Monday, January 23, 2012

How can I know if I'm any good?

So, my students tell me that they like my classes.  Some even tell me I'm the best math teacher ever.  But what do they know?  All they know is that I'm the only high school math teacher they have ever had.  That the teacher before me was primarily a biology teacher and didn't really know math so didn't teach it at all, so I must be better than that right?  And finally, that they like me personally (which is nice, but doesn't make me a good teacher.)  They don't know about the material that we don't get to, or the games that are out there that other teachers do but that I just haven't found yet, or how tired I am all of the time and how I probably could have explained a lot of what we just covered much more clearly if I didn't have a million preps.  Their comments are all I have to go off of and I keep thinking to myself- they have NOTHING to compare me to.  So how can I know if I really am doing the best job anyone could do in this situation, or if I'm actually terrible at teaching but personable (I think.  I must at least have this quality if my students like my classes.)  I did though, get an AMAZING e-mail today that makes me feel like at least, maybe I can do this job with some degree of competency and makes me feel that all the time I pour in is worth it.  This is from a former student from last year who is now going to a large university (probably going to major in theology but I wish he would major in math or science because he was so good at it.)

I just wanted to tell you that I really miss your math class. I am taking
math 110 and the teacher is nowhere near as good as you are, even with a
smaller class.

Thank you for being the best math teacher I have ever had.

I love my students so much.  They are such good kids and they know when I need an e-mail like this.  


  1. What a great note! Keep it!

    I'm doing National Board Certification this year and can't recommend it highly enough. It has really helped me reflect on my teaching in very new and exciting ways. Something to think about if you want to go deep into what makes you such a great teacher.

  2. Yes, I was thinking about National Board Certification. I love the idea of it and I think I will really want to try going for it. I will be eligible to try next year, although I am a little intimidated. A teacher I spoke to over the summer who had just gotten her national board certification said the process was a bit grueling, although I think I want that kind of challenge right now.

  3. Thanks for the comment on my blog! Your thoughts there, and in this post, really resonate with me because I taught primarily in a rural town and with very few other math teachers (half the department quit in the middle of my first year, leaving me and a second-year teacher to do our best with the entire school). I was told I was better than most first year teachers and subsequently ignored (because there were so many struggling first year teachers around me), and I never had an objective perspective on what I was doing well or wasn't. I felt like I was making things up, and later, the lack of space/time/energy for reflection and growth was ultimately one of the reasons I left the classroom. Now I have all sorts of capacity for reflection and growth but miss the challenge of actually implementing what I know every day-- and I would be so much more effective because of it (maybe even capable of striking a better balance between ideals and details?).

    Love the happy notes :)