Listen

This week has been rough. I’ve been sick for a couple weeks now, as has my baby. And in the midst of this, little man (whose one easy trait was his ability to sleep) also randomly decided he didn’t want to sleep. At all. One night I was awake with him from 1-8:00 in the morning, when he finally decided to take a little nap…which turned out to be his only nap of the day. Another night, I never fell asleep at all (turns out my brain on Sudafed is not prone to sleep). Another day I didn’t get out of my room until 3:45, when I finally ate lunch and used the restroom.

All this to say, I’ve felt exhausted, tired, and–if I’m honest–on the brink of depression. (Yes, I know–eating at normal times would help this. I know. What did Paul say? “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Preach it, brother.)I kept telling myself that my tribulations were really very small in the grand scheme of things. I knew things would go back to normal eventually. But I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was akin to recovering from a C-section: I knew that, at some point, I would get better; I just didn’t know when. And I don’t do well with uncertainty (I know, it’s a miracle I survive day-to-day).

All this to say, I’ve felt very on-edge and inadequate. Like I just couldn’t do all the things I want to do…to be there for everyone.

And then today a student handed me a note. As I read it during lunch, my eyes betrayed me and tears threatened to fall…

We recently joined a church plant, and a couple weeks ago our pastor spoke about prayer. He encouraged us to listen, not just talk, as you would in any healthy relationship. A couple nights ago, as I attempted to listen while trying to soothe a restless toddler, I swear I heard God say, “You are a good mom. Repeat after me, ‘I am a good mom.'”

I sat there, sobbing.

And then this note today…I’m no longer surprised when God uses teenagers to speak directly into my life. They are more attune to their surroundings than most adults I know. As such, their words often leave a very deep imprint on my heart.

This note spoke life and encouragement into my soul. It was just what I needed, while I was feeling incompetent and just not enough.

And so I’m learning: listen. Listen to the truth that others are speaking into me. Listen to and rest in truth, for these words are life-giving and allow me to continue to improve as a mom, a wife, and a teacher.

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One little slide

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is something that kids are tested a lot over on the AP Exam (rightfully so). As is often the case, my kids don’t have a hard time applying FTC…but they do have a hard time knowing when to use it. I feel I made a big leap today during the lecture by adding this little slide:

At first, everything under the blue line was hidden, and I asked the kids to discuss with people around them what that integral represents in the context of the problem.

They nailed it. We wrote it down.

Then I revealed the rest of the slide.

Discuss.

Nailed it again.

Friends. I’m getting better. One little slide. ❤

Good things are coming

Four years ago, a gregarious senior walked in to my PreCalc class. “No offense or anything, Mrs. Peterson, but I’m going to be dropping this class as soon as add/drop forms come out” she told me on the first day of school.

“We’ll see,” I said.

She stayed. We became friends and have kept in touch through her three and half years of undergrad.

A couple months ago she called me and said she wanted to be an English teacher. Not being an education major, I recommended she sub during this semester while working on her certification. She has lined up two back-to-back long-term sub positions…right across the hall from me.

Today was her first day subbing. We somehow ended up having the same plan. We spent lunch, plan, and after school together. It was so very good to see her back on campus, and it’s obvious she’s going to make an amazing teacher.

Students blossom into friends frequently. But I’ve never had one become a colleague.

I think I’m going to like it very much. I imagine getting to witness people grow as teachers is about as amazing as getting to watch them grow as students.

Watch out, world. You just gained a teacher who will stop at nothing to shower love on all who walk in her path. Good things are coming.

A year…

I really don’t like losing kids at semester. Before my current job, I taught for three years at the college level. I thought getting a PhD and being an associate professor somewhere would be my dream job eventually.

I was wrong.

Turns out that I never felt I had enough time with my students–both for them to learn the material and for me to learn their stories.

And so when kids don’t return in January for various reasons, it makes me sad. It reminds me of a time I was chasing the wrong dream for my life.

One of my calc kids graduated in December. He’s a pretty big deal on the football field and was recruited by the University of Oklahoma. He starts his college career tomorrow. Selfishly, I was so very sad to see him leave our halls a semester early, but I was also so proud of all he’s accomplished.

Today he came by my room to say goodbye; and he, my co-teacher (who went to OU), and I talked for nearly an hour while Intermediate tested.

The hour doesn’t make up for all the time his classmates and I won’t get to see him this semester. Nonetheless, it was a very nice gift for this little teacher’s heart.

And a poignant reminder that even though I get so much more time with my students now than I did as a college instructor, the year still goes by faster than I care to admit and graduation never fails to bring its bittersweet emotions.

I have one kid at home and a hundred and thirty-three at school. And they are my life. I’m so thankful for another day to be Jonas’s momma and my students’ Mrs. Peterson. And I pray I love each of them big and boldly.

Because even a year is just so very short…

We’re learning to work

I try to build in work days for my calc classes about once every two weeks or so. Calc is so very conceptual that I think taking the time to pause, get caught up, and feel good about what we’ve covered thus far pays dividends in both the long- and short-term.

That said, today was possibly the best work day I’ve ever given in the history of teaching calculus. The kids were on task and really didn’t need me for much of anything. They would consult their partner for help with math but didn’t get side-tracked about prom or anything like that. They were in their little zen zone of calculus and it was so lovely to watch. I was able to check in with everyone multiple times (which is always refreshing), but for the most part I got, “I’m good, Mrs. Peterson, thank you.”

Usually I have to play the role of police on work days, trying to keep 30-some teenagers who all seem to be best friends to do math.

But not today. Today I saw adults in front of me who chose to use their time wisely.

So…those seating charts? Yeah, jury isn’t out any more. I think they’re working.

Oh hey there, email!

This happened today!

I saw the email alert come up in the middle of class and gasped when I read the words “We are pleased…” I told my kids that I got invited to the AP Calculus reading this summer. They looked at me like I had grown an extra head. It’s all good.

I did get to tell a few of my close teacher friends after school, most of whom do not teach calc, and their genuine joy for me reminded me what a good community I have found.

You know you have good friends when they rejoice in an AP Reading with you.

Fight

One of the downfalls of teaching Intermediate for me is that it can feel like a semester class due to fact that there is so much movement between semesters that you can end up with an entirely different roster come January. We had such a good thing going! I think every year around this time.

I try my best to remind myself that the kids who transition to our class may be the kids who need us most. But that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t have that relationship yet…

One of our new kids has been a challenge for me. He doesn’t disrupt others, but he already has poor attendance and doesn’t work unless I’m babysitting him. Totally capable, but requires supervision if any work is to get done. I chatted with him today and said that this babysitting gig of mine just isn’t feasible, so tomorrow needs to be different on his end or the next day it’ll be different on my end.

He left and I felt like nothing I said sunk in.

An hour later, during lunch, his science teacher walked in.

“Can I talk to you about a student?” he asked.

He asked me if I had the aforementioned student. I explained I’ve only seen him twice, but yes. The science teacher went on to give me some more background and explained that this behavior is new.

My heart broke.

How many times do I have to remind myself? Everyone. Has. A. Story.

If my job boils down to one thing it’s to figure out those stories.

My one good thing is that this kid has a science teacher who is in his corner and that the teacher cared so much about the kid that he went and sought out more of his teachers.

This kid’s story isn’t done yet. Because he’s at Union. And we will fight for him–even if he doesn’t want to fight for himself. If we have to care more than he does, we will do that.

We will never stop fighting for restoration. Never.