7 Reasons Why You Want to Teach

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I would never argue that teaching is the easiest job in the world. In fact, I believe it is one of the most difficult jobs out there. It is also the most wonderful, rewarding, and exciting jobs possible. Which is why I can’t believe it has a terrible reputation.

But that reason is plain and simple: other teachers.

I remember the summer before I started my first year, one of my mentors told me stay away from the older teachers that have been here too long. They have a negative view of this job and will bring you down. Don’t let them dim your enthusiasm! I have stayed true to this and I believe I still sparkle in the classroom! I currently teach Algebra II at inter-ciy, urban school. I am coming up on my third year on the job and I love it. Sure, there are many tough days but what job doesn’t have tough days!

Today I read on article from Huffington Post by Melissa Bowers, a former 12-year English teacher: 7 Reasons You May Not Want to Teach Anymore and I have to say, it broke my heart. Not because someone had this opinion of teaching, but because they were actively publicizing how awful this job is. It’s articles like this that turn off younger, passionate, enthusiastic potential teachers from ever considering teaching as a profession. I have expressed my love for this job to so many people and the vast majority of them are shocked that I love it so much. Shocked! Can you believe that? A job that I pour my heart and soul into and they are shocked that I love it.

The reality is, if you poorly run your classroom, your students, lower your expectations of your students and yourself, want to take the easy way out and not put any effort into your lessons, and fail to adapt to changing times, yes, teaching is going to be awful for you. But if you are willing to adapt and grow with your kids, give them high expectations and hold them accountable, there is truly no better job.

First, let’s get the obvious reason that Bowers doesn’t discuss out of the way: below average salary. For the record, teachers do not have a below average salary. In fact, for my town my salary is above average! Of course I feel like teachers should get paid more than what we get. We are the epitome of under paid and over worked. But that does not mean we get paid poorly. It just means we probably should get paid more. Who isn’t in a job where they feel like they don’t get paid enough?

Now on to her list:

1. You are an “authority figure” with no real authority.

Bowers argues that in your classroom you are not really an authority figure. You are actually run by the parents, school board, and state or national standards and students can sense it. Sure, I can see how you really work for these people and what you do can be dictated by them, but only if you let them! Of course you have to abide by state standards. All jobs have directives from their bosses! Even CEOs have to be conscious of what their market needs which drives what they do. Parents can be a boss, or they can be an asset. If your child is struggling, it is certainly the job of the teacher to hold their students accountable by reaching out to the parent and keeping them in the loop of their child’s performance. And if you fail to do so, obviously that parent is going to try to run you. You are not doing your job! As far as the school board, other than funding the schools and responding to concerns, I have never felt personally “run” by the school board.

Here’s the truth: run your classroom properly and you are definitely the one and only authority figure that students will see. If you improperly run your classroom, students can sense it! Students know when you are only there for a paycheck or if you truly care about them. That’s the only thing that would ever drive a student to say something like “you know, my father pays your salary.” As for me, my students sense it day in and day out how much I love being their teacher. I once had the school secretary call me about something to do with compensation for tutoring after school. My class overheard me saying the word “paycheck” and they literally gasped. It was as if my students forgot that I get paid to do this job. I have to admit, that was one of the proudest moments of my career thus far.

2. Your day does not resemble that of a typical white-collar professional.

And that is so fantastic!!! I get to work super early but that means I get to go home at 3pm when no one is out yet. I go grocery shopping, go to the mall, schedule my doctor’s appointments and get first dibs on everything!

Here are some specific things she says a typical job can do but teachers can’t:

1. Pee- Sure I may not get to pee whenever I need to, but that’s so easy, I call in my neighboring teacher to watch my class for a split second and run. Honestly, I don’t want a job where I have all the free time to run to the bathroom whenever I want. I like that I keep busy and half the time I forget I need to pee anyways.
2. Get coffee- Again, all the free time in the world at work to go get coffee? I get off at 3 anyways. I go home and make coffee!
3. Spend fifteen minutes chatting leisurely with a colleague- 15 minutes? Try 90 minutes every day for planning. I plan effectively and spend most planning periods relaxing, talking to my work wife the Geometry teacher while we make our copies.
4. Go out to lunch- Yes, the 25 minutes for lunch as opposed to the 1 hour sucks, but you get used to it and most days I can’t wait to get back in the classroom to continue my lesson.
5. Complete paperwork and other job-related tasks during the actual work day- again, effective time management is essential.
6. Sit down occasionally- But I get my steps in!!! My FitBit loves this! Seriously, teaching has so many health benefits!

3. Everyone thinks they know how to do your job. EVERYONE.

Yep- this one is true. Everyone at some point has taught something, learned something, and/or gone to school so everyone thinks they know how to teach. But here’s my question- WHO CARES?!?! It doesn’t mean you have to listen to them! At the end of the day it is your classroom, your lesson, your kids. No one else has the authority to teach them but you. It’s like being a first time mom. Everyone wants to give you advice. Whether or not you take it is up to you. Sure it can get extremely annoying especially when you feel like they’ve never been a mother before and have no right to give you advice. But that’s just the nature of the beast.

4. You wanted to foster imagination, not slaughter it.

It’s true, there is a huge pressure for teachers to teach to the test. I remember my first year, I had so many ideas on how students can learn different topics and I had so much pressure to focus on the test. I remember playing math games with my kids and actually being told we don’t have time for fun and games, focus on the material, give them worksheets, quizzes, and notes. Nothing else.

Well, this year I totally changed things up. I focus on the material I am required to, but we play lots of games every day, we have mini-projects, class experiments, and group competitions. My kids love coming into my classroom because they know their limits will be tested and they will have fun. Yes there are ways to “slaughter” imagination: take the easy way out and only give your kids notes, worksheets, and tests. I spend hours upon hours to create lessons that will challenge the way my students look at math, but at the end of the day, I know that what I am doing is best for my kids.

And in case you’re curious, my test scores ROCK!

5. The technology obsession is making you CRAZY.

CRAZY IN LOVE!!! Honestly, Bowers make me really mad in this portion of her article. Especially when she argues this generation doesn’t need any more technology, especially when they are using their cell phones in your class already and the technology is more a distraction than a learning tool.

Here is the reality: you need to meet your students where they are at. The fact that they have “enough technology” is the reason why you need to integrate it in the classroom. This is how they are used to functioning in their every day lives, so of course they would learn better if it was involved in their learning as well.

This generation does not learn the way you and I learned. Notes on the chalkboard, worksheets afterwards, tests and quizzes don’t cut it anymore. All of my kids have some form of ADD… heck! I have ADHD!

Technology can be the best thing to keep your students engaged in your lessons Bowers makes it sound like the only technology out there is a cell phone. WRONG! There are SMART board, SMART Response clickers, and oh so much more!  I even have a class Instagram, Twitter, and LiveBinder so my kids can keep track of the class at home!

The beauty of math is that it’s not stationary; it is all around us which means it should be interactive! No matter how hard I try, I can’t put that on the whiteboard. This is why technology is so crucial for this day and age.

I completely agree that cell phones are a huge distraction in the classroom. That’s why I collect every single cell phone when they walk into the classroom so they’re not tempted to use them. And most importantly, if your students are using their phones in the classroom while you’re teaching, you did not plan an engaging lesson. Yes, I’m blaming you! Even on the rare occasion that I forget to collect cell phones, my kids are not on them.

Bowers admits that technology is wonderful but not necessary. I have never felt like it was mandatory for me to use technology in my classroom, but I definitely see it as a necessity!

6. All the entitlement and the trophies and the apathy and whatever.

I know, this generation is full of kids that feel incredibly entitled. But how can you base your love for the job on the students that you teach? Not all students are entitled, and not all students are wonderful. But I promise, there are some incredible and talented students that deserve a quality education. Just because they are surrounded by entitled, disruptive, disrespectful peers doesn’t take away from the education they deserve.

7. There is no reliable way to assess who is ACTUALLY good at this.

I’m not sure why this is a reason to not want to be a teacher. If you know you’re great, your students know you’re awesome, student assessments are wonderful, that shows how effective your teaching is. I know that I am one of the best teachers, I feel that in my heart! I don’t need any administrators telling me that I’m good at it.

I will agree though, that one of the toughest parts about this job is how much it relies on student test scores and assessments.I agree that we can’t control our student’s unexpected circumstances such as how much sleep they got or their breakup the other day, however, in my experience, my students’ test scores have been pretty accurate to their academic performance and potential + 5%. I very rarely have a student not pass the standardize test that doesn’t deserve it.

This job is really about the kids, the immeasurable impact you have on their lives. This job can be hell sometimes. The insane about of work administration wants you to do at the last minute, paperwork the state brings down on you for almost no reason, lesson plan after lesson plan after lesson plan. It can be draining, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

If you are an older, tired teacher, I urge you, please stop talking about how much you hate this job! If you hate it that much, QUIT! Move over so the next new teacher with the energy and enthusiasm to shape our future can come in. I truly believe no other profession shapes the future of this county and this world the way teachers do. That is both a privilege and an honor, but definitely not a burden.

 

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Love Thyself

Today I went to a Mexican-Korean-American fusion taco bar by myself to watch the Redskins game in a cute black redskins shirt, black and white rainboosts from Nordstrom, long silver necklace from The Limited (basically I looked adorable), reading my book during the commercials and eating my single chicken taco while drinking a Crispin cider, when I realized I have found myself. Not in the sense that it was in that moment I finally realize this; just that I realized I have finally become the woman I have always wanted to become.

I am a woman that values education. I pride myself in being a role model for my students. I dress conservatively enough to demand respect, but still know how to dress in a stylish manner. I like to believe i have influenced many of my students to change the way they dress. I like to show them that there are other things that you can do in your free time other than smoke drugs and the other poor decisions they make on a daily basis, like pick up an awesome book.

I am a nerd at heart. I love to read anything, write to my hearts content, and create equations with every day life and then solve them. I like to teach my boyfriend math at bars and write him mathematical equation love letters and then teach him how to solve them.

I have an appreciate for fashion. Not the kind of fashion that costs thousands of dollars, but more affordable fashion that I wouldn’t feel guilty about spilling mustard on, because I am the type of woman that does that on a regular basis. I have also finally found my financial independence to afford these luxuries (even though my sweatshirt was stolen from my sister’s closet. I am a woman with no shame!)

I have a great appreciation for football. Not just as a testament for my fondness for the sport, but mostly because I am a woman who takes great pride in where she is from. I have lived in the DMV my entire life which is why I am a die-hard Redskins fan. And I will get into a bar fight with anyone who calls them “dead-skins” or “bloody-skins” as the man did today at my Mexican-Korean-American taco bar. (As I said, I am a woman with no shame).

I am a woman who has a strong devotion to her family and friends. I have some incredible friends and choose to be close to people very selectively. I am, afterall, a Scoprio; trust is everything. Do me wrong once and you are forever dead in my book. But it has taken me a long time to realize that my best friend of all who understands me the best and accepts me for who I am no more no less is myself.

I have reached a point in my life where I have looked around and realized how adorable I must look, but my first thought had always been “I wish (so-and-so) were here to see how cute I look right now! I wonder what they’d think!” But today, I just smiled. Because for the first time I realized I didn’t care about anyone else’s opinion. I love myself and mine is the only opinion that matter.

Fresh of the Yact

Has anyone seen the new show “Fresh Off the Boat?” I have to say when I first saw the commercial for this show with my friend Lauren I was so excited. I couldn’t believe they were making a show about my childhood! If you haven’t heard of this show, it’s based on a memoir by chef and food personality Eddie Huang and his life as a first generation Asian-American growing up in the states with traditional Asian parents.

Well, boyfriend and I finally watched it yesterday and I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed.

The beginning of the first episode starts off completely accurate. When Eddie Huang comes home asking for “white people food” after being laughed at in the school cafeteria for “eating worms,” it took my back to my middle school days when my mom packed me Indian food and the kids at school stared at me with a disgusted face and said “EWWWW WHAT IS THAT???” (kids can be so cruel). Every time there after when my mom tried to pack me Indian food I would beg her for anything else. I was subjected to peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the remainder of my middle school career.

And then there was the reference to the difference between how grades are viewed between American and Asian parents. This is a source of so much comedy with any Asian comedian.

So when the white kid next door brings home straight C’s and is rewarded with a basketball hoop and Eddie Huang brings home straight A’s and is rewarded with even more school work, it was nothing I hadn’t expected.

And of course there are tons of hilarious jokes about how cheap Asian mothers are. All funny and true (to some extent).

But it was what followed in the second half of each episode that will probably stop me from watching this show. After Eddie skips out on his mother while she is trying to make him do additional school work, his dad and him have a heart to heart about how he doesn’t get to have any fun. This scene ends with Eddie and his dad playing basketball and his mother sending Eddie’s other two brothers to stop studying and join them.

There are so many things wrong with this scene I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost, every Asian kid knows better than to complain about doing work and that they don’t have fun. Sure, it’s a thought that crossed all of our minds as children; while everyone else was at a boy-girl party we had to be locked in our rooms studying, and if there was no homework to be done, we were trapped with our fathers learning the next topic in math. And you were especially out of luck if you brought home your math book because my dad had no problem making me do the even problems that were never assigned to me. Did I ever once ask my dad if I could hang out with friends instead? Absolutely not. I don’t need an addition 100 problems. Did it ever cross my mind? You bet. Everyday. What would have happened if I ran away the way Eddie did? I wouldn’t want that punishment.

And then there’s Eddie’s little brother who has two girlfriends and his dad says something to the effect of “you go boy, just don’t tell mom.” That would never, ever, happen. Not in a million years. Unless the other two girls were also Korean. If it was Eddie’s sister, she would be dead.

And then there’s Eddie’s mother who tries to fit in with the American neighbors. I have never met an Indian lady trying to fit in with her American neighbors. Immigrants FLOCK, like CRAZY. It’s a little shocking really how they find each other. I grew up in a small part of Maryland where you wouldn’t think a single Indian existed. But they were there. My mom may have had to drive 20 minutes away, but she found people. That’s what they do. They don’t try to “fit in” with the neighbors (unless they are also Indian).

So why does ABC change the stories around so much? The reality is this: the truth wouldn’t make good t.v. In fact, it would depress half of you, and the other half would just be bored. It would be the same ending everyday; Eddie studying. The only episodes that would be entertaining would be when Eddie tried to defy his parents, but there is absolutely nothing funny about those situations. This show is completely Americanized to make good t.v. and to entertain the American populus this show is geared towards. In fact, even when the press were given an opportunity to question the directors and cast members, they hardly asked any questions about the show and instead asked them about fortune cookies and chopsticks. I recently found out that Eddie Huang too has an issue with this portrayal of his memoir; “The network tried to turn my memoir into a cornstarch sitcom and me into a mascot for America. I hated that.” (read the full article HERE).

Sons and daughters of immigrant parents did not leave glamorous lives or funny ones. We had to live our lives up to our parents standards, living by their rules, and face the harsh consequences when we don’t. Most of us were forced to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers and then go on to marrying someone of our own race. Everything must be approved by our parents, and most of our lives are arranged by our parents. We have to go to college, we have to be number 1 in our class, we have to get straight A’s. We hardly had fun outside of school except with our other Asian friends. We weren’t allowed to hang out with anyone of the opposite sex, never the less have a boyfriend, except for the rare situation where said boyfriend/girlfriend was also Asian and extremely smart. Education was our life and there was little we were allowed to do outside of that.

But the thing is, our parents are completely and totally justified in acting like this. They really did come to America to live the American dream. My father came to America in his early 20s and worked as a chicken farmer until he was able to save enough money to bring my mother to America and eventually build a beautiful life for me so that I could have endless opportunities; opportunities that he did not have growing up in India. He left all of his family and friends behind to build a new life here.

That is one thing that really bothers me about this show (among so many other things); this show keeps talking about how his parents “miss their friends in Washington D.C” completely ignoring that his parents came from Korea! That’s where his family and friends are that he truly left behind. Not another part of America! My parents moved around America 4 or 5 times since they first arrived. Each time they made new friends, kept in touch even to this day, but it’s their friends in India that they consistently miss and talk about, not their friends in Alabama!

Now, I’m not denying this show is hilarious. I just finished watching the third episode and I have to admit it is a pretty hilarious show. What bothers me about it is that they try to play off this show as “the struggles the children of immigrants go through” and it’s just not true. So watch the show because Eddie Huang is at hilarious kid with a hilarious family. Just expect the accuracies to be kept to a minimum.

Pay it Forward: Love All

 

Have you ever met someone and right off the cuff they were jerks for absolute no reason at all? Or someone you have never spoken to in your life walk by and say something completely rude.

If so, you’re not alone. The bad attitudes seem to be everywhere. Yesterday during school, a student (whom I do not teach, know, or even spoken to) called me fat and kept moving along. Later on that day, I watched an episode of Chopped that featured an awful, nasty chef that rolled her eyes and was so cold to her opponent for no reason. Sure, the sheer competition can bring out catiness in anyone, but she kept saying this chef “was so annoying” when she barely spoke two words to her. Later on she jumped down her throat when this girl said there’s no reason why they can’t have a friendly competition. Luckily this evil chef got Chopped in the next round, didn’t see it coming one bit, but of course didn’t leave without a snide comment about how awful her opponents food was (…that she never tasted).

I can’t help but feel like this world would be a much happier place if people dropped the attitude. Not just because we would clearly have less attitude without these people, but when you’re unnecessarily rude to someone, it puts that person in a bad mood for the rest of the day, who will then in turn be rude to the next person unintentionally. It’s the awful domino effect of nastiness.

 

For whatever reason it’s human nature that we remember negatives more than the positives. I’m sure at least 5 incredible things happened to me yesterday, but by the end of the day, I only remembered that one nasty comment some random girl said to me. Or worse, what about when we’re already having a bad day/week/month/year and someone says something nasty to you then. Heck, I remember when I was in 6th grade I was so upset that a girl was rude to me after I brought back a pencil she had forgotten. She never said thank you but proceeded to make fun of my shoes instead. It wasn’t just a bad month or year I was having then, it was my entire awkward years and those awful girls never made it better for me.  Back then I thought the attitude was something that could be outgrown, but I have since learned it only gets worse with age. The random person at the grocery store, the nasty comment on a blog you worked hard on, your quiet neighbor who won’t make eye contact with you; complete strangers who feel the need to be hate everyone around them. It is this groundless hatred that will inevitably destroy us.

We need to stop. Because I’ll tell you what, this domino effect seems to have made its way around the world and it will only get worse. You’ll be rude to your neighbor, who will take their now awful mood and take it out on the next 5 people she sees on that day, who will then do the same. Guess what? Pretty soon that’s going to come back around and then effect you and an entirely new group of people.

I recognize people have bad days all the time so we can’t always be spewing rainbows out of our ears, but just because you are upset about one thing or another is absolute no reason to ruin someone else’s day. On the upside, it’s also important not to let someone else’s negative comments effect your happy mood. Easier said than done, trust me I know, I work with high schoolers and it’s hard not to. But as my coworker said, “make sure you’re wearing your armor.”

Unless we as a population make the conscious decision to stop with the bad attitudes, rude comments, and negative energy, this world will never be a happy place.

Be kind to one another, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Lots of love,
Avi

Why I Never Watch the News

The last time I watched the news was when I was in high school. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad and the local reporters were telling us about a cat who got stuck in a tree and the firefighters were struggling to get her out. I remember thinking to myself I cannot believe these people couldn’t come up with anything better to report than this. Don’t get me wrong, I did legitimately feel bad for the poor kitten, but this was clearly a time filler and instead of reporting where we’ve started to make progress in the sciences or poverty, we were forced to sit and watch more negative garbage. It’s as if they knew they had an extra 2 minutes of reporting time and they automatically ruled out all of the positive things going on in the world and found something, anything, negative going on out there.

It as if the news refuses to report anything good going on anywhere so they are forced to find the most dramatic thing possible, even if it’s as frivolous as cats stuck in trees. As a result, we associate “news” with something “negative.” Anytime someone says, “have you been following the news?” we never expect them to say “we’ve made strides with poverty” or “we’ve made progress on finding the cure to cancer,” even when those statements are actually true. It’s usually something along the lines of “some dude somewhere is sick with something that you have as much of a chance of catching as you did as catching the Bird Flu. Be careful out there.”

We never hear about all of the healthy countries, or all of the countries who didn’t have an earthquake shake their population, or how long it’s been since a country has been effected by a Tsunami. We don’t hear about how much money UNICEF has made in an effort to eradicate Iodine deficiency. Or that the March of Dimes has saved so many lives o of premature babies. Your local community has raised thousands of dollars towards fighting breast cancer but instead you are at home watching how Switzerland has made their TSA requirements stronger because of Ebola.

The best example of media manipulation by far is global warming. If you read real science articles, the majority of scientists will tell you that global warming is either 1) a hoax or 2) exists to some degree but is nothing to worry about. Consider who initiated this revolution: Al Gore… a POLITICIAN! He has absolutely no scientific background at all. The earth naturally warms up and cools down on it’s own (hence, Ice Ages). It has nothing to do with our carbon footprint, carbon emissions, or anything that we are doing. But it makes you worry, doesn’t it? That is exactly why the media harps on it so much. However, this blog post is not about Global Warming and I am very anti-using my blog to promote my political beliefs, so moving on.

Every day people are winning the war against cancer, lives are saved because of your local firefighters, doctors, nurses, lives are changed due to strides in education, science, mathematics, our country is being protected by our soldiers. For everyone person that dies two more are born and will impact the world in ways we can’t imagine. But this is not what the media chooses to focus on.

People ask me “how do you have no idea what is going on in the Middle East?” or “you’re not afraid of catching Ebola?” but to them I ask “do you know who just won the Nobel Peace Prize?” By the way, it was a 17 year old Pakistani woman who won for makes strides for the right for all children to have access to education. She has an amazing story, survived a brain injury after being a target from the Taliban, and still went on to being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. Pretty incredible right? Definitely didn’t see that on headline news anywhere and no one I know knew. To the media, she was just another number, another target by the Taliban. They didn’t care about who she was, what she was doing, and when she was healed.

People spend hours on end in front of a box that has taken on the responsibility of telling you what to value and what is important. 9 times out of 10, that’s something depressing, negative, or scary. If you don’t believe me, accept my challenge: go to the homepage of any news website, pick up any local newspaper, or change the channel to NBC and look at the headlines. What you’ll find will never be positive.

CNN: “High school players face sex assault charges”

AOL: “Spain increases quarantine amid Ebola fears”

NBC: “Not Just California: Droughts Extend Across Americas”

News reporters have such an incredible opportunity to impact change that they never take advantage of. They can change this world of hatred and pessimists into optimists and positivity. But, instead they have forced us into a world of negativity so we can spend one more night in fear and wake up the next morning afraid to open our eyes to face the world. And for what? The sad reality is fear sells. And we are just manipulations in their stock market.

I recently came across “A Two-Minute Case for Optimism” by Steven Pinker and in it he tells an interesting perspective.

As it happens, the numbers tell a surprisingly happy story. Violent crime has fallen by half since 1992, and fiftyfold since the Middle Ages. Over the past 60 years the number of wars and number of people killed in wars have plummeted. Worldwide, fewer babies die, more children go to school, more people live in democracies, more can afford simple luxuries, fewer get sick, and more live to old age.

(Full story can be found here, it’s a great read: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/secretlife/blogposts/steven-pinkers-two-minute-case-for-optimism/)

It angers me that regardless of how much good is going on in the world, the media decides to focus on all that is going wrong in the world instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to open up our eyes to good. Instead of purely focusing on all of the negativity going on in the world, why not focus on any positives? It is the duty of the media in our society to provide us with current events. That’s not always stories of the sick, the murderers, and the rapists. Not all “news” is negative. News should also consist of heroes, game changing scientists, Nobel Peace Prize winners.

No, I have my own values and decide what is important to me and follow those stories. I refuse to allow a black box or pieces of paper to tell me what to value today and then use those values to manipulate my emotions tomorrow. No, I don’t need a man in a suit or writers in New York telling me what to care about in my life. I believe in what I believe, value what I value, and emulate positivism; not live in fear, doubt, or pessimism. I refuse to be a pawn of the media, which is why I never watch the news.

Why Everyone Needs to Stop Criticizing the Common Core

By now I’m sure you have seen videos plaguing the internet bashing the Common Core. As a math teacher, I would like to say that every last one of these videos insults me.

I would say 7 times out of 10 (10/10 if they’re parents of elementary school children) as soon as someone finds out that I am a math teacher, their first question is “so what do you think of the Common Core? Isn’t it stupid/unnecessary/tedious/revolting?”

To which I politely say, “you think the math that you were taught in school is simple ‘mental math’ but do you know WHY you do math the way you do?” And their response is either 1) “Yes,” and then they proceed to explain the process by which they do math (which, by the way, is not an actual answer) or 2) I don’t care WHY it works.

And that is exactly what is wrong with the current education system and why Common Core was created.

After just one week and a semester, I can already see why the Common Core is so necessary. I teach kids who lack the basic understanding of arithmetic. My students are mostly juniors and seniors who are learning advanced algebraic concepts. They can handle “solving for x.” They know that what you do to one side you must do to the other. But once they move their 7 over to the other side, they ask me for a calculator (ask is the wrong word. They flat out state they cannot do it without one) to figure out 7-13. Better yet, when they balance equations they never stop and ask why we must do it that way. WHY? Because these students lack the basic number sense that was missing from their early education, and by the time they get to me, the damage is almost too great. Students have become so used to not caring why math works the way it does, it’s so hard to turn them back. They are numb to the greatness of math.

Take a look at this video:

I found this in an article in which the last line states “Heaven help us.” They criticize this teacher because she took “56 Seconds to Explain 9+6=15.” 56 SECONDS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

But what absolutely no one seems to consider is how these students who learn addition this way will handle math later in life. Sure, you learned how to add in 10 seconds as a first grader and maybe now your first grader’s teacher is spending 10 days teaching your daughter how to add. But think about it this way: do you know why you used to add the way your teacher taught you? If your answer is “yes. You add the ones side and then the tens and you carry the one if necessary” then your answer is completely and entirely incorrect. THAT is not the basis of addition. That is not HOW addition works.

Let me explain: Common Core takes the concept of decomposition and allows students to analyze each individual number in a problem. Instead of looking at 9 at face value, it shows students to look at 9 pictorially (e.g. IIIII IIII) and also in terms of other numbers e.g. 9 is 1 away from 10, a number that is much more comfortable to work with. There’s a reason why we all learned the concept of estimation and rounding. We can then work with numbers that are easier for us to deal with. It’s essentially the same thing here but it takes into account accuracy and what good is math if it is inaccurate?

It’s the same concept when it comes to subtraction. Instead of looking at 34-16 and carrying the one, we want to decompose these numbers and analyze their position with regards to other numbers. 16 is 4 away from 20, which is 10 away from 30 which is 4 away from 34. We take 4, 10, and 4 and get 18, and guess what! 34-16=18!

Doesn’t that actually make more sense instead of trying to subtract 4-6 and borrowing a 1 from 3? Why do we do that anyway? Because some old dude a long time ago realized that works. Why do we teach it that way? Because someone somewhere realized it’s much faster to teach kids subtraction this way instead of showing them why it actually works.

The problem with this is students take number operations for granted and later in life never stop to question anything in mathematics anymore. This is why so many students hate math. It doesn’t MAKE sense to them because no one taught them TO make sense of anything. Or that there is any sense in math at all. We take an already abstract concept and keep it as abstract as possible. The “old fashioned way” of learning subtraction works, but who cares if it doesn’t even make sense?

In a couple of years (or maybe by the end of the year) your first grader will have a better grasp on subtraction than you do. THAT is what Common Core is doing for this generation. THAT is what Common Core was designed for. So that in 10 years when I teach the student that learned arithmetic from the Common Core, he will have a much better grasp of the advanced algebraic concepts I send his way. Because he will have the number sense to understand and even question why it works the way it does.

Thank heavens for the Common Core.peace, love, math, Miss K

Goodbye iPad and Scrubs… Hello Algebra and Heels!

In less than 45 minutes I will no longer be an ER scribe.

Gone are the days of long 10 hour shifts in the hectic ER in my scribe uniform. Gone are the days of driving to work with 6 inches of snow outside.

And intead I get to look forward to 6 hour work days in a wonderful classroom following my passion to teach mathematics to young minds in Richmond city. Not to mention, wearing cute dresses, high heels… and oh yeah, SNOW DAYS!

This been such a pivotal year for me. I have been able to decide what it is that I want to do with my life, what I value in life, and what is most important to me.

It’s so hard for me to believe these days are behind me. This job has done so much more for me than I could have imagined it would when I first walked into it. I took this job as an ER scribe to find out once and for all if I want to become a physician. I taught for a semester while in college and absolutely loved it. But for the greater portion of my life I had only ever considered becoming a physician. So before I moved forward with my life, I had to be 100% sure which career to choose and which to leave behind once and for all.

After having the opporunity to work closely with several female physicians, all of my reservations quickly became realities. Nearly every one of the female physicians I had worked with told me “if I could do it again, I wouldn’t,” and even “if you want to be a physician, make sure you freeze your eggs.” It wasn’t just them, but even male physicans I had heard say things like, “well, my shift is over now. I’m going to go home to see my 6 month old baby girl that I haven’t seen in 2 days.” Family aside, the physician I worked with yesterday has two kids and at the age of 42 just paid off her medical school loans. This is not a life I want.

One thing is for certain: if you want to go to medical school you have to beyond all else have a passion for it. I always thought I did, and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this job and definitely have a passion for medicine.

However, this job made me realize my passion for medicine does not trump my desire to have and be there for my family.

Myself aside, this job taught me a lot about the horrible public health system. Drug seekers trying to take advantage of their Medicaid/Medicare/etc., to come to the ED and fake illnesses so they’ll given a medication induced high or be prescribed drugs for them to either OD on and come back the next day or sell on the streets. People who clog up the ER with ilnesses that need to be treated by their PCPs. The ER beaurocrats that want to run the ED based on numbers instead of patient care. This is not an enviornment I want to be a part of and not what I expected medicine to be.

In any case, I am so excited to start following my dreams and pursuing my passion of mathematics and education. I know this is what I’m made for. My life is about to change and I’m so excited for it!

Well, my shift is over! When I walk out of these ER doors, I’m leaving behind the life of medicine. Not only do I feel great about that, but I know 100% I am making the right decision. And that’s something I am grateful to be able to say.

Watch out world, Ms. K is ready to rock!