The Constant Dilemma
Today I was a 6th grade math teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. If I had been the reading teacher, we would have been in the library, which would have amused me to no end. Alas, no library for me today! In fact, I actually had to teach math. Or, at least, attempt to do so. I don’t know if I actually succeeded.
The students in the regular math classes were practicing dividing fractions by fractions, and learning the strategy of multiplying the first fraction by the inverse of the second. I don’t know how many really understand how or why this method works, nor did they really understand the strategy in the first place. Heck, I’m still not sure I fully understand how or why it works. Many times, though, I am content to know that it does work until I finally understand why. Even without fully understanding, though, I am confident in my ability to teach the strategy and to illustrate what is being done in the division process. Unfortunately, most of the students with whom I was working were not interested in learning this. Rather, they seemed interested in doing what many middle schoolers in Champaign do: ignore their substitute.
But at the end of the day, I had two classes who had the honors students. They were completely different. They were reviewing different math topics, and many were challenging. Rather than complain that it was too hard and just play around all period, though, they worked at it. They tried it. And they asked me to help them when they were thoroughly stumped. They were respectful but they were also fun. I was able to joke with them and they were able to joke with me, all while learning and understanding difficult math problems.
Here’s a question that I need answered from someone who knows math better than me: is it possible to determine the surface area of sphere? I don’t know. And yes, I realise that I can just Google this. I’d like to know if it can be explained to me, though. The reason I ask is because the teacher for whom I was subbing has a poster that shows the formulas for finding volume and surface area, but for spheres, the surface area was listed as “n/a” (also for a cone). Just curious if there is a reason why.
Anyway, at the end of the day, I found myself debating the dilemma I’ve been debating for years: do I want to invest the time and money required to get the endorsements to teach middle grades? The endorsements would allow me to teach middle school or junior high social studies, science, and possibly English/Language Arts. On the one hand, I love working with older students. They are interesting, interested, and full of a desire to understand. On the other hand, it seems like I encounter many who are belligerent and unresponsive. Is that because they are adolescents, or is it because I am a substitute teacher and that is just how adolescents treat substitute teachers? I can’t believe that the men and women I know who teach at the middle schools have days filled with trials like mine. Also, if I can add a third hand, I would point out that I have long said that I would love to teach fourth or fifth grade. This is still true. But I am wondering if it would be worthwhile to get the endorsements to teach older students. Would it make me more marketable? Would it increase my chances at finding full-time employment? The classes required for the endorsements can be taken online, and will cost between $2000-3000. It is possible that I would qualify for student aid, though. I really would be interested in knowing what others would suggest. Help me out, friends and strangers!