One of the things I love (and hate?) about teaching is that I am often forced to step outside my areas of ‘expertise.’ As a GED teacher, I have to cover all five subjects: Math, Writing, Reading, Social Studies and Science. There’s no way to skip one, to leave the students to figure it out on their own.
Writing, literature, social studies … these are areas where I feel right at home. With math I have my favorite bits. But the rest of math? Actually, I like math. It’s precision (as compared to writing, for example) appeals to me. I like that you can use it fairly easily to figure stuff out. Like knitting patterns. But you don’t want to know what a trauma geometry was for me in high school. And science? It shames me to say that I am so uncomfortable with science. My aunt was a scientist and a science teacher, after all.
Since becoming an adult ed instructor, I’ve learned that I actually know more math and science than I give myself credit for. And I’ve found that I’m pretty good in both subjects, even geometry. But my anxiety-fueled brain freeze when I have to teach either subject persists.
Part of this, I’m sure, is the fact that I had such bad experiences with both in high school. In math classes, information was thrown at us with no explanation of why things worked the way they did. We were simply expected to memorize everything and move on. This isn’t a way that I learn. I would even argue that this isn’t learning at all. In high school, however, I didn’t know anything about learning styles, had never heard of project-based learning, would never have thought to challenge teachers’ methods. I just figured I was bad at math.
Most of my science classes were taught by our various coaches: girls’ volleyball for biology, boys’ JV track for chemistry, boys’ varsity track for physics. All were probably excellent coaches. All were definitely nice, funny people. None of them were really science teachers, however. I don’t think I actually learned anything about science in all of high school. Again, I took the blame for that on myself, came away feeling stupid, as if my brain just couldn’t grasp science.
And now, even though I’ve seen again and again that I can learn this stuff, that I even like it, I still freeze when I have to walk into class and be the math teacher, the science teacher.
I think it can be a good thing to be pushed beyond my areas of expertise, pushed out of my comfort zone. It creates space for me to grow as a teacher. It’s good for me to learn that the world won’t end if I stumble while facing down one of my fears. But knowing that doesn’t make this any easier.
Today we started a big science unit. Even doing the research to prepare for the project we’re going to work on gave me a stomach ache. Seeing how happy everyone looked when I said we were starting science is real encouragement, though.
hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.