It is always during this time of year that I do some reflecting on our time together as teacher and student. What went well? What could have been done better? What was fun? What was challenging? These are questions that I always think about as the school year comes to an end.
When I first met you in August, you were probably assuming that this was going to be just another math class. A 95-minute period, every other day, that would be filled with you sitting quietly as I lectured, you sitting quietly taking notes, you sitting quietly as you practice all that I’ve taught you on a worksheet with thirty problems. But, my hope is that when I first met you in August, you knew right away that this math class was going to be different; you were not going to sit quietly.
Many of you have probably learned to hate math class for a variety of reasons. Being “good at math” has had a very narrow definition for you and if you don’t fit that definition, why bother to try? As I look back on the last ten months, this has been my single goal; to redefine for you what it means to be “good at math”. Math is not all about speed and accuracy, memorizing formulas, and getting the right answer. Math is about communicating your thinking, being able to solve a problem in a way that makes sense to you, and taking ownership of your own learning. My hope is that you experienced what it feels like to be good at math in these capacities this year. For some of you, you were hungry for the opportunity to feel this good about math, while others needed a little more convincing that it was possible or real, but my belief is that you all, in some way, got to feel good about yourself as a mathematics student this year; and for that, you should be proud.
As you move on to other math classes in the future, I will be honest, I have concerns. I’m concerned that you will go back to feeling unsuccessful because the focus of the class will be on speed and accuracy, memorization, and sitting quietly. Do not let this get in your way of finding success and knowing that you are good at math. You must believe that. When you eventually leave high school and move on to a career or higher education, please understand that the skills that I have tried to help you develop will be invaluable. You are all problem solvers, communicators, and hard workers, but most of all, you are all curious. Do not let anyone kill your curiosity by telling you that you have to solve a problem in a particular way. Find a way that works for you. I promise you, whether it be in math class or in life, it is more rewarding that way.
As you know, this has been an extremely challenging year for me as I try to navigate my own plans for my future, but I want you to know that nothing has been more rewarding than being your teacher and your friend. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. My favorite part of being a teacher is the connections that I make with my students. You are all so incredibly interesting, thoughtful, and lovable! I’m going to miss you, but I will always remember how rewarding this year has been. Getting to see you succeed in ways you never thought imaginable has been the greatest gift a student could give a teacher. Thank you for all of your hard work, for always making me laugh, and most of all, for proving me right when I say to other teachers, “You know, you’d really be surprised by what students can do, all you have to do is ask.”
With love and respect,
I'd love to hear of ways that you end your school year. What works for you?