Math = Love: A Realization...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Realization...

As a first year teacher, it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed.  I look at my students, and I see how much of an education they have been cheated out of without their even realizing it.  I see the extra obstacles that will lie in their paths toward success if I can't help each and every one of them pass their EOI test in April.  I hear their heartbreaking stories from other teachers.  There are days that I feel like I am not making a difference.

The EOI test is in April.  For most of these students, graduation is a few years off.  But, these students are in my classroom TODAY.  I need to learn to focus on them and what the current day holds.  Lately, I've been focusing more on the things I can't control than the ones I can.  Then, I allow my frustration change my attitude and my outlook.

I hadn't really been aware of this shift in my thinking and my focus until last week when a student told me something I will remember for a long while.  Every day, this student puts his bag in my room before lunch since he has my class after lunch.  And, every day I tell him hi and/or ask how he is.

Last week, I don't remember if I actually said "Hi" or not.  But, he told me that I looked sad.  When I questioned him about it, he told me this: "You used to always look so happy when I came in the room, but lately you look like you hate your life."

I don't hate my life.  And, I certainly don't hate my job.  I love that I get to spend my days teaching my students about math and life.  But, I hate that I can't change how my students choose to view themselves.  I hate that I can't change my students' past experiences with math or school in general.  I hate that I don't know how to bring about change in this school.  And, I hate that the process of change is such a slow one.   

I know exactly where my frustration lies, but my students don't.  I need to focus on doing my job to the best of my ability and hope that others choose to follow me.

I e-mailed my the middle school teacher that I student taught with last week, and he wrote me back some words of wisdom.  They resonated with me so much that I made them my desktop background.

My goal for this next week (and the rest of my career) is to focus on my students.  There will always be things I cannot control.  I must try to bring about the change I believe in, but I cannot allow my success or lack thereof in that arena to define my attitude. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Sarah, I could write this post every year about February (about the time my Pre-Algebra students hit rational expressions and my Algebra students hit factoring polynomials). Your middle school teacher friend is wise. You can let all of the struggles your students have get you down. Or, you can be the light they see every day.

    Math is tough. It's tough because they did not learn the basic skills they needed to master before they got to you. Either their teachers failed them, their parents failed them, or they let other people convince them they would fail so they did. It is tough to think about because some of their brains aren't ready to manipulate the concepts, and to be very honest, some of them don't want to. Their motivation is somewhere, but it may not be in your class.

    Here is what I have learned in my 17+ years of teaching: Most of my students will never love math as much as I do, but I can provide them with the opportunities for success so that they can appreciate how math can benefit them in their lives. And, if along the way, I manage to make some topic tickle their imagination or inspire them to learn more about something else, then that is a gift I will never see them open, but will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

    You don't always get to see the good you did in the short run, but when years later, one of them becomes a teacher and friends you on Facebook in order to tell you that they became a math teacher because of you or they decided to study statistics or they decided to become a tutor because of how much you cared about them; on that day, you will finally see the good you have done and the change you have made. It takes a long time, my friend, to see how much of a difference you have actually made.

    Stick with it and approach every day with the idea that today you are going to make math come to life for your students. Blow them away with its magical qualities and the wonder that comes of it.