As I’m writing this, it’s been just a couple hours since being back in our classroom for the first time since the lockdown. Being back was eerie. The empty desks. The papers I was going to hand back. The calendar still reading March 13.
The room felt stiff. Like it knew it hadn’t held the life it was designed to hold.
While I’m still grieving how this year ended, I treasure the months we did get. I know this because it’s clear your absence leaves an emptiness not only in our room, but in my heart. I’ve missed you since spring break. And that’s how I know that what we have is something good.
As you know, calculus has two branches: differential and integral (you didn’t think you’d be spared a math lesson, did you?). Maybe this is a sign that I’ve spent too much time on this topic, but I feel like calculus has a lot to teach us beyond mathematics. Let’s start with integral calculus: we use infinitesimally small pieces to calculate the whole. Inch by inch we get closer to the full picture, but we need every little slice to understand the grand view. In differential calculus, at one moment our derivative may be entirely incalculable (the function isn’t differentiable there), but if we skootch over just a smidge, now everything is fine—all computations work and are even fairly quick to compute. In life, sometimes things seem incalculably impossible in one moment, and then we move just a bit—get a different perspective or form some boundaries, perhaps—and the solution is clear. And just like in integral calculus, sometimes it feels like we’re moving at a snail’s pace (along the x-axis, of course!), but never forget that each little slice is needed to form the whole picture. We’re progressing towards our calling, infinitesimal inch by infinitesimal inch. Don’t forget that in all this waiting. We are still moving forward, as slowly as it feels sometimes. You are called to amazing things—each and every one of you. If there’s one lesson I want you to remember from calculus it’s that you need each inconceivably small part to make the whole. Each piece is vital.
People ask me all the time what it’s like to teach high school. And every time I respond, “I love it. It’s the best job in the world.” I’ve thought a lot about why I love teaching so much, and I’ve come to this conclusion: I love it because I love who I am when I’m with you. You bring out the best version of me. I could never teach nor give you as much as you’ve taught and given me. You’ve taught me that every story is significant—that everyone has something to teach us. You’ve taught me to listen more and speak less; you’ve taught me how to give praise abundantly in times of joy; and how to hold sorrow in times of grief. I know I should be the one teaching you those things, but you model it for me. You have changed me for the better. The famous lines from Wicked sum up my feelings perfectly: “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Inch by inch, you help me progress towards my calling.
Friends, may you keep inching forward, even in seasons of waiting. May you do the hard work of searching for who you were created to be and then spend your life being true to that person. May you always choose courage over what’s easy; love over fear; hope over despair; empathy over apathy. May you continue to rejoice for others in their joy and hold your people’s sorrow as if it is your own. May you have the courage to sit with and name your emotions, and may you have the strength to keep fighting.
May you envision the most authentic, most beautiful version of your life…and make it reality. May you live with confidence (literally with fidelity). You have the answers inside yourself. May you always trust you.
Finally, may you know you are loved and valued. May you accept that love and give that love. May you know you are safe, cherished, and wanted. May you experience grace—both to give and to take. May you be connected to yourself and those around you–aware of one another’s needs and willing to both give and receive help. May you live a life full of joy and thanksgiving.
Thank you for letting me share in your journey. Thank you for your hard work and your dedication to Union High School. I love and adore you. If you ever need anything, I’m just a text or an email away. My cell is at the bottom of this letter; store it in your phones. Seniors, I’d love to keep up with you via Instagram (rebecka.peterson) or Facebook, if that’s still a thing you do.
You are always in my heart; you will always belong here. You are the reason I do what I do.
Go light the world, Redskins.
“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.”