Good end

Happy spring break!

I felt like both my courses ended on such a good note today.

At the beginning of the semester, I proposed to my precalc team as well as my principal that we scrap our traditional third quarter test and instead do a full-length (math portions) SAT. Everyone was on-board immediately: most of our precalc kids are juniors and will all be taking the SAT at school next month.

I was dead set on making the kids an appropriate review. “I want it to mirror whatever test we give them,” I said.

After working for about two hours on said review during a PD day with a colleague we finally decided to scrap the notion of making our own.

Instead, the kids spent three days working one full-length test both on their own and together (20-30 min of quiet, individual time; 15 min of collaboration; 15 min of giving answers/taking questions). And then they spent two days taking another full-length test on their own for a grade. We came up with a curve that we felt was fair (no one could make below a 75), and then held our breaths hoping we didn’t just waste five days of instructional time. Actually six: because today we spent the whole day analyzing their results.

Grading them yesterday made me so proud. I was both proud of them for performing so well and proud of us as a team of teachers for carving this time out for our kids.

One of my students said, “Talking these through on the practice days really helped me. I jumped 100 points from my PSAT.” (What.)

Another: “This is so helpful.”

And yet another: “Will we do this again next quarter??”

So. Validating.

Our crazy ideas don’t always work. But when they do—watch out…because there’s usually more where that came from.

*****

My calc kids will be taking a review quiz every Friday from here basically until the AP Exam. Every year, this means no more One Good Thing Fridays. I didn’t feel that was acceptable this year, so I took a cue from Greta and made it a quiz question.

I’ve never read my kids’ OGT before. Most had to do with spring break (rightfully so). Some were deeply personal and genuine. And some made me laugh out loud (Reason Number 4829 why I can never stop working with teenagers).

Love wins

A student made a really big decision for herself this week and asked that I be a part of it. I rallied a principal and counselor to help me.

Her story isn’t mine to share, but I can tell you that the young lady who walked into the office was not the same as the one who walked out. She shed about a thousand pounds of weight she had been carrying for years. She said she felt so light that she got dizzy.

I looked her in the eyes today and said she was my hero.

And we both sobbed.

And we held each other.

When our kids make brave, sacrificial choices I think we all stand a little taller. Their confidence seeps into us like osmosis and we, too, feel we can conquer the world. At least in that moment. When they say, “Enough is enough,” and they stand up for themselves and for all we’ve fought for them to have—we can’t help but feel that courage rise in us too.

This took a village, I should add. A principal found us a place to meet. A counselor opened his office. Another principal covered my class for an hour.

But we changed a life today. I’m certain of that.

As I walked the child to her next class she said something like, “You’re just my calculus teacher. You don’t have to care this much.”

Calculus is just the opening act, Darling. Love is the main event.

And Love wins.

Love always wins.

Fight

Today was our Mr./Miss Union assembly, where we crown one senior female and one senior male as, essentially, being the pinnacle of a Union Redskin.

I have mixed emotions about this ceremony. The optimist in me loves that we celebrate our top students. Not once, in my eight years at this school, have I seen a student on that stage that wasn’t phenomenal in every aspect of the word. I love that they hear the message: “We are so crazy proud of you.”

The pessimist in me wonders what all the other kids think of this assembly. Especially when I hear comments afterwards that make it clear others are at best jealous, at worst hurt. I always notice the lack of diversity on that stage—even though our campus’s greatest strength is all its colors and backgrounds and cultures.

As I waited for the program to begin, I wondered what it’s like to have a brain that doesn’t make everything an internal struggle. Really truly. Why do I have to make everything so difficult? Why can’t I just accept things as-is and move on? Why must I fight?

And then I was snapped backed into reality when our Mr. Union 2016 was introduced as our guest speaker. Chris was and remains one of mine. I had the honor of having him for two years and now he’s headed to medical school to become a pediatric oncologist—the same dream he’s had since I met him six years ago.

You know what Chris talked to us about?

Fighting.

Chris quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Fight where you’re at—Chris told us.

It might not be easy. You might fail. “I hope you fail,” were his words, actually.

Ouch.

But keep fighting.

Oh, how my soul needed those words.

Chris left the stage,and the ceremony started and ended. It was beautiful; I teared up more than once listening to students talk about their friends in a way that was so honest and so real.

As with all assemblies, I had a clear exit strategy for the moment we were dismissed (hi, hello, yes still you’re favorite introvert over here).

I was back up to my room (across campus and on a separate floor) before most of the performance hall had even cleared out, despite my unfortunate assigned seat which was nowhere near a desirable exit.

As I was congratulating myself on a job well done getting back to my room so quickly, I looked up—to see Chris.

We hugged and chatted quickly before he had to dash back to meetings and I had to start class again.

But what a joy.

I’m just a little calculus teacher.

But it’s my kids who remind me: keep fighting the fight. It’s my kids who remind me: we see you. We see you fighting for us.

I’ll fight for them forever.

Encouragers

I read my kids’ letters to their fourth grade pen pals today. The care and kindness some of my students show consistently is so overwhelming to me. The fourth graders have a play they’re getting ready for. In their letters, several of my students talked about how excited they were to come see the play and even more excited to finally meet their young friend. It was so encouraging for me to read. To see my students step into this role of mentor has been such a gift. Sure, some take it more seriously than others. But in general, I’ve loved seeing this side of them.

I love watching them grow as encouragers.

What more could we want from our kids…

Reversal

A student I’ve had for the last two years told me today that she and her peers have grown accustomed to their birthday candy and birthday cards, and she’s not sure how they’ll handle it next year.

“I’ve kept my birthday cards from both years,” she said.

I can’t explain how sacred the space between us felt in that moment.

When we say, “What you did lifted me up,” we anoint both the work and the relationship as holy. We say, “Your fight is seen and is important to me because you belong to me.”

And so the tables flip: the one who was doing the lifting and the pouring is now the one being lifted and being poured into.

It’s upside down.

It’s the great reversal.

It’s one of the most humbling and rewarding parts of working with students.

And our world needs more of it.

Prayer

Tonight I’m grateful for this email from a parent. I’m clinging to their prayer over me…

Mrs.Peterson,
We appreciate your email and we are beyond grateful for the time you have spent with them this year and the time you have taken to teach the necessary skills that they will need to ensure a successful future! We are truly grateful to you and all the teachers at Union.
God bless you and may he keep using your talents and abilities to impact all the students you come in contact with. Have a great weekend!

When a family sees all we try to do as a district and then says, “We see you, and we’re grateful…” my hear overflows…

Clothesline Math Again

We did it today! We did the clothesline math about linear measurement that I had made. We had some great conversations about how big things would actually be. 3 centimeters is still pretty darn tiny. We connected 12 inches to a foot and 3 feet to a yard. We read some measurements on rulers. It went well, especially for a Friday afternoon after recess!