Quarter one done

We finished the first quarter today! First quarter is always the hardest for me. I’ll continually blame it on being an introvert. Seems logical to me.

Every year I try to add at least one new habit or ritual that helps me connect with my students deeper. This year I started writing them birthday cards. I really love it. I love writing and receiving cards. And I try to use what my kids have shared with me about themselves to make their cards more than just a “Happy birthday! Love, Mrs. P.”

Today a young lady thanked me for her card. You know when someone thanks you for something and you can tell they really mean it? Yeah. Still working on my two-year-old with that one. [“Try it again. This time look at her eyes”…I digress…]

Anyway, her thank you was so genuine. It made me realize a couple things. (1) The birthday cards were a good idea! (2) May my thank you’s always be as genuine.

This introvert is learning, friends. I’m learning how to connect to my kids faster but in ways that are still…me. I think that’s such a battle we face as teachers, no? Everyone is doing so much good and we all just want to do all the things. Instructive feedback, quality activities, engaging lectures, growing relationships. But good lord that can wear you out. And all that comparison? For what? Can we share our ideas and learn from one another? Absolutely. But let’s also take a step back and realize: I am me. We have to be true to ourselves in this profession.

I think that’s one of the foremost things we crave from one another: authenticity. Our kids deserve our true selves.

We feel most loved by people when we know we’re getting the real them.

And so I’m learning to give more, but give in my own Rebecka way. The way that feels right to me, the way that feels comfortable to me.

I know I’m weird. But so are you. And that’s what our kids love about us.

It’s what we love about them, too.

Embrace your weird; let it guide your practice. It’s ok to do things different.

If something sucks, there’s always next year.

Happy fall, y’all. ❤

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Just saving lives over here

Someone today said something about a career in saving lives.

“It’s funny you should say that. I just had a conversation with a doctor yesterday about this.” I said. “He said, ‘I always thought teaching would be a fun job.’

‘It’s the best job in the world,’ I said.

‘Now see I think I have the best job in the world. Plus I make more money than you. Plus I save lives.'”

I’ll save you my smart*** response.

But here’s how my student responded:

“Pretty sure you’ve already saved my life twice already sooooo…”

Doctors are pretty awesome. I’m so very, very grateful for them because they literally did save my life.

But so are teachers.

And I wouldn’t underestimate us if I were you.

*****

We got our Staff Person of the Month nominations today. Students sure do know how to lift your spirits, let me tell you. One nomination really stood out to me: “She made me realize I can learn anything.”

Be still, my heart. All my dreams in one sentence.

Sit with it

I felt some big feelings today that I wasn’t prepared for.

I was up for teacher of the year this year for the third time.

And for the third time, I lost.

I didn’t realize how badly I craved my colleagues’ approval until I didn’t get it.

It’s made me think a lot about my community, about where I put my worth. It’s also brought up a lot of suppressed feelings of inadequacy and never measuring up.

I know it’s just a title. I’m well aware. I’m also aware that the other teachers who received it the past three years are all incredible educators.

But the way my bruised heart sees it is: I failed. Again.

I wasn’t good enough. Again.

I have good things that happened today; I really do.

But what I want to hold on to right now–what I want to make sure I feel deeply–is this feeling of inadequacy. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s the thing: I don’t think we sit with our uncomfortable feelings enough. I think we’re taught to suppress them, to put on our big girl panties, and to move on. To grow thicker skin.

But if we don’t sit with our feelings then (1) We’re going to need a lot of therapy some day and (2) How will we ever sympathize with others?

How can we carry each other’s burdens if we’ve never carried our own?

How can we hold each other’s emotions if we’ve never held our own?

So today was hard, yeah. I felt like a teenage girl again, and a lot of memories of my teenage years came flashing back.

But today–if processed correctly–has the ability to grow grace in me. It has the capacity to give me more patience when that kid feels behind all his peers, more understanding when that student feels she doesn’t measure up.

And that’s a very good thing. Because that’s how we grow to belong to one another.

Family

Before first hour even started, a girl came up and said, “I need a Mrs. Peterson hug.”

I was happy to oblige.

A few moments later, another girl came up and rested her head on my shoulder.

People always ask me how a little 5’1, 100-lb girl can possible control a classroom full of nearly forty teenagers. They fail to see the gift that comes with having a very non-intimidating stature.

Hugs can cure a lot. They are a tangible reminder that we’re in this together. We belong to each other.

*****

Speaking of belonging to each other, one of my precalc kids is heading to Vegas for a taekwondo competition. He left my class early to go catch his flight. As he left, the whole class cheered him on to wish him good luck.

When he left, I asked the rest of them, “He’s like really good, right?”

They assured me he was.

This group of sophomore precalc kids is really becoming a favorite cohort of mine. They know each other so well. And they can drive each other nuts. But at the end of the day, they’ve already seen each other through a lot. They’re there for each other.

In a school as big as ours, I have to say: we do a pretty amazing job helping kids find not where they fit in…but where they belong: where they will be loved and celebrated just as they are.

Affirmations

A momma emailed me today to update me after our parent-teacher conference last night. It’s really empowering when I know I’m part of a village, and that this kid has people championing for him from multiple sides. It doesn’t take away from the past; but it gives me hope for the future.

She also thanked me for sitting down and listening to his story. “Thanks for being a bright spot,” she wrote.

Another student told me yesterday that there’s a peacefulness in the classroom.

And another said “I always know I’m going to be safe here.”

Light, peace, and safety.

It’s what I’ve prayed for over and over, for years.

And then in the span of a week or so–I received these affirmations.

Our kids go through more than I think they should ever have to bear.

I don’t have the answers I want to have.

But for now, I’m thankful I can be part of a classroom that brings light, peace, and safety.

Parent-teacher conferences

The last night of parent-teacher conferences was tonight. I’m grateful for that. All the parents were so kind and supportive, though, so I really can’t complain.

One parent told me that her daughter wants to apply to a pretty prestigious school and that she’ll need a rec letter.

“My daughter told me, ‘No, Mom, Mrs. Peterson would want me to take full initiative on this.’ Thank you for that!”

Is that not the cutest thing? I don’t know what’s sweeter: that the student has learned to take initiative already or that the mom is so grateful that she’s learned it already.

I’m incredibly thankful for involved parents who care.

And now this introvert needs some rest.

Improving

My calc kids had a check up day (formative assessment) today while I frantically graded their notebooks. I am soooo ready for us to be one-to-one next year and be done with some of this grading. But for now I press on! Less than a year left!

Sometimes I see adorable things in notebooks as I grade. In one I saw several quotes written in the margins–the same quotes that adorn my walls.

And in another, I saw this highlighted:

She had proceeded to highlight various questions, which we did talk about.

During the last homework check I was really disappointed in a large swath of my students. I let them know this. Many of them really stepped up their game with this part of the unit.

I’m grateful for kids who listen with an open mind and work to improve when asked to.

I wrote in more notebooks today, thanking individual students for all their work. Even in a boring day filled with grading, it made me happy.