Because of facebook I learned a number of things about my students who I taught at the high-need school in Las Vegas:
1. One became a math major with a full-ride and will be attending a college I might go to for grad school.
2. One is at MIT and was excited to hear from me when I told her how proud I was.
3. A cute couple who helped each other every day in my class years ago just broke up and keep posting about their anguish.
4. They are having lots of fun going to costume parties at a wide variety of colleges around the West Coast.
I was truly blessed to teach the honors Pre Calculus class because I got to see my work pay off in such a big way.
I know that the students who are studying math in college benefited from having a Pre-Calculus teacher who understood math. They left pre-calculus with the tools in place to get them through physics and differential equations. The student at MIT says she sometimes wonders why they picked her but that she doesn’t regret the decision for a second. When I compare her education to that of my private school MIT student I can see how different it was and understand why the jump is hard for her. She did every single assignment in my class to the best of her ability and aced every test but was never pushed quite as hard because I had so many others who were so far behind to worry about. I wrote to her “I’m not surprised at all that they chose you. You are a fantastic student and great at math.” MIT admissions knows that it took incredible dedication to education and self-study to come out of a crazy high school so well educated. Holly’s dad was also fantastic, supportive and really knew what it took to raise his child to be successful.
I was able to online chat with Jamie who has a math scholarship about my first year teaching. I admitted that although I knew math I had no idea how to teach and he admitted that he could see that. We discussed the differences between his high school and my new private one and he said he didn’t know that private schools like that existed. He thought it sounded like a fun learning zone as opposed to a dress-code, hall pass, sit down and work quietly on these repetitive procedures, graffitied-up institution he’d attended. Even though he’d gone to the school he also had no concept of what regular classes were like. I shared my blog posts from when I was teaching him and he was shocked to hear about my interactions with the all-boys freshman classes.
It’s funny that he was going to the school and didn’t realize the extent to which it was crippling students’ chances of success in life. People still need to know about this. I have a lot of work cut out for my life between sharing the inequity of the achievement gap with the world, helping new teachers cope with the insanity which is their first year, and infusing the mathematics curriculum with ideas and problems that are not dull and boring.