Monday, October 16, 2006

"I think I missed the day we learned about triangles"

Those who know me best know that for the past 8 years, I've been substitute teaching high school math and science. Teaching isn't what I was "trained" for; my degree long ago was in Chemical Engineering, but many years of classroom volunteer time and some science team coaching and some parental influence, perhaps, have all combined to give me a real interest in the field of education. I've been lucky to be able to sub fairly regularly for one teacher who is an athletic coach. When he goes out to tournaments, I step in, and I get to know his classes well. For better or for worse, they also get to know me.

When there's time, I do my best to help the children who have problems and questions, and each year a couple of kids emerge who seem to save all of their questions for me. "A" was one such child.

As a junior in Algebra II, she was more or less "on track", but extensive absences (by her own choice) meant she was struggling. I spent most of one lunch period encouraging her through an assignment working with measurements of sides of triangles, finally asking her in some frustration, "Do you remember learning this last year in Geometry?"

In all seriousness, she looked at me and said "I think I missed the day we talked about triangles".

The day?

If you've survived high school geometry, you well know that there's considerably more than A DAY devoted to triangles. Sides, angles, heights, areas. A whole week for the Pythagorean Theorem. She didn't miss a day; she missed an entire concept.

If I could tell each high school child one thing, one thing only, and have it stick, it would be this.

Show up.

Bring your book, your paper, your pencil, and do your homework every night, but most of up.

Half of life is just being there.


Julie said...

Good advice!

My kids keep tellling me I need to get on the sub list at school, and I keep thinking, "I don't know..." It's a small school, so I know a lot of the kids already, but it's also a school where the kids seem to expect to do nothing when there's a sub, and I don't think I'd be comfortable doing nothing.

agent713 said...

Forget homework. Just SHOW UP. It's how I graduated :D