Whirlwind of Emotions

It’s Homecoming week and I am dying but Rebecka keeps me from giving up!

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A boy brought me Burger King breakfast this morning…we live 25-30 minutes from a Burger King in any direction. 😭

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Our centerpiece for our Homecoming stage decorations fell apart at the end of school. Instead of cheerleading practice, my squad helped me put it together and finish up the stage.

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In two separate occasions today, my superintendent really went to bat for me today and had my back. That felt really nice to lay those burdens at someone else’s feet.

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At the beginning of the week I was feeling a little discouraged at how many students were dressing up for Spirit Week. We’re doing a lip sync battle for the first time ever and the kids are really getting into it. They’ve been having whole class practices at peoples houses and in empty classrooms and banners are involved too? At least two grades collected money and had shirts made for their whole class. I ❤️ school spirit.

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We do adult secret Santa’s at school and today somebody put a Pepsi in my box. Our vending machine has only Coke products so it was extra nice.

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I didn’t realize how building sets and decorating puts your relationship with students in a different setting and cements you together in a new way.

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The number one person I dreaded having strong opinions and hating everything was quite pleasant today, did whatever I asked, and had no negativity to add.

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Some boys that aren’t even in Student Council offered to help and were helpful multiple times today.

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I pointed out how a lot of the male students aren’t great at having conversations with me as an actual human and one boy is determined to prove me wrong. Whenever he sees me he asks me a random question, even if that means shouting it all the way down the hall. Today he asked my favorite redbox movie…like, how do you even answer that? 😂

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A student that I am super close to was really stubborn and unhelpful today and I really took it personally. I was short with her and she knew I was upset. I asked other teachers if I should apologize but they agreed she was in the wrong. When she tried to complain to my teacher bestie, she really put her in her place to the point she came crying to me to apologize and I couldn’t even hear her out or I would have bawled too.

What an honor to do real life with kids I’m so close to and invested in. It gets messy but that’s what makes it meaningful. It’s not pretty and perfect, because we aren’t pretty and perfect, but it’s real and growing and evolving.

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Combined effort

Before I even got to my room this morning, I walked by two of my calculus students quizzing each other on their AP Sets (past FRQs that appear verbatim on their unit tests).

It was music to my ears, and I told them so.

As I graded the tests today, it was clear these two girls were not the only ones who studied their AP Sets.

The tests were beautiful. A handful of C’s; the rest were A’s and B’s. And to think yesterday I was fearful I had made the test too hard and too long…

This is a really big win for us because I’ve been nagging the kids all year about ways to study and learn these problems. (I would even say things like, “I was a really good student! Use my study tips–they work!”) Additionally, this year I revamped how I quiz kids on the Sets prior to test day, which I feel is also really helping them (at least for their unit tests…we’ll see if it helps for the AP Exam).

All this to say, I feel that these amazing test scores (on a test that covered some of the hardest material we see all year) is the fruit of hard work on both my part and my students’ parts. And I’m really proud of all of us. 🙂

CandyLand 🍭

We played some CandyLand today in calc as a review for tomorrow’s test! The kids got competitive, which is always a good thing, and I think most of them enjoyed themselves.

I put the game board on the SMART Board:

Each group got a different colored star to move around the path. Each time they answered a question correctly, I gave them a card from the actual game. Any team who made it to the castle before the hour was up got candy.

Queen T Returns

Four years ago, I started my journey into teaching Intermediate Algebra. I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into, but I knew I wanted to give it a try.

Prior to this, I had only wanted to teach advanced math classes. I had gone to college originally to be a math professor (I have a Masters in Advanced Calculus), and I felt I best related to the “high kids.”

I’m embarrassed seeing that typed out in plain sight.

Regardless, in those four years, I’ve been incredibly privileged to get to co-teach the class with the same person every year. Together, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned exactly when we need to change seating charts; we’ve learned when to push students mathematically, and when to sit back and have a catch up day; we’ve learned how to keep kids accountable for their work; we’ve learned that the math content is secondary to helping these kids feel competent and successful.

We’ve learned more than the kids have, as usual.

But that first class–four years ago–they will always have our hearts. They were our guinea pigs. They challenged us many a time…but in the end, we loved each other dearly.

Today, something happened that’s never happened before.

One of those students from four years ago came back to visit us.

She walked in my room during lunch and I squealed! I gave her a hug and immediately called my co-teacher.

“Are you in your office? Come here. The queen herself is here!”

She knew exactly to whom I referred.

Four years ago, Queen T was diagnosed with a very serious medical condition. I scoured my past posts to find what I had written about it. I finally found it here. And here is the book our kids made for Queen T:

Now, Queen T is in Texas, studying to be (drumroll, please) a nurse.

We were thrilled to see her, to hug her neck, to be reminded of what she triumphed over.

I love every single visit from every past student.

But this particular visit was so unexpected and so incredibly dear to my heart.

Less helpful

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to today. Due to missing a day and having lots of absences last week, I postponed some calc homework, which meant I would spend those hours grading notebooks so I could give the notebooks back before the end of the hour. Usually I grade these on quiz days, but that wasn’t possible this time around.

I really wasn’t sure that the kids could handle a work day where I sat at my desk grading instead of walking around. I also was sad that I’d be grading instead of answering questions because who really prefers the former??

First hour exhausted me before class even started. The students who had missed the last two school days (10 out of 31 kids) had–for the most part–clearly not kept up. I was certain this work day was about to spiral down real fast.

I was totally wrong.

It was the quietest work day I think I have ever seen in a calc class…ever.

I graded and they worked.

For three different classes.

I only had to get on to them a handful times, which is a miracle, let me tell you.

I’ve always been very adamant about walking around and making sure that the students know that I want to help by constantly making myself available. I don’t think it’s the students’ job to come to me. In fact, I think a huge swath of kids will never approach a teacher unless she comes to them first.

That said, sometimes it’s better to “be less helpful.” To stand back a bit. To let kids struggle and learn to seek answers from a source other than myself.

Today was a really good reminder that they can do that. And need to do that. And that they can actually do just fine without me, which is the ultimate goal of all this. ❤

Holiday bliss

Our fine arts department put on another beautiful holiday assembly this year. I love this tradition of ours. Our various instrumental and vocal ensembles perform holiday music (the best kind of music, if you ask me) and our drama kids emcee and perform a number as well. At the end, our senior class principal reads a Christmas book in her pajamas to over 3300 kids plus faculty, split into two assemblies.

It’s the actual cutest.

Some of my kids in first hour were super stressed today so I reminded them that they had the assembly to perk them up in a couple hours.

“You always have the silver lining, Mrs. Peterson.”

Not always–but it’s something I’m working on and I’m thrilled that it’s coming across.

To join in the festivities I found the perfect light-up snowman sweater and donned my reindeer earrings.

Jonas was kind enough to pose with me:

When he and I got home, there was a surprise gift waiting for him. It was an awesome magnetic countdown calendar which he’s already obsessed with…and it came from a past student.

Whatever I gave to these kids as students pales in comparison to what they’ve given me: joy, love, and friendship.

They will forever have my heart.

My smarty pants

My calc kids really impressed me with their insights and enthusiasm today.

I offered extra credit for the kids who played Friday Games with me this quarter; however many could not participate. I felt it unfair that not everyone got a chance to earn the extra points. So, today I gave them this:

Very vague. Very loosey-goosey. But they seemed thankful for he opportunity.

One student asked if he could present on calculus we haven’t covered.

I mean, twist my arm…

Have I mentioned recently how great these kids are? Because they’re pretty amazing.

*****

We went over derivatives of inverse trig functions today–you know, everyone’s fave. I have my kids “discover” the formulas by matching the graphs of f to the graphs of f’. Then I lead them to the formulas in their book to double check themselves. Looks something like this:

In all three classes, when we talked about graph B and how its slopes tend to zero which means the derivative graph’s y-values will tend to zero, I got many oooh’s and ahhh’s.

Always makes you feel good.

Speaking of inverse trig functions, I’ve always just kind of ho-hummed around the issue. Like, “If you want to be perfect angels, you can memorize these, but they’re typically just one problem on the AP Exam.”

But…they’re usually an easy problem.

And sometimes all you need is one more problem to go from a 4 to a 5, let’s say.

So I researched ways to help the kids memorize these rules. I’m not always the best at coming up with the cutesy mnemonics so I had to go searching. But the tips seemed to really help the kids because it appeared they had all six rules memorized by the time class was over.

*****

One girl was finishing some related rates homework. We were looking at a problem involving coffee flowing from a coffee pot into a mug.

I mentioned that we can plug in the value of the radius before differentiating as that value is constant.

“Oh. I’ve just been setting its derivative to zero, you know, since it’s constant.”

HEART SWELL.

“Yes! That works too! Way to go!”

“I wasn’t sure if it would work at first but then I graphed it and I was like, ‘Oh duh.'”

HEART SWELL AGAIN.

We are learning, friends! We are learning really deep stuff here.