Back to the Classroom, as a student

Seems that August is the time when I revisit this blog. Probably because for me August is the beginning of a new year. I live and die by the Academic Calendar, so I seem to make a New Year’s Resolution around this time which involves writing and posting in this blog.

This time I am really hoping it sticks because I want to document my adventure back into the classroom as a student. At this point in my life, tenured-professor, mother of 2 (under 3), this seems like a crazy idea but hear me out.

When I first switched (for a brief moment I wanted to join the FBI and UMD graduates the most FBI agents sooo- but mind you I don’t like guns, so this quickly became a bad idea) my major to education (what I wanted to be my whole life), my first semester at UMD, I seriously considered becoming a math teacher. But I was already enrolled in courses that would count toward me becoming a social studies teacher. Also, I had placed into the lowest credit math course. This is most likely a result of that fact that I forgot that I had to take math placement test when I went to orientation.

But I had always loved math, I had always exceeded in math. During my high school years, I looked into how I could take upper level math my senior year. The problem was I needed to take a math course over the summer – and well for me summers were devoted to playing travel basketball and volleyball so math lost out.  I lost out.

Let’s pause here for a minute and let me tell you why I was “behind” in the math track at my high school. Remember, I always excelled in math. It never gave me trouble. BUT I went to a private grade school that only had 1 classroom for each subject. One teacher for those subjects. Well, they taught to the norm. There was no differentiation. I remember becoming very bored and talking often during math course. So I excelled in the average setting.

When I got to high school, I saw that many of my peers were placed into a “higher” math tracks and this was a result of the differentiated classrooms they had in their grade schools. This is one area I think I would have benefitted from going to public middle school.

Now back to UMD and choosing my major – these experiences weighed heavy on me. I remember actually talking to my high school math teacher who taught the upper level courses, if she thought I would be a good teacher in this area. She said yes. My mom said I should do math. But of course I did not listen, I thought I was too far behind (sighhhhh), I thought I was not good enough, and so I chose social studies (now to be fair I loved this area because I loved economics and the ability to debate – both things I learned and enjoyed in high school).

Second pause… at some point in time my mom, a special education educator for 30 years, told me she actually started college as a math major…WHAT. Where was this valuable piece of information before. I really wonder how this would have impacted my choices. I mean I actually had to listen to her to hear it 🙂

Fast forward to my Ph.D. program. As an ed psych major we had a few “tracks” – research methods and stats, psych, or instructional technology. I really liked the psych track but their grad courses were offered exclusively during the day so I could not take them (I was teaching social studies). I got to a point where I needed some classes and I could in theory take Stats 3 (Regression) and Multivariate Stat at the same time. These are “scary” courses. These are courses people don’t do well in. These give people the heeby jeebies… so I asked my advisor what he thought about me taking both. Without hesitation, he said I should do it.

The semester I took Regression and Multivariate, was also filled with some family health issues. But you know what, I did it and I did it well. An A in Regression and an A- in Multivarite (my only none A in my doc program). These courses were difficult and challenging and I dare say – exciting and engaging. I truly experienced flow while working on my stats projects.

To be clear, stats is not exactly math. I mean it uses math but as my stats professor said it is a lot more logic than math.

Fast forward to the present. I work with amazing pre-service teachers and many of the struggle with math. It pains me when they say they can’t do math- and they want to be an elementary teacher (we have a LONG chat about this). What is devastating is how our education systems have failed them and not prepared them in math. They have been poisoned by the idea that math is only for some people (inner screaming!). This is now leading them to not be able to pass a test, which they need to get into the education program.

So maybe, just maybe, if I start from the beginning in the math courses at our university – which is where I was placed based on our math placement test- I can help the students in these courses, I can help my pre-service students as they prepare for their tests, and maybe I will eventually become certified to teach secondary math AND maybe I will teach middle school students math (but I do love my college schedule 🙂 So, here I go…