A good day

Oh today was one of those days where my kids continually touched my heart and reminded me why I love teenagers so much. I will be honest: I’ve had days recently that I haven’t loved my job all that much, which is rare for me. I certainly subscribe to the idea of claiming and protecting the good that happens. But it’s also important to be honest and say: this sucks.

But today didn’t suck at all. Today was the day I’ve been threatening my calc kids for weeks now. See, our AP Exam is on Tuesday; however this past Wednesday was graduation (no seniors), Thursday was an excused absence for most seniors, and this coming Monday is the AP Bio Exam, so again very few seniors. Today was the only day I could capture all of them in the week leading up to the AP Exam, so I told them, “If you’re not here, you’d better have an amazing excuse. I will be calling parents. Do not view Friday as a potential for an extended weekend or a day to sleep in.”

And then our baseball boys advanced to the state semi-finals and it was announced that anyone who attended would receive an excused absence.

Oh lord there goes my threat.

But guess what? Attendance was superb today. A handful were gone, but they had let me know ahead of time and all reasons were legitimate (namely, AP Exams). A few kids went to the baseball game but left early to make it back in time for calc (I know, I know). One student was gone for golf but ran into class with like twenty minutes left, still in his golf attire, sweaty and all, ready to learn.

This group is committed, stubborn, and loyal as hell. I’ll miss them more than words can say.

*****

The other calc teacher and I make goodie bags for our kids on test day. I planned to spend lunch and plan working on mine. Instead, during our catch up day today in Intermediate, two lovely girls helped me finish all seventy-one of them. They put great care into them: one kept asking me if certain names were boys or girls because she was concerned the boys wouldn’t want a pink mechanical pencil. Oh the goodness that is in us all…if we only listen.

*****

We went over the kids’ second Mock today (hence the threat of attendance). I was so happy with how it went. I chose the problems I wanted to go over based on how frequently they were missed and how attainable the points were. Kids in all hours were very receptive. And instead of hearing a bunch of, “I would never have thought to do that,” I heard, “Yeah, this is really simple. I don’t know why I did what I did.” And those are the kinds of comments you hope to hear four days prior to the AP Exam.

One girl, who is basically guaranteed to make a 5, asked if she could come by during lunch to go over the few that she still had questions on.

Twist my arm.

When students pursue that kind of excellence, I can’t help but imagine all that they will do and become.

We are so lucky to have kids like her grace our school.

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Zen

The introvert in me (so all of me) secretly loves the day after graduation: quieter hallways, tiny calculus classes, time to answer any and all questions anyone may have.

It dawned on me today that this is the most relaxed I’ve ever been about an upcoming AP Exam (which should really give some insight into how high-strung I am…God bless my mellow husband). Seriously though, I always get sick around graduation. Last year I even had to miss a day of school the week before the Exam (I thought all hell would break loose for sure). This year–the year I have plenty of reason to be stressed due to losing two weeks of instruction, our Exam being the second week of testing (it’s not a good thing, trust me), and graduation falling before our actual test–I am…quite zen about the test. Zen for Rebecka, at least. The vast majority of my kids have shown that they are prepared for this. And I have full confidence in their abilities.

I’m thankful for a more relaxed attitude. I’m thinking motherhood had something to do with that. And I’m thankful for two more days of calculus before we call this a job well done.

Skies

Today our seniors walked across the stage for graduation. Even so, they came into first and second hours excited but focused. They showed up. They worked hard. Even though they were hours away from one of the biggest events of their lives thus far.

I’ve started writing each of my calc kids little notes to put in their goodie bags before the AP Exam. They’re not long notes: just notes of well wishes and notes of love. I wrote end-of-the-year letters to every kid my very first year of teaching high school. I swore I’d never do it again. But here we are.

Anyway, these notes are making me think about every kid. How far they’ve come. How much I adore them. How much I’ll miss them.

I say it every year, but it still holds true–the worst part of this job is having to say goodbye to the people you’ve shared physical, intellectual, and emotional space with for nine months. You say goodbye, knowing you’ll never see some of them again. You say goodbye not knowing what the future really holds for either of you. But you also say goodbye knowing that they made you infinitely better: kinder, softer, a better listener, a better pay-attentioner. Every year, I become a little better because students enter 2704 and allow me to share an hour of their day with them. Every year, they teach me more what vulnerability, courage, and encouragement really look like. They put flesh to those traits.

Saying bye is scary because my heroes are about to leave my life.

And yet, how could it be any other way?

These young adults who have taught me so much will now take the world with force and share their gifts with others…as it was always meant to be.

Fly, my sweet birds. Fly high. You were made for the skies.

What if I fall?

Oh, my darling, what if you fly?

Yoga!

My calc students took another practice AP Test over the last two days (multiple choice only). I was so proud when I scanned their scantrons today (you must check out ZipGrade if you haven’t already). In one class, every single kid passed. In no classes did anyone make a 1. I was pretty thrilled, to say the least.

*****

One of our dear assistant principals has arranged for a yoga instructor to come every Tuesday until the end of school. I went to his class today after school. It was one of the best things I’ve done for my body in a long time. I left feeling energized and rejuvenated. I will most definitely be back next week.

Ninety-nine

I was talking with a co-worker about something that’s been weighing on me the last few days. She said, “You just have to focus on the other 99% of students.”

I know what she means: she means focus on the good. And she’s right.

But it got me thinking.

My faith has always governed the way I teach. I think that’s appropriate for many reasons, not the least of which is that Jesus was a teacher himself (though, in all honesty, I do wonder if he’s appalled by the fact that a new religion was started in his name. Yes, I went there.)

So, what does my faith say about my work? Especially when it’s hard. Especially when I’m asked to do things that put me in positions I didn’t ask to be put in.

My faith doesn’t say to stick with the ninety-nine. My faith says leave the ninety-nine and chase after the one. Ninety-nine isn’t good enough. My faith says all are welcome and all will be pursued. My faith chases after the hurting over and over again, in pursuit of all.

My faith says to turn the other cheek when wronged. Is that fair? No. But grace isn’t fair either. Unconditional love isn’t fair.

My faith says to love like your life depends on it.

My faith says to advocate for social justice.

My faith says to sow seeds of peace.

My faith says to show mercy.

My faith exalts the weak and the marginalized, the broken in spirit.

My faith mourns with those who have lost. Rejoices with those who have reason to rejoice.

My faith claims that the world is being restored and made whole and more like it was originally made to be, and that I have a role in continuing to repair–not destroy–the earth and its inhabitants.

My faith demands allegiance to and protection of the vulnerable. Even when the vulnerable hurt us.

Grace isn’t fair.

And so, even when I have hard days, or weeks, or even years, I keep coming back. Because the way I see my faith and the way I view my job are one and the same.

They are both about helping others find joy and purpose, even when it means sacrifice on my part. Even when it’s hard. Even when I didn’t ask for it to play out like this.

Grace isn’t fair.

Neither was the Cross.

Plant

Today was a quiet day. Our seniors were gone for much of the day; the emptiness was an unwelcome reminder of their rapidly approaching departure. It put me in an uneasy mood: I was annoyed that they were missing even more time before the AP Exam and I was sad that my days with them would soon be over.

I know I’m supposed to celebrate the end of the year–all that we’ve accomplished and overcome. I’m usually pretty good at that; it’s what I do every night in this virtual space. But today I just kept thinking of how much more I could have done this year; how many opportunities I missed; how often I failed to prioritize a student; how many stories I still don’t know.

It’s enough to drive a girl mad.

To top it off, I also loved having smaller classes today and I–once again–understood why so many of my friends now teach at private schools. And I asked myself, Could I be more effective elsewhere?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that a former student texted me today to tell me she’s going to be my son’s teacher at camp this summer.

“I’ll get to take care of him like you did me.”

One line lifted the veil from my eyes. And I remembered. I remembered that while some of these kids that are about to leave our school–some of them will never leave my life. Many will remain in my heart long after they leave our hallways.

And I remembered that we are only called to sow these seeds of love and kindness and patience and joy and inclusion. What happens with those seeds is not really in our control nor is it our prerogative.

But sometimes those seeds blossom bigger and brighter than anything we could have foreseen.

And that’s why we stay. That’s why we plant. That’s why I love what I get to do for a living.

Reciprocity

A principal walked in during first hour this morning. My face must have betrayed me because she immediately said, “It’s not my week for that! I don’t have the slips!” (Meaning I was not being called to sub during my plan. Crisis averted.)

“I just came to give you this!” And handed me this card:

Words of affirmation touch my heart in big ways. And this came at a time in the year where we are all so spent and so tired. As if this principal didn’t have enough on her plate, she had taken the time to write multiple notes of love and thanks.

It’s so much easier to spread love when you receive love. I think about that in terms of my kids a lot: I want to show them love and grace and patience so that they can reciprocate those actions. But sometimes I fail to remember that I need those things modeled for me as well for the exact same reason: so I, too, can reciprocate.

What a beautiful web of kindness we can weave when take a moment to encourage and to appreciate.