The Ballerina Mathematician

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 03 2012


I found out today that one of my 8th graders is pregnant.  She’s 13 and 3 months along.  After school I heard her talking to one of my girls from last year, who was with her four-month-old.  A mom and a mom-to-be, talking about what pregnancy is like and how to stay strong no matter what people say.

I am heartbroken to discover this.  This girl is sweet and funny and a good kid overall, always respectful.  She has the worst attendance of any of my students (a little over 50%) but when she’s there she works pretty hard.  And now her whole life is going to change.  She already struggles in school – when you show up once a week it’s hard to stay on top of the material.  High school will be that much harder to complete with a kid to raise.  There are just so many things working against my students, and I can’t conquer them all.  Honestly, I can’t conquer anything.  I do my best to teach them math, and I try to instill a hard-working, I-can-do-it, problem-solving attitude in my kids.  But it’s not enough.  I’m just an 8th grade math teacher.

It’s near the end of my second year, and discovering this information today has really made me think about what impact I’ve had.  What difference have I made?  Would they have been better off with another teacher?  Or am I a slight improvement over the next guy?  I certainly feel like I work hard enough to make a difference.  It frustrates me that I’ll never know, at least not for most of my kids.  I’ve seen a good number of my former students and that’s always nice, but next year I’ll be in another state.  Even if my students did want to come back and visit they won’t be able to, and I’ll care even more a few years later when they start graduating from high school.  It’s selfish to want to know what difference I’ve made.  And yet the constant struggle and stress is harder knowing that I could be ruining their lives or changing them for good and I have no clue which is happening or why.

I’ll write another entry soon about what it’s like to be near the end of my corps experience and my plans to stay in the classroom next year.  I’m sad now but there are many happy things I wish to write about.

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    a dancer's adventure in teaching math

    Middle School

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