As I find myself in this short period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, caught between finishing my grading and wanting to go home for some much needed relaxation, I have been reminded of the many blessings in my time at Regis Jesuit High School.
In my freshmen Algebra 1 class, we have been forced to pick up our pace, quickly learning multiple sections at a time, in order to be ready for finals. After about twenty minutes of trying to explain that solving inequalities was almost the exact same process as solving simple equations, the boys finally got it. “Wow, Mr. Hurteau, this is so easy. Why can’t we do easy stuff like this all the time?!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at this because we have been learning easy things this whole time. Most importantly, this section was so easy to the boys because they have been practicing solving equations since Day 1. Wait, does that mean these boys actually learned something from me? I know I’ve been teaching them every other day for the past 3 months or so, but, amid the daily struggles of missing homework and iPad games, I failed to see the bigger picture that maybe the boys did actually listen to me and were truly learning some valuable math skills from me.
Since that day, I have thought back to how the semester has gone, what I’ve done well, and where I can improve the class and my own skills as a teacher. As a perfectionist and detail-oriented person, I have listened to my own self-criticisms and focused on how to improve the class without realizing that the boys were enjoying my class and learning from me this whole time. I now remember several students who have outstanding grades in my class telling me that they used to be horrible at math in middle school and never used to like their math classes. That’s a really cool feeling knowing that I’ve actually helped these young men develop their skills and learn something valuable.
Especially in a class with students who didn’t come to Regis Jesuit High School with strong math skills and who didn’t enjoy math, it has been so awesome to watch them grow over the past semester. I’ve seen many of my students start with terrible grades and horrible participation, yet they have picked themselves and their grades up and now raise their hands in class all the time. As one of my freshmen told me yesterday, “I figured it out, Mr. Hurteau! I just need to do my homework in class when you give us time and come see you when I’m confused and not the day that it’s due.” That seemed like a pretty obvious statement to me, but I am so glad that he and many more of my students have started to develop strong math skills and study habits. It might take a few months of frustration, but these young men have shown me the beauty of patience, and I am so grateful for their energy and humor in and out of class. Even though I’m more than ready for Christmas break, I can’t wait to get back into the classroom with these awesome young men next semester.