One of my boys in Intermediate just wouldn’t do much of anything for me today. I would sit beside him and work a couple problems, only to leave and find him immediately ignoring his work and instead engrossed in something on his phone (that seemed a bit sketch, might I add). We played this game over and over. I would babysit him; he would do a problem; another kid would need me; he went back to his phone.
I finally decided I couldn’t ignore the other kids in class. However, kids like this also bring out the competitive nature in me. I get all Oh you WILL do math today. You will learn, if it kills me. I will win this battle–not you. Other teachers know: sometimes winning these battles means caring more about the student’s success than s/he cares about it.
But I digress…
So, I left the kid alone and instead asked a girl that was already done if she would tutor him. I said they could go sit in the back corner, but he was not to take his phone with him.
Then, a series of miracles occurred:
- The girl gladly went over to help, even though she had never talked to this boy before.
- The boy listened and left his phone in his backpack (WHAT).
- The girl got him though the entire lesson.
Basically, a teenager with no training or experience in teaching did my job better than I could. And I was so grateful to her in that moment. Her momma will be getting a letter in the mail.
One of my calc girls brought me a drop/add form yesterday. “Noooo!” I told her. I’m a firm believer in calculus education and hate to see kids who made it this far decide to get off the calc train.
“What do you want to study in college?”
“I know! I don’t know what to do. I’m just so overwhelmed.”
I made a promise that I would help her with whatever I could. I encouraged her to stay at least until the first quiz. I could sense she was emotional about her decision, so I gave her a hug (and said a quick prayer that this kid wouldn’t think I’m some wacko who goes around hugging people I doesn’t really know) and told her the decision was hers to make, but I had confidence in her.
Today, she came by after school and I figured she had decided to go ahead and drop. Instead, she came over to my desk to tell me she was so touched by the fact that I said I believed in her that she went home and cried.
IT WAS LIKE A TWO MINUTE CONVERSATION. Can I have a classroom full of this girl? If only it were that easy to win everyone over.
Anyway, she started tearing up and said, “I’m just so bad at math.”
My jawed dropped. “Girl. You are in AP CALCULUS! Trust me, you are not bad at math.”
I made her say “I’m good at math.” And “I’m good at calculus.” Yes, yes I did make her do that. I’m practicing my mommy skills.
I don’t know if she’ll stay or leave, but there’s no way someone’s leaving because she doesn’t realize her teachers will move heaven and earth to help her out if she shows a little bit of desire and a lot of stick-to-it-ness.