Yesterday was such a great day at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference! I got to hear Dan Meyer speak (my math hero!), I presented my workshop to a great group, and then I went to the ICTM awards ceremony. My parents, husband, and baby came to the ceremony where I accepted my "Middle School Teaching Award."
It was such an honor and I was even moved to a few tears during my acceptance speech! Good thing I had a few jokes in there to get me through and, luckily, people laughed at the funny parts. I was also so touched that some of my colleagues made a special effort to be at the award ceremony. Thanks to Sue, Sendhil, Margie, and Marty. It meant so much to have you there!
Here is the less tearful version of my speech:
I teach middle school math. Those words probably don’t sound that out of the ordinary in this group. But that sentence has 2 parts that when I say them because people to look at me with sympathy, scrunched up faces, or at least let out a small gasp.
Middle School and Math
If you teach math, you are probably used to the reactions you get when you tell people what you do for a living... Often, I feel like I’m being part therapist as people recount their math journey and sometimes some horrible experience with math that they had in school.
If someone then asks the follow up question of “what grade,” I really have to brace myself as I reveal, “middle school.”
“Middle school? Oh, how interesting... aren’t they kind of...” I usually interrupt with “yep, they are super weird!”
I love teaching middle school math. Yes, they are WEIRD! Super weird, sometimes. I love that. In fact, because I teach middle school math, there are several things I get to do:
First, I get to be a little weird and silly. I get to laugh a lot.
I get to teach them math and show them how things work.
I get to be a guide through this time in their life. I get to help my students understand the difference between fair and equal
I get to have, in one class, a super short, elementary faced kiddo and another kid with a full on adult man mustache.
I get to have students that push me to answer “why do we have to learn this math” as well as (tearfully) “but WHY did Justin Bieber do that again?!”
I get to make sure that the answer to a problem is never that, hilariously funny to middle schoolers, whole number between 68 and 70. The answer can never be that answer, ever.
I get to get ready for giggles when I accidentally use the variable “p” and absently mindedly ask, “okay, who can find pee?”
I get to find ways to engage them. They push me to make math relevant, interesting and puzzling.
I get to be there on the bridge between elementary and high school-- helping my students make connections, make sense, find their strengths, make mistakes, and discover what they are capable of.
I teach middle school math-- and it’s pretty great.