Tonight I had my first open house as an 8th grade teacher. This was my 9th open house!! You would think this would be easy but I was still nervous. I am moving from teaching high school last year back to middle school this year. I taught 6th grade when we lived in St. Louis and it ended miserably. (You can read one of my really low points here to see why almost left teaching) Last year was pretty awesome and renewed my passion for teaching. (you can read a high moment here)
Most of my advisory students showed up tonight which is fantastic. I didn’t keep track of the other classes because I didn’t have paper work to give them but I don’t think I met all of those kids. Over all I have a great vibe about my kids this year.
One thing that concerns me every year is some thing that parents and kids say to me way too often. “My child not very good at math” or “Math is my worst subject” or my personal favorite “I hate math!”
It kills me that before school even starts there is an expectation and acceptance of failure. These statements are a cop-out. Here is my thought: You aren’t good at math because you don’t do math. Math is hard because you have to think. You have to try something that doesn’t come naturally. You have to pay attention, you have to work hard, you have to be willing to make a mistake. Too many people aren’t willing to do those things. So many kids give up and so many parents allow them to because they themselves gave up so long ago. (now before you starting yelling at me I do recognize that there are things that make math more difficult for others such as learning disabilities, bad teachers, etc.)
The truth is… I am not good at math either. The difference is I work hard at it. I like to joke that I am an under achieving gifted kid. I took the accelerated math classes. I did enough to get by most of the time (honestly though, sometimes I didn’t do enough to even pass). In math I was lazy. I didn’t want to work hard to be successful. Instead I put on my “I-hate-math-this-is-too-hard-I-don’t-understand-and-my-teacher-doesn’t-explain-it-to-me” blinders. I accepted mediocre. I was okay with failure. I am not sure what changed or what caused me to even want to be a math teacher but I do know that I want my students to do better than me.
I have many goals as a math teacher.
1. I want to teach mathematical concepts (duh!)
2. I want to each perseverance in problem solving. I am amazed at how often kids give up instantly. They don’t want to think. They don’t want to ask questions or search for answers. Every year I get better at letting students sweat it out and every year I see how much more valuable the learning is when they work through the problem from start to finish.
3. I want my students to recognize their potential as mathematicians. Everyone can do math. Everyone can be successful in a math class. I want to encourage that success in all of my students. I want them so see it in themselves when I am not there.
4. I want my students to enter my room everyday knowing that my class is relevant. I want them leave every class knowing they can apply mathematical concepts everyday.
Every year I promise my kids that they will pass my class with a C or better if they do the following things: Pay attention everyday in class, do every assignment on time (really do it- not just slop something on the paper to be done), ask questions, and keep their stuff organized. My philosophy in that if they do those 4 things they will earn that grade on their own. If they are willing to work, I will take all the time in the world to explain, reteach, go through examples, etc. My kids will be successful as long as they aren’t lazy.
So, do you hate math? Tell me why and what would have made a difference?