So I’ve been reading other people’s 20 Facts about them post, so I was inspired to make my own. I’ve gotta admit, I think I’m going over 20. Can I do 30? I also don’t know how to be succinct apparently, as each fact is more like a full blown story! This might need to be read in chunks, but it will definitely help you get to know me outside of the classroom. 🙂
1. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up, since I was 3 years old and my parents told me about the Apollo landings on the moon. In middle school, I read the novelization of Space Camp (and saw the movie), and researched the real one on the fledgling Internet. I wound up convincing my parents to send me to Space Camp (and its affiliated program, Aviation challenge) for 5 summers as a teenager. When I was in college, I worked at Space Camp/Aviation Challenge for two summers (and a month in January). It was that experience that made me decide I wanted to work with kids.
2. I joined a program called the Sea Cadets in HS. Imagine the US Navy Reserves and JROTC merged: that’s how I always described the program. I was in it for over 2 years and I took a bunch of the same tests as if I had enlisted in the Navy and passed with 3.8+! I got a field promotion while working at a boot camp one summer and I’ve kept the letter that my CO wrote to the regional director to request it. I was an E2, doing the work of an E4, and I had long since meet the requirements of being promoted (but my unit’s promotion ceremony was only once per year). When I left the program in my senior year, at E3, I was the highest ranking cadet in my unit, even though I’d been involved for much less time than some of the other cadets.
3. I originally went to WPI (an engineering college in MA) on a full Navy ROTC scholarship. I originally planned to be a career Naval Pilot and Astronaut. I hurt my knee during “Indoc” (boot camp) on my 18th birthday and had trouble running ever after. I was at a leadership lab where they told us their take on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (the policy at the time) – we weren’t allowed to engage in homosexual conduct, and if we suspected a person in our unit, we had to inform our CO – not exactly the spirit behind the law. When I found out that was really the policy, I decided I wasn’t cut out for hiding (since I’d been out since my senior year of HS), and I came up with a really good excuse to quit – my unit was across town on another college’s campus, and I couldn’t schedule my spring semester courses around my ROTC commitments, and that combined with my knee injury made me want to leave. But that wasn’t the real reason, honestly. It was that I didn’t want to be discharged for being openly queer.
4. I’m queer and transgender. I knew I was attracted to people of both (all) genders from the time I was 11 years old. I didn’t have the language to say I was trans back then, but I knew when I was five and insisted that I wanted a short boy’s haircut and refused to wear dresses. When my mom transferred me into Catholic School for third grade, I asked the principal if I could wear “the pants” – when she said yes (progressive for the time as I would be the only “girl” at the time wearing pants until at least two years after I graduated 8th grade!), I turned to my mom and said, “Okay, I’ll go.” It wasn’t until I was in college at WPI and met some transmen and heard their stories that I recognized my own experiences and realized there was a word for people like me. It was a long and windy road, but I’m proud of my experiences and being trans is not something I want to hide – I don’t intend to live in stealth (what trans people call it when they’ve transitioned and pass and don’t tell anyone they’re trans – a survival tactic for many folks for many years). However, I do have passing privilege – if you meet me (even if you worked with me for years!), you might not know that I was trans unless you were intimately familiar with the signs of a trans man. In fact, I’ve found it tricky to know how and when to come out to people who I know professionally because being trans just doesn’t come up once you’ve transitioned; it’s when you’re physically and visibly changing that people need to know. After it’s done, it’s not something that usually comes up in every day conversations about teaching math. It’s not like being gay or lesbian, where if you talk about your partner, you can easily out yourself, or even being bi, where you can talk about past partners to indicate multiple genders. My current primary partner (who I’ve lived with for almost 7 years) is a cisgender woman, so if I talk about her, it just reinforces your assumption that I’m a cisgender male. But I’m not, and I think it’s really important for more trans people to be visible as educators – because the truth is there are a LOT of us. I also think about what intersectionality of all of our identities mean and how it is important to me for students to see me as a member of the LGBT community. However, despite that, I’ve found that I’m not sure how to be out with them either (especially in middle school). It’s not something I intentionally hide, but it’s not something I’ve disclosed to my students either. I do wear a rainbow bracelet that I got at Pride about 7 years ago every day, and I think that at least clues them in that I’m not just another straight guy.
5. My favorite random fact (especially following #4) – I went to an all girl’s Catholic high school. I CHOSE to go to a single gender school because I am (and was) a strong feminist. I disliked how the boys and girls were treated differently at my K-8 school, and I disliked how the boys always got chosen for leadership roles. I was a better writer and editor, but I got passed over for editor-in-chief as an 8th grader for a boy who didn’t have a regular column. So I chose to go to an all girl’s school because I figured there, people would have to be selected based on merit, not gender. And I was editor in chief of my high school newspaper my senior year!
6. I’m probably the only kid who’s ever cried at their seeing eye test – because they passed! When I was about 6, I adored my mom and I wanted to be exactly like her. I dressed up as an “editor” one year (her profession), and I carried red pencils and wore glasses like she did. I remember squinting at the letters of the alphabet trying to determine which ones I could “confuse” so that I could fail my seeing eye test and get glasses just like Mommy!
7. My mom infused me with her love of reading. I’m an incredibly fast reader, even to this day. I was doing pre-literacy stages of turning pages and saying the words aloud to Chicken Soup with Rice when I was 2 years old. By the time I was in first grade, I read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe independently (my favorite book at the time). I spent most of first grade bored out of my mind during “Reading” instruction because we used these “readers” with short passages we had to read and then fill in multiple choice bubbles about reading comprehension. I wound up chatting and my teacher stuck me in a corner in the back of the room! Perhaps because of that experience, later in life (when I was more of an independent reader, like fourth grade and up), I was the kid that read a book under the desk throughout class. I honestly don’t remember most of 5th grade because I read books throughout it, and my teacher didn’t stop me!
8. I only spent 3 years in public school before my parents decided I was floundering and I needed a better environment. They switched me to Catholic school in 3rd grade. I flourished in that school and was well prepared for my Catholic high school. I think in some ways because I felt like public school failed me, a white middle-class kid whose parents were college/grad school educated and they were fluent in English, I felt like I needed to ensure that I was changing that system which couldn’t even serve someone with minimal needs like me (let alone students with more needs than I had).
9. Over the years, I fluctuated about what my favorite subject in school was. I often loved ELA because I had some awesome english teachers in middle school and high school. I felt the deepest connections to those teachers because we got to talk about “real life” and relationships the most in those classes. I still remember my all-time favorite ELA teacher, TC from 10th grade. He was the first adult I came out to as trans and queer. In middle school and high school, I had two amazing math teachers, and their teaching styles meshed with my learning style, and it’s because of them that I like and feel confident in my math ability. Even though I enjoyed informal science learning at museums and I was obsessed with Space, I never found science class to be as much fun as ELA and Math (except Physics!). I was also never a fan of the way my social studies classes were taught – too much emphasis on dates and names and abstract concepts (like nationalism or balance of power) and not enough experiences (until college). I hated taking French because I was so horrible at pronounciation that it made me feel incompetent that after three years, I would still butcher words that I had learned in my freshman year. My skills in reading far surpassed my math skills in middle and high school, but I had to develop my formal writing skills in high school (though I always loved creative writing and storytelling). I scored significantly higher on the Verbal SAT than on my Math SAT (750 vs. 680) which was unusual for students entering engineering.
10. Another random snippet: I’ve always hated Peanut butter, even to this day. The smell makes me sick and I can’t stand the taste or the texture. I also dislike most condiments (mustard and mayo), and I only eat ketchup on hot dogs (which I eat once every few years!).
11. I was an incredibly picky eater as a kid. In addition to not eating PB&J (because peanut butter is yucky!), I wouldn’t eat grilled cheese until I was an adult. My favorite deli meat one year was tongue! Another year, I decided I didn’t like any deli meat, so my mom sent me to school with tomato sandwiches! Now, I eat things daily that I insisted I hated for years: things like peppers (who knew there were sweet peppers?!), onions, and various cheeses (though I’m still picky with which ones I’ll eat).
12. When I was at Space Camp, I met someone who was obsessed with Star Wars, and it was then (at age 15 or so) that I discovered my love for Star Wars. After watching all of the movies (at the time, only 4 movies!), I began reading the books in the extended universe. I owned a tremendous amount of Star Wars books, and it wasn’t until I became a teacher (and donated them all to my last school) that I got rid of them. The only reason I felt comfortable doing so is that I replaced them all with digital copies!
13. I have never been into Star Trek, and I never watched any of it except Star Trek Voyager, and only then because the Captain was female and I was space obsessed. I didn’t watch it regularly either.
14. I loved the TV Show Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teenager, and I’ve since discovered a deep love for all things Joss Whedon is involved with (except Marvel). I watched Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, and Serenity. I also loved the Doctor Horrible Sing-A-Long Blog. I have gone to sing-a-longs for both the Buffy Musical episode and Doctor Horrible. I own the soundtrack and both of the DVDs!
15. I am a great big geek and a bit of a nerd too! I love science fiction (Isaac Asimov was my favorite author growing up) and fantasy, both in books and TV/Movies. In college, I attended my first science fiction convention in Boston, MA, and I continued to go to that same one for 11 years! I’ve since been to San Diego Comic Con (where I did cos play as a character from Game of Thrones), New York Comic Con, and some other smaller conventions. I really love geeking out with other geeky people!
16. Probably my favorite aspect of geeky fandom is board games. One of my favorite facts to share with my students is that my partner and I own over 100 board/card/dice games. Most of which they’ve probably never heard of, but now that many of them are sold at target, it’s becoming more common that they have! My favorite game genre is the “Eurogame” with examples like Carcassone and Settlers of Catan at the top. I also enjoy card games like Apples to Apples and Flux. My current favorite games are by Stonemaier games: Viticulture (where you run a vineyard and make wine!) and Euphoria (where you are trying to build a better dystopia!). I have regular board game days with friends where we invite people over and play games. For my 30th birthday party, I invited four of my closest friends and we played six-player board games all day!
17. Despite the fact that I’m a big geek, and I’ve known it for decades, I resisted getting into Harry Potter for years because of all of the hype. It was the summer that the 7th book came out, and my friends were telling me about rereading all of the first 6 books. I told them that I’d never read the book, and they were shocked – and appalled! With my interests, they said, I would be hooked! They gave me the first four books and sent me home to read. I spent all weekend reading and finished all four that first weekend! I was in love! I saw all of the movies, and when I went to Orlando, FL, some years ago, I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – and wanted to move in!
18. I’m a Ravenclaw who really wants to be a Gryffindor. My partner is a Gryffindor who really wants to be a Ravenclaw. We balance each other nicely in that respect!
19. In Catholic school, we had computer class where we learned touch-typing (Mavis Beacon teaches typing!). I remember trying to learn how to touch type, and not doing great for six years (from 3rd through 8th grades!). Then, the summer before high school, my parents bought me my own computer, and in high school, I befriended fellow students on AIM and would have six windows open simultaneously with multiple conversations I had to manage. So I began employing my typing skills, and suddenly I became a proficient touch typist! I can now impress students by looking them in the eye and typing their words accurately onto the screen!
20. I never mark students off for messy handwriting (provided it’s legible enough for me to decipher) because growing up, I had an incredibly hard time writing by hand. While it wasn’t to the degree of dysgraphia, my handwriting is barely legible (perhaps due to learning to print four different times by four different teachers!), and I’ve always thought faster than my ability to hand-write. My mom claims that cursive is the only thing that saved my handwriting from being completely illegible in school, and I recall almost everyone of my in-class assignments or homework assignments had “Could be Neater” written on them, and points deducted. Once I got a computer, my grades jumped because I never lost points for that again! I also realized that the flexibility of being able to “brain dump” and then rearrange ideas and edit is the way I get my thoughts onto the page for complex essays (I usually start in the middle!), and having to redraft and redraft papers was exhausting.
21. I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All, for a character in a Doctor Who episode! We call him Stormy for short, and he’s the best cuddler I’ve ever had for a pet!
22. I love to go camping, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager and I went camping with Sea Cadets (in a city part in NYC!) and at Space Camp’s Aviation Challenge that I discovered this! Neither of my parents were outdoorsy types, so we never went camping. Now, my partner and I try to go camping at least once a summer or so. We went camping in MA this summer, and I had a bunch of fun. My favorite thing is making campfires!
23. I LOVE Broadway musicals. Growing up, my parents tried to take me to as many as they could (roughly once per year). The first one I remember is Les Miserables (in its original NYC run) when I was in middle school. I became obsessed with Eponine and the real story, and I was very proud of reading the unabridged version, all 1242 pages when I was in 8th grade! I read it over three school days! I’ve also seen Wicked twice (my current favorite), Rent, Once, Aida, Oklahoma, Annie Get your Gun, Mama Mia, Man of La Mancha, Jesus Christ Superstar, Nice Work if you can Get it, and many many more. My mom also took me to a lot of community theater, and my high school always put on a musical (and the middle school I used to work at did too!). I probably listened to more soundtracks than any other type of CD growing up.
24. I play guitar and have since I was 12 years old. I took weekly lessons from age 13 until 18, and I did 6 recitals. I learned to play classical guitar with finger picking and folk music with strumming. I own an acoustic guitar, and occasionally, I still play, but it has been years since I learned any new songs. I want to, but it’s not a priority, so I rarely practice – and that’s the only way to learn something new!
25. When I was in engineering school, I took my basic math and science courses first – intro to physics, intro to chem, and calculus 1 – 4. I also took discrete math, linear algebra, and differential equations. My school did 7 week quarters, and our classes met at least 4 times per week (usually for only about 1 – 2 hours). I had homework to do every night, and in retrospect, I realize that I was being expected to learn things too quickly – I need more time to process, more time to practice, and more time to ask questions. We would have problem sets to practice, and during class, they would lecture us about how to solve the problems. Even the help sessions with TAs barely helped me make sense of the math we were doing, and the labs we had to learn MatLab were so rote and boring and disconnected that it didn’t actually teach me ANYTHING! I’d struggled with AP Calculus my senior year of high school, only earning a 3/5 on the AP exam, and limits didn’t really make sense to me at the time. I understood the basics of how to find the derivative and integral, but I didn’t understand sequences and series at all. And my discrete math teacher was so horrible that I actually entered class knowing what the Mod function was from my high school programming course and left class confused about what the mod function was – how did she go an entire two hours without ever mentioning the word remainder?!? My friends helped me through classes a little bit, but my sophomore year, when I was drowning in differential equations class (unaffectionately nicknamed “Diffy Screws”) and my intermediate mechanics course (where we were learning about orbital mechanics and other physics models for aerospace engineering), I felt so lost and confused that I became convinced I wasn’t cut out for engineering! I wasn’t enjoying any of my technical classes. In the first two years of college, my favorite courses had been my philosophy electives and my literature electives! So I took a year off (that’s when I worked at Space Camp!), and decided to transfer to a school that was the diametric opposite.
26. I transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, where I didn’t take another test in the three years I was there (for the rest of my undergrad and my first masters degree). They have a unique system that is awesome (and expensive). Students would “interview” professors the week before every semester began, and ask questions about the syllabus, the types of conference projects we could explore, and the expectations of the seminars. We then entered our top three choices, and the school matched us. They revealed the matches (and sometimes we got bumped from our first choice and had to re-interview with what still had openings). I originally thought that I wanted to be a writer, but realizing that the publishing industry was transforming, my mom (an editor at the time) encouraged me to find a different direction. I started taking a few psychology courses, and my professor recommended that I stay an extra year and earn a Masters in Child Development. I agreed, and it was the best decision I made. I loved my time at SLC, and working at the Early Childhood Center with the 5/6’s K/1 classroom. Our seminars were capped at 15 people (occasionally there was a course with 17!), we met once per week to discuss the weekly readings, and then we’d meet once every other week with our professors (who we called by first names!) to discuss the related independent research project we were conducting. I wrote papers galore those three years, including a research project about the resiliency of astronauts, the having of wonderful ideas by Eleanor Duckworth (something I see quoted in educational research all the time now!), and a short fiction story! At the end of each semester, instead of a grade, I got a paragraph of feedback from my professor, telling me about my progress in their course, my skills and areas of growth, etc. It was a model of education that I don’t think exists at many schools (if anywhere else) in the country, and it was literally the time that I found myself growing the most! I had the opportunity to take a “rocket science” course and I built two model rockets, including a staged rocket (which I’d never been allowed to build before, because they can be unpredictable). Ironically, I found that when I had the time to digest it over the course of a full 15-week semester, I was able to learn the types of orbital mechanics that had befuddled me only a few years earlier!
27. While at SLC, I took a course about science education. It required us to get exposure to real students experiencing science education, and I began volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History. Through my program, I found out about a summer employment program for college students there, and I worked for it for two summers in a row! The first year, I designed tours and gave them to camp groups. The second year, I designed curriculum, taught mini-lessons to the new tour guides, and facilitated sending out camp groups with new tour guides. I wound up continuing my volunteer work there for over two years, and I almost got a full-time job there. But alas, it was 2008, and the Lehman Brothers wasn’t doing well financially, so they withdrew funding, and there went that position!
28. It was because of my interest in “non-profit education” that I stumbled into teaching. I was using those keywords on a career search engine, and I came across a fellowship that seemed too good to be true at first: Math for America (as it was originally called). They would pay me a stipend and they would pay for me to attend one of three colleges (I chose Teachers College at Columbia University) to get my Masters in Teaching. They would support me with a mentor during the first two years of my teaching career, and they would provide me with a stipend in addition to my teachers’ salary during the first four. Plus, they “required” me to attend 10 PD sessions per year – a number I easily began exceeding when I discovered how wonderful the Professional Development was. After I completed my first four years in the classroom, I “re-upped” with my fellowship, upgrading to Master Teacher. I’m now halfway through my Master Teacher Fellowship, and I literally cannot imagine being a teacher without the support network and PD provided by this amazing organization. If you have the opportunity to apply for it, you absolutely should! I won’t lie, it’s incredibly competitive, but very much worth it. I’ve literally watched my teacher practice grow dramatically in direct result from going to the PDs they’ve organized. It’s because of MfA that I became a math teacher, and it’s because of MfA that I’ve stayed a math teacher, and now I can’t imagine not having been a math teacher or being this passionate about the teaching profession. Thank you MfA!
29. I dislike running, but I love to bike (that’s how I got my cardio). I have a really nice Trek bicycle, and I love telling the story of how I got it! My mom’s Church was holding a raffle about 5 years ago, and she called me up and asked if I’d like to buy a ticket for $5. I asked her what the prize was, and she told me first prize was a bike and second prize was a Wii (back when that was still a current system!), and I was very interested in owning a Wii, so I agreed. I wound up forgetting about it entirely until my mom called me one night out of the blue, shouting in excitement, “Kit, Kit, you won the bike! Do you want me to see if I can trade for the Wii?” Since I’d been considering buying a used bike off Craigslist, I said no, I wanted the bike! It was one of those old style schwinn cruisers, and not at all my style. I asked if they had ordered it yet because I was short, and I might need a shorter bike – and the guy who organized it told me that his friend owned a bike shop and they were getting it at cost, so if I didn’t want that bike, I could have ANY bike in the same price range. I asked what price range that was, expecting it to be $200-$300 – more than I’d ever paid for a bike before (I had always gotten Toys-R-Us bikes for $100 – $150 growing up). He told me that the bike cost $700, so I could buy anything in that range! I did some research and test-driving, and I fell in love with my Trek bike. He had it delivered a few weeks later, and I’ve been happily riding it ever since! So for $5, I bought a $700 bike!
30. I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly. When I was 14, I had an opportunity to fly a plane at Space Camp (and I did!) – 30 minutes from Alabama to Tennessee! When I was 16, I went to ground school in Mildenhall, UK, and I learned the basics of piloting. I flew flight simulators at Aviation Challenge. But living in NYC, surrounded by so many airports, it’s hard to learn how to be a private pilot – and too expensive to travel out to Long Island or upstate all the time. So I’ve never had an opportunity to learn how to fly. This summer, for my birthday (but gotten a bit early, so I’d have time to fool around with it), my partner bought me a quadcopter! It doesn’t “do” anything other than fly – it’s a trainer so I can learn how! I was so excited to take it to the park the other day and fly it – and people would stop and watch. It wasn’t easy, let me tell you! I need way more practice before I can really start doing anything. I was just learning to take off, land, turn around, and not crash or get blown away in the wind! It was so much fun, I think this might become a new hobby! I can’t wait until I get a chance to fly again (I need to figure out why one of the rotors wasn’t spinning before I can do that though).
Any facts that we have in common? Any facts that stand out to you or surprise you? Any facts that you want to know more about? Feel free to ask in the comments!