Friday, September 24, 2010

A late note

The semester has started up at work and my two classes have gotten off and running.  I'm teaching Calculus and Algebra 2 and so far I'm having a good time in both classes.

I was asked the other day how I can stand to be their teacher (the algebra 2 kids).  Today I was explaining a concept for the umpteenth time and one of them said "now I get it".   Those words keep me going.  To see the look on someone's face when the puzzle comes together and the answer makes sense.  Or alleviating the dread of taking a test because I reassure that they're using the correct methods.  Sure, it's hard work and I push them to do more; to pay attention and take notes and answer my questions asking them just to take guesses while I hope that they're developing intuition about these topics.  I work hard to think of ways to explain a topic six ways to Sunday.  Sometimes they'll get the idea right away; other times I just have to keep showing them again and again.  But it's the "now I get it"'s and the questions that make me think about the answer; questions that test my understanding or that apply concepts beyond what we're learning.  Indicators that what I'm saying is not only sticking, but inspiring original thought.

I hope that as this semester progresses I can get every student to be involved and find an enjoyment of their subject.  If they enjoy themselves, the grades go up.  I try to keep my classes interesting and not too dense by injecting humor, or anecdotes, or just engaging the students in conversation.  The calculus classes most often lead to interesting discussions.  We talk about college a lot when I teach calc.  Everyone has questions and not that I have every answer, but I try to give them perspective on what they might encounter.  Values of working hard, asking questions, keeping on top of assignments, and being true to themselves.

Mostly though, I'm just happy that what I have to share is well received and that I am taken seriously when I teach.  I have respectful students who are trying hard and showing that they care about their work just as I do.  I feel like I've been living and breathing this stuff for years, and while I don't need them to be that into math, at least come away from the class with a "gee, that was actually pretty interesting, I wonder what else there is to learn?" attitude.  If nothing else, if I can inspire my own desire to continue learning and how much importance I place on education, I feel like I've succeeded.  Not that a high class average bothers me at all either.

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