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January 20, 2018

 

I was not the best student as a child. 

 

About a year ago, I was visiting my childhood home in Washington, DC, and my parents showed me that they had saved all of my report cards, starting in pre-kindergarten. One of my teachers had written, "Elizabeth enjoys spending time alone in corners reading books, or talking to herself," and others made similar comments about my cheerful, but spacey disposition. 

 

In 6th grade, I had a math teacher who destroyed what little self-confidence I had in the subject. I had spent previous years pretending that I knew what I was doing while the rest of the class easily solved long division problems. This teacher would repeatedly berate me for not understanding each concept, and even made me cry on more than one occasion. In my 12-year-old state of mind, this confirmed what I had feared: I was a lousy math student. This (self)imposed stigma followed me through high school and college, where I avoided quantitative classes like the plague. 

 

When I first entered into UCLA's Teacher Education Program, I initially dreaded our Math Methods course, but it soon became my favorite class. Our professor was engaging, and broke down each concept in a way that had never crossed my mind throughout all my years as a student. Not only did I look forward to teaching math to my own student, but I began to LIKE problem solving! I then began to wonder, "Was I really bad at math, or did I just convince myself that I was, which then became a self-fulfilling prophecy?" 

 

I write this post as my first because even now, I still remember the stinging words of my 6th grade teacher, and how that experience left a mark on my self-image as a student and learner. When I first entered the classroom, I pledged to never cause a student to feel that way about themselves. I strive to view these children holistically, to understand and respect them not only as students, but as individuals. Teaching comes with great responsibility: We have the power to impose a love or an aversion to a subject for perhaps the entire duration of a student's life. 

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