Everyone thought I was crazy leaving me job and coming to teach math to Freshman....and I have to admit, I was afraid they may be right. I dreamt about what the hardest parts would be of this new adventure and how I would react and handle them.
I thought the hardest part would be dealing with your attitudes.
Sometimes it was, especially at the beginning of the year. You came in with chips on your shoulders bigger than Mt. Everest. Some of you had something to prove - that you were better than me and all of those around you. Some of you were proving that you were just worth something at all because that is not the message you received at home. All of you proved to be amazing kids - funny, sarcastic, smart, witty, kind, caring, and I would not trade your attitudes for anything in this world.
I thought the hardest part would be keeping you focused.
Let's be honest - you are freshman and most of you have the attention span that lasts through a 30 second Snapchat. So I know at times taking notes or working on worksheets or whatever activity I had planned required every bit of attention and focus that you had....and even then sometimes bribery by candy or promised cookies was involved. But most of you realized that everything we were doing was to help you, and by Christmas most of you bought in and buckled down to get where you needed to be in this class. Doesn't mean we still did not enjoy our random videos and off-topic conversations at times because let's be fair Algebra is hard for any of us to focus on all the time!
I thought the hardest part would be discipline.
At the beginning of the year, I was worried. Some of you challenged everything - CONSTANTLY! In the first couple of weeks, there were almost 5 fights in my classroom - I was afraid I would go home with some serious injury before mid-term. In addition to that, I cannot imagine acting the way or saying some of the things that some of you did this year....most who acted this way are no longer with us (and if truth is told, I still miss them too). Some of you still don't realize at times the words that come out of your mouth or how inappropriate a topic may be or how the eye-rolls and snickers can hurt me too, but that's okay I'm a big girl with big shoulders to carry that weight on. Some of the way that you act comes from the examples that you see at home but you guys are old enough now to know that there is a different path that you can choose to take. Learn from those positive influences in your life to make different choices - I hope that I have been one of those influences.
"Circumstance may dictate where you start, but determination decides where you finish."
I thought the hardest part would be teaching you Algebra.
While at times this was not the easiest, I taught the way that broke down the information into the simplest of possible terms to help you understand. I researched online resources and found a plethora of tools to attempt to make the subject mildly interesting. And for the most part, some of you tell me I succeeded. I hoped for mild success this year, being my first year teaching, much less teaching Algebra, but I have overwhelmingly been told that I'm the best math teacher you've ever had. I'm told the two main reasons are because I made the information easy to understand (once you decided to pay attention and take notes) and because I cared. If nothing else I hope that you learned this year that I do care about you and always will...
I thought the hardest part would be making you care.
Care about math, care about school, care about each other, care about life in general - care about anything other than the drama that can swirl around you and what someone else's opinion of you may be. Over and over again, I tried to show you where you may use some of the skills that you gained in this class.... fair enough, I never found a good example for polynomials and quadratics. But at least the problem solving and logical thinking skills I think most of you finally understood and care why these skills may be important through out life. Some of you came to my class and maybe learned more about how to deal with life than how to solve an equation. And while I wish that you could have done both, if you stay persistent and don't give up you will master the math part next year....as long as you care enough to do so. Several of you I know care because you'd taken the time to ask about a classmate that you may not have known at the beginning of the year or shown your partner at your desk how to walk through a problem to make sure that they succeeded as well.
I'm so stinking proud of you guys for stepping outside of yourself and caring about others and the world around you.
The hardest part by far is saying good-bye.....
And now the tears begin rolling...
I have only cried twice this year, even though I was told as a new teacher I would cry daily (I promise, if this is your passion you won't!), and both times were as I had to say good bye to students who I was not sure if they were moving on to better places. You see, we see a lot that you maybe don't think we as teachers see. We hear a lot that you don't think that we hear. We know a lot of what goes on in your lives whether you realize it or not and our hearts ache and break for you - at least I know mine does. My mom was worried that as I came into teaching, I would want to save you all and that it would break my heart when I couldn't. Well I do want to save you all and it does break my heart to hear and know some of the things about your lives that I do, but I also know that someone swooping in and saving you all the time is not the answer. Life is hard and trust me, it gets harder, and you need to learn skills in order to survive and succeed. That is why I want a year with you to teach you those life-skills (and Algebra) and those that left too soon I'm not sure that they got it. Even those of you leaving now, I'm not sure if you are ready and that scares me to no end. But I have to send you out and on and know in my heart of hearts that I have given you all the tools to make your masterpieces, it is up to you to decide what to make of them.
Today my make-up is on lightly because the tears have started already - I will miss you guys so much. You cannot know the impact that you have had on me and the ways that you have changed me to become a better teacher and person and I hope that maybe in some small way I have made the same difference to you.