Cup overflowing 

A student told me today that she was really happy. 

“Oh yeah? Why is that?” I asked. 

“My brother got out of prison today. I haven’t seen him since I was two years old.”


As I tucked my little boy into bed and prayed over him tonight, I prayed that God would help me and his dad love him so faithfully that his only response would be to pour love on other people. 

Psalm 23 entered my mind and for the first time I wondered if this was what David meant by his “cup overflowing.”

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”


All kids deserve that kind of love, don’t they? They deserve to feel so deeply loved that all they could do was mirror that love. That their cup would overflow with kindness. 

The thing is, sometimes I’m not going to love like I should love. 

The thing is, sometimes kids lose their brother for sixteen years. 

And so I’m fully convinced that it takes a village. 

I’m grateful for the village that pours love into Jonas’s cup. 

And I’m grateful to be a part of other kids’ villages. 

Sometimes our roles as educators are big; sometimes they’re small. Some kids are–quite frankly–easier to love than others. But I think the kids that are hard to love are often the kids that need their cups filled most. 


I’ve had a lot of small moments in the past few months where I thought “I should post this on the One Good Thing blog”… but I didn’t. Because I feel like I’ve been in a slump, and busy (both terrible combinations), and so I thought “I’m not worthy and I don’t have time.” But I know remembering this nice moments — really capitalizing on them — is important to making me realize I’m actually not awful. So even though it’s only a few days before spring break, I’m going to post!!!

Yesterday it was around 5:30pm and I was in my office doing optimization problems my multivariable calculus kids found/created. And bounding in comes student I taught last year (and who I wrote a letter of recommendation for). He had just found out that he had gotten into one of his first choice schools, and wanted to share it with someone, and said “I know you’re always here” (whomp whomp). He was so excited about it, and I felt so awesome that he wanted to share this great news with me!

Also, we had a snow day on pi day (Tuesday). So a student group who raises money for kids with cancer held their pi(e) day sale yesterday (Wednesday). And all Tuesday, snowed in, I craved a delicious slice of pie. So seeing this sale was epic, and I bought this piece of homemade blueberry pie which was unbelievable. So that definitely counts as one good thing.

Girls can, too

I handed back tests today and my calc kids worked on their folder of corrections to turn in for the quarter. 

When I handed back a test to one kid, his friend peaked at his grade. “WHOA! That’s AWESOME, man!” the friend said, as he saw the A the first kid earned. 

The friend himself did not do as well. 

But, in the end, wouldn’t you rather have a kind kid above all? I’d take an encouraging comment over an A any day. 

That’s the real goal as parents and as teachers. 


My favorite thing I saw while grading nearly a hundred folders today was this:

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to get to teach kids who love math. (Not all of them do–but some of them!) I love my little nerds so very much. I think it’s so important that we nurture this love of mathematics.  That we don’t consider it weird. That we embrace this passion: especially in girls. 

That’s one of my hidden goals as a female calculus teacher: that I make it abundantly clear to my girls–and maybe more importantly, my boys–that girls are just as capable in math and science as boys are. I hope that when my girls doubt themselves or when my boys are tempted to believe a stereotype, they look back to their calculus experience, and think, “No. Girls can, too.”

Recovering my calm

This morning was stressful. I gave our last unit exam in calculus today, so I knew I’d be at school later than normal grading the tests so the kids could have them back tomorrow. They really don’t take me too long to grade. I have a system: I grade first hour’s tests during my planning period and into fourth hour; fourth hour’s test during fifth hour; and then all I have after school is fifth hour’s test (at which point I’ve graded so many tests, I can basically just glance at a page and know how many points were earned). It’s a good system. I only stay about an hour after the last bell. But this system is contingent upon having a planning period on test days. 

During first hour, a principal walked in with a dreaded white slip–the slip that says you have to sub for another teacher during your plan due to an uncovered absence. 


My heart sank. I texted my husband that he’d probably have to pick up our son from daycare today, which is typically my duty and something I look forward to every day. Also, this was the fourth time I’ve been asked to cover this quarter. So I was disappointed and mad and frustrated all in one little ball as second hour came hopping in. 

I started teaching in second hour (Intermediate Algebra) and the hands went flying left and right. I hadn’t gotten to all the questions before other students were already finishing and needing their first round of work checked. Naturally, today was not a day I had my co-teacher with me, either. 

Also throughout the hour, calculus students kept interrupting for various needs. 

I finally sat down to check some papers when one of my students (who is on the spectrum) yelled, “I need some assistance on Number 11!” 

“Can you jump in line here, so I can get to you when I’ve talked to all these students?” I asked, knowing a change in routine would not be met well. 

And then came the first bright moment of the day. 

One of the students who was waiting to get her corrections checked said, “Would you like me to help him with that one?”

I could have cried. 

“YES! That would be so lovely.”

Up until that moment, my stress level had just been rising and rising ever since I laid eyes on that white piece of paper. It seemed like every couple minutes, I had to deal with another need or another interruption. I consider myself a pretty calm person, but my calm was gone this morning. 

That is, until a student stepped in. She saw a need; she saw a fellow peer who needed help, and she didn’t hesitate to help him. 

Of course it’s a kid who helps bring in the calm. It almost always is. 

May we be more like them. 

Mr. and Miss Union

Today we held our annual coronation of “Mr. and Miss Union” to honor students selected by their peers and teachers who stand out as leaders in the classroom and beyond. In the spirit of transparency, there are aspects about this tradition that pain me a little, as all superlatives do. But, there were two moments that brought me to tears today during our ceremony:

1. Last year’s Mr. Union spoke to the student body and encouraged them to make friends with people who don’t look like them or think like them. He promised our kids that they would be better people for this choice. I had this incredible young man in class for two years, and I knew he was speaking with the utmost sincerity. That same plea–that desire for others to get to know people not like them–is exactly what I pray over my kid every night. Hearing it come from a teenager gave me hope that maybe my son would value this from a young age, too. 

2. Our crowned queen today is African American; our crowned king is openly gay. I cried over not just how diverse our campus is, but how much we love our diversity. How proud we are of our differences. And, I hope that that pride comes from the fact that we really do believe what last year’s Mr. Union was saying: that we know the importance of getting to know people not quite like us. That we believe these relationships make us better people. That fear has no place in our hallways, but that love and acceptance and tolerance will always abound. Always. 

Work day 

I gave calc a work day today in preparation for their upcoming test. I have a love-hate relationship with work days.  I like that I get to walk around and check in with each kid multiple times. I don’t like the battle of trying to keep thirty-some students on task for a whole hour (who, by the way, are mostly seniors and basically all BFFs…how does happen…?). 

[Also. Seniors. God bless them. But sometimes you just miss how they were as juniors, don’t you? You all who teach seniors know exactly what I’m talking about.]

But today was a different kind of work day. At least in two of my three calc sections, everyone pretty much stayed on task. I had time to make multiple laps around the room and check on everyone repeatedly, and I pretty much always got, “I’m good for now, Mrs. P. Thank you.” 

Every time I would take a peak at their work, I would realize that, yes, they really were good. 


Some kids even asked if they could still take the final, even if they’re taking the AP Exam (which allows them to waive the final). These are seniors asking to improve their grades their final semester.  Seniors who have been accepted into colleges long ago. 

Is this real life, guys?


My best English teacher friend told me that our robotics team was doing a fundraiser at Chipotle today. We decided to meet there for dinner with our husbands and my kid. I loved it. I loved having dinner with people who don’t mind a loud and messy one-year-old sitting beside them. I loved seeing kids and their parents show up in support of our robotics team. I love how well this community loves.