So Much More Than People Think

To educate

Microsoft Office Clip Art, November 2013

The announcement for Mission #7 of Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere happened to cross my consciousness this morning.  The mission: to explore a day in the life of a teacher/educator.   (Thank you for including non-teachers!)   It’s Sunday, my big tutoring day, so I resolved to take whatever happens today and write about it.  I wondered if I would have anything to write about.  This turns out not to have been a problem.

This morning, with latte in hand, I continue unpacking my calculus knowledge so I can preteach the next section to one of my tutoring students later today.   I love this concept – can you love a concept? – that as we process knowledge it becomes compressed, and then as teachers we have to go back and unpack our knowledge so we can help students learn.  This model perfectly matches what I feel in my own head as I learn and process new concepts.  BTW my calculus knowledge has been packed for a very long time!

In the middle of all this calculus, I find out my dad was in the hospital last week and didn’t tell me.  (Sigh.)  He blacked out twice recently, and was planning to drive somewhere today.  OMG.  I make him promise not to drive and wish I lived closer to him, or vice versa.

Tutoring session #1 starts out shaky.  It turns out my student is having a personal crisis.  I don’t ask outright, but wait until confided in.  I then spend 10 or 15 minutes responding with my best growth mindset messages:  this happened only one time; you will do better next time; this event does not define you.  Whew!  I’m able to help the student process the event and move on.  This job is so much more than people think it is.  At the end of the session, I strongly urge my student to “step away from the math” for a few hours, and then go back and review each of the problems before submitting the assignment.  Recognizing the benefit of letting time pass so you can tackle a problem with fresh “eyes” is a good life lesson and only one of many I find myself sharing with my students.

Tutoring session #2 starts out great:  I discover my student scored one of the highest grades in the class on the latest test.  You can just see the increase in confidence and a willingness to try more difficult problems instead of sitting back and saying “I don’t get it.”  Gotta keep this positive feeling going!

As I reflect on the day’s educational interactions, I realize (once again) how much the affective side impacts our ability to be effective educators.  This job is so much more than people think it is.  And isn’t that great!


4 thoughts on “So Much More Than People Think

  1. mrdardy

    Your account of tutoring session #2 reminds me of one of my students in Calc BC. She is used to nothing but A grades in math and her average was in the mid 80s. She was panicked about an upcoming test and I tried to ‘talk her off the ledge’ as it were. She scored a 78% on the test and was distraught. I talked to her on a Friday and explained that I had written a make up for some of my students who had been absent. I told her that she needed to take that make up on Monday to prove to herself that she could do this. I did not promise what change might occur in her grade, I told her to just focus on proving that she was still the same excellent student that she had always been. Since then, she has been in the 90s on every assessment. I’m thrilled when that switch can be turned back on for a kid!

    1. galenaylor Post author

      It’s wonderful that you listened to your student and realized she needed something to restore her confidence! I was just sitting here thinking about math anxiety… I’ll bet constant math/test anxiety is more of a problem than people realize. I wonder if it could cause students to become low math achievers in the first place. Hmmm.. At any rate, I’m very glad you were able to turn that switch back on for her! Kudos!

  2. jsoltau

    It’s great to comment on how important the personal side of teaching is. It is important for both the student and the teacher, and your post is a perfect example of how both are affected by outside forces throughout the day.

  3. growingexponentially

    I love your statement about how teachers have to unpack our own knowledge. My calculus knowledge has also been packed for awhile and I wish I had time to unpack it like you are doing. It’s nice to read about educating students outside of the typical school day.

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