We Don't Know Everything

Reading Dan's post, What Should Math Teachers Do When They Don't Know the Math?, really resounded with me and the timing was ironic.

We were working on constructions in Geometry and we were working through notes from the curriculum. Admittedly, I had not looked made an answer key as I had performed the constructions in past years, albeit not according to these directions.

There was one step I just could not figure out. I read, reread it, positioned my compass, re-positioned my compass. I stopped and stared at it for an awkward amount of silence.

And then I turned around to tell the kids, "We're going to skip this one and come back to it tomorrow."

S: "So you don't know how to do it?"

Me: "No, I'll have to figure it out and then tell you tomorrow."

S#2: "But you're the one who is supposed to be teaching us."

Me: "Teachers are humans too. We don't know everything. Would you rather me lie to you and tell you the wrong way to do it?"

S#3: "Yes. Then we would feel better about knowing how to do it."

Me: *mind blown"

The next day at the beginning of class another student was quick to ask, "Did you figure out that problem from yesterday?"

Me: "Yes I did! Let's start on that one now since some of you were hating on me for not knowing how to do something.

S: We weren't hating....

Me: "How would you feel if I treated you that way when you don't know something?"


And we went on with class and it wasn't brought up again.

So...what do we do when it becomes clear, in front of a class, that we don't understand math like we thought.

Admit it. Show room for growth, Use growth mindset on your own set of teaching skills. Explain your old thinking and how that changed or hit an obstacle. Explain your new thinking.

And the ability to do this comes from the confidence and purpose that you feel inside. It comes from a place of being prepared and experienced. It's embarrassing for like 10 seconds and then my brain switches to "Well, I guess I'm going to learn something new today. Glad I won't have to make this mistake again."

That's worth sharing.

Students aren't used to that at first but the older they get and especially as they advance through higher math with me, I am very open about my math abilities and struggles. This year more than ever I've had students ask me why I decided to teach math and what my favorite subject was in school. I'm open about all of that. I did very well in high school and hit a wall in college. I passed most of my college courses with a C. I don't understand calculus at all. I don't even know how I passed any of those classes. I struggle with trig and some of the more advanced topics in Algebra 2. I used to call my mom every day in college, crying, telling her I didn't think I could do this.

How can I teach math when I don't understand it myself?

And then somehow I wound up in the classroom, magically able to do most of the things I have to teach with ease, and not really knowing how it happened.

But in case I ever forget, there is always a moment like I mentioned to humble me and remind what it is like to struggle, feel unsure, and be embarrassed.

I'm really trying to communicate to my students how important it is to continually better yourself. Not try to just get through things and get things over worth. Not just distract yourself and waste time with social media and video games and YouTube. But to really think about, on purpose, areas of weakness or how to make things better.

I hope it's working.

I hope they see mistakes going hand in hand with success.

I hope they see a real person can be good at their job and make mistakes.

I hope they see that making mistakes doesn't have to ruin your confidence or your day and that you grow because of and in spite of, making mistakes.

I hope it becomes normal and comfortable for them to mess up and see me mess up and learn and go on with our lives.

I just read this quote yesterday but already forgot from where, "Successful people feel comfortable being wrong."

I hope when they see me, they see both.

That's what I'm here for.


#DITL Saturday, September 10th, 2016

My normal routine is to do all my shopping and errands on Friday nights so that I have nowhere to go on Saturdays and I can do all my work and clean all day Saturday.

I have a lunch date with my bestie on the second Saturday of every month so my plans were already thrown off. I thought that I would stay at school and work a lot on Friday, get groceries after my lunch with my friend, then come home and do the rest of my work.

Friday my sisters messages me at the end of school and needs me to baby-sit my niece and nephew. Well there goes my working Friday plans.

My mom sets up a birthday lunch for my Grandma, who is visiting from Florida, for Saturday at 6:00 at a place an hour away.

Well there goes my working Saturday plans.

I am a routine person so I really really really hate when my routine is interrupted by someone other than me.

Routinely throughout the day, I just stopped myself from worrying about school.

Mental speech: "You still have Sunday to get things done that must be done. No, you can't do everything you wanted to do. Yes, you will have to work more weeknights this week than you want to. But enjoy the moment! You are having lunch with your best friend and dinner with your grandma! Those are fun things that you like doing. So do them!"

Even when I am not at school, or doing school work, I'm planning/worrying about school work. But I can't let that overtake my actual life.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to create a better work/life balance.

I'm doing it.

I'm not perfect.

But I am present.

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal? 

I am proud that I chose to put my personal life above my professional life and enjoy my weekend. It was all ideal. =)

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately? 

I am looking forward to a school year when I don't have to slave over everything. A challenge for me lately is getting things done on my plan period. It is the last hour of the day and I am so tired and spent that I zone out on my e-mail and the Internet rather than accomplishing anything. Then I have to stay after school and do it anyway. I feel like I have no time at home and I work late at school and still have things to take home.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

Overall I feel like I am way more open and relational with my students this year. I can think of several moments in the past weeks where I told them stories from my life and we laughed together or when students have asked my advice on clothes or boys or asked me to look things up or give my opinions on the election and so on. One student has been confiding in me about relationships and I've been trying really hard to change her focus and build her confidence.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

Keep working on a better work/life balance. Continue asking good questions, asking students to notice similarities and differences, asking students to try a problem before they know what to do, asking for strategies, and doing number talks.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I've been posting some #teach180 photos and I've never done that before.