Yesterday I tutored a boy in my math class. It’s ironic since I most definitely needed (and still need) math tutoring, but I surprised myself, and was able to help him understand how to find equivalent fractions.
He’s one of those students that emanates low self-esteem; acting out to get attention, and refusing to try to understand the material on his own. As I helped him answer each question on his homework assignment that was due last week, he took outlandish guesses, and wrote wrong answers down even after we had agreed on the right one.
I began to get frustrated, and wanted to get up and leave. Maybe that would show him. Maybe then he’d take me seriously.
But I put away that frustration, and quietly asked him why he wasn’t trying as hard as I knew he could. And his answer was simply,”I just don’t want to do this. I don’t want to understand.”
This past summer I wrote a post about my preschoolers that had “graduated” and were moving on to Kindergarten. Yesterday I was reminded of that post.
When this little boy told me he didn’t want to understand, my heart broke. I let him know that he was capable of understanding, and that if he didn’t try to understand this particular skill, he would be lost for the remainder of the school year. If he didn’t try to understand now, fifth grade would eat him alive.
As soon as I gave him that pep talk, he started to try. He finished the rest of the worksheet, and every single answer he gave was correct.
I thought about my own educational experience. My parents have always been my greatest supporters, and “I don’t want to understand” was never an option. I was always encouraged to try my best to learn, and was constantly reminded that I was capable. I was intelligent. I was bright.
It amazes me how each day I find a new reason for why I want to be a teacher. Sometimes I wonder why I chose this profession – there’s a lot of work that goes into it, and while teaching can be fun, it can also be discouraging when you don’t see the results you hoped for. You deal with hormone-infused attitudes, and children that think they know everything. You get eye rolls, and sneers, and students that think it’s okay to call out inappropriate things during instructional time.
There will be times when you will tutor this same boy in math…in reading…in science. You will see that he’s not trying, and you’ll get angry. Doesn’t he know the work I’m putting into each lesson I teach? Doesn’t he realize that I assign homework for his own good?
It’s easy to label him, and automatically assume he will fail.
But you see, these are the moments that have the most weight. In his nine or ten years of life, I might be the one that motivates him. The person that makes him want to understand.
I don’t have the power to see what goes on at home, and I most likely never will. I don’t know if he lives with both parents, or travels from home to home every other weekend. I don’t know if he has a mom that works on his reading skills with him at the end of the day, or a dad that helps him practice his multiplication facts.
I don’t know if he’ll remember my pep talk, or have his homework done for Monday.
But I do know that I will meet more students like him in the future.
And it’s my job to make them aware of their worth.