Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's about time

Several of you had asked me to keep you posted on the career change from college instructor to high school teacher.  And I haven't done that yet.  So, here's a little update.

The first two days of school (which was about a month ago?  How did that happen?) I think I cried more than the last two years combined.  These.  Kids.  Are.  Crazy.  Now, let me remind you what classes I'm teaching and to whom:

Pre-Calculus (Juniors and Seniors)
Algebra II (Juniors and Seniors)

Pre-Calculus?  Piece of cake.  They are all choosing to be there.  I heart them and they heart me and we all mostly heart mathematics.  We have a good thing going.

Algebra II?  To Seniors?  Holy Sha-moly.  I didn't even know you could take Algebra II your senior year.  I took that in ninth grade.

I keep thinking, "This ain't my gift.  I'm not trained in teaching basic mathematics; I'm not trained in selling it to kids who would rather be doing drugs.  My training and my gifting is explaining somewhat complex mathematics to students who find it at least somewhat intriguing."

Then I realized--anyone could teach to people who are choosing to take your class.  It takes something special to be able to reach people who are being forced to take your class.

I also realized--I have 181 days with these kiddos, and if they don't pass my class along with a high stakes test at the end of these 181 days, they don't get a high school diploma.  It seems imperative, then, that I put aside my high and lofty views of what I'm good at teaching and what I'm not so good teaching, and focus on getting to know these students and helping them understand math.

It's been an interesting journey so far.  I still maintain that I'm a better calculus teacher than I am an Algebra II teacher.  However, I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity because I'd have no idea what most high school teachers go through without having this experience.  I have up to 36 students under my care every single hour who are both a joy and a struggle.

Yes, I have drama queens who yell at me when I tell them that everyone in my class is expected to work; I have goths who tell me that if I want them to focus in class I need to buy them their $200 ADHD medication; I have football players who don't know what half of four is.

But, I also have students who now come ask me to do math during their lunch or after school.  I have kids proclaiming, "I love this class!" as they walk into my room.  I have students high-fiving me after turning in a test because a light bulb finally went off.

Every week is getting better and better.  I'm getting to know my students so much faster than I did at the college level, which is one of the main reasons I took this job.  I've had this theory for a while that if you have a job that is really rewarding, in other words, a job that has some really high highs, it also probably has some really low lows.

That's teaching, I feel.  There are extreme struggles, but there are extreme joys, too.

And I'm learning tons.


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