Reliving The Horror: Cornally Enrolls in Algebra I
I just spent a day at school that probably should not get remembered in blog form, but here I am typing my little head off.
Today my two Geology classes worked pretty much on autopilot finishing their investigations into basic limestone geochemistry. What did I do? Bought plane tickets, thought about Minecraft, talked to some students about grading a little bit; very little geology instruction, really.
Programming was worse. The Internet has been shoddy in my district lately, which largely prevents them from using the Java API. So instead of me coming up with some beautifully abstract lesson that ties together programming, math, motorcycle maintenance, and Zen Buddhism, we played dodgeball. And with that confession I just lost all of my tentative speaking contracts. <awkward top shirt-button loosening>
Why was I so negligent today? Friday, perhaps. Looking forward to a 3-day weekend, perhaps. It’s freakin’ April, perhaps. None of those are good excuses, and today I made a mockery of education as a profession. Sorry everybody.
My guilty conscience has taken me back to one of the defining moments in my life; one of the experiences that made me want to teach.
Olde Cornally Talks about Schooling in the 90′s:
I remember back when I was in high school, and I had, hands down, the worst teacher I’ve ever had in my life. He taught me Algebra I, well, he ostensibly taught me Algebra I. I was 14 and I can’t remember even how he delivered content. I assume by lecture, but there were no examples problems; I know we did a lot from the book.
There was a moment when I was transferred into another class due to a choir-related scheduling shift. Entering into this other classroom was like entering in the world of Candy Land but for math. The teacher explained why things mattered, he did as many examples on the board as we wanted, and then he asked us questions about what we understood or didn’t.
Then my schedule flipped back, and I had to return to my original teacher. It was like having the Hogwarts sorting hat scream: “Slytherin!” <crestfallen> “Wait, Gryffindor!” <triumphant horns> “J/K, J/K, Slytherin.” <eff>
The only thing I remember from the class were the quizzes. He made us take “Homework quizzes” which consisted of writing down a particular homework problem from our notes. Not the solution. Not the reasoning. Just the actual prompt. Read that again, if you’re not appalled.
Now that I’m a teacher, I have to somehow retain this feeling of utter disgust:
- As a student, I didn’t feel like I could advocate for myself or my schedule. I wanted to go back to Candy Land, but I didn’t feel like that was my decision. The powers at be seemed too distant, and the scheduling machinery too aloof. Epic counseling fail.
- As a student, I had no idea what algebra was, which means I had no idea what I was supposed to be learning. This is a super easy trap for teachers to fall in to. We get so caught up in our courses and the number of times we’ve repeated them that we forget the simple fact that each new crop of cherubs is exactly that: New. Green. Unaware. Blissfully Ignorant.
- I knew “Homework Quizzes” were bullshit, but I didn’t have anywhere near the amount of guts enough to say anything about it. I just stewed for 12 years until right now, where I’m convulsing and weeping as I relive the horror that was my Algebra I experience.
I didn’t really learn to understand symbolic algebra until I was about 21, when my friend Vikram said, “No, ‘y’ literally is Exp[2x], it’s like just giving something a new name. You can use ‘y’ in place of that other stuff; for, like, making things easier to write.”
Welp, glad I got that cleared up.