Why am I doing this?

I was always good at math. But never really liked it. All of my math teachers starting in middle school would encourage me to join the math team, or become a math teacher, but that is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a hair dresser, then a concert pianist, then a teacher. A teacher of little kids. Elementary kids. So that’s what I went to college for. However, unlike most of my elementary ed counterparts, I didn’t take the recommended math courses. I took the math major math courses. I like to be challenged, and Calculus II was definitely a challenge!

I decided I wanted to try out middle school for my student teaching. Who voluntarily teaches middle school? Me. So, I ended up teaching 6th grade math. And I discovered a wonderful world. I LOVED middle schoolers. Middle schoolers are really the best. They are fun to joke with, keep me informed of the latest trends, and are a perfect mix of “I’m too cool for this” and “I love stickers!” I LOVED teaching math. I love the challenge of explaining something in a way that relates to their life. Who knew? I then went on to get my master’s degree in math education. I guess all my teachers were right.

My first teaching job landed me in 5th grade, mostly teaching reading. Then 4th grade for 4 years, teaching everything until we finally departmentalized and I taught math, science and social studies. It was a step in the right direction, but I wanted to be in middle school. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my days in elementary school too. Some of the best accidentally inappropriate spelling errors come from elementary school. Here’s what I learned teaching 4th grade. Classroom management. Record keeping. All of that stuff you can’t learn in college.

My husband and I moved back to our hometown, and the first job I got was as a part-time math tutor at my husband’s former middle school. So close! Next year, a long-term sub job in 8th grade, then they hired me for real for the 8th grade position, and here I am today.

So, why do I love it? Why do I do it? Because I really believe that everyone can do math. EVERYONE. A student told me today “The only reason I like math this year is because of you, Mrs. Freitas.” WIN! So, there’s hope. If I can make math tolerable for students who have previously hated it, then that makes me happy. It should not be acceptable to say “I’ve never been good at math.” My response to that: You just had the wrong teachers. I’m not going to be that teacher.

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4 thoughts on “Why am I doing this?

  1. Great post! and welcome to the MTBoS! I think middle school is the most challenging but most important years. I teach high school, but I also really stress that EVERYONE can do math. I whole-heartedly believe it. I have explicit conversations and activities around Dweck’s growth mindest with my studuents. I also stole a line from a PD recently: Instead of saying “I don’t get it” in my class, we say “I don’t buy it yet.”

  2. Agree with the WIN remark! I also admire your tenacity, discovering something you liked and then keeping at the job until you ended up where you wanted to be. (My first contract was in technologies, then I transitioned into math.) It likely helps that – from what I can see – you have passion, which is something you can’t fake.

    I teach high school, but something I’ve said to students who say they dislike math is along the lines of “let’s work our way back to neutral then”. In other words, they don’t have to like it. But they shouldn’t dislike it. I worry a bit that they lose sight of the middle ground.

  3. Definitely a tough hurdle to jump with the “I’ve never been good at math.” I’m using a similar approach to you (make math tolerable for students who have previously hated it) and so far it’s working. Hoping we both see wild successes in the classroom this year!

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