Oh the dread of freshman Algebra.
Walking to my Algebra class, my feet were lead. Outside the door I would give myself a pep talk. A “You’re good enough. You’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.” sort of pep talk because once I was inside that door I would face Her.
My teacher who, when I didn’t understand an equation, would repeat the same directions. Only louder. My teacher who shook her head and took deep breaths when I told her I still didn’t get it. After a few weeks I stopped asking her to explain.
My counselor wouldn’t permit me to switch classes, so instead I went next door most days after school to Mrs. Holland, another algebra teacher. Mrs. Holland would explain concept after concept in several different ways until she and I were both sure I understood it. Sometimes it took days for me to grasp a single concept. It didn’t matter to Mrs. Holland. She even invited me over for dinner and extra tutoring before my final, to make sure I would pass. She was my savior.
Two years later, it was time to take Algebra 2. My mom and I met with my counselor, begging to be placed with Mrs. Holland. To my dismay, I was again placed with Her. I dropped out and enrolled in a night class of Algebra 2 at the local junior college. I did just fine, thanks to Mrs. Holland.
As a teacher, I have the pleasure of introducing early algebraic thinking to many of my first graders. Sometimes it takes them a long time to grasp difficult concepts. I don’t mind at all because I was that kid with the perpetually raised hand and look of total confusion. When I see that look on a student’s face, I smile and think of another way to shed some light on the concept. I try to give my students the time, space, and information they need to become mathematical thinkers. In short, I try to be like Mrs. Holland.