in reality, for some reason it made sense in my dream and my coworkers were extremely excited by the idea of this larger Global Math Department. On a mission to make this dream a reality sooner or later!

Until then, I’m truly humbled and thankful for having a great support network beyond my school.

thanks omg thanks

These are a Few of my Favorite Things.

As a part of Week 2 of the ExploreMTBoS 2016 Blogging, I’m sharing a few of my favorite things!

fav things

My Favorite App: PLICKER

plickersWay back in September, I wrote about some new things that I was trying this year. Among them was using PLICKERS (paper clickers) for formative assessments and providing students with on demand feedback. Almost 5 months in, they are going strong and plickers are one of the tools I use ALL of the time and my students love them too! I can easily scan their answers using my phone and students can see the frequency for each choice. I can choose to reveal the answer or not. However, it’s not about getting the correct answer! Here is why I love plickers!

  • Plickers have been a kick off point leading to conversations about strategies used.
  • I especially LOVE it when the answer that was most frequently chosen by the class leads to a conversation around misconception or common error that is made.
  • Students get to debate! Sometimes I have students justify their answers and try to convince each other why their answer makes the most sense.
  • Inspired by estimation180, sometimes, we use it to reason about the “reasonableness” of the choices and decide why a choice is “too high”, “too low” or “just right”

My Favorite Product: Clear Neon Lights (as known in Ms. K’s class but aka C-Line Ticket Holders)


I use these almost every day. They’re clear pocket inserts with unlimited uses from impromptu mini-whiteboards, collection folders, instruction/guideline holders, protection sheets, etc.

My favorite review/practice activity: Add ’em Up!
add em up

Like most things I do in my classroom, Add ’em Up is something I’ve taken from someone in the #mtbos community. Thanks to Sara Vanderwef, I now have a go to review activity that really gets ALL of my students engaged. Whenever I do an ‘add em up review, I never have to worry about any off task behavior which in middle school land is pretty awesome! This is the gist of the activity modified from Sara’s blog. (which you should totally explore because she has some really amazing I-am-totally-gonna-do-that-because-it’s-freakin’-awesome kinda stuff)

  • This task is used for math problems that have one number solution.
  • Students are placed in groups of 4. (I also have students work in groups of 5 and have two students work as a team)
  • Groups get the large whiteboards (2′ by 2.5′) and 4 colored dry erase markers.
  • Each group also gets 4 task cards. Each student solves ONE card in their section of the board using their colored marker (but they can help each other).
  • As students work, I go around and write the sum of all four answers in the middle of their board.
  • After everyone has gotten their answers, it’s time to ADD ’em UP and if the questions were solved correctly, their sum should match the one written in the middle.
  • If it doesn’t match, students go back and determine where the mistake was made and correct it.

It’s really easy to prepare! I’ve been using them a lot on percent problem tasks. I usually create 2-3 sets with each set being more challenging than the prior set and that has them going for about 40-45 minutes.

My students are still getting used to communicating as they are working, but once they get their sum and it doesn’t match, it creates this ITCH in them to determine where the mistake was made and they begin collaborating (and sometimes arguing, but how cool is that?!). What I love about this activity is that it is MORE than just getting the correct answer. While that is a part of it, it forces my students to work together and help each other. I hear students explaining their thinking process to their peers. I have students ask each other clarifying question or tell each other, “that doesn’t make sense!” I have students refer to each other and their interactive notebooks before I step in, so it allows me to focus on students that are struggling a great deal and offer them one on one support.

And while we’re talking about my favorite things, got to include Miloh. My favorite reliever of stress and frustration!



Week One: One Good Thing!


Last week, I pledged to participate in explore #mtbos’s blogging initiation. I’m really glad blogging about one good thing is one of the options this week. It reminded me to dig up an old blog I used to keep (infrequently) for myself my first year of teaching: now renamed Positive Vibes. I’ve copied over my one good thing from this week.

One Good Thing: Persistence Means Not Giving Up!

I gave my students their performance task this week. This is the first time (ever) that I have completely let go and did not offer explicit help. I stole something I got from my colleague that she uses for students to write independently called “Try 3 before Me”. Instead of asking 3 people for help, the students are doing three specific things before they can ask for help. For my students that included utilizing their INB, math work book, creating a K-W-L chart, and mindful breathing. Their options were outlined on a poster.


As students worked I circulated and answered only clarifying questions or re-read the question. I did ask some probing questions to some of my students who were ready to extend their thinking, but I kept hands off as much as I could. I was really proud to see the persistence of my students the past two days. By no means is their work perfect, but students were using the resources I provided, attempted problems, and struggled through them without giving up! I’m also proud of myself for letting go because it’s really hard to see students struggle. 

This upcoming week, I hope to blog a day in my life…but I’ll do that when I am a bit more sane.

2016 Blogging “re-INITIATION”

I think I can…I know I can.

I, Sahar Khatri resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore


You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!