Transgender & Gender Nonconforming Students

Subtitle: a 15-minute primer for educators.


cisgender & transgender: Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity”[1]. Transgender people experience a mismatch between their gender identity or gender expression and their assigned sex [2].

gender nonconforming: “refers to people who do not follow other people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth” [3]. I am a gender nonconforming woman.

genderfluid, & genderqueer: This is the gender identity for people with a non-binary experience [4]. Miley Cyrus identifies as gender fluid, for example.

FTM & MTF: Abbreviations used by some trans people, meaning “female to male” and “male to female”.

Areas That Require Thought

  • Gender segregated spaces such as rest rooms and locker rooms, but also including graduation, homeroom, and health education.
  • Policy and records includes all the legal areas related to a student’s school life. This includes the name on official transcripts. Check out the GLSEN webinar below to learn several areas NOT in official policy, including yearbooks and class rosters.

source: GLSEN’s webinar on Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students





What’s the Job You Didn’t Get?

If I hadn’t become a teacher, I would’ve liked to be a human-computer interaction (HCI) engineer. What would you have done if you hadn’t done what you do?

HCI isn’t too far from what I do for a living now — I think about how someone will come at a problem and predict how they might interact with it, then guide them along to a solution.

h/t to Colleague Eliot for the idea, computer scientist-slash-teacher who would’ve been an economist. Leave yours in the comments.

Chalkline with Megan Hayes-Golding.

Tales from the Chalkline
A podcast on social justice in the classroom, hosted by Anne Schwartz

So I was going about minding my own business last week, vaguely aware of a conversation about podcasts & social justice in the classroom. Anne, a woman of action jumped on the idea and got one started. I think it fills a niche in the community and look forward to hearing all the episodes.

Anne and I talked about my LGBTQA advocacy in and out of my classroom. She did a fabulous job, especially in asking amazing questions.

My favorite, among many great questions: What are you good at?

a brand new line.

Alright Friends, Here we go!  This week I talk to Megan Hayes-Golding!

Episode 1

This week’s syllabus:

To Read: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christoper Emdin

To Listen: the get. With Ivy and Rhiana

To Watch: The West Wing for no reason other than because always.

Additions from Megan:

Stonewall Activity Whitewashing Activity Video

Person Megan Thinks everyone should follow: Frank Noschese

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Class Observations Quantified

Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) is an instructor observation protocol that logs how much time students and instructors are spending on different types of work in a classroom. I gave it a quick 15 minute review this morning.

The observer logs what students are doing (listening, answering instructor question, individual thinking, worksheet group work, etc) and what instructors are doing (lecturing, moving through classroom, 1 on 1 instruction, administration, etc). The protocol’s developers have distributed an easy-to-use tally sheet for logging data.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.12.14 AM

A portion of the observation data sheet used by an observer using COPUS.

At the end of data collection/observation, you have quantified data for how the class, instructor included, spent their time. The result is a pie chart like so:


Andy followed up to say there’s now a web app that creates the graphs for you!

h/t Andy Rundquist

Automating Greenhouse Irrigation

We’re installing robotic sprinklers in the school’s greenhouse! And this post details the project to date.

Step 1: What physics can we do in the greenhouse?

Last spring, when our garden manager Emily approached me about creating a project that brought together her garden and my physics classes, I was interested.

“What does the greenhouse need?” I asked Emily.

She rattled off a few ideas, including improved irrigation. I didn’t see an obvious connection until I started poking around the Arduino world. Automated irrigation, managed by the inexpensive microcontroller, is a popular thing these days.

As the project started to take shape in my mind, I imagined kids learning about electrical resistivity. We’d experiment with some of the ways the soil can vary resistivity, including the geometry of the sample and the water content. I grabbed a soil sample and a multimeter. In my mind, we were going to see a clear relationship between the variables of distance between the probes or moisture content and resistance. Instead, the readings were all over the map. Oh no!

Step 2: Find one physics principle to hang your project on.

I thought we were sunk after that one test with the soil sample. I needed some good news, and soon (it was about a month before the planned kickoff date). To be completely honest, this was the low point of the planning process.

When I started researching the project, I’d started off looking at the Soil Moisture Sensor sold by SparkFun. From there, I found Vegetronix sensors and control boards.

My much-needed good news came in the form of Tim at Vegetronix in his Techno Gardener video:

What I saw was an easy lab experiment where we could vary water content of soil and measure different voltage outputs. That’s all I needed to go forward.

In terms of a physics principle, we talked about resistance in class, even completing a light bulb lab meant to explain series and parallel connections. I explained that some soil moisture sensors measure resistance/resistivity. Our sensor, however, measures something called the dielectric constant, which is beyond the scope of this class. Yeah, it was a little hand-wavey. Still, the electric circuits needed to connect the sensors to their control boards and to the solenoid sprinkler valve are relevant.

Step 3: Kickoff the project with enthusiasm.

I brought greenhouse manager Emily in to classes to introduce the project. She explained to the kids that they’d form a company to build an irrigation system for her as a client. She explained that she and Joey, the garden managers, must water everything inside the greenhouse approximately every other day.

Emily brought in James from our facilities department to teach the kids about how our campus draws water from an underground aquifer to irrigate all the green spaces on campus. She also brought in Joey, the garden manager, to teach kids about plant types that we grow in the greenhouse as well as about the raised beds we’ll be installing into.



5th Period, James, Emily, and Joey.



James shows 5th period the 500 gallon cistern installed in the greenhouse that is our sole source of water through the winter.

From here, I encouraged the kids to choose a role they want to fill within the “company”. They could choose to be electricians, plumbers, or technical writers. My teams aren’t even, which is ok with me. Every kid has a job they chose, which was the important part.

Step 4: Concoct a lab for kids to learn about the sensor.

In classic one-sentence lab form, I asked the kids, “How does the moisture sensor indicate soil moisture to us?”

Job roles became useful at this point — I taught just the electricians how to hook up the sensors to a multimeter (their first time using either). After showing them on one lab station, I sent the electricians out to set up the other lab stations, referencing mine as a working example.

Meanwhile, the tech writers and plumbers did internet research aimed at several questions I anticipated them having:

  • How do we wire up a moisture sensor?
  • What’s the sensor’s output? ____ to _____ volts, which correlates to ____ to _____ amount of soil moisture.
  • How does the sensor work? hint: see
  • If you wire the probe incorrectly, what’s the output look like?
  • Can wiring the probe incorrectly damage it?
  • What other ways are gardeners automating their watering? (like, what about low tech options?)
  • How would you describe the moisture level in soil? Is there some industry standard way of doing this?

We did the lab in lab groups, which are made up of several different job titles.

One aspect I loved when kids did the sensor lab in class was how they had to figure out a smart way to describe moisture content. Kids quickly realized that it was insufficient to note how many milliliters of water they added to their differently-sized soil samples.

Next Steps: Rubrics & time to work.

So here we are, Thanksgiving vacation, and I’ve just started the project with the kids. My next tasks are to finish off documenting what I expect from the kids in term of work products plus the rubrics I’ll assess them with.

We have about five class days remaining dedicated to installing and documenting the project.

I have no idea how (or if) this project is going to turn out. We’re into it for about $600 in materials and about two weeks total of my class’ time. At worst, we had that one lab where we learned about multimeters, voltages, and sensors. My fingers are crossed that this project turns out better than “at worst”.


A Daily Digital Diary: Accessible Short-Form Blogging

Based on a talk given at the GISA Conference on Nov. 2, 2015.

I post a picture and 2-3 sentences every day from my classes. There are several benefits of this practice I think you might appreciate: 1) I reflect daily on how class went, 2) my teacher portfolio practically builds itself, and 3) I get feedback from teachers around the world.

Join the #teach180 movement by posting a photo a day from your classroom. The easiest way is to Tweet your picture with the #teach180 hashtag. My talk outlines several other methods, too, including Instagram and traditional blogging platforms.

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How do you start? Two simple steps:

  1. take a photo of something interesting happening in your classroom
  2. share the photo
  3. repeat as often as you like

When I told them I was giving this talk, several #teach180 bloggers shared their reasons for using this format:

  • “Writing is hard. Submitting a photo with a tweet is something I can actually do.” –Paul Martenis, @Mr_Martenis
  • “A full length blog is overwhelming to me. I can commit to 140 characters.” –Sheila Orr, @mrssheilaorr
  • “180 blogging gives me something easy to focus on – a full-length blog feels (to me) like it needs to be deep and insightful whereas a 180 blog could easily be a photo and 5 sentences (and often evolves into more). It feels more consistent, too.” –Nicholas Chan, @sergtpeppa
  • “[It’s] easier to post & follow, less time commitment” –Ben Wildeboer, @WillyB
  • “[Daily photos] give me a nice summary of the school year. I often refer to photo collections from previous years to verify pacing or other kinds of special events.” –Jonathan Claydon, @rawrdimus
  • “[The 180 blog is a] snapshot of a day, vs in depth. Much easier to maintain, and interesting to compare year to year where I am in my curriculum.” –Heather Waterman, @watermanphysics

Also, what kind of teachers would we be if we didn’t offer advice on joining us? Here are tips to help you get started and stay with it:

  • “Post length is a killer. Keep it short and sweet. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right?” — Frank Noschese, @fnoschese
  • “I’d advise to not worry about missing days (or weeks). Don’t try to catch up, just jump back in where you are.” — Ben Wildeboer, @WillyB

  • “Really it’s just working on forming a habit. I carry my phone around with me and it’s been the easiest way to remember to take a picture on a regular basis. It also encourages me to have a classroom that has a lot of picture worthy moments. 180 days of worksheets is no fun.” –Jonathan Claydon, @rawrdimus

  • “Get your students in on the action by publishing their user-submitted photos.” –Me

  • “Be open to sharing not just learning tasks. Also include school culture, funny students, etc.” –Frank Noschese, @fnoschese

  • “Workflow: Take photo with smartphone, share photo to WordPress media library (not “new post”), write actual post on a computer. Have backup photos for those days you forget to take a picture or when it’s a quiz day.” –Frank Noschese, @fnoschese

Will you join us? Add yourself to the #teach180 Google Form (view the participating blogs here).