Even Math Isn’t Sacred?
So here I am. Hot, humid, angsty, depressed, struggling to keep my head up but still finding little moments of joy in what I do. But we’ll save those little moments of joy for another post.
When I’d been told “We are all ELL teachers now” in my posh, overly flourescent lighted, newly carpeted, ELMO equipped school, a mere 2 years ago I could unequivocally tell you that sure enough ELL didn’t apply to math. Oh sure, there were the complex words and terms but in the end the numbers, being universal, would win out. And given the 1 or 2 intensive ELLers I had in my class and the others working towards English fluency we did pretty alright in the arena of math. Hell, I got my class with a large majority of ELL at different stages of English mastery to start using the word “disequilibrium” correctly and accurately. Oh how I thought I was a goddess of math instruction. Then I got them to use the word “metacognition” and surely I had conquered the highest teaching mountain.
But now here I am. Hot, humid, angsty, depressed, struggling to keep my head up and still finding little moments of joy in what I do. But again, that is for another post.
Now the sacred safe realm of numbers seems to have turned its back on me. Here I was going along, really being a kind of ELL teacher to a class with 1 native English speaker, and the numbers decided to fail me. Or is it the vocabulary? Just how DO you translate partial-sums method?! I’ve tried writing it out step-by-step, using different colors, using graph paper and lastly doing a hell of a song and dance up front to a deadpan audience of students. Still, we struggle. Okay well, “we” being “me,” to figure out what the problem really lies. Could it be that sweet unmovable numbers have betrayed me or hath a lack of understanding of place value reared its ugly head? Could it be that they simply don’t understand my English? Mathematical vocabulary is pretty specific, after all.
And herein lies the conundrum. How do I get to the bottom of this? I feel like on Monday I’ve got to show up in sequins to get the point across. I’m doing all the work here, los estudiantes. It can’t go on much longer like this; I’m hanging by an exhausted thread. So like a good teacher, I ponder. Then I shall email my in-house super extraordinaire colleague who can translate a worksheet for me. I will get to the bottom of this. I just can’t accept that my beloved math may have turned on me.
On a more serious note…teaching with this uncertainty is and has been quite a blow to my confidence. Having to constantly wonder…is it the English or the concept they don’t get, is exhausting. I don’t have much of a way of really knowing unless I constantly inundate my coworker with worksheet translation requests, which isn’t realistic or do-able. It is an odd feeling to be in my fifth year with a tad experience but to feel completely without a safety net. It is exhausting and some days, like today, just plain discouraging.
Even math isn’t sacred anymore?
This post is dedicated to my Mom, the greatest mathematics professor I know.