The Joy of Teaching

22 Nov

I’m a teacher.

I love to teach…

I’m a math teacher.

I don’t love to teach math.

I’m good at it, don’t get me wrong. Math is important. I LIKE math…alot…and I like my students…

But I am eager to teach something that will have a greater “long-term impact” on their futures than the quadratic formula…

Every once in awhile, though…every ONCE in awhile, something clicks with one of them that has never clicked before. And that’s exciting…

You see, I teach developmental algebra courses…to college students…those students who didn’t learn algebra when they were in high school. And because they didn’t learn it in high school, they hate it even more when they get to college.

And since they can’t test into the one math class that they need for their major, they have to take my algebra class first.

This makes them unhappy…and they usually take out that unhappiness on me.

But yesterday…

Kaitlyn is a typical college algebra student. She needs one math class for her major, and it is NOT algebra…she’s not happy to be in my class, but she is trying to make the best of it. Her current B- will be enough for her, if she can hold onto it until the end of the semester.

Yesterday, I was teaching them how to multiply polynomials…

You remember polynomials…you may not like them. You may not even remember how to do them…

But you remember them.

Kaitlyn’s eyes were glazing over as I started to teach the FOIL method (you remember that TOO, don’t you?)

As I demonstrated a different way to think about this multiplication method, Kaitlyn’s eyes snapped into focus.

“That’s it?,” she exclaimed loudly. “That makes SO MUCH SENSE!”

My look must have betrayed my puzzlement.

“I never understood that before in high school,” she continued. “None of my teachers ever explained it like that before. I GET it now.”

The words that every teacher loves to hear…

I am not naïve enough to think that Kaitlin’s life will be radically altered by the fact that she can now multiply together 2 binomials. She will not change her major and dedicate her life to teaching math because I was able to break through and touch some long dormant math gene lying deep within her psyche.

But I got to experience once again the joy of teaching…the joy that comes from creating an “aha” moment for someone…even someone who isn’t looking to experience it.

Even someone who doesn’t like math…

Have you ever created a learning moment for someone? Even if you’re not a teacher?

It’s a rush, isn’t it?


Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Motivation, Self-discipline, Teaching


Tags: , ,

8 responses to “The Joy of Teaching

  1. Bryan Hart

    November 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Definitely a rush. It’s been fun doing that sort of stuff with the Team Eagle group. My favorite (and the favorite of many of the students) was when we discussed who the millionaires in our society are. Most said that the celebrities made up the most millionaires, but after all the guesses were in the classes were surprised to hear that celebrities make up less than 1% of all american millionaires (seems that they can’t hold on to that 10 mil. a year). In one of our last classes a student remarked: “I loved that lesson because I always thought celebrities and athletes had it all together.”She believes that she has a chance at doing well with money now because it isn’t about extreme talent; instead, it is about paying attention to money. She got it! 😀

    • jbecker007

      November 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Very cool, Bryan! I hope my boys pick up on that as well!

      BTW, how about a breakfast meeting on Friday? Any chance?

  2. Debbie Alspaugh

    November 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I know that feeling exactly, Jon. Finding new ways to explain the same old math is a true art.

    • jbecker007

      November 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      It sure is, Debbie! And as I get older, I feel like the art is harder to find…but it’s so reqrding when I hit it. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Matt

    November 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

    As a teacher…those “aha” moments were what kept me motivated. Yep…had them in music too! Great blog…keep it up!

    • jbecker007

      November 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      I remember experienceing those as a student in choir and band…there are DEFINITELY aha moments in music…

  4. Mary Ann Morrison Anderson

    November 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    My daughter is exactly one of those students…and she is now taking the class she has to have for the second time (yes, I said the second time). I could picture her as that girl in your class…all of a sudden it “clicks”….it must be an amazing feeling as a teacher having watched these kids struggle and struggle and all of a sudden the “get it”. What a blessing you are. (now, do you think you could go spend the next few weeks down in Evansville so that Erica could finally pass this Algebra class and I never have to hear the word Algebra out of her mouth again???? thanks…) 🙂

    • jbecker007

      November 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      I’m teaching one this summer at IUN…:-)


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