Almost normal 

I always open my classes with “Good morning!” or “How’s it going?” But usually I hear only one or two responses…or just crickets. I’m not sure why I continue to do it. I guess it seems like the polite and natural way to open class. 

Today, though, I walked into my first hour class and told them good morning. I felt like the whole class said “Good morning!” back. Like, in seven years of teaching, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such an enthusiastic response. One kid even said, “It’s a great day to be a Redskin!” (He was being serious, I think–we just won a major game on the road last weekend.) It was precious. I needed that energy first thing in the morning. 

*****

On the first day of school I wrote about how a girl asked me so genuinely how I was doing that day that it choked me up. I made it a point to write to her momma so that she knew what a kind and sincere girl she’s raised. As I was meeting students at my door, I saw this girl walking towards me with a big grin. She scooped me up (I’m smaller than all of them) and told me she started crying when she read the letter. 

I’m pretty sure I had a goal to write a positive letter to at least one parent every week a while back. I think I need to reinstate that goal. 

*****

One of my kids in Intermediate has already asked what errands she can run for me. Today I actually did have some worksheets that needed to be taken to a principal’s office. She did that gladly once her own work was done. When she got back, she asked if there was anything else she could help with. There was a boy in the back that I felt was struggling a bit, but also doesn’t really like to talk to me or anyone else (not in a malicious way…just a keep-to-yourself kind of way). I told the girl that she could see if he needed any help. Part of me was just curious how she would react. The two kids are different: different genders, different races, definitely different volume levels when it comes to speaking. But she didn’t bat an eye. She went right over there and asked if he needed any help. 

*****

It started raining during my last class. I said something about how I usually just walk over to pick Jonas up but that I’d have to figure something else out today. A girl asked how old Jonas is. I said he’ll be seven months tomorrow. 

“Dang, that sucks! Leaving him when he’s so little!”

Not all of them have learned what a filter is…and sometimes that’s kind of nice. Honesty can be refreshing. 

I told her that yes, it does hurt–some days more than others. But that I’m doing what I love, and that’s very important. 

She approved of that answer.😉

*****

Classes are getting easier. Names are coming to me quickly. And each hour is starting to understand how I expect my classroom to run. I am chasing that normalacy that I know does eventually occur; and though I’m not there yet, I’m definitely getting closer…

Integrating Factors and Harry Potter

Calculus II has been a lot of fun lately. (It’s an independent study.) My student is willing to ask questions, and she’s willing to explore with me. She’s ok with me not knowing the answer, and she’s willing to find out together.

Today, we were discussing first order linear equations; you solve them with an integrating factor. I pointed out that you don’t have to add C when you take the antiderivative to find the integrating factor. She paused, cocked her head to the side, and said, “Ok, but why?”

Asking why on its own is enough of a victory – she didn’t just take my word for things, and she wants to understand! But then we worked the problem again adding in a +C, and she saw why it wasn’t needed without me telling her. Plus, it was fun.

*******

The Algebra II teacher last year did an amazing job and was very thorough. So when we got to introducing angles today, they’d seen almost everything before, which was awesome, because if they’re comfortable with angles, we can start reasoning about them and doing trig. We even got to play a card sort/matching game that someone came up with and I blatantly stole. (Sorry, can’t remember who!)

*******

Math club – which is student-led, but I’m the faculty sponsor – met today and took personality type quizzes, then listed them by Harry Potter houses, then looked for trends and asked if it’s what we’d expect. Not super mathy, but awesome thinking. Plus, we got to talk about Harry Potter.

Attune

It’s Friday! We made it a whole week! My gift to myself is a 9 o’clock bedtime tonight…

My co-teacher and I have one of our students from last year again. I was so happy because this student came to class every single day this week. 
“Look at how well you’ve done this week! You came every day!”

“Yes! I will be here every day, ma’am,” she promised. 

“We sure hope so.”

It pained me that she didn’t pass last year, but I’m hoping this year will be a chance for her to prove to herself how well she can do–a year of growth and maturity. 

*****

I was in the bathroom this morning after our faculty meeting, looking in the mirror, and I was inwardly lamenting all the hair I’ve lost since having my baby (obviously worth it, but still). I have an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata (among other things), which basically means my body attacks its own hair follicles. A few years ago I got steroid shots in my scalp several times to fight this disease and was declared to be in remission two years ago. Then I had Jonas and it started to come back. 
Anyway, long story just to say: I was mourning the full curls I used to boast. And feeling somewhat self-conscience. 

Back in the classroom, just moments later, a student was sitting behind me, waiting patiently for her turn for math help. As she was waiting, she commented, “Mrs. Peterson, I just LOVE your hair. I love your curls.”

Oh I could have (and should have)  dropped everything and thrown my arms around her. Instead I just looked her in the eyes, thanked her, and told her that meant so much to me. 

Is there something about kids that makes them more attune to our needs and emotions? Is this something we lose over time? I think about Jonas and how he gets so excited to see me. Every. Time. Even if I’ve been standing there the whole time: if he realizes that I’m there, his face lights up like he just can’t handle it. 
Why do we lose that, I wonder?

That’s something I’ve noticed both in my biological kid and in my school kids–they know how to make me (and each other) feel so valuable. (They know how to do the opposite quite well also, but this is not the space for that.😉 )

I don’t know why adults aren’t as good at this (or at least, I know I’m not). I know I don’t light up every time someone I care about enters the room. I know I don’t compliment to the extent I see some of my students doing so…

But acceptance is the first step to recovery, right? :) 

I love being with these kids. Even on the days/weeks that are exhausting, I do love what I do and being in my “natural habitat,” as Brett calls it. It’s going to be a good year. We’re going to continue to learn so much from each other…

Thoughtless and Thoughtful

This morning, with about 10 minutes left in first period Calculus, one of my students (J) made a comment that I didn’t quite hear. The student in front of him – normally pretty easy going – vehemently and repeatedly told him to shut up, to be quiet, to not say that, to stop talking. I was going to let it go, but with that strong of a response, I had to intervene, especially since J has a tendency to be rude to others.

Me: “J, what did you say?”

J: “I just said that I don’t really see you as a mom. I just don’t see you and little kids.”

Half the class starts yelling at him to shut up, to not say that. The other half is confused.

Last week, on the school retreat, I shared with the girls in my house* during small group time that we’re struggling with infertility. I didn’t ask them to keep it to themselves, and apparently, some of them had shared it with their friends.

I stood there in silence for a moment, not really sure what to say, and decided to just go on. I really had no idea what to say, we had math to do, and there were only 10 minutes left in class.

On Fridays, on their exit tickets, I ask students to tell me one good thing that happened this week. Three of the girls (two of whom are in my house) wrote that I would be a great mom and that any kid would be lucky to have me.

Class ends, they all leave, and 2nd period starts filtering in. A minute later, J steps back in and asks if he can talk to me at lunch.

At lunch, he makes a beeline for me to apologize. He said he didn’t know what was going on, that he’ll be praying for us, and that he realizes that it was just a stupid thing to say in general, even if he didn’t know. (Hooray growth!)

Honestly, J’s comment didn’t bother me that much. I had no idea how to respond, but I know this kid. He shoots his mouth off without thinking, and he was trying to be funny. I ride him hard, and I’m pretty snarky, so all he meant was that he doesn’t see the warm and cuddly side of my personality. He wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings; he just put his foot in his mouth. He was being a 17 year old boy who hasn’t learned when to keep his mouth shut. He was thoughtless, but he wasn’t mean.

The response of my other students, though, was overwhelming. I was fighting back tears for the beginning of second period because of the kindness of those girls who wrote me notes. A student in my 5th period asked me if I was ok and said that she’d been ready to fight him at lunch. She pointed out that the original student who’d told him to shut up looked like he’d been ready to punch him.

I am overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of my students. They stood up for me, they looked out for me, they encouraged me. I felt very, very loved.

*Think Harry Potter, but without the boarding school aspect.

******

Also, my husband had the day off and came up and had lunch with me!

Up and Up

Today was so much better than yesterday. My ELL student made eye contact with me (and I think even nodded her understanding once); the principal of the young lady that’s suspended until January came and talked details of what’s expected of me, which eased my worries; my two Intermediate babies worked all hour (sometimes we need a fresh day, I think); and my massive calculus classes are still massive but seem so excited to learn some calculus. 

After school was out and the baby asleep, Brett and I headed downtown to hear Coldplay. 

Yes, you read that right. COLD FREAKING PLAY. 

They were breathtaking, as expected. 

Many of their songs moved me to tears, but “Up and Up” was especially moving…particularly these lines:

See a pearl form, a diamond in the rough

See a bird soaring high above the flood

It’s in your blood, It’s in your blood

Yes I wanna grow, yes I want to feel

Yes I wanna know, show me how to

Heal it up, heal it up

We’re gonna get it, get it together

I know we’re gonna get it, get it together somehow

We’re gonna get it, get it together and flower

Fixing up a car to drive in it again

When you’re in pain, when you think you’ve had enough

Don’t ever give up

Don’t ever give up
Believe in love

*Drops mic*

Thank you, Chris and friends. You all are poets and prophets. We’re gonna get it together and flower.❤

The Impossible

Today was an overwhelming day. I just can’t seem to catch my breath or get caught up on anything. How am I behind on the third day of school…?

I just don’t know how to be what all these kids need. I truly feel like a first-year teacher again. 

How do I support the student whose friends swear to me that she doesn’t speak English but her ELL teacher swears to me she does so don’t let them translate for her? What do I do for the student I won’t meet until January but–until then–I need to send work home weekly, give feedback, and keep a record of her grades, even though she will not appear in my gradebook? What do I do for the two kids in Intermediate who already have decided that they would rather not work, despite me putting my best foot forward and doing one of my favorite lessons that I spent a decent amount of money to supply? What do I do about calculus classes of thirty-seven and thirty-six students? How do I get to all of those sweet children in one academic hour? How will they possibly get any kind of quality time with their teacher? And without quality time, how can I show them the love they deserve?

These questions and more are flooding my mind. 

I don’t know. I don’t write this to throw a pity party (ok, maybe a little). I write this mostly to show what public educators face daily. Three days of school and already those mountains are looking bigger than ever. 

I know we move those mountains eventually, but right now…I don’t know. 

I do know that one of my sixth hour students has taken the role of “calculator police” very seriously, and it is precious. I told her she was a God-send; she threw two thumbs up and said, “Thank you for that.”

I know that I had calculus students in my room during lunch and after school working on math already and (I think) enjoying it. 

I know four past students texted me today to tell me they were thinking of me. I call that the work of the Holy Spirit, but you may disagree. 

I know we do good things. I know this. But that doesn’t mean the good things aren’t also hard things. 

As Francis of Assisi said (as a previous student reminded me today): “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Day 2

Day 2 is in the books, and I’m happy to report that my legs do not ache nearly as much today and I’m not as exhausted as I was yesterday (which truly is amazing as I forgot to take my thyroid medicine this morning…). 

Strides are being made towards learning those 152 names and faces and stories and personalities. 

(Other things are not going quite as planned. Like the fact that I still haven’t set up my gradebook. I know. I know. It’s shameful. It’s getting done tonight, I swear.)

Today I gave a presentation on counseling offices and transcripts that the counselors took the time to prepare. Once we were done, my calc kids worked on limits collaboratively to see what all they remembered from precalc. And in Intermediate, I brought out folders and markers and stickers and had the kids decorate their folders for the year. 

Yes, some kids think “decorating” means putting their name on the folder. And that’s ok. 

But some kids just ate it up. And it was truly the cutest to watch as they asked each other where to find the sparkly star stickers or to pass the brown Sharpie, please. 

As one kid picked out his folder (green), he gave me a quick bow along with, “Thank you for this, Miss.”

OMG IT’S LITERALLY A TEN CENT FOLDER. 

I wanted to be like, “Have all the folders, kid! Have all the folders you want!”

Another girl was straightening all the stickers towards the end of class. 

“Thanks for doing that, A.”

“Oh, thank YOU for providing all this stuff for us!”

You mean the stickers that have been sitting in a pile on a shelf for years?

Sometimes we bust our butts for these kids and we don’t know if it made any difference. And then sometimes we give them ten cent folders and some stickers and they are so grateful. I live for those moments of gratitude. The moments where my kids realize that their teachers are pouring into them and loving on them just because. Because they’re “our kids.” And we hope that when we love on kids and help them in math and English and science and history and art and music and all the things…that they realize they’re worth it. And that they have a responsibility to pass on that kindness.❤