Long Day

Yesterday, the last day of school before Thanksgiving, I had two IEP meetings. That was a tad overwhelming to consider in the morning. However, the exact opposite of my expectations seemed to happen. The meetings actually lifted my day. Both meetings involved parents who advocated for their child.

I may not have agreed with every decision we made as a team and I may not have agreed with everything the families wanted or thought was best. That’s okay. That’s why we work as a team. We all bring different expertise to the table to make the best possible plan for the child.

I am immensely grateful to work with families who care so much for their children and will do whatever they can to make sure their children have what they need.

Only Two Days

I’ve hit a level of exhaustion I don’t remember hitting before. Im sure when I was pregnant or when my kids were small, this happened, but I don’t remember it. It’s not good because it means I am not as patient as I normally am. I’m not as kind and caring. I’m tired.

Fortunately, there’s only today and tomorrow and then we have a long weekend. We’re not doing any major traveling so I’m counting on both some time to get things done and some time to relax, sleep, and read. I can’t wait.

Freshening Up

I’ve been meaning to write from last week and not managing to find the brain space to do it. I teach in an absurdly large district (the 11th or 12th largest in the country) and there is always a lot going on. Last week a paint crew showed up at our school to paint classrooms. Somehow no one had been informed so it was a surprise to each of us as they showed up to do our rooms.

When I first heard from a teammate that this was happening, I reached out to the office to find out when to expect them in my room. At that point, the office staff didn’t know the plan. When they were able to get the information, I was scheduled for the next day, a day I was going to be out of the building for a meeting. I asked the paint crew if they could delay for a day and they quickly and generously said yes.

At dismissal the day the painting was scheduled, I spent 30-45 minutes moving things and taking things down off the walls. The paint crew did a lot of the moving of larger pieces of furniture. Then I left and got out of their way.

The next morning I spent more than an hour putting everything back to rights. So for a day it was a royal pain. Now it looks fabulous and some things got reorganized, which was a nice bonus.

Thank you notes

My students wrote thank you notes today at the start of class, as their Friday One Good Thing discipline this week.

I gave them the option of delivering the note themselves or I could deliver if they chose to write to a Union teacher.

Hearing from teachers today that those notes made their week was amazing. I was so proud of my students for naming and sharing their gratitude. I pray those notes continue to speak life into those who receive them.

May we continue to turn our eyes to that which is good and true. May we always take the time to name our gratitude.

Happy, happy thanksgiving! Time to rest.

Thanksgiving Dinner

A colleague shared this Thanksgiving brainteaser that I displayed on the board when the kids came into class today. I also had the corresponding chart in dry erase sleeves at each table:

Before the bell even rang, kids were at work trying to solve it in their groups, which any teacher knows is the greatest feeling (whadayaknow they do read the board when they enter).

I love the sound of kids collaborating, working together to solve a problem.

Doing riddles like this always reminds me that we all have such different kinds of intelligences. Those who are great at calculus are not always the ones that shine at other kinds of problems. I think it’s important that we as teachers show various kinds of problems so that our students grow to value all voices and see that we need all kinds of thinkers at the table.

On another note, something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is that I almost always have something for the kids to do when they enter. “Get a calculator.” “Do this warm up.” “Turn in your corrections.”

I don’t think that’s inherently bad. But I do think maybe easing up on the constant commands (especially right when they walk in) is not such a bad idea.

Reversals

It’s the season of thank you cards at my school, and today I received two kind notes that filled my tank as we go into the last two days before break…

I came into this year nervous because of my precious experiences with math classes—going in every day with confusion and embarrassment. But I am very happy to say I walk into your class feeling comfortable, knowing I have a teacher who wants me to succeed in calculus.

I hear all the time: “It only takes one bad math experience for kids to hate math.”

Well, here’s the good news: one good math experience has the power to reverse that.

Girls

A student remarked about how time was going fast until we hit this week, the week before our long-awaited Thanksgiving break.

“Remember what calculus teaches us: things change slowest at peaks and valleys,” everyone’s favorite know-it-all (me) said.

“Yeah…I’m definitely getting close to my zero derivative…” she replied.

Now if that’s not a real-world application, for you…

*****

During Baking Club today (!!!), one of my students was telling me how much she loved the lesson on how viruses spread and what concavity and inflection points have to do with it. She said she went home and told her relative who works for the CDC that she understood the graphs from the news and what calculus has to do with it all.

I tried to remain cool and calm on the outside.

On the inside:

*****

Our lesson today was on derivatives of inverse functions. I was showing them the patterns between the slope of the original function and the inverse function and how you just need to take the reciprocal. I said something like, “Maybe it’s not so shocking though, since dy/dx on the original…”

“Becomes dx/dy on the inverse…” a quiet girl finished my sentence. And then she brought her hands to her head and made an exploding motion, signaling mind blown.

“I know, right?!” I offered my agreement. My mind is still blown at the beauty of calculus and I hope always will be.

*****

I loved numbers and patterns from a very young age.

Later, that love affair grew to include graphs.

And then eventually theorems and proofs.

I’ve always loved pure mathematics. I have a deep appreciation for applied math, of course; but I don’t need math to be applied (or even useful) to be intriguing, if I’m being brutally honest. I know that’s probably not the the right thing to say as an educator. But I love math for math.

But when I was a junior in high school, the president of Harvard said girls’ brains are simply wired differently and that’s why we’re less successful in math and science.

The president of Harvard.

And the thing is—that statement at that time was not an uncommon belief to hold.

Sometimes I wondered if that belief had some merit. If maybe I wasn’t as capable as my male counterparts. Or worse, if I was, was something wrong with me?

Of course now I believe we need all voices and brains at the table if we’re going to solve problems.

And so when these young women show interest and mastery in math…I can’t help but see myself all those years ago.

And now, on the other side of the podium, it is my mission that they always know their worth, their voice.

We need all kinds of thinkers to solve today’s problems.

Building on the Positives

I haven’t written in a while because things have been so busy and exhausting that I haven’t been able to push myself to take a few minutes here. And I’ve missed it. I’ve thought about what I’d write, so I guess it’s still a net positive.

Today two of my third graders who’ve had some fought times recently had a pretty good day. And, even better, I paused at the end of the day to talk with both of them, one-on-one, about what had been good in their day.

We ended the first day of the week reflecting on the positives. It felt good and it felt hopeful.

Ninja

As I was handing out tests today, I almost tripped over a backpack. (It’s harder to see your surroundings while looking down at tests and wearing a mask. Can I get an Amen?)

“Dude! Mrs. P almost tripped over your backpack!!”

“Don’t worry. She’s like a ninja.”

“She’s like an INJIN?!!!!”

“No! A NINJA.”

Welcome to the first two minutes of class.

My son will be so proud.

*****

I’d like to note that this unit’s test last year was very hand-wavey because we had just transitioned to distance learning. The next unit test was a hot mess as well for the same reason.

I know our kids have a lot of gaps in their learning from the last two years. But, looking back at all my notes from this time last year…I am so happy to be in-person right now.

The best sounds

I don’t know if it was the mindfulness or the upcoming test or the fact that my voice dropped two octaves overnight due to some weird cold, but the cherubs were totally calm and engaged all hour, every hour.

I love the days I get to walk around and hear kids explain calculus to each other all hour. You can just hear the pride in their voices and there are not many sweeter sounds to my ears. In my bigger classes, they even got up out of their chairs, grabbed a dry erase marker, and started teaching their friends using the whiteboard tables.

I’m so lucky I get to be their teacher.

Now if I could just get my (actually my son’s) cat to exhibit this same sense of calm.

I wonder if kitty mindfulness is a thing…