You Don’t Teach

Okay, let’s be clear.

I *DO* teach.  A lot.

But students don’t often know how to articulate that *how* I’m trying to teach may differ, at times, from some of their past math-class experiences.

They might not know exactly how to say,

“You teach by having us discover stuff on our own before you just tell us a formula.”


“You teach by having us talk to one another and work to be ‘patient problem solvers’ rather than just telling us what to do next.”


“You teach by answering our questions with other questions designed to make us think, or to encourage us to test stuff to see if our theory works or falls apart.  You don’t own all of the knowledge in this room, and you want us to own it, and not be afraid to make mistakes along the way… because that’s how learning happens.”


“You teach by discouraging memorization and ‘tricks’ that really have nothing to do with understanding math, even though I really… REALLY want you to tell me tricks.  Deep down, I’m a young learner who just wants you to tell me something that will work, all the time, for every problem.”

“You don’t teach” actually means, “Teacher, you’re doing a great job of being ‘less helpful’.  I’m frustrated, but when I put the pieces together and form my own meaning from all of this, I’ll really, REALLY understand it.  And I may even thank you for it… but probably not this year.”

I was a bit down in the dumps last week after some student comments like this, accompanied by some test grades that were less-than-desirable.  I take it to heart when my students don’t succeed.  But I have to remember that they’re still working on it.  They’re not there (here comes that ever-important word) YET.

New TEKS (Texas standards), new books, higher expectations… growing pains are inevitable.

But we’ll get there, even if we’re not there… yet.

Thanks to the #MTBoS and particularly my pal Kyle Pearce for encouragement and empowerment to keep pressing on… because I’m not done… yet.  We’re just getting started, and we’ll get there!

A timely post from Kyle can be found here:

This entry was posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to You Don’t Teach

  1. I know hearing comments like this is so hard. The didactic contract is hard to overcome. Hang in there, love!

  2. Pingback: This week at the Global Math Department | Global Math Department

  3. Sara Heaps says:

    I love, LOVE this. They’re lucky they have a teacher who’s willing to push them to LEARN– even though it’s harder for everyone. Really wish more teachers were getting feedback like this from their kids, as discouraging as it can be to hear in the moment.

    PS- Have you read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle? The text may little too sophisticated for middle schoolers, but my high schoolers read and loved some of the anecdotes about athletes, etc. having to struggle through and analyze their mistakes to become truly skilled. YOU might enjoy it… in your free time (ha). 🙂

    • Cathy Yenca says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Sara! In the weirdest way, this feedback is kind of affirming, right? 🙂 I haven’t read the book you suggest, but I’d love to! Free time indeed 😉 Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. I get this feedback some, even though I always end up caving and giving the formulas and even some of the tricks eventually. Because otherwise my overwhelmingly wealthy students will all go pay tutors $50/hour to get them instead. #PrivateSchoolProblems

  5. Pingback: Teaching ^(Adolescent Humans) Mathematics #MTBoS #MtbosBlogsplosion | MathyCathy's Blog – Mrs. Cathy Yenca

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.