Thursday, October 28, 2021

Life Of A Math Teacher: My Why

Our WHY is our purpose, cause or belief - the driving force behind everything we do. -Simon Sinek
Let us all be the leaders we wished we'd had. -Simon Sinek

* * * * *

Simon Sinek is a guru of human behavior. Though his lens is often focused on the corporate office, his wisdom applies to all humans who seek meaningful, satisfying work. After reading his book, Find Your Why, the pieces of my own why quickly fell into place. 

^ For a long, long time in my life, I hated to have my picture taken. 
And I hated to look at photos of myself. 

I know my why. 

It's been in my heart for decades, and looking back, I'd say I became aware of it by the time I was ten or twelve years old. 

And like many of life's most delicious riddles, this truth came to me as the very positive result of a fairly sucky hand I'd been dealt in life.

My parents, busy with the complications and traumas of their lives, did not have much time for me when I was growing up. Smart and capable little duck that I was, I assessed their lack of attention and decided I would simply have to learn to fly on my own. And I succeeded with that self-sufficiency routine to the point that I lulled the other adults in my life who might have taken me under their wings into the false sense that I was fine. 

So during my childhood, I was overlooked.
^ I didn't like the way I looked. 
And even more so, I felt like I didn't recognize the person in the photos. 
I did not see myself. 

And while I think there was a lovely balance of nature and nurture that made me into who I am today, I can easily connect the dots between my invisibility as a child, and the adult I've always wanted to be.

My dream was to become a grown-up who makes kids feel seen. 

Over the years, that dream has played itself out in a hundred different ways: 

mothering my younger brothers,
taking care of neighbor kids,
lending a listening ear to my teenage friends,
teaching Sunday School, 
leading Girl Scout troops, 
serving in youth ministry,
connecting with kids in our homeschooling circles,
spending time with my daughters' friends. 

Best of all, I have found my why by teaching math. 

Oh, I know. 

High school algebra isn't exactly known for its warm fuzzies, and there's a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that goes on in every single lesson I teach to my students. 

But you know what else happens? 

We connect. 

We see each other week in and week out, usually for several years in a row. 
We meet one on one, seated at a dining room table, in either my home or theirs. 
We greet each other, taking time for pleasantries and "How was your weekend?" 
We communicate honestly with each other. 
We work together to get through the rough spots. 
We don't give up. 
We keep trying until we achieve our goals 
And we celebrate our successes. 

As time goes by, what starts as a formal teacher-student relationship morphs into connection between two human beings. Sometimes a student will respond to that safety by sharing what's on her mind and heart. Deep, important feelings have been shared in the midst of the quadratic formula, and when a student opens up to me like that, I'm honored.
^ These photos, taken on a web cam circa 2010, are ridiculously filtered and unrealistic. But I love them because for the first time in a long, long time, when I looked at them, 
I felt like I was seeing my true self. 

But more often than not, we just keep rolling along, me cracking the lame jokes, them promising that they really do understand why I keep saying that dividing by zero is like the Kingdome implosion, and even if no deep, dark secrets are shared, my students know I am still going to ask them, every time I see them, "How are you?" 

And they know I'm going to take the time to listen to whatever they have to say. 

What I've found is that teaching math the way I do has given me the perfect opportunity to walk with teenagers, to earn their trust and respect, and to gently speak into their lives. 

Teaching math - the way I teach math - is the most fulfilling purpose I can imagine for my life. 

And thanks to John Saxon, Simon Sinek, and my poor distracted parents, I've found my why.

* * * * *

While I help my students master the same math that everyone else learns, I accomplish that goal in a fairly unconventional way. This story, as well as the others linked below, explain the method to my delicious algebra-flavored madness. 

My Hero

How I Teach

Discovering My How

My Why

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment...I'd love to hear from you!