The “Why” (Blog Challenge #3)

Teaching . . . My life dream from as young as I can remember. I have always wanted to be a teacher, so you probably want to stop reading and think this is a snoozer. Maybe it is, I don’t have a life revelation like many did. However, I must say that today, with challenges I am being faced with, I have to remember the “why”. Why did I become a teacher? Yes, it was my lifelong dream; however, what has kept me in it and what drives me today?

I played school with my stuffed animals, chalkboard/bulletin board combination, and my ‘papers’. I laid them all out nicely and neatly in rows. I got even more excited when I grew old enough to help my aunt grade papers. She was a teacher, so she was someone I always looked up to and one would say idolize. Yes, I was also the kid in the class that wanted to be the helper.

It wasn’t until high school that I decided I would be a math teacher. I had a wonderful Algebra I and II teacher. At a large high school, it is rare that someone would have the same teacher for both, but I was fortunate in that. As good as she was, I realize now, she was a very traditional teacher and I was very good at drill and kill and doing the exact steps she taught. I learned very quickly in my freshmen college math course, I had not learned one bit to think about the mathematics. I simply learned processes to get an answer. This becomes challenge #1 for me in my classroom – Never let the students just ‘monkey see-monkey do’. It is most important for students to understand the “why”.

Let me back up a bit. When I started high school, my parents thought I would simply be average in school. I made decent grades, nothing great. I did enough to usually stay on honor roll, but I think it is safe to say I was one that was ok skating by. I did not want to be the smart girl in my class because then I might have been noticed. So, when I actually started showing some interest in mathematics in college, my family of course tried to sway me towards something else. Most could not understand why I would want to major in mathematics with the plans of becoming a high school teacher. The university I went to had and still has one of the top Pharmacy schools in the nation. People all of the time asked why I wouldn’t do that, it would make so much more money. Here is challenge #2 for me in my classroom – Tell my students my story. Let them know they need to choose a career that they will love to get up every morning and go there. Sure, there are bad days, but overall, I love getting up and going to work. That beats all of the money in the world.

I teach mostly gifted and honors students here in Louisiana. I did teach 3 years at a high school in Maine and 3 years in Washington, 1 at a high school and 2 at a middle school. My students now often ask why I teach when it seems to them I could do a number of things in life. I take my students to engineering day at Louisiana Tech (have to plug their engineering program – it is WONDERFUL!) every year and usually this really prompts my students to ask me why I do not do that or something else. Of course, as math teachers, we fool our students most  all of the time. They think I know everything about math and a lot about science. I have been to summer workshops with their engineering people and have students in their program. I will be honest, with the rapid changes in education, it has entered my mind to consider it. But, I can’t let go of the “why” and this is what I share with my students.

I love math and I love teaching. This is the best of both worlds. I love getting up everyday and going to work. When I had my son over a year ago, people thought I would just hate leaving him. I will admit, it is hard to leave him, but if I didn’t love what I did everyday, there is absolutely no way I could leave him. Yes, he is my child, but I look at it as I have approximately 80 others who are relying on me. I want to facilitate math learning in a way the student has rarely or even possibly never experienced before. I want to have high expectations for my students, but have a classroom that students can feel comfortable walking in and taking risks.

This year is the first year I have really had to ask myself the “why” in my 12 year career. Why do I do this when I could possibly do something else? With the new expectations being placed on all teachers in our state, why do I want to continue to do this? Why do I want have to work after my son goes to bed nightly to meet these expectations? Overall, I have realized all of this will make me a better teacher in the long run. But the answer is simple, I love what I do. Regardless of what is thrown at me during my career, it never will change: I love teaching and I love math. That is enough of the “why” for me.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy W
    Sep 03, 2012 @ 23:49:45

    I enjoy reading people’s “journeys” to becoming a teacher. Thank you for sharing yours. I really resonate with your desire to not allow your students to be “Monkey See – Monkey Do” mathematicians. Your students are lucky to have someone who loves what they do as much as you 🙂

    Reply

  2. lmhenry9
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 21:21:19

    Thanks for sharing your “why” you teach. I, too, believe it’s important to share with students the rest of the story – that I am doing something that I love and generally makes me happy and that is extremely important. I can also relate to the part about being not only a teacher but a mother as well. As hard as it is to do both, they both complete who I am as an individual. I am a better mother because I am a teacher and I am a better teacher because I am a mother.
    –Lisa

    Reply

  3. Aaron C.
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 08:30:56

    trying to get caught up on the new teacher initiation blogs (up to P!) … I can totally empathize with being pretty good at school, and some people questioning your decision to teach … I wanted to be a scientist of some sort but switched to education just after high school graduation (which effected scholarships and the college I ended up going) … I can’t honestly recall all the specifics of why I made the decision that way roughly 15 years ago, but I do know that I felt like education would be more meaningful (“pay it forward”) and something I could be relatively happy doing for a long time … teaching isn’t exactly what I thought it would be – but I keep coming back year after year! I’d love to know more about the specifics of how you use bell-ringers to skip the review (from your other post) by the way

    Reply

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