Winter

If I’m being honest, tonight’s been a hard night.

My parents, who currently live a mile from us, are moving back to Sweden on Sunday, possibly forever.

Sunday is also my son’s sixth birthday.

I’ve known this was a possibility for years and have hence fluctuated in my emotions for a long time. Grief comes in waves, as they say.

The wave was strong tonight.

I think about how much I loved my grandparents, how jealous I was of my friends who lived on the same continent as their relatives. I wanted that so badly for my kid.

And for me, too. I wanted my parents close forever.

(Mind you, all my in-laws live in the continental United States and are all a treasure and incredible gift to the three of us here in Oklahoma.)

That’s really all.

I’m sad tonight. I will be ok. But it’s also ok to be sad.

Tonight, I think it’s more important for me to name my emotions and to be honest.

And, I hope, that gives you the freedom to do the same.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—there’s never been a harder time to be an educator. What is expected of us right now is overwhelming, at best. I get messages every week from people just not sure that they can stay.

And on top of the difficult educational climate, we are all dealing with our own personal hurdles, maybe even tragedies.

What calculus teaches us is that things move slowest at peaks and valleys.

The valleys are slow, friends. That’s just how it works. I can mathematically prove that for you, if you want.

But we have to lean in. That’s all I know. We can’t run. We have to lean. We have to feel it. That’s how the light gets in. That’s how we soften.

That’s how we enter into the next season.

Winter may be here.

But spring will come.

“The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” -Psalm 30:5

*****

Teachers, I’m holding you close. I know you’re treading deep waters. I know.

Feel it all.

That’s how we become the best version we can be for our kids.

Praying for spring…

FTC Scavenger Hunt

My calc kids worked this scavenger hunt today to review First and Second Fundamental Theorems of Calculus. I realized it had been a while since I’ve used this. We must have been in distance learning this time last year. And the year (years?) before that, I remember my students struggling more. I remember I would plant myself by one particular question because so many kids would trip up on it.

But this year…I couldn’t even tell you what that question was. They just…kept working. And kept talking math. And kept progressing through the questions. I was not needed whatsoever.

That’s what I call a great day.

Potatoes and calculators

Today we worked on interpreting derivatives and integrals within the context of a situation. One thing I adore about the AP Calculus curriculum is how application-based it is. More than just “Can you find a derivative or integral?” they ask “Now interpret your findings.”

This is a lesson I always looked forward to teaching but around, oh, second hour, I would typically start to lose steam. Since every kid needed to know the calculator commands for the AP Exam but not every kid had a calculator at home, I would always end up teaching all the calculator commands on both the 84 and Desmos. All math teachers know how grueling it can be teaching calculator commands. So teaching it (or really, reviewing it) on two platforms on the same day was both hysterical and exhausting. But, truly, I didn’t have another choice without being inequitable to the students who didn’t have their own calculators.

This year everything changed.

This year, my district purchased enough graphing calculators for every kid in Algebra II and above to loan one out.

Every single one of my calculus students now has their own calculator. What a game changer.

So today, yes, we reviewed the commands (which they already knew way better than previous years’ cohorts, no surprise). But we got to really focus on the applications.

We answered questions like: If you’re pranking your friend by throwing potatoes in his trunk at a rate of p(t) potatoes per minute, how many potatoes are in the trunk after five minutes? What’s p’(5)? And what does that tell you about said potatoes?

Yes. My kids know better than to ask when they’ll use this in real life. Because then I make silly problems about potatoes.

When I interviewed for state teacher of the year a couple weeks ago, I was asked if I could briefly explain why calculus is important.

I lit up.

And gave a minute lesson on how most of us use calculus every day without knowing it.

Calculus is important, yes. But calculus is fun. It can be so silly and so deep all at once. It harnesses the power of infinity to answer questions algebra cannot. In this case, if our rate of throwing potatoes isn’t constant, how do we actually arrive at answer?

Calculus.

*****

If you teach calculus and want access to this problem and the others we worked today, you can find it here.

Welcome back

KIDS CAME BACK TODAY!!

I am still very much in stress mode for various reasons (first and foremost being that my own son is still in distance learning, and figuring the logistics of that is…hard).

But.

Kids were in my room today.

Real-life, living, breathing, eye-rolling teenagers.

Lord, I love them.

Quotes from today:

“When I understand math, I feel like such a genius.”

“I’m Einstein today, you all.”

AH! MATH!

They might not admit it, but they love the productive struggle.

As I keep saying—Struggling in mathematics is no more the enemy than sweating is in football: it’s proof you’re in the game.

Welcome back, loves. Welcome to the room where we struggle and play with math together.

I’ve missed you so.

Friday morning

Though I’m not teaching Precalc this year, we’re assuming it’s a one-year-thing only, so I’m still leading the PreCalc team. We are in distance learning now but don’t know what next week is going to look like. Fridays we have built-in collaboration time when we’re distance learning, so we met this morning for an hour and half to plan for three possibilities next week:

*Distance learning all week

*In-person all week

*Half and half

While it feels completely unreal that after two years, we’re still here, I am forever grateful for this team. It felt so good to collaborate again. These four other teachers are some of the best in our building, and I get to call them mine.

To top it off, my church Venmo’ed every educator in the congregation $25 to spend “frivolously,” acknowledging the difficulty of The Times.

So I got to share the goodness with my people!

And that’s how we do Friday morning.

Women in Math

A former student needed to write an essay on a woman she knew in mathematics. And she picked me. And I about swooned.

We interviewed today via Zoom and she was such a delight to talk to.

Sometimes when I think about what I had planned to do with my life versus where I actually landed…I have to laugh. I wouldn’t change a single thing, but it still makes me giggle to think how different my life could have been.

Anyway, I love that my kids think of me as a woman in math, because by a lot of people’s standards I abandoned pure math research for education. And those people would not be wrong.

But I have zero regrets.

When the student asked me what my greatest career accomplishment was, I didn’t have to think one second.

“You. My students are by far my greatest career accomplishment.”

I’d rather have them than a thousand published papers in my name—any day of the week.

Distance

I never know whether to blog on distance learning days. I miss my kids. I miss knowing where each one is at and what they need from me for that day.

But I’m incredibly grateful to my district that has moved Heaven and earth to ensure as many kids as possible have stayed in-person for as long as possible. We have IT personnel, administrators, and even our superintendent stepping in to sub at the elementary level so the littles (including my son) can go to school.

As for my own students, they continue to wow me. They’re turning in exactly what’ve I’ve asked of them. They show up to Zoom, cameras on, ready to participate.

But I worry about fatigue. We’ve been here before. It’s not sustainable. They get tired eventually and who can blame them?

Teachers…oh, teachers.

You have my whole heart.

I see you. I see you pivoting from one form of learning to another and then back again. I see you adjust plans, adjust once more, and then double down and just make two plans for each day. I see your tired eyes, your sighs, your longing for normalcy.

I know.

It’s exhausting.

It’s never been harder to be a teacher.

But, if I may…

I just want to remind you: you are so very loved, you are so needed, you are so valuable—to your students, your colleagues, and to the future of this nation.

This is also your reminder to slow down, step away from the work, and do something for you. The content will always be there. Your joy is of the utmost importance.

Let’s commit to taking on less stress in 2022—no matter what it chooses to throw at us.

Goodness

Our school had to quickly pivot back to distance learning today. I by no means envy the people that have to make these decisions so I try to go with the flow as much as possible.

My students already had a video to watch for today, which the vast majority did. I said they could get on Zoom if they had questions after the video or once they started the assignment.

Two got on Zoom right at 8:10 (the first bell). Not only had they watched the video, they had finished the corresponding problem set, save a couple problems that they asked for help on.

I know these kids are dedicated and incredibly intelligent. But sometimes they still shock me as to how truly good they are.

How hardworking.

How sincere.

How very full of tenacity…despite what they’ve endured the last three school years.

The world is not ready for their goodness.

But I’m ready to watch it unfold.

It slices, it dices

We’re transitioning into one day of distance learning tomorrow so today I really wanted to squeeze every minute out of class time (I think we all have PTSD from spring break two years ago).

So today we read Steven Strogatz’s chapter on the integral, “It Slices, It Dices,” from his book The Joy of x. I adore this book, and we read out of it about once a quarter (we have a class set). Professor Strogatz has such a gift for making mathematics come alive. Every math teacher and mathematician should read his work.

One student came by at the end of class, holding her copy, and asked if she could take it home for a bit.

My heart leaps when kids find mathematics that speaks to them—especially when it’s my girls. History told us for far too long that we don’t have a place in math and science and, well, history was wrong.

They’re coming. These girls and boys are changing the narrative right in front of our eyes.

It’s up to us to see what they’re doing, see what they’re asking of us, and rise to meet them.

RRAM

My first Desmos slide today was: “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? Share with your table, then with the class.”

And as students marked their answers, a bar graph was formed for everyone to see:

I heard a whisper, “Ohhh she’s going to make us do LRAM and RRAM on this!”

I cackled.

“No. This was purely for fun. Though that would have been a genius idea. Maybe I’ll add that next year.”

“Sorry! I just see rectangles now and think ‘RRAM!’”

Again, I cackled.

There is no better job than this.