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Desmos has an Antiderivative Buffet activity that is simply wonderful. Kids have to create a derivative, submit it, and then antiderive their peers’ challenges. Because it’s a Class Gallery activity, you can’t edit it and I was running into some issues when I tested it a couple weeks ago. Let me tell you all, if we didn’t already love Desmos enough, let’s add customer (?) service to our list of adorations. Every issue I ran into was fixed within hours. Incredible.

I gave some restrictions to what the kids could submit so they didn’t all just give me polynomials. They loved it. “This is a great Desmos!” I was tempted to scrap what I had planned for the rest of the hour and just have the kids play all class, but sixty minutes is a long time.

Here are some of the challenges they created (named anonymized):

Since they could see their peers’ names, the best part was when I’d hear, “Bob! You almost got me! That was a good one.”

And with immediate feedback, Mrs. Peterson just sat back and listened to their wonderful math conversations.

*****

One of our amazing counselors emailed last night to say that a former student’s house burned and the family was left with very little that was salvageable. Everyone is safe, but much was still lost. As the Union family always seems to do, everyone has been pulling together to support where they can.

Then today the mom emailed me. She explained about the fire and said that one of the things that was lost was the vinyl decal I made each kid and sent to them via mail this last spring. Her daughter was waiting to put it on her own car. Mom asked if there was any chance I had another.

My throat tightens just typing that. I wanted to write back, “How many do you want? Five? Fifty? Want me to make one for everyone in her dorm building?”

It’s amazing how when people ask for so little our hearts automatically want to give so much more. And when people feel entitled, we (probably rightfully) recoil a bit and tend to want to give less. I think about this a lot—how gratefulness begets generosity.

I digress.

I emailed back and said I would put a new decal in the mail this weekend.

What a joy it is when others allow you to be a part of the reconstruction and restoration. Even if that restoration just looks like a little vinyl sticker.

Worth fighting for

I was being filmed this morning so I started first hour by telling them that this was a big deal to me and that I really needed this video so showcase the interactions we have together and that they have together.

I cannot explain it but I felt the entire atmosphere shift.

The kids gave me this look, collectively, of: “We got you, Mrs. P.”

Got me they did indeed.

They were all but shouting answers faster than I could throw at them.

It was electric.

I was exhausted after one hour, in the best of ways.

I felt surrounded and held. They told me in their actions: You’re worth fighting for.

It’s becoming increasing clear that there’s not a circle I inhabit that everyone agrees on everything. I’m honestly quite proud of that. I’ve never been one to advocate for homogeneous environments. I’m sure it stems from growing up half brown, half white. Diversity was always celebrated in my family, even diversity of thought.

Thus, may we always, always keep telling others: You’re worth fighting for. May the air be electrified by our commitment to one another, even if we don’t see eye to eye. May we hold each other and support one another. May we love with our actions and not only our words…

I couldn’t help it…sorry, I’m still ten apparently.

Celebrate

I received an email from a parent today congratulating me on TOY. She signed off with “Celebrating you…”

As I was reading the email, we were also watching the inauguration video. I looked at the top right corner of the screen: Celebrating America.

I had to catch my breath. This theme of celebration seemed too obvious to ignore.

As my mentor Lisa says: “We are what we celebrate.”

So let’s celebrate more!

May we live lives of celebration and wonder. May we revel in the little and the big, with the wide eyes of a child. May we “rejoice with those who rejoice.” May we pause long enough to recognize the good and the beauty in others and ourselves.

We are what we celebrate. So let’s celebrate the good and let’s celebrate it often.

Quarantines

I had a group of students who were quarantined that got to come back today. I told one of them how impressed I was that he not only kept up with every single assignment but actually got ahead of the class.

“Your setup this year makes it so easy to keep up, even when we have to stay home.”

Another post-quarantined student piped in: “It really does. I was so grateful to be able to keep on pace with everyone.”

I was beaming behind that mask.

Then as I was walking around in another hour, I noticed a student watching a video from a previous lesson. “I just wanted to re-watch to make sure I really understood this concept.”

Flipping nearly every lesson with two preps this year has been exhausting. Anyone who has attempted this knows how much effort goes into making one video lesson with built-in questions.

But I love the new structure of my class. I love that the mechanics can be introduced at home and then we can really solidify and synthesize together. I love that my quarantined students are crystal clear on how to keep up with the content and still get to hear my voice and see my face even when they’re not physically with us.

This year has been a lot of work for teachers, no matter how you slice it.

I’m starting to see the light, though. And I have zero doubt we will emerge from this year with skills we had never before realized we even wanted.

And that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Mic drop

A few years ago, John Chase, a friend I made through the edusphere, collaborated with me on a worksheet idea to relate derivatives and integrals in the context of problems.

The class was working on said worksheet today. The very first question gives p(t), the rate at which you’re throwing potatoes into your friend’s trunk as a prank.

I worked this one with the class as an example and started typing a definite integrals into Desmos.

From the audience: “Ohhhh this is going to give the total number of potatoes in the trunk! That’s actually pretty cool…”

My kids

I worked on a Desmos activity for my Precalc team to use tomorrow to introduce some calc concepts. Our newest team member and my former student asked me some questions about it—deep questions about both the math and the pedagogy. It made me so proud to be her colleague. She asks all the right questions, wrestles with all the right ideas, and works so hard. We are beyond lucky to have her back in our building, on the other side of the desk.

*****

I realized Down Dog had a web version today. Never mind me hiding in the corner and doing yoga during my plan.

*****

Just this text string with a couple previous students, who know how to make me feel me good in 0.2 seconds:

These Personalities

This third grader regularly makes my day. Today she was working on some math software our district purchased for elementary students in virtual learning. It’s been a challenge for her and she has worked hard.

Her personality is huge. I know when she speaks I am going to love it. I am grateful for all of the interactions with my kiddos that go beyond the expected.

Words

A student dropped off a thank you letter for me yesterday that I got to read today. It was possibly one of the most sincere, kind letters I’ve ever received.

I wish I had a copy of it at home so I don’t misquote, but in it he talks about his journey to and in AP Calculus. He had every intention of dropping as calc was his alternate choice, but “some guy” (my principal) convinced him to give me a week. If he still wanted to drop at that point, he could.

The student went on to write that he was convinced after one day that he would stay.

One day.

Day 1.

You all know how much anxiety I have over Day 1. And that’s what convinced him?

He continued to explain that in calc he grew to love asking questions. “The more I asked, the smarter you made me feel. Before, I had always felt dumb for asking questions.” He said now he has no problem asking his professors for help because of the confidence he gained in calc.

Apparently there was a day he was feeling really lonely. He swears I recognized this and asked him how he was doing. I have no memory of this day. But he said he instantly felt connected because of this small encounter.

You all. The awards are nice and sparkly. But the sparkle eventually wears off. A student’s love never wears off. We hold their words of gratitude in our heart for years and commit their encouragement to memory. There is no higher praise.

May your kids shower you with love and encouragement just like you shower them. May we create our own little communities of support. May we have the discernment to know when an extra kind word is needed and the courage to give that word freely.

Finding Control

Last week I tried something new. I did it on Thursday as I was trying to figure out how to offer my third graders a chance to talk about the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. I put everyone in their own breakout room and gave them the power to move so they could join me in the main room, if they wanted to do so. An unexpected result was that some kids loved having a quiet classroom space to work.

Since then, when we have independent work to do, some kiddos will ask if they can have their own breakout room. They communicate with me in the chat or jump to my room if they need some help. It’s such a joy to watch 3rd graders advocate for themselves in this new setting.

Unrelated, but super fun, was our morning meeting today. One piece is share. Every week kids can share one time about anything they want. Today, one girl asked to share and then turned her computer over to her four year old sister. Her sister, with a little help from my student, shared about her Minnie Mouse phone and demonstrated it for us. She even answered questions from the class. It was such fun!

Wandering

I was named my district’s teacher of the year yesterday.

It is so weird to type those words.

Today I was overwhelmed by the support from colleagues, parents, and students. I feel like I’ve been knitting together this community for a decade and now that same community is holding me, lifting me up. I keep thinking of “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” and how lucky I am to be at a place that rejoices with me.

That said…I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. I know the seasons of—“I wonder if it’ll ever happen for me…” both professionally and personally.

The seasons of wandering in the wilderness…

Here’s the thing about the wandering that I was recently reminded of—manna came every day, just enough for that day but enough. And then came deliverance.

In other words, the deliverance is in the one-day-at-a-time faithfulness, not in an award or accolade (as nice as the validation is…).

I’m grateful for the wandering, as much as it sucked. I learned more from those times than any recognition will afford.

Let’s keep wandering—together—one faithful day at a time.