To the Calculus Class of 2019

How do I even begin to describe what you all mean to me?  It has been such a joy to share this classroom with you this year.  From the very first day of school, you all impressed me with your kindness, inclusiveness, and encouragement.  As an introvert, starting a new school year is always anxiety-inducing for me.  But I remember thinking from the beginning that I felt so at home with you all.  And I was right.

I get emotional every year thinking about my students leaving and growing and making their own stamp on this world.  But this year has been especially hard.  This year the tears started early (the Saturday before graduation…what?).  And that’s simply because you all have a very special place in my heart.  While I’m so excited to see what life has in store for each of you, I also know that your departure leaves an emptiness not only in the four walls of our classroom, but also in my life.  Your questions, your intelligence, your enthusiasm have made me not just a better teacher, but a better person.  I repeat—I am better because of you.

I try to live by the philosophy that there’s no such thing as someone else’s kid.  When I talk to others, that’s always what I call you: “my kids.”  You have brought so much life and light into my life.  I can’t imagine this room without you.

Over the last year, I’ve seen you pour over more FRQs than I can count; I’ve seen you cheer each other on as you’ve competed in the classroom, on the field, on the court, and on the stage. I’ve seen you share in each others’ joys and struggles; this has been one of the greatest gifts you could give me.  

As you start your own adventures, there are a few things I’d like for you to remember.  First, life is a gift—I cannot overemphasize how far gratitude will take you.  Remember: “Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” Focus on the good—even when you don’t want to (especially when you don’t want to).  Second, always learn people’s stories.  It’s cliché, but people really don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Stories are powerful; listen when people entrust you with theirs.  Third, surround yourself with people who care about you and will sacrifice for you.  We can’t choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose our closest friends.  Finally, find what makes you happy and pursue it.  Happy people make the world a better place.

You all are truly some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life.  Use your intelligence, your compassion, and your courage to serve those around you.  I’ll be waiting here expectantly to hear of your journey—so don’t forget to keep me updated!  If you ever need anything, I’m just a text or an email away.

Thank you, again, for letting me share in your life.  Thank you for your hard work and your dedication to Union High School.  I love and adore you.  You are always in my heart and mind; you will always belong here.  You are the reason I do what I do.  

You are my One Good Thing.

Go light the world, Redskins.

Mrs. Peterson  

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” –Wicked

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Esther

One of my precalc kids gave me this beautiful print today:

It’s been a week of some really low lows and really high highs (hello, end of the school year). As I continued to eye this verse today, I kept sensing that I needed to accept it as true for me, even though it wasn’t written for a math teacher–it was written for a queen.

So teachers: maybe this is the moment for which we were created. I know this moment–this time of year–is hard. Trust me, I know. You’ve poured and poured and given and given. Sometimes we give and kids are so grateful and it does our hearts a whole lot of good. And sometimes they’re not so grateful. But you know what I’ve had to remind myself of a lot this week? The prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until age twenty-five.

(I’m not great at comedy. Did that work?)

Anyway, my point is: sometimes we feel really good about our work and sometimes not so much. But any strong couple will tell you: love is a choice. Love is a promise. Love is a vow when you feel like it and when you don’t.

And perhaps, if this is the moment for which we were created, we should choose this moment–wholly, fully, all-in.

So as we finish this year, let’s be in this moment. Let’s cherish our kids. Let’s love like we may never get another chance to hug those necks or to speak kind, edifying words into their lives.

Let’s keep giving our best because–perhaps this is the moment for which we were created. Perhaps this is the moment a child needs love more than ever before…

Joy

My heart is full tonight…

A former calc student came to visit today after classes. He’s a big shot D1 football player now with a packed schedule…but he always finds time to visit Room 2704.

This one is as good as they come. His momma is a teacher too, and I’m convinced that’s why he’s got a great head on his shoulders. I don’t know many young men that would be able to stay as grounded as he has these last couple years.

*****

Last week a student messaged me saying he wanted to do something for teacher appreciation week, but “wasn’t a good a gift giver.” He said he’d love to play a song for me on his violin and asked what song I’d like.

I knew immediately.

“Would it be possible to play ‘For Good’ from Wicked?”

He said that was one of his favorite songs from one of his favorite musicals also.

He played it for me today.

Tears fell down my cheeks as the simple melody filled my classroom and I thought about the lyrics. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Even as I type this, the screen is getting blurry.

I hugged him–this sweet soul who has been through hell and back and still chooses to give away his time and talents. I quoted: “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

His eyes filled now too, and he said, “Me too. There is no one who’s got teaching figured out like you.”

I laughed at those words. “Trust me, that’s not true.”

But then I wondered: Why are we so quick to dismiss compliments, especially when they’re from people who love us and know us well?

I don’t really know.

I know I have so much more growing to do. I could fill whole books on what I’m not doing but want to be doing.

Or I could focus on what my kids speak over me. On the beauty that they are and that they bring. On the joy I receive from their visits, their music, their words, their love.

They are one of the greatest gifts I have on this earth…

Purpose

Four past students came to visit this afternoon, the last of which ended at my home.

My emotions run deep right now and they are exasperated by exhaustion.

I’ve been dreading saying goodbye to this group.

But today reminded me that it’s not goodbye forever. That some will stay in my life. That they’ll make room in their busy schedules to come visit. That they’ll love me even when I’m at the peak of my tiredness.

That they’ll choose to see the best in me, and I in them.

That we were brought together on purpose. And that purpose doesn’t have to end in just one year…

Round 1 Done

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day. I actually decided to skip graduation last night in favor of my son’s soccer practice.

Watching three- and four-year-olds chasing each other while attempting to dribble a ball while also attempting to refrain from using their hands is…just pure food for the soul. Soccer practice instantly puts me in a better mood every week.

That said, I just needed some space before the AP Exam today.

I walked into school today not quite sure I would muster the energy my students deserved.

But as soon as I saw them, that energy appeared in an instant.

I still have about a third of my students taking the makeup exam next week, but I got to hug about fifty necks today, give them their goodie bags, and cherish this moment of completion.

To say I’m proud of these kids would be a understatement.

They have studied, questioned, tested, and tested again.

And now the day we worked 171 days for has come and gone. And that’s both weird and rewarding.

They did it.

They’re my calculus superstars…

Flowers and cookies

Before classes started today, one of my sweet young ladies walked in with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. “These are some you! Happy Mother’s Day!”

My face must have betrayed me.

“You know–I’m Mexican! And today is Mother’s Day in Mexico!”

All the feels.

*****

Some of the soccer girls wanted to do something for the soccer boys who are playing for the state championship title tomorrow. I offered to make cookies because (1) I’ll take any chance I can to bake and (2) my Oklahoma cookie cutter doesn’t get near enough use.

I made them last night and we decorated them on my classroom together after school today.

It’s always a joy to create, serve, and laugh together.

Jonas helped decorate the leftovers!

The home stretch

Early post today because I need a break from grading!

My calc kids are pushing so hard here at the end. Their motivation astounds me. The last two days I’ve had them choose their own FRQs to work based on the topics of their choice:

Yesterday I asked them to work four (and score their own); today I asked for five. Both days I allowed up to two additional problems for extra credit. They are taking the practice seriously and asking great questions regarding the scoring guidelines. Many did the extra credit; some asked if the could do even more (twist my arm).

The scores they’re coming back with are amazing. I’m sure some are being a bit generous in their scoring, but most seem to be grading very conscientiously as it doesn’t help them in any way to put a higher score than what they earned.

I’m so proud of these kids. Test day (Round 1) is Tuesday and I think they’re going to just crush the exam this year.

We’re almost there!