You Don’t Get It Until You Teach It.

The weirdest part about teaching is how everything makes sense now. It all just clicked.

What do I mean? Well, before college I hated math and believed I was never good at it. Truth was that I didn’t really understand it. My teachers always skipped steps and never fully explained their methods. I always managed to get by somehow even though I knew I didn’t get it. At this time it didn’t matter to me whether or not I understood it, I just wanted to pass the class. I didn’t think I was really ever going to need it again (even though I planned to be a scientist….weird) so I didn’t bother to stress myself out over it. Now, let’s fast forward to college where I decided to face my fears and base my future on something I knew I wasn’t the strongest in. When I say I love challenges, I mean it. This had to be the stupidest thing a normal human being would have done, but the most rewarding I have ever done. Anyway, remember when I said I didn’t think I was going to use the same mathematical concepts from high school again? Well I was wrong. Shocker.

The basic concepts I used throughout college in both math and physics all stemmed from ideas we learned in high school. Simple algebraic techniques that back then, I didn’t find to be so simple. The saddest part, is that I just realized all of this while teaching Algebra 2 and AP Calculus BC. It’s true, the saying: you don’t fully understand it until you teach it. All this time through my schooling, if I didn’t quite understand a simple algebraic concept, I just ‘did it’ based on how my professors showed me. Thank you for taking the time to help me relearn these concepts I should have already grasped and didn’t know that until now. I never actually understood why we did certain steps.
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I mean it never really hurt me. I still got really good grades. But knowing these tiny concepts, I could have gone so much further with my GPA; it would have been so much higher.

I’m not upset about my realization, but I wish there was a way to go back. Not only for me but for all the other teachers in a similar boat. I wish everyone had the opportunity to at least retake their worst high school class after graduating college, and see if they understand it better. I mean of course there are other factors such a maturity level, area of study and your willingness to learn, but what would happen if you repeated that course? Would you finally understand it?

I take this experience as a goal in my teaching. I make sure to go through the steps with the kids, especially if they are struggling. But I also want to help them understand the concepts. I don’t want them to get to college under similar circumstances of my own and suffer because they never really grasped the concepts in the first place. Surely, learning is a two way street but if I can help in the slightest bit, I’m sure it will make some kind of difference. I just can’t believe it took me until now, while teaching the material, to fully understand the beautiful world of math. Yeah, I just called math ‘beautiful’……who is this person and what have you done with Lizzi?

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