Listen

Today was one of those very weird but very good days. Our seniors were gone for a college and career seminar, which meant I had anywhere from 5-10 juniors left in each hour, who were on their own adjusted bell schedule in order to complete a career action plan.

Thirty minutes with first and second periods, two hours with third period, and an hour with fourth and fifth periods.

Like I said: weird day.

So after a quick notebook check, obviously we busted out the board games. We played games and chatted. Through some miracle, I had only juniors sign up for their intro meetings today, even though I asked them to sign up long before they knew seniors wouldn’t be here today.

As I was talking to one of them, I said, “How did we go a whole year and I didn’t know this about you?”

“Well we didn’t do this [intro meetings] last year…”

Yeahhhh…

I mean I can—and do—blame Covid for that. But what a simple, honest, and good way to put it.

I’m so glad to be back to listening to stories again—in person. I don’t want to miss a single thing they want to tell me. At a big school, it helps us all feel a little more connected.

And, as another junior told me today, “this is fun.”

It is. It’s fun to just talk and listen and learn from and about each other.

Most importantly, it helps me see my students as more than students. I learn about their families and see them as someone’s son or daughter. I learn about their hobbies and interests and see them as unique individuals. I learn about what they want to do post-graduation and see them as contributing members to my community.

I see that we belong to each other.

That’s what stories do: they show us we have much more that brings us together than tears us apart…if we’ll only listen.

Multiple Derivatives

It was motion day today! All the fun things! We had Rice Krispies treats for snack (snap, crackle, and pop are the fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of position respectively), and I got to wear my “Don’t be a x’’’(t)” shirt.

Some kids asked, “But were you really serious about snap, crackle, and pop in the video? Or was that just a joke?”

“No! She said she was dead serious! DEAD serious. Those were her words! It’s for real!”

Well. At least I know they watched the lesson…

I typically have some kind activity (often on Desmos) to wrap up the lesson from the previous night. Today, I put the cards from the Multiple Derivatives Game on the students’ tables as they came into class (I cannot remember for the life of me where I found this card sort so if anyone knows, let me know). On my TV, I had directions that asked the students to start sorting through the cards to find “chains” of 4–f, f’, f’’, and f’’’.

Once the bell rang, I walked in from greeting students outside; each hour I came into a room full of heads together, trying to find derivatives:

I hadn’t even given full directions yet.

They did so well finding multiple derivatives (the game is tricky because you can reuse cards)! I especially loved when they used their whiteboard tables to show their group their thinking or to jot down scratch work.

What teacher can’t help but smile at this?

Animal Experts

This afternoon I made a serious, rookie error (in my 24th year of teaching). In the last hour of the day I had planned mostly to have my third graders sit and listen. First to a book about animal adaptations and then as we sorted adaptations for a hawk and a duck. Some kids could get up and interact with the sorting, but mostly they’d be sitting the whole time. Not cool at any time of day but in the last hour, unconscionable.

On the plus side, more than two decades of teaching mean I have a decent toolbox of strategies. So I had the kids think about their favorite wild animal and talk to a partner about any adaptations it might utilize. They had so much to say.

Then, in an unexpected burst of brilliance, I asked them to share something interesting their partner had shared with them. Doing that sometimes helps remind them to be strong listeners. They definitely were today! Close to half of my kiddos shared something from their partner before we had to stop. Our day ended with such joy and excitement. Thank goodness!

Something right

Sometimes I give a challenge problem at the end of a video lesson and ask the kids to attempt it and bring their attempt to class. Today I checked all notebooks at the start of the hour, which allowed me check in and to see how they did on their challenge problem.

The joy on some of their faces when I said, “You got it!” reminded me of one of the reasons I got into this gig in the first place: feeling successful in math class—maybe particularly in calculus—gives you a new level of confidence and pride.

When they love math, when they get excited about getting a problem right, I know we’re doing something right.

Library Joy

Last week I dropped my third graders off for their library time (which happens when I’m in a team meeting which I hate because I like to be there helping them find books) and panicked. They hadn’t checked out books in previous weeks and last week was going to be the first. I took the kids and panicked because they go from library to PE before I pick them up. I could only imagine the random piles of books and no one knowing what books they had checked out. I voiced my concerns to the librarian and she said we’d wait a week to check out. Of course, she didn’t have any third graders check out last week as a result so I feel a guilty.

Today, I had a plan. An iffy plan, but a plan all the same. I had a bookmark for each kid with their name on it and a crate to put their books in. On the whole, it went okay. Everyone went home with their books. There were too many books for one crate so I’ll have to revise that idea.

But sending kids home with two or three books they’re excited to read was so fabulous. It was pure joy.

Collaboration

Yesterday was nonstop and, while I managed to open this app to get started, that’s as far as I got. Yesterday a colleague and I met with our admin to ask for more help. We, and by we I mean so many of us right now, are feeling deeply overwhelmed and unable to be sure we can keep moving forward.

Not surprisingly, our admin is feeling the same way. We are all carrying such a massive weight of keeping kids safe while offering them as much normal as possible. We’re walking a very thin line and it is hard.

That meeting was wonderful. Not only did we all feel validated and reassured, but we walked out with a concrete plan to address at least some of the challenges. I am so appreciative of colleagues and administrators who put kids first and work together to do the best we can for kids.

Mindful Mondays

I introduced my kids to mindfulness today! I talked about the research behind it and showed a clip from Scientific American. Then we did a guided session.

I know that I’m asking a lot—I’m asking for them to trust me with an exercise they might be uncomfortable with initially. But true to form, these kids seemed to buy in or at least humor me.

My favorite was when a student from last year said, “This is seriously the best part about Mondays.”

And then another that I looped with chimed in: “It really is, though.”

I adore them.

My people

We had our first pep assembly in two years and our first ever outdoors assembly today!

I love my people.

They’ve seen me through so much and vice versa. Together, we’ve taught a lot of kids a decent amount of math. We’ve shared countless laughs and eye rolls. We’ve collaborated and planned and pivoted. We’ve seen the best and worst of each other.

I love my work family.

Book Love

I got this note today via one of the fourth grade teachers. Apparently the book in question was Jon Scieszka’s Math Curse, which this darling child found at the library today and was so excited about. Apparently we read it together last year. I say apparently because I don’t actually recall doing so. But I do own and love the book so it’s likely I read it to the class. It brings me so much joy to know books stick with kids over time.