I woke up before the sun today. That seems to be the normal thing these days. Life has been quite eventful in both good and bad ways. My thesis has been pushed back again, but all for good reason in my opinion. I started a new instructional journey on the weekends with my university’s upward bound program. The program provides additional instructional assistance for high school students. And while this program is supposed to be a supplement, after conversing and working with my students, I’m finding that it’s just the opposite. I discovered that for majority of the children, this is their main source of obtaining all the information they can as their schools are lacking in that area. And while I’m not happy that these students are in this type of situation, I am happy that I have the opportunity to help get them caught up and on track.
I was explaining this theory to a friend and he pretty much downgraded my duty. “Oh so you don’t really teach anywhere important” .. “you teach hoodlums and gangbangers” or something of that nature. I wasn’t appalled. This is what he usually does. Maybe it was just a joke – but for the record, I’ve NEVER made any remarks similar to the ones that he makes when he shares his accomplishments with me. Only a few people have really supported my decision to teach Algebra I for this program. And most of these few aren’t my friends.
But they don’t see what I see. Half of them don’t even believe that giving back to their community would make any difference so I don’t expect them to understand why I do what I do. But what tore at my heartstrings was the stereotypes some of them applied to the program. It was automatically assumed that because this program is geared toward low-income households, that the students were outlaws and troublemakers. That they aren’t intelligent, capable, and impressionable young adults.
In the past, I’ve taught robotics for a program for high school students where their families were able to afford to pay a hefty fee for their spot in the program. I still loved the program but I often thought about how many students would LOVE to do this but couldn’t afford it. Working for this program gives me a change to reach those particular students that were in my thoughts.
The kids and I have built a decent rapport already. They are respectful and understand that when I say it’s time to be serious, it is time to be serious. I try to make math as fun as math can be — I don’t want to be a tyrant where they do what I tell them to do because they have to do so. I’m starting to see that they do what they’re told out of respect and because it’s fun. They actually believe math is fun. LOL! We joke around, we clown, we laugh — I try to make the environment as welcoming to questions as I can.
I try to create an environment where we address all doubt without embarrassment. And I think it’s working. Yesterday was our second session and they were much more open and talkative and responsive with me. I teach three different classes and none of them wanted to leave for their next class. Two students actually begged me to write a note so they could stay — in Algebra. Go figure. And that one student who just seemed so hopeless during our first session had a smile on his face and providing much more input this time around.
On a lighter note, my true friends, they get it and at least I know who they are now. And maybe the fact that I understand the phrase “Elevation requires Separation” even more now is a post for another day. Or maybe I can write more about this for my independent study course and that’ll lead to a conference where I can present my findings and observations. But right now, I’m writing this just to release the frustration. I’m writing this hoping that perhaps somebody out there understands. Not for praise. Not for recognition. Just understanding. And prayers — prayers that the words from others who may not get it, never deter me or poison my spirit.