The MEGnitude of Change

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 06 2013

What’s my job?

“I’m just here to take care of my own business.” One of my students has said this phrase since day one, and at first, I was taken aback. Didn’t she want to be part of a collaborative classroom culture? Didn’t she want to contribute to the success of others?

Now, I understand that phrase differently. She’s more than willing to help out her classmates & do the work to understand a concept — she likes collaborationg. But she sees that at the end of the day, her job is to learn math on her own, and she can’t force anyone else to do the same. Her job is to learn. Slowly, as I see her job more clearly, I’m starting to see mine. I cannot force my students to learn, but I can teach as effectively as possible — and those are two totally different things.

My students’ success, their ability to “do their job,” is not within my absolute control. Each day, I am increasingly aware of that fact. My students’ success depends on a single thing: them. Their hard work, their effort, their ability to put in the time & energy into math. They must do the work & the heavy-lifting, not me. And now, I think that phrase, “your success is my priority,” is misguided.

By taking complete ownership of my students’ success, I am putting an undue amount of stress on myself & setting unachievable expectations. If a student walks into my classroom with a bad attitude, disrupting classmates, that student is making a choice to not succeed in my classroom on that day. That student is taking disruptive actions. Not me. It is not my job to control that student and force him or her to be back on task — it is my job to create an environment where students are able to understand & succeed. It is my job to provide the tools, but my students must learn to use them. Ultimately, each of my students must decide to pursue success relentlessly on his or her own.

Beyond that, taking ownership of my students’ success is an act of theft. When a student understands a topic, it is because he or she took ownership of the problems & solved them. It is the students’ hard work & critical thinking, not mine, that leads to success.

So, my students’ success cannot be my priority — they must decide to prioritize that success and “do their job” on their own. By making my students the center of my universe, I created a mindset that wasn’t healthy for me. Ultimately, I must take care of my business — creating an environment that’s safe & supportive to pursue success. Ultimately, they must take care of their own business — learning math.

About this Blog

My journey in mathematics and beyond

High School

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