First off, all you who send me email with the smug little tag lines:
sent from my wireless Blackberry or, sent from my iPhone
You do that on purpose, don't you?
Hey, have I written about who/what I'm teaching this semester? I'm re-teaching Algebra 1A. This means that I'm teaching the kids that failed it last semester.
This means that I'm teaching kids who FAILED IT. They FAILED it, got an F, did not get any high school credit. And, most of them also failed 8th-grade math, too, and maybe more, although I don't have access to their records before that. And so I have a brand new class of shiny-faced youngsters with more than the usual desperation, apathy, and feeling of failure on their plate. They showed up in my class on January 7th with various levels of being grounded or perhaps worse, parents who said things like, "just hand in there another year, and then you can drop out and work with your uncle Milo in the garage."
I don't know how to tell them, "hang on, just keep working, many, many bright and talented people struggle with Algebra, when you're older, you can hire a tutor." So, I just try to find ways to make Algebra entertaining. And you know what? Turns out there aren't that many ways to do that. I stand up there and do my song and dance, wanting this to be my swan song, since I may, more likely than not, never teach again after May. I fantasize about them talking about me after I'm gone, saying, "oh, if only we'd known how talented she was. Why didn't she tell us she felt so burned out? I mean, other than saying to us every single day in the hallway, 'I feel so burned out,' that is."
See, when I took Algebra 1 in high school it just made sense to me. I sat in the back seat of class and read novels, and every once in a while I'd look up and squint at the board (I was too cool to wear my glasses) and see what the teacher had written, and it just made sense. So, I'd go back to my book, ignore my homework, make all As on the tests, and barely pass the class with a C-. It has to do with pattern recognition. Some people can look at how a couple of problems are solved and detect a pattern in how they are solved, and BINGO, they know the rules and what to do next time.
Others do not.
And those are the ones I'm teaching.
I've never had a class in how to teach math, unlike the other math teachers. I've been doing it, mostly, for 8 years. I ignore words like, "evaluate" and tell the kids that those are fancy math words, "Just work it out." I say. I also say things like, "Stuff" instead of "quantity" and "Smooshed together" to describe how we write products like the variable term 3xy.
I go to math meetings and hear about how the other teachers are having their kids keep write and keep, "math journals" and I try to keep my face as neutral as possible. (Is every other math teacher on earth just a big huge NERD?) I don't even really fit in with the other math teachers. They majored in math. I majored in geology and education. They'll fondly say things like, "Remember college calculus?" and I'll mumble something. I think I took "MATH 123f, Calculus for Single Mothers With Small Children." I think I got a C.
So, the kids and I will struggle together until May, when I walk away from administration's plans to nearly double my workload next year and possibly increase my class size.
But, hell, it's Friday. it's Friday and it's a three day weekend. it's been a long week, what with a broken furnace (of COURSE the furnace broke on the coldest day of the year at our house) and bitter, cold, un-runnable weather. I have "spinach and artichoke" flavored potato chips, which are better than they sound, and a margarita. Hello, garden tub. Hello, medium-level sudoku. Hello, Saturday spin class and Sunday run.
SENT FROM MY HUSBAND'S LAPTOP. BECAUSE MINE IS STILL BROKEN.
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