A few weeks ago, before winter break, I went into my lunch buddy’s classroom and lamented how, even though teachers generally want to change the world and inspire our students to be good people, sometimes I feel that I’m just too late. Being a middle school teacher, my students have already experienced 12 or more years outside my influence and absorbed all sorts of prejudices.
I don’t always feel hopeless about the future.
This week’s #YourEdustory topic is “Inspired by MLK: How will you make the world a better place?”
I don’t really know. It’s the little things, I guess, that students remember. I try to set a positive example. When they won’t shut up, I stand patiently in front of the room, waiting instead of yelling. I say “sir” and “ma’am” when I address them. I write them thank-you cards. I bake them homemade cookies. When the opportunity arises to shed light on biases, I don’t shy away from it. The classroom atmosphere is more important than the content.
Still, the reason I went into teaching math is – and this is what I said during my job interview – so that people will hate math less. Not so that they’ll love it, but so that they’ll hate it less. It doesn’t sound too optimistic. But in its own way, the world will be a better place as I try to follow through on my goal. My students, already tainted with sad experiences in math and unknown challenges elsewhere, can at least have a safe place to explore and learn for 52 minutes a day.