Sunday, July 30, 2006

Remarkable Jackie

In my first two years of teaching, I taught a remarkable girl, whom I will refer to as Jackie. She was the type of student who had to know why everything was the way it was. She always asked me to show her the veracity of theorems and the reason that any particular algorithm actually worked.

I must say that I always welcome this kind of inquisitiveness, and get frustrated by the fact that many of my students have been irreparably convinced that Mathematics was a subject where thinking had little to do with success! I often allowed myself to be manipulated into teaching the traditional way: the teacher gives lots of notes and then sets work from the textbook.

Jackie was different in this respect. Her questions were a breath of fresh air, especially when she was in year 8. That particular group was a difficult one to work with. They were very nice girls, but not the type for whom thinking or a high level of self discipline came naturally.

My biggest frustration was when I could not answer all her questions. This was sometimes due to lack of time, the fact that concepts required a higher level of Maths to demonstrate, and even my lack of experience in teaching.

One remarkable occurrence was when she asked me, after returning from the mid-year break, to teach her a practical way to work out percentages. She had no trouble applying the formula we had learned in class, but she found it difficult to use it when shopping! So, we spent recess working on a good mental strategy for shopping.

In my third year of teaching, Jackie was on my year 9 class list. I would have loved to teach her again. Instead, I suggested to her that it would be best if she had a different teacher for a change. I asked for her to be placed in another class, and a place was vacant with a teacher who is very different from me. Mrs Jones is a very traditional, and very experienced, teacher. I think it is good for students to experience teachers with different styles throughout their years of schooling.

To the teachers reading this, may you be blessed with a few Jackies in every class.

Elias.

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3 comments:

GS

said...

I also think it's good for students to have a variety of teachers. I wonder how Jackie went with Mrs Jones. Did she remain inquisitive? Were her questions answered?

Elias

said...

Later that year, we streamed the students and she ended up in the extension stream. I would be interesting to teach her again and see how approaches her studies now.

Elias

said...

I am pleased to say that I caught up with Jackie at our school's swimming carnival recently. She is now in year 11. I told her I wanted to know whether she still asked questions in Maths and whether she was still curious to know the reason behind things. She said to me: "I am still the same. Yesterday we had Maths and I kept asking questions. I just wanted to know things."
I guess this means that she is still "remarkable".