The best worst day

Today is one of the hardest days of the year. It was the last regular day of classes, meaning it was the last time I’ll see many of my calculus kids. 

I mostly held it together today, but if previous years are any indication, the next few nights will be met with tear-soaked pillow cases as my waterproof mascara betrays its label. 

As I told my kids today: this is the absolute worst part of the job–saying goodbye. 

The nice thing about teaching seniors is that they understand the gravity of this moment. 

The challenging thing about teaching seniors is that they understand the gravity of this moment. 

To make sure that I would see them all one last time and hug their necks and tell them what amazing things they’re going to do, I required them to present their final project today, Serve+Create. They are asked (1) to serve someone or a group of people and (2) to create something. And then share it with us in a show-and-tell fashion. 

Some served in big ways, some in small. 

Some served individually, some served together. 

They baked cookies for neighbors; they wrote encouraging notes on cars; they taught siblings to dive; they volunteered at elementary schools and hospitals; they served firefighters; they fed homeless; they baked the class gluten free brownies and lemon-blackberry cake; they did yard work and house work; they wrote thank you notes; they bought teachers gifts. 

As for their creative works, they wrote music; they played music; they painted; they molded; they wrote poems; they took pictures; they made videos; they crafted…here are just a few examples:







(That’s all their thumbprints and names 😭)

And so while today is the worst day; it’s also one of my favorite days. Because I remember my beautiful kids and how they served and how they created. And I hope that when they look back on their time in our classroom, they feel they were always met with service and creativity. 

Shoe Boxes and Dr. Seuss 

My kids presented their Rate In/Rate Out shoe boxes today! (They write a Rates FRQ with at least three parts prior to the AP Exam and then illustrate it via a diorama after the AP Exam.) Some of their stories and boxes were so creative. Here are just some of them:


*****

It’s tradition to read Oh, The Places You’ll Go! towards the end of the year. I’m pleased to announce I made it through all three calc hours without crying. I made all the kids bookmarks with their name on it and one of my all-time favorite quotes:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…

Oh! The places you’ll go!

They will indeed go places…and I will miss them so. 

They leave an emptiness not only in our hallways, but also in my heart. 

Bittersweet

I really can’t believe the school year is almost over. We have two more days of classes and then two days of finals. The end of the year is always bittersweet. Of course, summer break is forever welcome. But knowing I’ll never see many of these kids again that I’ve shared a classroom with for a hundred eighty days or so is heart wrenching. It’s the worst part of teaching, hands down. 

I often wonder if my kids sense my sadness. I imagine many of them must. Today I got a beautiful note and gift that reminded me that what we share is real and will be missed by both sides (please note the Harry Potter charm bracelet <3):


*****

After a round of antibiotics, tessalone perles, and cough syrup with codeine…I drove myself to the urgent care last night, desperate for relief. 

The doctor and I got to talking. 

“What do you do for a living?”

“I teach math at Union High School.”

*Chuckles.* “I actually taught Geometry and Algebra II there for one year seventeen years ago. It was too hard. I became a doctor instead.”

There you have it, my beloved teachers. Doctors may make three times as much as us, but we’ve got the harder job. I have proof now. “Teaching was too hard. I became a doctor instead.” If that’s not ammunition, I don’t know what is. 

Carry on, Warriors. Our summer is almost here. 

Sub note

I’m always nervous coming back after being gone a day. What were the kids like? What will the sub have to say?

This morning, I was met with the best sub note I’ve ever received:

Your classes were all great. I would sub again for you any time. 

Hallelujah. 

The end is near. My body is weak. My energy is zapped. But my kids were lovely yesterday (ok, I’m not that surprised). 

We have one more work day/game day in calculus (the ambiguity is driving me a bit nuts but it’s what makes sense right now). Then I get to listen to their shoe box presentations on Friday, and THEN! Serve+Create on Monday! I am so looking forward to it. Some of their ideas are really intriguing, and I can’t wait to see them come to fruition. 

Responding 

I’m still not feeling well, much to my dismay. I have this nasty cough I can’t seem to get rid of. Speaking has become nearly impossible, which makes teaching difficult to say the least. The good news is my doc sent in some strong medication for tonight, so I’m hoping to get my first full night’s sleep in a week and a half. Also, I’m taking another sick day tomorrow to attempt a full recovery. As one of my kids said, “It looks like you could use a day off, Mrs. Peterson.”

Oh these kids. They’re so caring. All day they asked how I was doing. 

“You’re STILL sick?! Can I do anything for you??”

I think my heart actually broke when one of my kids who is on the spectrum (and hence tends to be unaware of others’ feelings) said, “Are you doing ok?” He still didn’t say my name (never has). But his voice softened just so. A softening I’d never heard before. A softening that made it clear he was completely aware of how I was feeling and wanted to respond. It was a very big deal to me…a beautiful gift. 

The tiny ones 

We had our monthly math club meeting today after school, like we have done every month for years. And, just like every other month, I forgot about it. A kid came in and reminded me. I was honestly a little disappointed. I just wanted to go home and start my weekend. 

I made it to my co-sponsor’s room. We noticed we must have invited the kids from the 9th Grade Center to see if they’d want to join. They were the actual cutest. I forget teenagers can be as small as me!

My co-sponsor had an obligation at 4:00, so she asked me to take the kids to my room for the activity part of the meeting. 

Again, slightly disappointed. But the very small teenagers were intriguing to me, so I agreed. 

Most of our upper classmen left after the announcements, so I was left with these tiny teenagers and one normal teenager. 

We played Switch (a counting game). They mostly liked it, I think. 

“Mrs. Peterson–let’s teach then Ghost Blitz!”

So we got out Ghost Blitz and they. Went. Crazy. 

They loved it. 

“Can we play again?!”

“I have to get my room ready for next week, but how about you all play together.”

Much laughter and screaming ensued. 

Oh to fill your classroom with pure joy like that. Joy from the tiny teenagers. 

I loved it so. 

Forward 

Today was another relaxed day. I teach mostly seniors, and all but two of them were gone today. Just me and my juniors! The two girls in first hour brought me coffee and we just sat and talked. (I must be more intentional about creating moments like this next year. Still haven’t heard any ideas from y’all.) And in fifth hour we played Jenga and Ghost Blitz and laughed and didn’t worry about calculus for a single moment. It was glorious. 

People who teach high school know the typical look you get when you tell someone what you do for a living: it’s a look of horror and amazement and disgust and appreciation. But we always something like, “I genuinely love teenagers,” right? And we’re not lying (most days). 

But what I genuinely love about students this age are things like their humor and their stories and their vulnerability. And you don’t get to see a lot of that if you just do calculus all day long. 

What I’m saying is–the things I love most about my kids are not the things I intentionally draw out of them a lot of the time. 

And that’s really not ok. 

It needs to change. 

I need to take time to just relax with my kids every now and then. Maybe I can’t get to all 140 of them.  But I can do better than what I’m doing now. 

Hold me accountable. Next year’s going to be even better. đŸ’ƒđŸ»