Monday, November 12, 2012

#3 "Yes! It is Very Simple!"

This one isn’t specific to Malawi, but since teaching is a significant portion of my life here, it gets added to the gratitude list.  My favorite thing about teaching math is when the students get it.  Seeing a room full of light bulbs go off above their heads in a school bereft of actual electricity gives me such a rush!  They’ll all nod in agreement and shout “yes! It is very simple! We are together!” It’s especially great when the concept is actually pretty difficult.  Today we learned how to solve quadratic equations by completing the square, something I never fully understood until I taught it to my own students.  They picked it up on the first try.  Not to toot my own horn, but it is SUCH a feeling of accomplishment when I’ve explained something well and they really understand it!  It’s a rare occurrence, usually they just look at me like I’m speaking another language…oh wait.  But today, the stars aligned and squares were completed!

I can see my new Form 3 students getting more comfortable with me.  We’ve gotten into a math-class groove.  Now they’ll see me coming down the aisle looking over their shoulders at their work and instead of giving me the evil eye like “what do YOU care what I write on my paper” they’ll shove it to the edge of their desk so I can see it better and have one-on-one’s with them.  They understand that when I’m walking around, they’re allowed to confer with each other and consult each other’s work.  When I stand at the front of the class and toss the chalk from one hand to the other, it’s time to shut up and see how I would solve the class work problem.  When they get the same answer as me, fists are pumped and shoulders are slapped.  They know I’m kidding and still think it’s funny when I tell them I’ll murder them if they forget the negative sign.  When I ask one of them to explain to the class how they did a problem correctly, they know to explain it in the local language, to help everyone understand, not just the exceptional English speakers.  Math class is just so much fun!  And they’re starting to get that!  Math doesn’t have to be the scary untouchable subject that no one understands and no teachers know how to teach!  Of course, they’re still way behind.  Today we also had a lot of trouble coming up with the correct answer for -2 divided by 2.  But, hopefully, they’ll eventually invest their brains in the subject and pick it up in time for the national exams at the end of their Form 4 year.  It might be possible!!!!
Doug was helping me grade math papers.
He doesn't have the attention span of my other students.

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