Monday, November 12, 2012

When I had to defend my profession twice in one hour

This Saturday I was at wedding, and I started talking to one of my friend's brothers, whom I've known for several years.  This brother is a senior engineering major and is currently tutoring two students in Algebra II.  He said something to the effect of, "I don't think the teacher took the traditional route to become a teacher, and you can tell, she just doesn't really know what she's doing!"

"How can you tell?" I asked, trying to mask my anger at his accusation.

"Well, one of the kids will come home with stuff she's written on the board, and it's just totally wrong!"

"And how do you know that the student didn't copy it incorrectly?"

Mmmmhmm.  That's what I thought.

My grief:  I hate how many times people assume we went into teaching because we couldn't do anything else.  This is a kid who hasn't even graduated college yet, and he feels he has more math knowledge than someone who breathes it day in and day out.  Listen up.  We went to school, too.  And most of us were freaking awesome at it.  That's why we became teachers--to stay in school and share what we love with other students.

Fast forward a few minutes, and my husband and I are leaving the reception early to catch up with a couple from our church, both of whom are youth pastors.  When they asked me how my job is going the man proceeded to tell me:

"You just have to make it interesting for the kids, you know?  Relate it to their lives.  Like video games and stuff."[1]

My grief:  Why do people assume that we don't try to make mathematics interesting?  Do they really think I sit at my desk pondering, "My, now how boring could I possibly make this?"  I'm also sick of hearing, 'Relate it to their lives!'  Good God, I'm trying, but these kids can't add or multiply rational numbers, and by the end of the year they're supposed to recognize conic sections, sequences and series, and logarithmic functions.  If it's so easy, you try it.  Please.  Oh, and while you're at it, go ahead and throw in some video games.  Because that's not a disaster waiting to happen.

Here's the thing:  I'm not trying to be down on my profession.  (Although it was a rough day at school, so I should probably wait to post this.)  But, it's just very clear to me that teaching is something people think they know so much about (because they've all been in the presence of multiple teachers), but unless you are a teacher or you live with one, you really have no idea what it's like.

That's why I'm very enthusiastic about A Day in the Life of  Math Educator.  I plan to write mine sometime this week.  Consider what you just suffered through the prologue.

[1]  Do I tell you how to do your job?


  1. Rebecka

    This reminds me of an A-Ha moment I had several years ago. I think that most of us do not presume to tell a mechanic or a lawyer or a plumber how to do their job because we don't really know how to do those jobs. We have all been in school and have pretty strong opinions about what is right (not much) and what is wrong with that experience. I also LOVE that you point out the glaringly obvious fact that we cannot take the students simply at their word about their frustrations. This is true of our adult friends as well but it is more obvious with frustrated kids. I came to the conclusion recently that while my students almost always tell me some version or form of the truth they rarely tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth...

    1. Exactly. There are so many double-standards when it comes to teaching, it's just unreal. Everyone has an opinion...especially non-educators. :)

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