Village people...

Got Math? I think the answer for most the answer is a definite, "No..." "I don't get math," is what so many would say. Sometimes being a math teacher is a really strange job. If you ask most adults the subject they didn't like the most or the one that they struggled with the most, almost everyone says, "Math."

I have to be honest...math was not one of my favorite subjects in high school. I think the main reason was the teachers. I had a great Algebra teacher, Mr. Bethke, who opened the world of math for me, but then the following teachers were a bit horrifying. One of my teachers had a reputation for looking down girls shirts, so everyone wore zip up jackets to class. That was the year that I did not ask any questions in math. Luckily, my good friend and I had math together (we actually had all but one class together) and he would help me every day so I could achieve success.

What determines our success? What determines our passion?

These are questions that really stir my thoughts, both in my teaching and my life. Does one's passion lead you to success? Or is it that success leads you to passion? Every day I look out at my students, knowing that I am passionate about teaching math and I want them to feel success. Many days I feel defeated because of their lack of interest...lack of effort. My step-dad, a wonderful man, asked me why I thought that the students have changed. I really had to think about this idea. Why is it that the students don't have the "village" attitude, but rather "everyone for themselves?" I wish I had an easy answer, but it's really a convoluted one. Here are my thoughts...

The school where I teach has a varied clientele. I am not saying that it unique, but for many students, they have surpassed the educational level of their parents. Many of our parents are not English speaking and are disconnected from the school. In their country, teachers are revered and have a lot of power (the students think this at first too), so to come and discuss with a teacher is unheard of. Students have changed. As the years go by they want immediate gratification. Working through a problem and having patience is a lost art. Although I love technology, video games have taken away some of these skills. I do find it ironic that my students can spend hours and hours playing a game (which requires thinking and some element of patience), but can't spend 20 minutes on homework. Another thing about school is that there are no "cheat codes" available to make your life easier. Finally, teachers are exhausted. With all of the "new" standards and the constant standardized testing, our "Race to the Top" is burning out the best teachers and will eventually shove us more to the bottom.

I want to find the Village...find a place where passion leads you to success and success leads to your passion. I envision that in the Village, people care for each other, nurture one another. The Village encourages you to not only find your passion, but follow it, knowing that for every passion there is a niche for you to express it. In the Village, teachers, students, and parents work together so that all children can learn and be successful, regardless of where their learning starts. No children are given the choice to fail. If one method isn't working, another is tried, and if that doesn't work, effort is made to find what sparks the child to succeed. Success is not determined by a test score, but the ability to show knowledge. Reading, writing, and math skills are held equal to the ability to explore and challenge oneself. Thinking critically is crucial for the Village to function and patience and teamwork is required. The Village is achievable, if only we wanted it enough and were given the tools to build it. I want to be there, be a part. If we build it, they would come...but we would all have to choose to be Village people...no uniform or headdress required.

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