Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dream Nudging

Last Friday, I gave a quiz on solving linear systems. Bit of a first-year-teacher move (not the Lemov kind...the stupid kind) 'cause they were by no means ready. There were objections, cries of slope-intercept injustice from the crowd, but in true no-excuses fashion I pushed forward. I knew worst case scenario was that all the quizzes accidentally slipped into the recycle bin instead of the gradebook (I've absolutely never done that).

Like all good mistakes, this one eventually came to an end and I was ready to declare an early exit to summer. As students were wrapping up, a young mind sitting near me passed me this note:

So many reactions. First, I smiled. As far as notes go, I've been slipped worse student musings(ex: "Please stop talking, Ms. Pace, I have a headache" and "Dewayne is picking his nose and wiping it on the desk. Make him stop?") So the very fact that this student used the word math felt like a win. Soon though, my surface-level pleasure was superceded by two things. One: I have no masters in math. Nor do I have plans to tell the students that. Two: This particular kiddo has a tendency towards loathing math.

So I did what all quality educators would have done in the situation; I acted like I knew what I was talking about. "Yes," I said to her after class, "it is tough stuff to get a graduate degree in math. It's usually a good first step to major in math in college and see where that leads!" (All of this said with too too much enthusiasm for the end of a Friday, of course). She replied that she was considering it but thought it might be hard, which would (clearly) turn her off to the idea entirely. Then instead of saying, "A math masters would be a big challenge, but you can totally do it if you put your mind to it!" or something of the sort, I said goodbye and politely asked her to scram. Her life musings were beginning to infringe on my Friday happy hour.

The logical next question is, per the quiz/recycling scenario, am I a bad person? Was I supposed to tell her that she can do anything she puts her mind to? Even if she writes "IDK"* on her classworks and frequently complains that math is boring/a force/not as much fun as doodling, etc? Unclear. Most students at my school want to be doctors, lawyers or "people in suits." All very admirable. There are certainly more doctors and lawyers than rappers and ballers - so that's great news. But many young students at my school also have trouble completing their homework every night and taking ownership of the fact that work might be, oh I don't know, anything but a cake-walk.

Do I want to be a dream-crusher? No. Do I want to be a gentle nudger in the direction of a more realistic dream? Maybe. Do I feel the need to shake a student who hasn't done homework for three weeks who says she wants to be a pediatrician and scream something to the effect of, "THEN DO YOUR FLIPPING HOMEWORK. WORK WITH ME AFTER SCHOOL. GO TO COLLEGE. AND BE BETTER AT LIFE!"? Yup.

Clearly I opted for a more stealthy exit from the conversation based largely on the fact that there was an adult soda waiting for me very close by. A chief reason I work in a charter school is that I think it offers the best chance for every one of my little cherubs to find happiness in the college/career/life of their choice. I just also want to lace their Dunkaccinos with a little pinch of "work harder" reality.

So you wanna be a doctor? Passing science might be the place to start.

Much love,
Ms. Pace

*IDK: The blood-curdling acronym for "I don't know" aka the worst answer possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment