Serve+Create 2018

Today is my favorite (and also least favorite) day of the year. My calc kids presented their Serve+Create Projects (directions: serve someone and create something). As usual, they did not disappoint. In turn, I read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! You’ll be proud and impressed that I managed to mostly hold it together post-first hour.

I love ending the year with this show-and-tell kind of day. I love seeing how creative my students are via mediums of which I am often oblivious. I love the unique ways in which they serve. I love that when they present, their peers are always so supportive and genuinely impressed with their classmates’ talents.

On the flip side, seeing so much good from one group in just one day reminds me how unique each year is…and how saying goodbye means forfeiting a little piece of myself. A year of your life; a year of your career…gone. It’s the best and worst part of this job: sending students out as our representatives, knowing that they are going to make a positive impact on our community, and yet knowing that for most of these students, our role will–at best–diminish.

In celebration of this year, here are just a few things my students did to serve others:

  • Donated clothing
  • Cooked meals
  • Bought food for the homeless
  • Volunteered at nursing homes
  • Volunteered at the humane society
  • Wrote notes of encouragement and gratitude
  • Payed for the next car’s meal at a drive thru
  • Donated hair for children with cancer and alopecia
  • Taught the class how to properly throw a baseball 🙂
  • Helped neighbors with lawn care
  • Helped teachers around the school
  • Cleaned debris on Devil’s Den
  • Made goodie bags for teachers
  • Gave rides to friends
  • Made care packages for friends going to college and traveling overseas
  • Made a signed helmet for a coach

And many, many more.

And here is just a taste of the create part. There were many other wonderful ones that don’t lend themselves all that well to photos, such as writing code to encrypt a message by changing pixels on an image; a thank you video; and cookies and cake balls and more cookies!

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. For those who claim the world is getting worse, I beg to differ. I wholeheartedly believe the world is being restored and renewed. And I believe that we play a vital role in relieving the current suffering. The reason I assign this project as my kids’ last assignment is that I want them to practice service and art because they can go hand-in-hand in that process of restoration.

I am so sad to see another group come and go…

And still I know: our influence is expanding; they are taking the good with them.

Goodbye, to my wonderful calculus class of 2018. Thank you for your tenacity, your kindness, your encouragement, and your generosity. Thank you for sticking with me through a tumultuous year in Oklahoma public education. Thank you for greeting me with a smile every day. Thank you for making me laugh, for being my one good thing.

I am so grateful to have shared Room 2704 with you. Its door will always be open to you.

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

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Best

Jonas’s last day of daycare was today, which has turned out to be an unexpected gift. It’s given me a reason to take a couple personal days to be with him before I leave him and his daddy for eight days to help score three hundred thousand AP Calculus Exams.

I’m both thrilled and terrified.

All that to say, today was my last day for a while as I’m taking tomorrow and Tuesday off. That meant I had to say a couple early goodbyes and got to listen to a couple early Serve+Creates. And I wasn’t quite ready for that.

This group is so incredibly generous and loving and passionate. And it hurts me to have to say goodbye. Yet again.

A student wrote me a beautiful note today. In it he said:

“I now have so much more faith in my abilities in not just math, but also in my personal life…You have helped me become more aware of my best qualities; even when I do not see these things, you do, and I thank you.”

As I held back the tears, I thought about how accurately those words described just how I felt: these Loves bring out the best in me; and even when I don’t see it, they do.

And I thank them for it.

And will miss them tremendously because of it.

Partners

One of my student’s moms was on campus today and my student asked if they could stop by during lunch. When they came in, her mom said she wanted to personally thank me for this year. Then she handed me a card from her and her daughter, saying she wished she could do more…

I struggle to find the words that describe the bond I feel with these parents that I often never meet. I know that for the majority of my students, no one loves them more than their parents. No one has sacrificed more or worked harder for them than the individuals that chose to make them part of their families. And while my work and my sacrifice for these kids pales in comparison, I adore them all the same. I want to see the very best for them. And while my role is much smaller than that of a parent or guardian, I take it seriously nonetheless.

And so when a parent thanks me for the work I’ve done, I can’t help but shy away from the compliments because I know the truth: they’re the ones who raised the amazing kid standing with us.

And yet, I also can’t help but accept the thanks because I know from whom it’s coming. The gratitude of a parent is something so deep and so holy. And to be told, “You’re a part of our story” is something I don’t lightly.

So thank you, parents. Thank you for trusting us with your kids. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for seeing us. Thank you for letting us be a part of the story.

Partnering with you to help your kid achieve her goals is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

Forward

Today I visited with each of my calc kids to finalize their plans for their Serve+Create project. I love this day every year. The day I get a little peak into their lives and their passions as they describe who they’re going to serve and what they’re going to create. Their hearts never cease to move me: their lives a continual promise that we are moving forward. I will never subscribe to a worldview that claims the world is getting worse. For one, that’s anti-Gospel talk. For two, have you seen kids these days? Despite trials and hardships, they are consistently choosing love, joy, friendship, and inclusion.

Today was further evidence of this.

For three hours, kids described how they were going to help others: donate their hair; help elderly neighbors with lawn work; make care packages for the homeless; volunteer at elementary schools; tend to animals at the shelter; cook a meal for family; drive people home from school; clean up a walking trail; write notes of appreciation to teachers, to name just a handful.

These hearts beat to a rhythm of servitude. Asking them to help someone gets literally zero pushback. I am so looking forward to Wednesday when they present these projects.

As luck would have it, we found part of a 2015 Serve+Create today. Still leaving your mark, Delaney! ♥️

As luck would have it, we found part of a 2015 Serve+Create today. Still leaving your mark, Delaney! ♥️

Expanding

Today was the last Monday of the school year.

I can’t believe I just wrote that. I can’t believe another year has come and gone and soon my kids will leave our school…

And while it’s always sad to say goodbye to another group, I also know it means our circle is just getting bigger and bigger as we send more and more ambassadors out to spread the good news of love and light and inclusion and education and freedom from poverty and joy and friendship. We’re saying goodbye, yes. But we’re also expanding. And for that I am so grateful.

Today during plan I took a moment to just look around my classroom and love it and be thankful for it and all the memories I’ve made in it this year. This is the first time that I’ve felt so calm about the end of the year. I am always a little heavy this time of year–to be honest, I hope that never changes. But I am also more at peace this year. I don’t feel my usual fret or worry about how I’m going to get my to-do list done (though ask me again on the last of school, which I’m missing to go grade AP Exams in another state). Instead, I feel proud. Proud of all the work these kids have done. Proud of finishing strong, despite a two-week walkout. Proud of this family: this family that’s expanding and going to spread the good that is Union.

It’s the last Monday of the school year.

I am proud to have shared it with my people.

Community

We went over this year’s FRQs in class today. Usually I just dive right in, but this year I put the kids in six groups and had them discuss one of the six questions with their team first. This ensured that someone would know the answer when I asked and kept the atmosphere a bit…lighter, I feel. It was a good, small change. I was also pleasantly surprised that–with the exception of Problem 1 (escalators)–the kids seemed to be pretty solid on the FRQs. Hooray! We will see in July!

*****

Our Intermediate kids got the week to work on a creative project. They presented today and blew us away. I really wasn’t sure how they would do with this much unstructured time, but–for the most part–they handled it really well. I love that we got to see some of their gifts and personalities that we wouldn’t have had opportunity for otherwise.

Once again, I was reminded of how vital it is to know each other. When we know one another and know each other’s stories and personalities and gifts, we build community. And a community has each other’s backs.

A community cares less about the color of your skin and more about how we can make each other feel good today. A community cares less about your income and more about how we’ve supported you. A community cares less about your political affiliation and more about how we can make each other laugh. A community cares less about your accomplishments and more about how your talents can bring you and others joy.

A community celebrates the amazing gifts these teenagers have. And today, we did just that.

So in the spirit of celebration, let me share a few of these incredible projects: